“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the cop asked.
The Inquisitor’s question. It’s never a good sign. Aviator mirrorshades. Handlebar mustache. Because of course he would. Establishing the right script is important at a time like this. It sets up the roles. It’s also a Stanley Milgram thing: To establish dominance, get the victim to see you not as a human, but as a force of nature.
I hadn’t the slightest idea why he’d pulled me over. But I was pretty sure it couldn’t have been speeding. Joggers rarely speed.
“No sir,” I said.
“I’m going to ask you to step over here. I’m going to give you a breathalyzer test.”
“But I’m sober. And, uh, I was jogging.”
“That’s what they all say. Here, blow into the tube.”
I did. The numbers shimmered on the little display and settled down: 0.0000000000001 BAC.
“Like I said, I’m sober. Am I free to go?”
“This state has a zero tolerance policy,” said the cop.
“Zero tolerance for drunks. But I’m not drunk.”
“Zero tolerance means we only tolerate zero.”
“And you don’t tolerate anything else?”
“Was it the Gatorade?”
“You should be more careful with that stuff, you know.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“We’ll start by impounding your car. Asset forfeiture.”
“But I don’t have a car. I was only out jogging.”
“A likely story. What do you call that?” asked the cop. He raised his arm and pointed roughly behind me.
I turned, and there it was: my car. No doubt about it – the make, model, and license plate. Even the scratched driver’s side mirror.
Behind the car, a ramp was rising on a flatbed truck. The truck’s driver gunned the engine.
“You just brought that here. This is absurd.”
“It’s your word against mine,” said the cop. “Who’s a judge going to trust?”
“Look, you’ve clearly got a system here where you can just arbitrarily arrest anyone at all. That can’t be right.”
“You voted for it, didn’t you?”
“Do you vote at all?”
“Well then, you gave up your right to complain.”
“So if I vote for it, I can’t complain. And if I vote against it, I can’t complain. And if I didn’t vote, I can’t complain?”
“Democracy’s got its problems,” the cop said piously, “but it’s better than anything else.” Then he looked at his tablet.
“Oh,” he said. “And your NSA file.” His jaw grew slack.
“The NSA? What do they have to do with it?”
“I’m not allowed to tell you.”
“But I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Then it shouldn’t matter what it says in your file. Nothing to hide, right?”
“Are you going to arrest me?”
“I can’t just let you back out on the street, can I? So yeah, you’re under arrest.” And then the handcuffs. Of course.
But then I realized that something was really, really wrong here: He hadn’t read me my rights. Was that a part of zero tolerance too? Ignorance of the law is no defense, I recalled, unless you are a cop. Maybe it was nothing to bother with after all.
And then I realized that something else was wrong. Way, way wrong. The cop had pulled me over. I had seen him in my rear view mirror. I guess I hadn’t been jogging.
The cop smiled. “We took a vote,” he said.