Our story begins in my car, which was somewhere on the Mississippi Interstate. My older cousin and I were in the middle of a 5 hour drive back to New Orleans from Alabama. This was our second 5 hour drive in the last three days; the first, naturally, being our drive from New Orleans to Alabama. My point being, after 7+ hours in the car, we had run out of things to talk about.
Which was why we were currently listening to one of my books on tape. The book was Game of Thrones. It's a great book, if you haven't read it; and even better if you listen to it as a tape, because then you get the added bonus of having a soothing British Voice take you through the adventures of Westeros.
So that's where I was at this moment, with my older cousin, on the Mississippi Interstate, just cruisin' down the road while being lulled into a false sense of security by a soothing British narrator.
And then I saw a cop car in the corner of my eye, perched on a grassy hill on the side of the road, and everything went to shit.
I immediately looked down at my speedometer and realized that I was going 80 miles an hour, which was definitely over the limit. I wasn't sure by how much, but I knew I was definitely speeding. So I did what any rational human being would do, I pumped the brakes.
And as I was doing this, I heard my cousin scoff in that way that he does when he thinks what I'm doing is moronic (He's a bit like an older brother in this way):
"It doesn't do any good to slow down once you see the cop, Rudy, he already knows exactly how fast you are going."
For whatever reason, this caused me to seethe inside.
Oh really? Is that how it works? Please forgive me for being such an idiot. I must be the first driver in the history of the world to slow down once they see a police car ahead of them. Can you ever forgive me, sweet cousin? Maybe I should just open my door and throw myself out into the mercy of the road and hope for a swift and quick death, would that make you happy?
As I was thinking this, my eyes were glued to my side mirror, praying that the cop stays put. But like a nightmare come to life, I saw the black and white start to drive forward and merge onto the highway.
"Cruise control, dude." My cousin said to me casually, as he watched the cop following me in his mirror.
What a great fucking response! I am so glad that you said 'cruise control' when I'm about to be pulled over by a cop. It solves all my fucking problems. In fact, that's such a great response, I think I'll repeat it when the cop pulls me over and asks me if I know how fast I was going. "Cruise control, dude.' I'll tell him. And then everything will be okay.
And then I saw a sign on the side of the road that literally made me gasp.
No. Fucking. Way.
There is no way the speed limit was 50 miles an hour and I was going 80. Holy shit. I was going 30 miles over the limit in the Mississippi. What are they going to do me? What do they do to you if you go thirty miles over the speed limit in Mississippi? Oh shit, I have California license plates. What are they going to do to some young Californian who drives 30 miles over the limit?
I looked over at my cousin, and I saw that he had the slightest of smirks on his face. At first I was shocked that my cousin could be this heartless... and then I realized why he was smirking. The same damn thing happened to him recently. I suddenly recall one of the many conversations we had as we drove to the lake house on Friday. He told me that a few months ago he was pulled over for going a great deal over the speed limit. I remembered that he told me the price of the ticket was so high he had to do several days of community service just to get it lower, and even after that it was still 600 dollars.
I remembered when he was telling me this I was laughing about it, totally schadenfreuding like a motherfucker.
Now it was his time to schadenfreude, that motherfucker.
So now, as I watched the cop getting closer and closer to me in my rear view mirror, my mind was running through the consequences of this unfortunate event. How much money am I going to have to pay? How much money am I getting from this summer job? Jesus, do I really have a summer job at my age? How embarrassing. My cousin is never gonna let me forget this. This is gonna be a long summer...
It was at about this point that the cop was now close to my bumper, it was only a matter of time until...
I pulled over to the side of the road. I watched the cop in my rear view mirror as he got out of his car and moseyed up to my passenger door. He looked exactly how you would expect a highway patrolman from Mississippi to look. Bushy mustache, aviator glasses, walked like he was John Wayne... you get the idea.
I scrambled to find my registration. As I was looking, I suddenly spotted the cop in my peripheral, his big serious face was leaning into the car, just hovering over my smirking cousin.
"I need to see your ID and your proof of insurance." He said, robotically.
"What about my registration?" I asked, confused.
"I don't care about that." He told me dismissively, as if that was the first time anyone had ever mentioned the word "registration" to him.
So I searched through my wallet looking for my proof of insurance. Only, I can't find it. It's simply not there. I rummaged through my glove box once more, hoping to find that little red card, but no luck. Oh my God. What do they do to Californians who recklessly speed and then don't have proof of insurance.
"Is there a problem?" The officer asked impatiently.
"I can't seem to find my proof of insurance, officer."
There was a silence after I said this. And then, finally, a reply.
"Step out of the car, sir."
A took a breath of air and opened my door.
It's OK, Randy. This is not a big deal. Just remember to act calm and casual, act like you're concerned, but not worried. Make him respect you. You are a man, just like him. The two of you are just two men who are having a conversation. He definitely won't arrest you. Probably.
I made my way passed my car and meet the Mississippi Officer, who was now standing behind my car and staring at my ID.
Remember, Randy, make him respect you. Play it cool, but serious. Calm, cool, but serious. That's you.
"OK, Mr. Walker," He began to say. I remember his glasses were off now, and he was staring right into the pits of my eyes as he spoke. "The first thing I want you to do is calm down. Just calm down."
"What?" I say, confused. What does he mean calm down? I am calm. I'm calm, cool, and serious. How could he possibly confuse that with not being calm? What kind of sick cop game is he playing right now?
"I said, you need to calm down. Because when you freak out, that makes me freak out."
Freak out? Freak out? What does he mean freak out?
"...OK...I don't feel like I'm freaking out. But OK."
"OK, good." He said, in a way that made me think he hadn't heard what I had said. "Now, let's start with your ID. Your eyes in this picture here are not dilated. And yet, I can see your eyes are very dilated right now. What are you on?"
Did I just hear him say that? Did he just ask me if I was on drugs right out of the gate? Is this really happening?
"I'm not on anything, sir. I'm not sure why my eyes as are dilated."
"OK, fine. Let's move on. I see your car is from California, why are you way over here?"
"Oh, well, I'm working here for the summer."
"Well, no, I'm working in New Orleans."
"I see, so why are you out here?"
"Well, I... me and my cousin are coming back from a weekend at a lake house in Alabama."
He made a face of frustration at this. "Where in Alabama was this lake house?"
God damn it, what was the name of that town again. I could never remember how to pronounce it. It starts with a T and there is an L in there somewhere....
"Well..." The cop said impatiently.
"Um... Toolusca... Tuscalina... Tul...."
"Tuscalousca?" He helped me.
"Yes! Tusaclousca! That's it!"
"I see. Mr. Walker, don't you think it's funny that you can't remember the name city that you just visited?"
"Yeah, but I'm not from here, I'm from-"
"California, I know." He said, like he wasn't buying my story at all. "Alright, well let's talk about your young friend in the car. How many times has he been arrested?" He pointed to my cousin, who was sitting patiently in the front seat.
Young friend? He's eleven years older than me, you ass. What are you saying? You think I look older than him.
"That's my cousin, sir. And he's never been arrested."
"You understand, that if I run a background check on him and find out you're lying, we're through talking."
Through talking? What does that mean? It probably means he's just gonna arrest me, but that's a really strange way to put it.
"Yeah, I understand."
"Then why are you so nervous?"
"I'm not nervous, sir. If anything I'm just anxious because I really can't afford a speeding ticket."
The cop tilted his head down towards me in a condescending manner. "Son, this isn't about a speeding ticket. This is about carrying massive amounts of drugs in your car. This about smuggling thousands of dollars cross state lines. This is much bigger than a speeding ticket."
Thousands of dollars? Massive amount of drugs? What the fuck is going on right now?
"Officer, I give you my word, I do not have anything in my car."
"So I have your permission to search the car?"
"Yes." I say in a calm, cool and serious manner.
"You understand, if I find anything, anything, in that car, me and you are done talking. Now are you sure I can check your car."
There's nothing in my car. I have nothing to worry about. Except... I did just take a trip to Coachella in that car. And that car was filled with various friends who had various hobbies and interests. What if one of those friends left one of their interests in my car, or maybe a hobby of theirs fell out of their pocket and is now tucked away under my car seat. There's no way that's possible, right? Right. No way. Except, maybe it is possible. And what if it is? What then... Well, I guess we'll be done talking.
"Yes, go ahead and check it." I said, coolly, calmly and seriously.
He watched my eyes very carefully as I said this. He was studying them. He was trying to catch a liar, but I knew there was none to be found. All he would find would be a serious man with a dash of uncertainty. But would that be enough to warrant a search?
He continued to stare right at me, for what felt like forever. And then he let out a sigh.
"OK, Mr. Walker, I want you to go back to your car, get in, and drive away."
And then he handed me my ID and watched me as I returned to my car. I felt like each step took three years at least. Did he really not write me a ticket? Am I really getting away with this.
When I finally get in my car, I immediately turned to my cousin and give him the slightest of smirks.
"What? What happened? How bad was the ticket?"
"No ticket." I said, as I turned the car on.
"Oh, I can't believe this. You didn't even have your proof of insurance."
"Dude," I said as I merged onto the highway, "You don't even know the half of it."
And then I flicked the radio back on and let the soothing British voice take me the rest of the way home.