I used to think that power resided in holding on, like holding on to a live jumper cable with wet, tight hands, my legs flying off the pavement in attendant shock. But lately? I feel much more comfortable letting go. And comfort is becoming paramount. Not the complacent lounging-around-the-house comfort, but the comfortable place where my mind is clear and ready to wake up and get down to the business of writing without having to wade through a murky sea of emotional turmoil. And all those T words: tumult, turbulence, trouble. I am ready for peace.
On the other hand…
I am not a peaceful person. I tend to be confrontational and sometimes I frighten people (or so I’ve been told by people who have tolerated and even loved me on a long-term basis). I am forthright. But different situations demand different behaviors. I have had three run-ins with authority in the past few weeks. I tweeted ad infinitum about my (nails-on-chalkboard) less than savory experience at the Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s when I had to get my driver license replaced.
Then, last Saturday I actually gave a policeman the finger.
Our town has a St. Patrick’s Day parade and the main streets are closed off so it requires lots of extra time to circumvent the festivities. After nearly a decade of living here, I no longer take any of that personally, I just allow extra time to get around town on parade days. Anyway, I was rocking out to Bohemian Rhapsody with my twelve-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, all of us singing our parts with jubilant enthusiasm (“He’s just a poor boy from a poor family!”) and waiting for the light to turn green. As soon as the light changed, a motorcycle-riding policeman (you get the picture, shiny black boots, mirrored sunglasses) flips on his noise-machine and flashes his big bully lights and decides *that’s* the moment he needs to cross the intersection against traffic.
Now, as a parent, I may be breeding little rebels, but I became immediately outraged. I had driven twenty minutes out of my way to be law-abiding, and because this guy has a badge and shiny black boots, he doesn’t have to wait for the light to turn green like the rest of us? He was not in hot pursuit. He was not. He just wanted to go then. And he could. So he did. So, yeah, what with the Freddie Mercury boiling my blood and the devil put aside for me, I gave that officer the full venting of my spleen. And, for other reasons, ahem, I happen to be well-acquainted with my First Amendment rights when it comes to flailing my arms and shouting obscenities and raising fingers in the direction of other people while I am in the confines of my own car with the windows up: I can.
My twelve-year-old turned the radio off. The joy was gone. She asked me why I got so mad. I told her. “I don’t think it is appropriate for people in positions of authority to disobey the rules of the road just because they can. I think that is a terrible example for you, to see a police officer, who is supposed to be making traffic flow more smoothly, do exactly the opposite.” And, of course, with that, came the woop-woop of the police siren and the mirrored robocop’s circular hand motion telling me to roll my window down as he slowed his very-shiny motorcycle to a stop next to my car. I was tempted not to roll my window down. It is my window. And I didn’t feel like rolling it down. But The Big Man could put me in jail for defying him. And the kids were in the car. I rolled down the window.
I said nothing. Why should I?
He stared at me.
I stared at him. What did he think I was going to do? Curtsy and wish him a good morning? Fuck him.
He looked around, all philosophical-like: “So. What was that all about?”
Um, did I miss the memo when cops could pull you over and ask, “What was that all about?”
Me: “What was what all about?”
Him: (smirk) “The hand waving and obscene gestures.”
Me: “I was angry.”
Then, this is the beautiful part, he actually started looking around for things to find wrong with me, or my car, or my children. My five-year-old was in the back and happened to be wearing an oversized t-shirt that concealed his seat belt.
Him: “Why isn’t he wearing a seat belt?”
I whipped my head around, about to be furious at my five-year-old, who, let’s face it, occasionally undoes his buckle (Beyblades fall to the floor, they have to be retrieved, etc.) Little Boy Perfect Comedic Timing lifted his t-shirt slowly and showed the gloriously buckled buckle law-abidingly snug across his smooth pale little-boy belly. Praise the fucking lord.
I might have smiled at the officer when I turned back to answer him. “He is wearing his seat belt.”
Keep in mind, the traffic, the infernal endless St. Patrick’s Day parade traffic is at a standstill behind me. He is doing that.
“I am a supervisor,” he begins.
Oh, here we go. The educational portion of my chastisement.
Him: “We are all trying to do a very important and difficult job here today.”
Of course in my mind (and, I was sure, in the mind of my twelve-year-old which is sometimes like a mind-meld) I screamed, “IT’S A FUCKING ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE IN A BEACHSIDE TOWN IN FLORIDA, IT’S NOT HOMS, YOU FUCKING JACK-BOOTED THUG!”
But, you would have been so proud of me, gentle reader, I nodded respectfully and silently.
Him: “There’s no call for that kind of behavior you exhibited back there.”
And then, kick me, I had to say my little part. “Officer [leaned head to read badge and said his name clearly so he would know that I would remember him], I want my children to know that it is not okay for people in positions of authority to disobey the basic rules of the road. And that they are entitled to question that.”
He did not like that. He was pretty quick with the comeback. “Maybe as a parent you should also want them to see that you are able to control your temper.”
Touché, Officer R—, touché!
I remained silent. And smiled.
Since all of our (governmentally-required) seat belts were fastened and all the lights on my (government-registered, government-license-plated, governmentally-mandated-insured) vehicle were in working order, he really had no further reason to detain me. I think he said something empty like, “Have a nice day” and waved me on.
I was shaking, not from fear or intimidation, but from how hard it was not to leap out of my car and put my face one inch from his arrogant, self-satisfied face and tell him what I really thought of his abuse of power. Because that’s all it was. And it disgusted me.