Speaking With Authority

    The rear window of the car in front of me boasted the following…

    “Never, Never, NEVER Shake a Baby.”

    I assumed the decal was just another tasteless attempt at comedy in this simple age of one-sentence tee shirts and cryptic vanity tags. However, upon closer inspection of the foreboding font, I realized that the message was, in fact, totally genuine. This person truly wanted all commuters to understand, the result of shaking one’s baby would not be a joyous occasion. A web-address was even provided, in case some poor soul out there needed a more in-depth list of reasons as to why.
    I checked out the bumper, hoping to discover more whimsical words of wisdom just waiting for my eager little eyes. Often people like this had more than one thing to say.
    Much to my disappointment, the dented chrome bumper was bare, save for one lonely sticker–black with a thin blue line running horizontally across the middle, like a flag.
    “Oh,” I thought to myself. “I get it.”
    It was the universal emblem of an off-duty police officer, which I only recognized because a friend who was particularly interested in matters of law enforcement once told me so. I think everybody has a friend like that–they guy who actually sits in his room and listens to what the police are up to, using that awfully official-looking black box. The whole setup seems like it should be illegal, but they assure you it is not.
    Knowledge of the driver’s career had somehow compartmentalized the dimwitted nature of the sticker for me; it seemed appropriate in the hands of a cop. The man was legally permitted to shoot me in the nostrils as much as he liked, yet I held no standard as to his intelligence.
    The inconsistency would not strike me until a few days later. I was in a bit of a rush to get home and, well… I wanted to be doing that. I was speeding, naturally–it really only takes one foot to do so–when a Crown Victoria, all blue, white and angry like a private school bully, came roaring out of the bushes. I screamed, and slowed down dramatically, which I always did around cops. People often said slowing down too harshly made the officer suspicious, but I disagree. Given my thoughts on their taste in decals, I assume they lack the presence of mind to look for cars going too slow and too fast.
    By now, I was actually going below the speed limit, which in retrospect was probably not a good idea. The Crown Victoria growled at my bumper, nipping at my butt and hungry to make it’s presence known. I flicked casual glances to my rearview mirror, while trying to hide the obvious fact that I was checking his sirens for any signs of life. I do not know why any of us bother with this part.
    Just as the blue and red bulbs burst into a chorus of melancholy whales, the mantra crept back into my mind.

    “Never, never, NEVER Shake a Baby!”

    I concluded there was some serious reorganizing to do, in terms of how I looked at law enforcement.
    The officer and I pulled off the highway onto the shoulder, like two happy little ducklings. He stayed in his car, making no effort to conceal that he was doing nothing in there, while I waited for time to start over. I rummaged through my glove compartment, in search of my crumpled registration, all the while becoming more and more paranoid. I quickly became convinced he thought I was digging around for a weapon of mass destruction or something.
    Eventually the man and his sidekick, the Mighty Mustache, climbed out of the Crown Victoria and approached my vehicle. His walk was steady and stoic, almost a little Southern; the entirety of his being was encompassed by the myriad leather compartments of his over-equipped utility belt.
    Were it not for the belt, I felt certain the top and bottom halves of his body would have moved independently of each other.
    The Mighty Mustache–solid, scruffy and black–shuffled into the view of my driver’s side mirror. I looked at it, became instantly tempted to brush the thing away using the bristled end of my ice-scraper, then thought better of it. Disheartened by images of being beaten with the fancy belt, I stopped myself from ridding the police officer of his facial hair.
    “What can I do for you, officer?” I offered, pointlessly.
    “License and registration.”
    I handed over the identification, which was even more crumpled than I had expected.
    “Here ya go!” I said.
    The critter sauntered back to his car, forcing me to wait once more. This second helping of solitary confinement was even more unbearable than the first, as I no longer had any reason to rifle through my stuff.
    Inevitably, eventually, the officer returned. He brandished a bright yellow citation high into the air as if it were evidence, and not the verdict.
    “Thank you,” I said dumbly, as he intoned something about words he had circled with a near-empty cheap blue pen.
    “Drive safely,” he said, by way of dismissal.
    “Never shake a baby!” I pleasantly replied, driving off before the Mighty Mustache was able to respond.
    I concluded, as the wind tossed various receipts and tidbits of scrap paper about the interior of my little grey toaster car, that my perception of law enforcement definitely needed another look. I glanced up at the mirror to examine my sweaty upper-lip.
    Yeah… I could never pull off a mustache.

Published in: on April 4, 2011 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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