Here at TTAC, we’re often accused of being libertarian cop-hating anarchist hippie freaks. Nearly as often as we’re accused of being tools of the corporate power elite and their propaganda machine. It’s true that most of our writers have a bit of an anti-authoritarian bent. After all, car guys want to go fast, and so on, and the Man doesn’t want you to go fast, and so on, and so forth, and also tickets for having a non-CARB-approved intake pipe suck, and so on. Sometimes we take it pretty far. We’ve even had a writer quit because we were being insufficiently respectful of highway cops, or something like that.
Our struggle against the police state is just that — a struggle against an ideology, not a war on the best of the peace officers out there. Today, I was reminded of that fact again, when a sheriff’s deputy went out of his way to fix a major problem for me.
I’ve used the Franklin Planner system since my father made me start using it in 1994. Some years I’m extremely diligent with it, recording every single expense down to the penny. Other years feature squadrons of empty pages with a single place name, or name of a person, scrawled among them, sometimes in blood. But I believe in the system and it’s helped me juggle a lot of eighty-hour weeks in the past.
You can imagine, therefore, how distressed I was to find out that my Franklin Planner had disappeared from my Town Car in the aftermath of my January wreck. It wasn’t just the planner itself I missed — I had seven different kinds of credit cards in there, plus my passport card, plus so much tax and banking documentation it would be possible for a rhesus monkey to effectively impersonate me in financial transactions. The worst part was that I couldn’t be absolutely certain that it had been in the car when the accident occurred. Being knocked around in the car, filled to the brim with Dilaudid, and enduring some genuinely daunting pain from the proverbial engine room in the weeks afterwards slowly reduced my conviction that I’d put the planner in the Lincoln that morning.
I should have canceled my credit cards immediately. Instead, I watched all of them online, waiting for something to pop up. At one point I thought I had a lead when my USAA Amex rocked up with a massive charge from a music equipment store. It wasn’t until UPS made a delivery two days later that I realized that I’d been shopping under the influence of morphine from my hospital bed, using the backup card. The good news is that even my doped-up animal hindbrain knows how to pick a solid piece of ribbon mahogany. My ancestors must have been rhesus monkeys or something.
Seventy-five days post-accident and still there hadn’t been a single untoward usage of my credit, my identity, or my treasured list of lonely single mothers within one Southwest segment from CMH. When I “found” a bunch of music books that I’d been hiding under the upstairs bathroom sink for some reason, it more or less cemented my personal assumption that I’d hidden or lost my planner in the house.
Still, I needed some working debit cards for my bank accounts so yesterday I went to the bank and sat there while they canceled the old and printed the new. “This,” I joked to my banker, “will cause my planner to appear.”
About sixteen hours later, my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, the caller identified himself as a Franklin County deputy. Insofar as every single interaction I’ve ever had with a sheriff’s deputy has involved either being stuffed into the back of a Crown Vic or having my parties forcibly ended right in the middle of an awesome rapping session, I was immediately nervous.
“What can, ah, the individual for whom you’re looking do for you, should I happen to find him, which I doubt?” I inquired.
“Mr. Baruth, I have your Franklin planner. I made a traffic stop last night and pulled it out of the back seat of the car involved. Would you like to come get it?” I was suspicious because I’d just been dealing with a legal issue for my band’s drummer and I was afraid this was some kind of scheme to get me to show up and testify against him.
“Your Honor,” I’d be forced to say, “I’m afraid D’Marco wouldn’t be qualified to work in the grocery store produce section.”
“And why would that be?” Jerry Orbach would ask.
“Because you never know when he’s going to drop the beats.” But the stakes were too high for me to do anything besides drive right down there and present myself. I thought about parking in Major Hickey’s spot but it didn’t seem like the smartest idea.
The deputy who came out was the coolest cop I’ve met in maybe twenty years, certainly since I stopped doing tactical shotgun stuff with a bunch of SWAT guys from Bakersfield, CA. (Long story.) We chatted a bit about the Ford Interceptor Ecoboost, which he adores, and about the job in general.
“What happened in the traffic stop?” I asked.
“I can’t really say,” he responded in a very professional manner, “but that dude had a hell of a night.”
“You know all that police brutality that the community leaders are always getting after you guys for?” I said.
“I hope you did all of that stuff.” We shared a mutual laugh, during which I envisioned this rather severe and muscular fellow beating my planner thief to death with a flashlight before firing a few warning shots at local bystanders holding cell phones. “I hope you gave him the whole Fruitvale, bro.”
“We don’t actually do that sort of stuff.”
“Whatever, man, it’s cool. Thin blue line, yo. Stop snitching. Or keep talking. Or something.”
“Well, ah, you’re free to go.”
“Free to go enjoy my planner, you mean.”
“That too.” On the drive home, I wondered about something. What if… what if the only interactions that generally law-abiding people had with the police consisted of said police returning their stolen items? What if the average citizen thought of highway patrolmen as a shield against danger instead of mobile ticket-writing taxation machines? What if everybody got to deal with a cop as nice and sensible as the deputy who found my planner?
What would the pig-hating hippies of the world have to say then?