by Paul Notice
You know, I can remember a time in my life where I thought police officers were simply given a bad shake — that we should cut these guys some slack. Sure there’s Sean Bell, and Ousmane Zongo, and Amadou Diallo, and Patrick Dorismond — but let’s not think about that. I mean these were clearly separate incidents that can’t be pulled together by some prevailing ideology or preconception. And yes there was that unfortunate incident involving Abner Louima, a bathroom plunger and unwelcome sodomy. Oh man! And Stop and Frisk. I forgot about that.. yeah….
But still, at that moment, I was completely willing to give to give the men in blue a break. It’s hard out here for a pimp. Oh, and Nathaniel Levi Gaines. He’s dead, too. They sort of like to kill black people from time to time. No judgments.
Anyway, like I said there was a moment, and I remember it exactly. It’s summer, and I’m riding my bike to an interview for a job because jobs give you food so you can buy money, which keeps you warm if you burn it in bulk. And as I pass by these great hulking masses of used automobiles and hissing busses and other freight trains on wheels, I feel free. I feel optimistic. I’m staying healthy and being a responsible 20-something in New York. I’m helping preserve the fucking environment. I’m also saving a shit ton of money from the MTA, because fuck those guys.
And it’s in this moment of Zen, that I proceed to think of all that was right with the world. I begin to forgive all kinds of folks that I’ve instinctively wanted to punch in the mouth with a lawsuit or pink slip: Petty selfish people, pompous college professors and… pernicious something police. I forgive them, every single one, because fuck it, why not?
Cops are alright. Cops are cool in my book, no doubt about it.
And then I hear someone’s voice buzz over a loudspeaker.
I peek behind me to find a patrol car flashing its lights. I guess some poor fool in those high-fangled horseless carriages is getting a ticket. They should, they’re not at all saving the environ…
“Sir, stop pedaling and move to the side of the road please.”
This is the moment my left-wing, bleeding heart nirvana ends. Police are no longer my favorite sort of people. I retract my forgiveness.
One of the officers, Officer ‘Guy’ I guess, rolls out the car and approaches me with his hand casually wrapped around his holstered pistol — a move I find puzzling seeing as how my soccer shorts were only covering my balls, and what little dignity I had left.
Officer Guy: “Why didn’t you listen to me when I asked you to stop?”
Me: “Wait why am I being stopped?”
Officer Guy: “You know.”
Me: “Uhh… ”
Officer Guy: “You know why, you ran that red light.”
Me: “Uhh… ”
Officer Guy: “Yes. Yes you did.”
Me: “Dude that’s not illegal… I’m on a bike.”
Officer Guy: “It’s completely illegal. You’re in a vehicle.”
Me: “No. I’m on a bike. A bike that’s powered by me. My legs. My legs, which would be the same thing that would power my walking when I walk, which is what pedestrians do. So no. No, no. It’s not a car, it’s a bike.”
I didn’t say that last part. I kind of wish I did, but to be honest that guy seriously wouldn’t take his hand off of his pistol the entire time we talked, and I wasn’t really one to end up as another unfortunate incident between overzealous officers and misunderstood black youth — what’s with that by the way?
So Officer Guy gives me a ticket. Yes. A ticket for running a red light on a bike, which he promised was “for my own safety.” Which, if I’m not mistaken, might be something of a dick move, I’m not sure.
By the time he’s done running my license for any other records, then taking the time to show some typed-out clean sheet of paper he claims is a photocopy of the New York City Traffic Law book — which evidently loved using Arial font — it’s an hour past my interview time.
Officer Guy also takes the liberty of sending the ticket not to the address I give him, but to the one on the driver’s license. In Missouri. Under the wrong name.
This means that in virtually every traffic court, the ticket would be thrown out. Ah but little did you know good sir, that I happen to suck at life. Even though I couldn’t find the ticket online in order to appear in court, it still exists. So months later, my dad sends me a stack of letters he got from the family who now lives in our old house. They are of course from Officer Guy’s shitty, shitty department. One of the more poignant letters states that my license, for my car, is now suspended… for the ticket I received on my bike.
Article originally published November 2011 with New Student Union.