So I’m driving through Clifton, New Jersey the other day when I come to a stoplight. I’m behind some punk in a Honda, who I’m sure is a horrible driver–as are all people that own and operate motor vehicles in New Jersey. Some awful noise is emanating from car. It could hardly qualify as music, but I’m sure the 18 year-old Sam Goody employee that sold this ass his $18.99 CD full of awful bleeps and bloops represented it as such.
Now, we were hardly in a residential neighborhood. In fact, I believe this street we were sitting on bordered a cemetery on one side and some kind of warehouse or warehouse-looking, low-rent motel on the other. As we sat at the light (one of those overly-long stops out in suburbia that makes absolutely no sense), a cop made a left and drove past the Honda and myself in the opposite direction. I watched as he drove by, always self-conscious that I am somehow violating some Jersey law by just sitting there in a blue SUV. When I was sufficiently sure he wasn’t going to stop and bust me for trafficking in methamphetamine or chewing gum after 10 PM (there are some weird laws in this state), I focused my attention back on the red light in front of me.
Suddenly, in my rearview I caught site of flashing red lights and white reverse indicators. I looked back over my shoulder only to see the cop reversing back down the street right towards me. I started to go over everything in my mind that I could have possibly done. Maybe… and before I could even think of anything, he was by me and screeching to a halt beside our buddy in the Civic.
The cop leaned his head out of the window, extended his arm, made a pincher out of his forefinger and his thumb, and slowly twisted his wrist counterclockwise. The awful Spice Girls racket streaming out of Mr. Danceteria’s window was squelched in an instant. The sound of crickets mixed with the soft putt-putt of the pillowy white smoke trailing out of his exhaust pipe. The cop pulled his appendage back into his car, zipped up his window and slowly rolled away.
Listening to the trooper’s tires crush tiny pebbles beneath their mass, I realized that I had seen suburban justice in action. No longer was the enemy a knife-wielding subway pusher, or a suicidal, PCP-crazed lunatic with a hostage, but a tasteless, Euro-trash music listening economy sedan owner. This is the land where firemen actually pull cats out of trees. This is the land where the most serious call for cops in a given month is busting up a teenage basement party after the neighbor complains about “that damn hippity-hop music these kids are always playing.”
It’s not that I’m disparaging anything that our law enforcement professionals do, but with the whole 9/11 anniversary coming up soon, it’s been on my mind. It’s just shocking the priorities that exist depending on where you are.