We live near a large state university, the same one that Jen and I both graduated from, back in the day, and 4M just recently (and my dad, a few days before that). Large enough to have its own on-campus police force (colloquially known to the locals as the Kampus Kops), comprised to a fairly large extent of Criminal Justice majors who aspire to be real police officers someday. And therein hangs a tale or two. . .
The MSU campus is, not to put too fine a point on it, huge. A couple square miles, at least. Which works out to well over 1000 acres, and that doesn't even count the farms to the south of the 'built-up' campus. So, depending on where one is going, there are certain corners of our metro area that almost inevitably entail driving across campus, in one direction or another. Which, because of the Kampus Kops, can sometimes (even often?) be waaaayyyy more painful than it needs to be. Nineteen-year-olds with badges. How could this possibly go wrong?
It has become apparent, through long experience, that the young Kampus Kops have been taught that people who are careless and unconcerned about things like obeying the law, are often careless and unconcerned about other, smaller things, and that the aspiring young officer of the law, by taking watchful note of these small markers of lawlessness, will often bag bigger Bad Guys than would seem to first meet the eye, because the petty scofflaw is the outward presentation of the Major Criminal. Dontchaknow.
And so it came to pass, one fine Sunday evening, as Jen and I returned home from a prayer meeting (the geography of which made for a significant advantage if one chose a cross-campus route on the way home), that, about halfway across the two-mile expanse of the campus (and a lovely campus it is, if I may say so myself), I was summoned by flashing red-and-blue lights atop the vehicle behind me.
ME (thinking): What the heck? I'm watching my speed (just for the sake of saying so, several members of our family had recently been ticketed on campus for 3-over-the-limit, and similar severe crimes). What is this all about?
A couple minutes pass while the officer runs the standard check on my plate number. Then the officer gets out of his squad car and proceeds to my window. Knowing the drill, I hand him my driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Looking up, I see a pimply-faced young man trying to look as stern as he possibly can. He seems momentarily taken aback to find himself face-to-face with a gray-haired gentleman.
KAMPUS KOP: Do you know why I pulled you over, sir?
The classic cop-question to put the driver-miscreant on the defensive. I searched my brain cells for anything I might have done to attract the attention of this erstwhile specimen of MSU's Finest. I knew I wasn't speeding, and I was taking a route across campus that didn't entail any turns, so I hadn't failed to signal a turn. Finally, after a minute or so, I admitted defeat.
ME: I'm sorry, officer, I have no idea.
Actually, I'm kinda curious to find out.
KK (with a triumphal, even smug air): You have a broken tail-light.
So that's it! Of course! I don't even remember how the tail-light lens came to be broken, but in researching the replacement cost of the tail-light, I got a number distressingly close to $200, so I decided that I wasn't going to pay that kind of money to replace a tail-light that was still entirely functional. I made my way to the auto parts store and purchased a roll of red tail-light tape, with which to cover the hole, and restore the red parts of the tail-light to their original redness.
ME (a little confused): But I taped it over with the red tail-light tape. . .
KK: Well. . . it's the wrong shade of red.
He looked me right in the eye with a straight face as he said this. I looked him straight in the eye right back, not saying a word for a minute or more.
ME (thinking): Did you just say 'WRONG SHADE OF RED'??? ARE YOU F***ING SH***ING ME??? 'WRONG F***ING SHADE OF RED'??? Does it even occur to you how f***ing brain-dead STUPID that sounds? You pimple-pocked puke! I wanna talk to the genius that gave you a badge!
ME (out loud, very respectfully): Uhhhh, I'm sorry officer, but I specifically bought 'Tail-Light Tape'. (I fished around in the glove-box for the remnant of the roll, still in its package, which proclaimed in large, bold letters that it was, indeed, no-fooling, 'TAIL-LIGHT TAPE'). Is there a different brand I should have bought?
At this point, the young officer-wannabe had a look on his face like he had a stomach-ache, and wished he could be anywhere else. That damn cracked tail-light was supposed to belong to the biggest drug-dealer on campus, not some gray-haired decent-citizen type who was probably older than his dad. And the old guy saw right through his BS about 'the wrong shade of red'. The search was now on for a not-too-badly-failed graceful exit, although, to be brutally candid, it was already too late for that.
KK: Well, uh, try to be more careful about how you repair your broken tail-lights, OK, sir? I'll let you off with a warning this time.
ME (thinking): 'LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING'??? You BETTER freakin' let me off with a f***ing WARNING. 'Cuz if you ticket me, I am DEFINITELY contesting it, just to hear you say 'Wrong Shade of Red' to the judge, Idiot-Boy.
I'm thinking that it's not getting any better for the kid as words continue to come out of his mouth, so I just try to bring things to a merciful close, so I can be on my way.
ME: OK, officer, I'll try to do that.
KK: Thanks. Have a good evening, sir.
ME: I'll try.
ME (thinking): Dumbass; there's 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. . .