Have you ever been arrested? Not just hassled by a cop and told to move along, or had to sit still while "the man" explained some ridiculously simple traffic rule that you had broken while he writes up the very expensive ticket, but full-blown, cuffs on, "we're taking you downtown" arrested?
I have. Once.
Well, let's be honest here, more than once, but I'm only at liberty to reveal this one particular story, as Big John "The Cleaver" McPhee is coming up for parole soon.
It was a hot, balmy Saturday afternoon and my buddies from church, the brothers Mike and Tim Aldridge, came to pick me up to spend the night with them so we could play Dungeons & Dragons until the wee hours. (I'm sure many others have started their life of crime in a similar fashion, but please bear with me.)
The trip to town was a twenty minute ride and the radio was playing nothing but track's from some newcomer by the name of Bon Jovi. We had the windows down and were breathing deep the sweet smell of youth and the fleeting feeling of being out from under our parents thumb for a while.
Then Mike showed me the water balloon.
As far as water balloons go, it was a sorry affair. Instead of the standard round balloon, he had chosen a fat cylindrical number a foot and a half in length. It was awkward, clumsy, and almost impossible to throw without using two hands, and he only brought one. I have no idea what possesed him to bring it. Then came the suggestion that I will always regret, "Let's throw it at a car!"
Now normally amongst my circle of friends, I always played the voice of reason, counceling caution and prudence on every occasion. Not this time however. It seemed like such a harmless little thing to do, and doggone it, can't boys just be boys occasionally? I told him to go right ahead.
"But I'm left handed," he whined, "I can't throw from the passenger side!"
"Well, so am I," I countered, "besides, I'm a miserable throw. I can't even play catch!" but there was no dissuading him from going forward with the plan, and as I was already in the passenger seat, it fell to me.
I folded the ballon in half and held it in my outstretched hand, and as we rounded a corner, a black sedan was coming the other way. I performed the most amazing hook shot of my life as I tossed the ballon over the roof of our car in a picture perfect arc that had it collide with the windshield of the oncoming car, and culminated in an enormous splash. We giggled with delight at our mischeviousness, until the black sedan turned around and started to chase us down.
Now these are twisting country roads we were traveling, with all the straightness of a can full of worms, that were accented with large ditches and drop-offs on either side. Our late model Buick Century was not built for high speed chases and the engine groaned as Tim pushed the pedal a little closer to the floor.
The tires squeeled in anguish that no movie soundtrack could emulate. The speedometer kept climbing, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, and I looked over my shoulder to see how our victims were keeping up. They were so close, I could see the blue haired old lady dabbing her eyes with a hanky as her white-haired, crew-cutted husband put their Lincoln Towncar through its paces. They were close enough I could count the beads of sweat on his forehead. He must have turned off the air conditioner to milk a little more horsepower out of his boat of a car.
"Turn here!" I screeched, and we turned onto a disused dirt road in a cload of dust that would have made the Duke boys proud. We dodged, we weaved, we tried to lose them on oil well roads, but they just kept coming. There was no shaking them. They stuck to us like a social disease.
"Oh great," I thought, "we are going to die trying to escape the early-bird special crowd!" And in a straight away, Old Man Towncar passed us and cut us off. There was no getting away. There was no place to run to, no place to hide. We were busted.
They called the cops, and while we waited for them Old Man Towncar read us the Riot Act.
In retrospect, we did have it coming. What I had done was stupid, rude, and potentialy dangerous. I been a jerk to a random stranger who was a veteran, (U.S.M.C. tattoo on his forearm) a good driver, and probably a solid citizen who was enjoying his retirement to it's fullest, and I had scared the bejesus out of his wife. I would have rather he beat the crap out of us for being so dumb, spent the night in jail, and had to pay a hefty fine, rather than sit there for five more minutes and listen to him explain in detail how we had gone so horribly wrong and how we represented the lawlessness of this community.
I felt about one inch tall.
The cop showed up. He took their statements and information, and sent them on their way with an assurance that justice would be done swiftly.
He sent Mike and Tim home with a stern warning, and he escorted me home in the squadcar.
He was probably my age now, mid to late thirties, mustache, and getting a little soft in the middle. I tried to make polite conversation as he retraced the route home that I had only traveled forty minutes ago. I asked him why he left his PR-24* in the backseat and not up front with him. "Let me guess," he said with a smile, "your dad's a cop?"
"No," I said, "but my brother and my cousin are." He asked their names and made a mental note of it as he stroked his mustache.
Needless to say, my mother was very surprised to see her young teenaged boy climbing out of the cruiser that was parked in our driveway. My father was poised, fork in mid air, reaching for the porkchops that rested next to him on the dining room table when I came in. I could see the blind red fury building in his face, not so much because his baby boy had done something stupid, gotten caught, and was escorted home by an officer of the law, but the fact that his hot porkchop dinner was now going to have to be split three ways instead of two.
The officer gave a very brief summary of what had happened and left just as quickly as polite society dictated. On his way out, I swear I heard him snicker.
My mother screamed at me in a way that only a mother can, "You go to your room and think about what you have done!" And not to be left out of his role as parent, my father added, "And no dinner for you tonight," which returned the division of the evening meal to a ratio he liked.
Needless to say, I learned my lesson well.
The next time I went off to do something stupid, I drove.
* PR stands for public relations. 24 is it's length.