The police making war on the taxpayers: “I cannot think of a worse place to pick a fight.”

“Don’t you see? You are the bad guy. You are the only person in this whole town that I need protection from. You are making war on this community with your behavior. You are the enemy to the peace. The only traffic hazard right now is your Crown Vic blocking half the lane. You are the bad guy, no one else.”

“Don’t you see? You are the bad guy. You are the only person in this whole town that I need protection from. You are making war on this community with your behavior. You are the enemy to the peace. The only traffic hazard right now is your Crown Vic blocking half the lane. You are the bad guy, no one else.”

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” So said Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – the contracted police force for Sun City.

I shrugged. “Time on your hands?”

“I pulled you over because you are riding your bicycle on the sidewalk.”

I don’t know the name for the facial expression I could feel myself wearing. Call it the smile of confusion. “And you were so amazed to see someone exercising that you had to stop to investigate?”

“Riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is a violation of the traffic laws.”

“Tell me you’re not serious. What traffic?” In Sun City, almost no one ever comes outdoors. My neighbors are so eager to die they won’t do anything to stave off the end.

“You are presenting a peril to pedestrians.”

“What pedestrians. There are no pedestrians. There are effectively zero pedestrians in Sun City, but there are no pedestrians anywhere in Metropolitan Phoenix. It gets hot here, in case you didn’t know.”

“As a matter of safety, you are required to ride your bicycle on the streets, not the sidewalk.”

“Is that how you ride your bike?” To this he said nothing, so I went on: “Nobody rides a bike on the streets in Sun City. No one does that in any residential neighborhood. No one walks on the sidewalks, so they’re perfect for bikes. Meanwhile, a bike on the street is a traffic hazard, especially in Sun City, the land of the drivers-to-old-to-drive. By riding on the sidewalks, I am making my own life safer and I am sparing my neighbors the awful fear of causing a fatal accident at twelve miles an hour. I am obviously doing exactly the right thing in these circumstances.”

“Sir,” he said, every inch the dumbass cop. “Can I see some I.D.”

By now this is just funny to me. I was wearing an old tee-shirt, a pair of fleece gym shorts and sandals – an Arizona tuxedo. “I’m exercising. I’m not carrying a wallet. Do you carry a wallet when you work out?”

That was a cheap shot, really. His big fat belly told me that Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce does not work out. He said, “Do you have any other form of identification?”

“Sure do. My mind. Forgive me if I only show you its output.”

“Sir. What is your full name?”

Not so funny anymore. “Am I under arrest?”

“No. I am giving you a warning.”

“Well, then, consider it done. From now on, I will risk my own life and risk my neighbors’ nerves by riding my bike where it doesn’t belong. Good days’ work, officer.”

He said, “Sir. Please tell me your full name.”

“Am I being detained?”

“As I said, I am giving you a warning.”

“And you’ve done that. Am I free to go?”

“As I said, I am giving you a warning.”

“Meaning what? You haven’t wasted enough time on this nonsense?”

“Sir. What is your full name?”

Here’s a true fact of life: If you’re not prepared to kill a thug for his thuggishness, then you’re his slave. I live on very little, always have, but the things I am happiest to live without are illusions. You may try to deny it, but I recognized long ago that we are all slaves to thuggish functionaries like Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. So, if only to get my day back on track, I complied. I said, “My names are William Francis Xavier O’Connell.”

“Will you spell that, please?”

“No.”

“May I have your street address?”

“No.”

“Phone number?”

“No.”

He shrugged. I’m sure he’s used to being treated like shit – for the simple reason that he is a shit. “Please wait here.”

‘Here’ was a sidewalk on Greenway Road, in the shadeless blistering sun. Had I been thinking full-guerrilla, I would have scootched my bike out into the street to bring myself into full compliance with The Rules of the Road, but it didn’t occur to me.

Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce got into his big black cruiser and did his dumbass cop busy work – wasting more of the taxpayers’ money. I stood there like a schnook, my bike between my legs, waiting in vain for him to discover his own irrelevance.

This gave me time to get pissed off, a big mistake for Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce and for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

When he returned, he was carrying a clipboard.

“You’re giving me a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk?”

“As I said, I am giving you a warning.”

“No, you are giving me gas. What happened? Did you have it out with the wife last night?”

“Sir. Don’t make this personal.”

“You made it personal. I’m riding my bike in the safest possible way, and you take it upon yourself to order me to do the wrong thing. Then you keep me waiting while you strut your cop authority. And meanwhile, all of my neighbors, who already don’t exercise, now know that if they ever do work up the nerve to step outdoors, they’ll be hassled by the police. Nice going, officer, you really did your job today.”

“My job is to protect the public’s safety.”

“Your job is to collect a paycheck and a pension on funds stolen from your victims. If you did nothing but eat donuts all day, no one would notice your absence.”

To this he said nothing, just glared.

“I’ve lived here for two years, and this is the first time I’ve felt myself accosted by anyone. There is no crime in Sun City. We need police like birds need airfare. And now, the one time I feel myself aggrieved, my grievance is with the police, not with a freelance criminal.”

Still nothing.

“Don’t you see? You are the bad guy. You are the only person in this whole town that I need protection from. You are making war on this community with your behavior. You are the enemy to the peace. The only traffic hazard right now is your Crown Vic blocking half the lane. You are the bad guy, no one else.”

“Sir. That’s uncalled for.”

“No, it’s simply too late to make a difference. The police have decided to make enemies of the taxpayers. This will not end well.”

“Sir. Is that a threat?”

That just made me smile. Something in the universe must love martinets, there are so many of them. “You work in the most heavily-armed city in the world. The people who live here have all already lived almost all of their lives. They have nothing to lose but chronic pain. I cannot think of a worse place to pick a fight.”

“Are we done?”

“That would be my question for you, officer. You’re the one with a gun on your hip.”

He handed me his clipboard. “I’ll need you to sign the warning citation.”

“How long do you plan to wait for that to happen?”

“Come again.”

“I won’t be signing a traffic citation for having done the right thing.”

He scowled. I can’t imagine what it would do to a cop’s reputation with his work buddies to bust a bicyclist, but the handcuffs did not come out. Instead he wrote something on his form – the word “Refused” it turns out – then handed a copy to me.

As he was lumbering back to his cruiser, I said, “Try to be a better man.”

He didn’t shoot me, but if eyes had an arsenal I would have been well perforated.

Deputy Sergeant Dermot Pierce of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office drove away slowly, and I waited until he was out of sight before I started to ride again. Why? So I could ride on the sidewalks, of course, where it’s safe.

 
A query: You read this story to the end. Would you continue reading a short novel written along these lines – Willie fights the man over a traffic ticket? I can have a lot of fun giving toxic gas to petty functionaries. Would that be fun for you, too?

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