Loud banging at the door woke me up in the dead of night. I swung my 7 year old legs out of bed, stood up and padded over to the window. The police force was out in full and helicopters were over head. They were alerting the neighborhood to a fire at a paper plant nearby that had resulted in a chlorine cloud. I poked my head around the corner to see my dad standing at the door with a gun in his hand.

“Dad, it’s the cops”. I said.

“I know”. he replied.

That was my first lesson to distrust the police.

After many interactions in my teens that sentiment had proved to hold true. Doing normal teenager things my friends and I had been harassed regularly. Our car broke down one night and as we were waiting for our other friends to return with help a police car screeched to a halt behind us, flood lights on. Both officers jumped out, drew their guns, and ordered us out of the car. We kept our hands on the ceiling and yelled at them that we would not be getting out. I’m a 5’3” 105 lb. female. If you need your guns drawn to come over and talk to me, you have bigger problems. I am also half Latina and half white but just by looking at me, I look like any other white girl. We were able to diffuse the situation and they eventually left. Turns out they were looking for another car of teenagers in the area. How many times has this happened with disastrous results? And yes, you read that correctly, WE were able to diffuse the situation, not the officers that pulled up on us.

In my twenties, I worked. I worked a lot. I worked all the time. I took a district manager position for Mr. Rags. Mr. Rags was a skate shop that sold apparel and accessories but they were a skate shop at heart. We worked on skate boards and we had hardware and tools lying around. I typically went home with a couple Allen wrenches in my pocket after work and I would throw them in my glove box. This was the mid-nineties so I was rolling in a lowered white Lexus with ground effects and an aftermarket stereo that would blow your socks off. On my drive to work one day I noticed a police car behind me. My tags were expired. I knew this and I had the new ones were in my glove box. My license plate frame was a nightmare to get off. It required an Allen wrench, of which I had plenty, but I was going to head to the car wash first so I hadn’t done it yet.

Sure enough, this guy turns his lights on and pulls me over for having expired tags. I showed him the new ones and asked if I could put them on my car immediately. That was an unacceptable solution. He became frustrated with me and declared that he must remove my license plate and take it with him. So I waited for him to dig through the back of his squad car to retrieve his tool kit. He pulled out a fluorescent green kit with the words HERS across the top. As he fidgeted with the plate frame and tried to figure out the best way to remove my plates, he became even more agitated as he glimpsed me laughing hysterically in the side mirror. He finally re-approached the driver’s side and asked me if I had an Allen wrench.

I looked up at him from the driver’s seat, “What’s an Allen wrench”?

I was eventually let go with enough ticket fines to eat up two weeks pay. Some of it I fought. Some of it I paid. And now, raising kids of my own I think about how many people haven’t gotten away with a fine or a fix-it-ticket? How many people have paid with their lives?

  • I did not live this story. It was told to me by a friend.
  • Photo credit: Kevin Bosc on Unsplash

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