Monday, September 8, 2008


Let me quickly relay a funny story Pete reminded of a week or so ago.

It was early Spring, 2003. I was living in a house in Provo, affectionately termed to dude’s house. Our landlord was a way cool guy who spoke and acted exactly like The Dude, from The Big Lebowski. We could have gone months without paying rent and I don’t think he would have noticed. He also starred in a movie about Porter Rockwell that co-starred Karl Malone. You know it’s a good movie when 37 people on IMDB have bothered to rate it.

The Iraq war had just begun and my roommate Spencer and I were enjoying CNN’s live, 24 hour coverage of embedded reporters. Is wrong to say we enjoyed it? It was incredibly interesting. Not just the war and the reasons behind it but the coverage endlessly entertaining. You could tell that each one of these onsite reporters just had the boner of a lifetime each time they were on the air. And really, why shouldn’t they? They are protected from danger and yet have a front row seat for the invasion of a country. Most of them played up the part, looking like mix between Indiana Jones and Aragorn. And then they would pass it back to Daryn Kagan. I like my studio reporters to have that mid forties hotness going on.

So it was a slow Friday night in Provo, Utah. We decided to commemorate Shock and Awe by lighting off a bunch of kick ass bottle rockets Spencer had bought in Thailand earlier that year. These things beat the hell out of that Black Cat crap you buy in Evanston. They know how to make explosives in Indo-China. Spencer, Pete, myself and it runs in my mind that another one of Spencer’s buddies was with us. Anyway, we were blowing up soda cans, tying fuses together and launching a dozen at a time, the regular kind of stuff. After about an hour or so, three cop cars peel around different corners in a coordinated attack. Three federales jump out of their cars yelling at us to halt. Naturally, we ran like hell.

Now, if you’re not familiar with the world of Utah County, let make this very clear. Provo cops are assholes. Second only to tow truck drivers / car booters, they are the biggest bastards in that town. Sleazy landlords are third. There are a million cops and they don’t have a damn thing to do except harass the 40,000 students that live in their jurisdiction and steal their money. Now I’m sure that those cops have had more than their share of run ins with obnoxious twenty somethings that have an ax to grind with the po po . And I’m not anti cop. They are usually the good guys. When I watch footage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, I’m cheering on the riot squad beating the damn hippies. But the residents of Utah Valley do not deserve the treatment they often get at the hands of local Rosco P. Coltrains.

With the exception of Iran, I would say that Provo has the best behaved student population on Earth. You have 40,000 plus (probably more than that now)18-25 year old students that are respectful of authority, sober and for the most part boring as hell. And yet any chance they get, the cats in blue will flex their muscle and shut down a party that has no alcohol (which would be completely legal) and no documented noise complaint. And if you ask them polite questions about their actions, you get the puffed chest, authoritative defensiveness, often accompanied by reach toward their tazer. Most return missionary / Elders Quorum 2nd counselors will freely concede any such confrontation, regardless of how right or wrong they are. That’s called being a bully, not a police officer.

So we all took off in different directions. It’s an old instinct finely honed in every man’s life in their early toilet papering days. However, I was faced with a problem. The other three guys all had cell phones. I did not. I was late to figure out that they really are a necessity. So they just called each other, met up and got something to eat. I didn’t have my wallet or a car or a phone. And just about everyone I knew in town had moved out for the summer. So the only thing I could do was walk around. I walked around the neighborhood, talking to myself like a crazy person for three hours, afraid to go home because I was convinced the SWAT team was staking out my house.

Common sense finally prevailed. It is a college town on a weekend, there has to be some other disturbance somewhere else that called these guys away from my house. Still, I snuck into the backyard, entered the back door. I grabbed my keys and my wallet headed to my car that was parked in front of my house. I started the engine to go get a Breakfast Burrito de Beto’s. As soon as I put it into drive, three cops came running in form different directions with guns pulled, screaming at me to “GET OUT OF THE CAR! OUT OF THE F*CKING CAR!” These guys had been hiding in the bushes for three hours waiting for one of us to come back. They handcuffed me and sat me down on the curb. Damn it I wish I was shirtless with a Cops cameraman filming me. Once in a lifetime opportunity blown.

One of the cops was a real smart ass. “How stupid to you gotta be? You run from the cops and then you come back the same night?” It took all the strength of my soul to not say, “Buddy, you’ve been squatting in dirt for three hours waiting to give me a 60 dollar ticket. I’m the idiot?”

“You go to school?”

“Yes, officer. I go to BYU.”

“Oh yeah? How do you think they would like it if they found out about this incident?”

I’m sorry, but did a police officer just threaten to tell on me? Aren’t they the authority? Shouldn’t I be fearful of the fact they have me in handcuffs and not my guidance counselor?

I was polite and subdued. I’m a smartass by nature, so that took some effort. I ended up with an eighty dollar ticket. Sixty for the fireworks, twenty for evading arrest. Or something like that. It wasn't very much. Now, I'm not claiming that my civil rights were violated. I'm not a victim of police brutality. If anything, this experience made me feel dangerous. So thank you, Provo cops for giving me a story to tell. But I do wonder if they ever sit at home, watch The Wire and cry because of the absurdity of their lives.

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