24 May, 1990
On the road to Nashvegas
Well...I'm sure that those two State Patrol cops who sometimes glance at Jimmy Carter Blvd. would be pleased and proud. Perhaps their faith in human nature would be refreshed...
"See there Dale? I hadda good feeling about that kid...He's just tryin' to do right the best he sees it."
"Yup. I heard he done real good on his tests, too."
They were so paternally sincere the night that Officer McCoy pulled me over while I rode the larger and most recently acquired of my pair of motorcycles. He slowly absorbed a clean, relaxed impression of the principles of a lifetime...after he made sure that I wasn't armed. He began to develop a rational interest in my, uh...position. That is; he didn't dismiss my little routine as bullshit, out of hand. His sense of irony got the best of him, though, when his partner arrived on the scene...
"Tell Officer Brown here why you don't want to get a driver's license."
"Why?" I looked up at him from where I sat smoking a cigarette next to my warm 920 Virago, "So you can both have a good laugh at my expense?"
He shook his head with a snap, "No. I'm afraid he won't believe me if I tell him."
As it turned out, Officer Brown did believe it, and I don't think McCoy had to lobby his partner too strongly before they agreed to cut me loose.
At several points during the 25 minutes following the arrest (see Black's Law), I had snippets of virtual intellectual intercourse with one or both of these two armed men. Brown arrived on the scene after McCoy notified dispatch of my lack of I.D. By that time (arrest +15 mins.), I'd already tested McCoy on such topics as Driver Quailification and State Licensing, Enforcement, Similarities Between Soviet and American Administrative Law, The Depth of Applied Philosophy in American Life, and The Efficacy of Truth. Of course, all of this danced along during the obligatory searches, data gathering, radio contacts, remote computer interrogations, modem interrupts, satellite uplinks, dispatch cruiser scrambles, and all of the rest of the schemes for which we pay sort of half-assed money in order to render this service properly known as arrest.
One can imagine that it must have been a rather crisp and cogent affair to have covered so much ground, so quickly.
Officer McCoy did well for himself, and I think that he was as gratified with my performance as I was with his. Although he never seemed tense, I wasn't sure if he'd called for backup, and I couldn't understand it if he had. In any case, by the time Brown arrived, McCoy was satisfied that he wasn't dealing with an authentic bad-guy. It could be that he just wanted to tell somebody what he'd found.
I'm finding that a natural process of aging can produce an interesting juxtaposition of values. At no time did I strike the sort of sparks which my established credentials would have allowed one to predict. For instance, I never challenged them to take me to jail. I never provoked such an undesirable event by citing points of law; Constitutional (or otherwise), Federal, State, or local. For the value of security (the privilege of going home to sleep in my own bed that night; the sanction to carry on my life and career), I exchanged the values of autonomy and integrity, among several others too wide and deep to discuss in public these sorry days.
Early on in my little pas de duex wif da def home troop, I figured that he would not take my protestations of a true and valiant soul back to the station house and expect high-fives from the shift commander. Even so, I realized that I still had one card to play. The metaphor which refers to "killing one's soul" is difficult to apply too strongly here, for this card was definitely The Last One.
I knew that I'd have to give them something if I could even hope that they'd let me go home.
Of course, I'd gradually reached a turning point over the previous several weeks. I had seen the far-off glimmer of the bend in the road ever since I'd begun to ride my 650 Savage. I owned it, and it was definitely a motor vehicle, subject to all of the capricious interference which the minions of corporate administrative law could screw down. I knew that it wouldn't be long before one of them would halt my progress down a sunny road...and I would face the choice of either taking up The Cause in good faith, in the teeth of almost certain defeat...or painting the cynical gloss of a darkly tangled age on my smiling face as a pleaded for a chance to step into The Line.
Anyone could have seen it coming. In fact, no one was surprised after I was arrested by a DeKalb County Police Officer (how's that one, political entity fans?) who took my bike away, and took me to jail for not having a license. Some may have missed it when the true nature of this affair was revealed during the cop's intense telephone questioning of my sister-in-law on the point of my identity. Any rational analysis of ownership (property rights) was cruelly mocked during my efforts to recover my Savage from the impound lot. A sharp insight was gained, however, when one of the Roth wits observed that questions of ownership would not have difficult for the cops to resolve if the goods in question had been a bag of dope, instead of a motorcycle.
Nothing made it any easier when I realized that the odds had taken one of their final turns. There would be no more grandly argued court briefs, simply because the life that had made it possible to produce that motorcycle had also made it impossible to defend it. Having fought through a process of natural market selection to the point where I could ply my craft in the clear-eyed expectation of earning a living, I simply could not pray for redress of grievances in the temples of the dialectic method, with endless study of legal scrambling as the price of admission.
So, when I told Officer McCoy that it had been my intention for several weeks to assemble proper documentation on the conduct of my life (which, of course, included a driver's license), the sincerity which he later commented on was very real. In fact, even as my experience guided me through the familiar process of arrest, my fervent prayer was that I'd come across a man whose sense of reason was intact enough to understand that there would be no harm done in letting me go home. It was an odds-up bet, and I was as prepared to spend the night on the cold steel of a holding cell as I was for relaxing in my warm bed. However, resolve and desire were strange company in my mind that night, because there was nothing I wanted more than to ride the remaining two miles to my home.
Officer Brown gave form to this glaring moment in my life when he asked the most probing question of all; "What has made you change your beliefs?"
I was proud that I took the moment to consider the premise of his question. Pride turned calm when the correct answer occured to me with the confidence of a well-known self;
"I haven't changed my beliefs," I answered. "I'm simply changing my practice." It was good enough for them, and they let me go home.
It has only been lately, as I think about my new Georgia State Operator's License, that I've begun to wonder, precisely, what it is that I will practice.
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