Thursday, July 16, 2015

Will you shoot us now, officer?

Somewhere in the greater LA area, not far from the Pacific, a black convertible with three women is making its way through traffic.

The ladies keep a conversation going as the driver, the oldest one, weaves to get ahead faster. A police car passes and flashes its lights. Time to pull over on the side of the road, onto the dirt of one of the many LA area cities that have no sidewalks whatsoever.

What both the cruiser and the black convertible come to a halt, two officers get out of the police car and approach the women.

The car didn't even have hub caps, one would later explain. We must have looked like a Latina girl gang, especially with Suzie's hair dyed pitch black and donned into a beehive.

As one of the officers gets close to the driver's side, the other pulls his gun, extends his arms and raises the firearm.

License and registration, please.

The driver hands both to the officer. He takes both and turns towards the cruiser to check the papers.

What's wrong, officer? the passenger in the front seat asks.

He is already a few yards away and does not respond. The second officer is standing still, gun raised.

The first officer comes back and hands the papers to the driver.

Two of your brake lights are out, I'll have to write you a citation.

The woman in the back seat says: Can I make a phone call?

The front passenger warns her: Don't move your hands, don't you see there's a gun pointed at us? She moves her head towards the officer with the firearm: Are you going to shoot us now, officer?

The officer shifts his weight slightly as the officer next to the driver asks: Where are you from, Mam?

What do you mean? Originally?

Yes, Mam.

From Germany.

I swear to God, she would later say, the gun came down as soon as I said from Germany. 

And where are you coming from now?

From the airport.

And that was the end of it, she explained later. The cop at the door finished the ticket for Suzie while the other one put away his gun and walked back to the car. You gotta see this with your own eyes, I don't know, maybe they didn't want to upset a foreigner. As soon as I had told him we came from the airport, I think he thought I came from Germany. She chuckled. With my accent, which I haven't managed to get rid of after twenty years in the States, he probably never thought I might have come from the East coast to visit Suzie.

We are not telling you the story is not because it is a cop story, or because we want to write about sitting in the LA sun at the business end of a gun. Although this most certainly helps to get the attention of an audience.

The reason for the story is that it is a perfect illustration of how people fill in the blanks in communication, of how we all glue what we see and hear into a coherent story. 

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