By Eddie Whitlock
I was driving through my hometown in early December, when I came to town to visit property that my sister and I still own there. I had brought my dog, Doc, who cannot drive.
We did well enough on the way there. It’s about a two-hour drive, so I stopped about halfway for a walk and water. Doc was able to exercise some at the property, though I kept him on his leash.
He really enjoyed the trip, I think, and particularly liked getting to sniff around the big empty area. I think there are more than a few wild critters around. There are probably a few domestic animals that visit as well. For Doc, it was a lot of fun.
As we had driven through downtown on our way to the property, we had gone past some sort of chaos involving a large utilities truck. I don’t know what was going on, but they had blocked off one of the two lanes of the busiest street in town.
When we were on our way out of town a couple of hours later, I expected the truck to be gone, but it wasn’t. Whatever was going on was taking a while, and it was making traffic complicated.
As I edged past the situation, I tried to get over into the right lane. I couldn’t. The cars beside me wouldn’t let me over. I sped up, I slowed down. Some jerk in a big SUV comes flying up behind me.
I tried to get over. He was riding my bumper.
Let me emphasize here that I was in the wrong. I did a bad thing. I sped up, got past the block of cars. Before I could get over, the SUV starts around me on the right side. I got over, and he was stuck behind me.
He was driving aggressively. I was being a dxck. I got over again, keeping him behind me.
During this, traffic was finally starting to thin. I should have just taken the left lane like I was intending to do before the SUV got behind me.
I moved back over, blocking this guy again.
That’s when he turned on his flashing blue lights.
That’s when I realized I had been fxcking around with the police.
I pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant. The SUV pulled in behind me. The two men who got out of the car were not dressed like policemen. They were dressed like soldiers. They were wearing battle gear.
Doc is an anxious little fellow. I was scared shxtless that he would bark or snap at them. For what it’s worth, he didn’t. He was curious about the situation, but he didn’t cause a problem.
The officer who had been driving was livid. He chewed me out for blocking him, saying that he had been in pursuit of someone.
Do you know what my smart mouth said back to him then?
Not a damned thing.
I did my best to act like I didn’t know I had done it.
He took my driver’s license and went back to run it. The other officer came to my window and stood there. I asked him about the utility truck, why it was there, and what was going on. He was not interested in small talk. He wanted to know why I – with my Clarke County license plate – was in their city.
I told him. I tried more with the small talk, but I got no reply.
Eventually, the first cop came back to the car and gave me my license. He chewed me out again for having kept him from pursuing another vehicle. I apologized again. I was expecting a ticket or at least a written warning. I didn’t get either.
I drove my axx – and Doc’s – slowly and carefully back to the good old People’s Republic of Clarke County.
I have not shared this story with anyone, not even my wife or my therapist. (I had planned on writing this column about the value of therapy. That will be a future topic.)
I should have gotten a written warning or a ticket. I am very glad that I didn’t. I am very surprised that I didn’t.
I am a little old white man. I drive a little white Prius. I have a little red dog who – thankfully – didn’t show his axxduring this traffic stop.
The two men who stopped me scared me. They were not dressed like “peace officers,” in my humble opinion. They were definitely enforcers of the law.
I can say that the vehicle they were in did not look like a police car. It looked like an SUV. Even if I didn’t know it was a police car, I should not have blocked them. I should have done what I was supposed to do and gotten out of the way.
Here’s something else I can say: I was afraid that I might be arrested. I had pixxed off a policeman. I had broken the law, probably.
I was certain I was getting a ticket. I was not happy about that, but I wasn’t afraid. I was kicking myself for what I had done.
Here’s something else I can say: I never worried that I would be beaten. I never worried that the situation would escalate. I never worried that my mother was going to get a really horrible phone call that evening.
When I saw the Tyre Nichols story, my first thought was about a friend whose two sons could easily wind up in that situation. She agreed, and said it was a topic she talks with them about regularly. I am glad she does, but I hate that she has to.
The day that I got stopped, I didn’t have any outstanding charges or other legal problems that showed up when that policeman ran my license. I was just a little old white man driving a little white Prius with his little red dog.
I hope that the latitude those angry officers gave me is extended to every person who does something stupid. I hope it does.
In the meantime, though, I know that white privilege once again made my life easier.
And that’s wrong.