July 12th, 2005


Quality of life

It's a little after midnight and I'm riding my bike down Court street minutes after watching a bad movie at the local theatre when a cop car races towards me, lights conspicuously off, down the wrong side of a one way street! I swerve to avoid sudden impact and the police speed by my frame with no apology. I notice more stealthy cop car action turning corners and keep my mind laser focused on the possibility of a car chase. Nervous, I decide to ride the empty sidewalks and call my friend because it's her birthday and I want to be the first to wish her a happy one before I die in a hail of bullets. I catch her on the phone and she laughs, informing me her time zone is an hour earlier than mine. She has 45-minutes left before she turns 28. Drat!

Suddenly, an undercover squad car lights up beside me and the shotgun cop flags me to stop. I accidentally close my cell phone in mid-conversation as the cop curls his pudgy fingers, signaling me to come closer to his window. I lean down and ask him "What's the matter, officer?" I figure he wants to know if I witnessed any crime. Instead, he informs me that I'm breaking a "quality of life" law riding my bike on the sidewalk. My head jerks back and I look at him like he's got to be fucking kidding me. I look down both directions of the empty sidewalks and there are no people to be found and I say as much. He doesn't seem to care. It's part of his job to enforce the quality of life in the neighborhood. He wants my name and identification. I show him a credit card because my only I.D., a passport, is at home a few blocks away. I didn't think I needed I.D. to see a late show of THE FANTASTIC FOUR. I ask him what he needs my name for? He tells me he's going to write me a fine. This angers me greatly and I pop my cell phone open. He asks me who I'm calling. I say, "my lawyer." My rights threaten his shield and he puffs out his chest. Meanwhile, his partner, the driver, ignores our parlay while he chats with his girlfriend via cell phone.

The cop backs down and says he won't fine me but that he'll write me a summons to appear in court so I can explain myself to the judge. I look him dead square in his beady black Irish eyes and ask him, "Why would I waste my time doing something like that?" He pulls out the 'quality of life' card he's been dangling over my head and tells me "You could ride your bike around a corner and hit a drunk stumbling out of a bar, you know." Yeah, protect the inebriated. Incensed, I tell him that I've lived in Carroll Gardens over 8-years now and I have never been confronted with such behavior. I tell him, "You want to know what quality of life is? Quality of life is NOT getting killed by a cop car speeding down the wrong side of the street while I, a bicyclist who has the right of way, nearly gets hit. Which is the only reason why I elected to bike on the empty sidewalks -- so I can live." His eyes glaze and he admits that there was an incident a few blocks away, mere minutes before, annihilating his quest for quality. I can see it in the way he slumps back and deflates in his seat that he feels like a jackass. I crack a smile and give him credit for confirming my story. He pops the summons book back up in the car blind and tells me he's going to let me off with a verbal slap and warning. His partner never looks at me. He knows it's a bullshit charge. They drive off.

I call my friend back and we chat until it turns midnight her time and I wish her happy birthday.