Why I wound up surrounded by four police officers in the middle of the night is of no matter.
Three cars pulled up, one after the other, turning off the headlights a few houses before their destination–a duplex in what seemed like an ethnic neighborhood on the boarder of Detroit and Grosse Point. My girlfriend was in a swivet on the ground in the front yard, patting her hands over the grass, calling my name and whining about a fallen SIM card. My empathy was hindered by the fact that this was not her first emergency of the night and also I had no idea what a SIM card was.
Though overly-thoughtful when considering what disruption their headlights might cause in a residential area at this hour, the cops parked their cars as if they were at a hostage situation–turned at sharp angles and several feet away from the curb. One car pulled into the neighbor’s driveway, rolling over the curb on the way up. The car doors opened and out came four generic Detroit cops–young, white, frat-faced men with flushed cheeks and baby skin.
The smallest cop took the lead, dumping trail mix into his mouth from one of those tubular 3-for-$1 bags. The other three followed half a foot behind, talking softly to each other.
“What’s going on, girls,” the little one asked after swallowing.
I watched my friend struggle to explain why we were on the property, what she was doing on the ground and her embarrassed desperation to get her phone back in working order. She was hindered by the evening’s miraculously successful “pre-drinking” session–a ritual effort to save money on drinks at the bar by getting drunk at home first. Seeing this as an opportunity to impress myself, I frankly told the cops an abridged version of what we were doing and why.
In the middle of a stranger’s yard, in the middle of a band of child-cops, in the middle of summer, in the middle of the night, my friend and I rummaged our IDs out of our oversized and overstuffed purses. Having finally completed this always-awkwardly time-consuming task, we handed the IDs over and one of the officers took them back to his car to run our records. Waiting for the results of this also-always-awkwardly time-consuming task, I thought I’d help pass the time with a smoke. This decision–the decision to smoke a cigarette–provided me with one of the greatest opportunities and deepest regrets of my life.
I dug back into my bag and pulled out a cigarette. I drew it to my lips. I pulled a Bic lighter out of my back pocket and raised it, placing my forefinger over the wheel. However, I was interrupted by a familiar request coming from one of the cops: “Please don’t smoke. I dropped my arms and replied, “What are you going to do, charge me with smoking?”
That’s what I should have said. That’s what I wanted to say. But like my friend’s communication skills, my wit had been dulled and I missed my chance by mere microseconds! The remorse I felt from wasting such an opportunity set in almost immediately and hijacked my self-awareness and self-control. Instead of throwing out a “yes, sir,” or saying nothing at all, or even unflinchingly staring at the guy while I continued to light up, I turned to him and barked, “But he’s eating trail mix!”
If failure is not an option, one must resort to sabotage.