The curbside of an empty street in Amarillo, Texas.
Sometime shortly after midnight on a bitterly cold January morning many years ago.
Alan: Primary driver of the car, completely lacking in the nuances of Texas traffic laws, and alarmingly stupid.
Lance: Front seat passenger, map reader and navigator, purveyor of navigational pearls of wisdom such as:
- “That’s the exit we want…way back there.”
- “Last chance gas? I can find cheaper gas somewhere in the vast empty desert in between Las Vegas and Arizona.”
- “Don’t worry, we can drive for miles on empty; long before we run out of gas and are cannibalized by a family of desert dwelling inbreds.”
Matt: Backseat passenger, frustrated driver with serious blood pressure issues (issues exacerbated by questionable passenger-side navigation).
Me: Backseat passenger, provider of sarcasm, semi-blind (evidently thirty miles is “way too far to go back” to retrieve a pair of glasses from a motel room in Flagstaff Arizona).
Four big imposing Texas cops: Big, imposing, lacking couth, rough hands, no perceivable sense of humor.
We were on a two week road trip from New York State to Las Vegas and back. We were passing through Amarillo in the early morning in search of somewhere to eat. Alan made a left turn out of the wrong lane and we were swiftly pulled over by the Amarillo police.
We sat there on the side of for several minutes as the police made no movements. Suddenly another squad car came flying in from the other direction with its lights flashing. It came to a screeching halt and within moments there were four police officers surrounding our car, with their hands on their guns. “Get your hands where we can see them,” one of them screamed.
“Holy crap. What the hell did you do?” one of us said to Alan.
They removed Alan from the car and began to frisk him. They swiftly found the case of darts in his jacket pocket and presumed them to be some form of ninja weapon. Evidently people in Texas don’t play a lot of darts, because I could hear Alan trying to explain the concept to the officers, “you throw them at a board,” I heard him say repeatedly.
They moved Alan to the first squad car and removed Lance for his frisking. As the officer manhandled Lance, Matt and I sat in the car and discussed how seriously they take their traffic laws in Texas, and whether or not speeding might result in the death penalty. As we talked we evidently lowered our hands because one of the officers screamed at us to get our hands back up.
“But with our hands up, we can’t reach our weapons,” I said. (No I didn’t–I’m not that stupid.)
Then it was Matt’s turn and I was sitting alone the car with my hands in the air. I had never been frisked before, it was going to be my first time, I was a little excited–it was weird.
Then it was my turn. Alan was still in the squad car. Lance and Matt were standing on the side of the street shivering and laughing as they watched me being frisked. They offered the police officer some friendly advice as he manhandled me:
- He’s resisting; rough him up.
- Use your nightstick on him.
- What good is a taser if you don’t use it?
- Do a cavity search; it’s the only way to be sure.
Each bit of advice punctuated with cackles of laughter.
“Do you have any guns?”
“Do you have any knives?”
“Weapons of any kind?”
“Are you carrying any drugs?”
“Do you have any explosives?”
“Why would I have explosives?”
“Do you have any explosives or not!”
“Do you have any contraband?”
“I’m not really certain what contraband is.”
“It is what I say it is,” he bellowed.
“That doesn’t make it more clear… I’m going with no.”
“Where do you live?”
“New York State.”
“Do you live in the city?”
“Do you mean New York City?”
“What do you think? What other city is there in New York?”
“Well, there’s Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, White Plains…” I didn’t even to get to Yonkers or Albany before he rudely interrupted me.
“Are you trying to be a smart mouth?”
“I’m not really trying.” It was really no effort at all.
“Where are you from exactly?”
“I’m from a small town called Westfield.”
“What? What’s the nearest city?”
“The nearest city is Erie, Pennsylvania.”
“I thought you just said you from New York.” His voice was a combination of anger and confusion.
“I am. Westfield’s in New York, but the nearest city is Erie Pennsylvania.”
“Is that near New York City?”
“Compared to Amarillo, Texas: yes. Compared to any other place in New York State: no.”
After a thorough groping, he sent me to side of the street to stand with Lance and Matt as the other officers searched the car. We stood there shivering, cracking jokes, laughing and offering tips on where we’d search if we were them. They ignored us.
It seems they saw our New York license plates and presumed that we were drug runners, transporting a shipment a drugs from Mexico to New York City.
Once they realized we were just a bunch of kids from a small town in Western New York, they became cordial and even friendly. They gave us some instructions on where to find something to eat, and sent us on our way.
As we pulled away, Alan made a turn out of the wrong lane, but this time they let it go, after all, you can only take so much manhandling in one night.
Note: unbeknownst to the officers, Alan always keeps ten to fourteen sticks of a dynamite hidden in his anus. We don’t know why, he just does.
Learn service through knowledge at the Amarillo Police Academy (groping optional).