This has happened to me three times since I've come to live in the Midwest.
I often tell this first story humorously, but as I get older, and exposed to it more frequently, it becomes a lot less funny.
About six years ago, I lived in the tiny town of Bad Axe, Michigan. You would have to refresh Mapquest a number of times to get the site to find it. The house I shared was literally on a country highway; it was given a common name for mailing references, but otherwise, it was known as M57, and the speed limit was fifty-five miles per hour. I always used to wonder if kids ever ran into the street and got killed. Coming from the city, where homes were typically miles removed from high-speed traffic, it wasn't something we worried about.
So I (illegally) walk across the street one day to check my mail. Upon doing so, a cop I hadn't paid attention suddenly makes his tires scream as he wheels around and heads back in my direction. I still don't think he's after me as I (illegally) head back across the street, until he pulls into the driveway. The way he was driving, I was expecting a TV crew and John Walsh to pop out.
He hops out of the squad car and asks me 'just what did I think I was doing.' Having no clue what this was about, I told him I was checking my mail. Littering too, if he had given me thirty more seconds. To make a long story short, he wrote me a $150 ticket for jaywalking and suggested that I walk the five miles up the road, where there is a crosswalk, and then walk five miles back down to check my mail. Because that was legal.
What did I do? Well, I politely—politely, mind you—suggested that he undertake the joys of self-copulation.
That wound up being my first legal problem in Michigan.
Years later, across the state, I wound up making an enemy of another cop in another small town. For our final confrontation, you can check out the full blog entry here; http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&FriendID=41508991&blogMonth=12&blogDay=1&blogYear=2007
And then there was last night. Same story, different town.
I had just gotten off work and begun my walk up a small hill that leads to the main drive, off of which is my house. Behind me, a cop pulls to the stop sign and lingers there for about half a minute. I turn to see him. He's looking at me; he wants me to see him. Nevertheless, I replace my headphones and keep walking.
He turns the corner and pulls up slowly besides me. He doesn't turn on his lights or siren.
I remove my headset again. He feigns politeness, asking me (with the phoniest grin I've ever seen), if I'm just out for a walk. Yeah, five in the morning, forty degrees outside, I felt like strapping ten pounds to my back and going for a stroll.
I just got off work, I explain. There's a big difference between twenties and thirties, especially when it comes to your temper.
Really, he asks. Where do I work?
Just back there.
Can I prove that?
Yeah, I can imbed this badge between your eyes. Would that be proof enough?
I unzip my jacket to my chest and, keeping my right hand in plain sight, pull enough of my coat away to reveal my badge. Satisfied at my capitulation, he pulls away.
The more I think about it, the madder I get. My anger stems from my origins in Northern California, where this kind of thing just doesn't happen so often, especially in the areas I'm from.
My friends ask me why I stay. I'm not really a Midwest kinda guy, they say. Why do I put up with this nonsense, they ask? Why don't I come home?
Well, I'm gonna tell you.
Cause I'm too big an asshole to leave.
If I left, and went back to the West Coast, it would be like conceding. To me, I would be sending a message that their oppression was greater than what I could bear, that it beat me and I was forced to go 'back where I came from'. Most of you know I'm way too cocky for that.
I've been out here six years. I have established long running friendships with some really beautiful people, I've maintained steady employment and my own apartment, and I have earned the respect of others, all of which did not involve my physical skills.
All the things I have done in my life, I think it's hilarious that not one police department I've encountered out here could make one of the trumped-up arrests stick. The look on their faces when I finally walked out has always been priceless.
I bitch a lot but I really don't hate the Midwest. It's an area in a state of change, and change is never easy. There is a simple, core philosophy here; something deeply ingrained into this part of the country that I can't quite articulate…it speaks to me, it makes sense to me more than any place I've ever been. I know peace here.
So…I can be racially profiled, falsely arrested, or whatever else you wanna throw at me. I've survived worse. I'll survive you.
I'm here to stay. Deal with it. ;)