No Fixed Abode: Real Stories of the Lazy-ass Highway Patrol.
“When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” How many times have you heard that phrase used by gun-rights advocates? It’s a catchy but glib way to characterize the role of police in American society. The courts have ruled time and time again that the police have no duty to protect an individual citizen, and you should have no expectation of that individual protection.
The problem with the deduction that comes naturally from the above statement — therefore, I had better protect myself — is that very few of us are prepared to exist in what the late Colonel Jeff Cooper called “Condition Yellow” all the time. “Yellow” means that you are mentally alert and prepared to use force in your own defense. “Condition White”, on the other hand, is what happens when you’re asleep, daydreaming, using both hands to repair an automobile or tie your mistress to the hotel bed, playing Lumineers tunes on an Adirondack-topped acoustic guitar, or making your way through the tenth “Challenging Stage” of Galaga. Chances are that you’re in “White” right now. To test for this, have someone in the same room with you, no matter how large that room is, point their finger at you and say “Bang” quietly. If you weren’t prone on the floor with your personal weapon out before they finished the word, you’re in White. Congratulations! You’re not paranoid.
The fact of the matter is that most of the safety that most of us enjoy comes from making intelligent decisions about where we live, work, and travel. In the small town I call home, I’ve often left my wallet on the drivers seat of my Boxster, with the top down on said Boxster, overnight. (Maybe I’ll stop doing it, now that I’ve told a half-million people.) Between the years 2009 and 2014, I never knowingly locked the front door to my house. In fact, I’d lost the key. Contrast that with a town like Baltimore or Chicago, which usually account for a few hundred murders each every year. Where do you think there are more police: Powell, Ohio or Baltimore, MD? Hey, maybe the existence of police causes crime, the same way the existence of Batman in Gotham seemed to increase the number of super-villains.
If you correctly identified that last statement as ridiculous, you’re a more useful and intelligent citizen than every single person who has ever posted an “Upworthy” link on Facebook.
Unfortunately for me, however, I can’t spend my whole life at home with my son building LEGO kits. I have to travel on the Interstate system. The safety of motorists on the Interstate system is the responsibility of the state highway patrols, and as I recently discovered, it’s not a responsibility that is taken very seriously.
It was a late night on Route 70, somewhere east of Laramie but definitely west of Washington, PA. I was driving a modern entry-luxury sedan with LED headlamps back from a racetrack on the East Coast. Next to me, reading her Kindle and definitely in the aforementioned Condition White, was a young (compared to me) woman in a North Face jacket. Behind her, in the right rear passenger seat, was her tween-aged daughter. We were doing about 70mph, not in any hurry, with the expectation that we’d be home by 1am or so.
I saw the dual-rear-wheel, current-model Silverado HD coming at me from maybe a thousand feet back, bullying traffic out of his way with his high beams and what looked to be about 90 miles per hour of three-and-a-half-ton momentum. The problem was that I was passing a line of semi-trailers who were doing, at best, fifty miles per hour up a hill. So unless I wanted to play Freightliner Sandwich I was still doing to be in his way when Mr. Silverado got to me. I flicked on my right turn signal and brought the pace up a bit so I’d at least be on my way to getting clear by the time he got to me.
At this point I should mention that the behavior described above is the product of middle-aged cowardice/caution. For most of my life I’d have dawdled in the lane and waited for the guy, then made it my mission to ruin his attempts to haul ass in his empty-bed cowboy Cadillac. Having been run off the road by a jacked-up truck at least twice in my life, however, I’m no longer inclined to make a personal statement about this sort of thing. So I was trying pretty hard to get out of Silverado’s way.
It didn’t matter. Though I had my right signal on, he closed at 90mph or more on me, with his high beams on, swerving back and forth. He was close enough to me that I could see each headlight in a separate side mirror. Fuck this. I dropped three gears and ran up to the next open spot in the right lane. A few moments later, he went by and swerved into my lane as he did so. I expected something like that — the tinky-winky antics of this kind of driver have passed into the realm of stereotype — but I was surprised at just how hard he went at it. Then he pulled back into his lane and slowed down to about seventy miles per hour, a few hundred feet ahead.
Had he seen a cop? What was going on? I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to get anywhere near him. So I stayed back, cursing the very distinctive headlamp arrangement on this particular automobile, even as he slowed to 65, then 60, then 55, then 50. A few times he would swing to the next lane and slow down farther; wary of being swerved at again, I stayed back.
Then it happened. Ahead of me in the right lane, he simply stood on the brakes in the middle of the freeway and brought his truck to a halt. There was actual smoke from the rear tires, something I thought modern ABS didn’t permit even in an unloaded dually. I flashed over to the shoulder of the left lane, knowing what would happen well before he swerved back over in an attempt to catch the nose of my car with his bumper.
I tossed my phone to my companion. “Call 911,” I said, and I took the sedan up to about 100mph, aware all the time that there was a child in the car and that I wasn’t even close to a major city or anything besides empty freeway. Tractor-trailers blocked both lanes ahead. Behind me, the Silverado was closing the gap.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“I am heading west on Route 70, at mile marker xxx, and there is a drunk or enraged driver in a large commercial pickup truck attempting to kill me, my passenger, and the child with us.” The Chevrolet loomed large in the mirrors. The truck ahead of me finally moved over and I floored it, but I wasn’t going to drop the truck with the 50+mph closing speed he had on me. This wasn’t an Aventador or a superbike. All I could do was to get past the nose of the truck that had just moved over and swing over just in time to miss the swerve from the Silverado, which then locked brakes again and tried to hit me a second time. The tractor-trailer hit his horn.
I had an idea; I dropped onto the right shoulder, tapped the brakes, fell three or four trucks back, then shoved my way into a gap where I had trucks on three sides. Yes, I got this idea from watching Burt Reynolds do it. But now the Silverado couldn’t find or get to me.
“Pennsylvania highway patrol,” my phone said. I recapped my story. “We’ll send a unit,” the dispatcher said.
“Okay, we are now at mile marker xxx. Maybe fifteen miles to the West Virginia border.” The Silverado had decided to sprint ahead but when I edged out to take a look I could see him shoving traffic out of the way a quarter-mile up the road.
“We need a license plate.”
“It’s the only Silverado dually with Texas tags in the area, I promise. I didn’t get the plate number because he was trying to kill me for unknown reasons.” Then I gave the dispatcher my full legal name, my phone number, and a description of my automobile.
Five minutes later, I saw a PA State Police trooper on the right side of the road, with his lights on. “Here we go,” I told my companion, but when the Silverado went by the trooper didn’t move. He was busy writing up an Avalon for a traffic violation. “Google the number for West Virginia highway patrol,” I instructed, then dialed that number. I gave them the full story, including the fact that I could see Mr. Silverado swerving at people from half-a-mile back. Then I gave them my full contact information.
Nothing happened, and we entered Ohio about three-quarters of a mile behind the Texas dually. I called Ohio with their 1-800-GRAB-DUI number. “This guy’s drunk, or high, or aggressive.”
“We’ll send a cruiser.” And sure enough, there were two cruisers in the median a few miles up. They did nothing. Then we passed an Ohio patrol Charger with its lights on… handing out a traffic violation. Then another one. I called the number back.
“Hey, I’ve seen four troopers and nobody’s done anything.” The dispatcher took that amiss.
“Sir, we’ll handle this situation appropriately.”
“Hey, you know that this guy’s speeding, right? You can get a ticket out of it.”
“Thank you,” she replied, saying it to mean Fuck you, “we’ll call you back.”
“The hell with this,” I said to my in-car audience, “nothing’s going to happen. Let’s get off at the next exit.” Which was ten miles up. And wouldn’t you know it, we pulled up at the same Pilot station as Mr. Silverado, who was exiting. Five foot nine, maybe, chunky, twentysomething, dopey-looking, wearing an actual mesh-backed baseball cap. Unless this guy was just coming home from a stint in Seal Team Six, there was no universe in which I was not going to end up kicking his manlet ass from here to Amarillo. No matter how middle-aged and arthritic I was. I was going to have a thorough conversation with this inbred Dust Bowl hick, preferably by bouncing his face off the fake-ass stupid plastic intakes that the heavy-duty Silverados have for no reason other than Ford envy. Then my phone rang.
“This is the Ohio Highway Patrol. I assume you’ve lost contact with the drunk driver you reported?”
“No! Not at all! He’s walking into the Pilot station at Exit xxx. I’m going to sit right here and when your trooper gets here I’ll point him out.”
“We’ll send a car.” And I waited.
And watched Mr. Silverado get back in his truck and drive off.
And went in, used the restroom, bought myself a Coke Slurpee as a calming measure. Then came out and filled up the car with fuel. Then called 1-800-GRAB-DUI back. “Hey, I filed a report on someone and gave you his whereabouts twenty minutes ago. He’s back on the road,” and this last was perhaps unnecessarily spiteful, “probably ramming a fuckin’ schoolbus full of disabled kids.” Then I hung up and drove out of there.
Over the course of the next eighty miles, I saw five Ohio State Patrol vehicles doing traffic enforcement. None of them had managed to notice a dual-rear-wheel truck doing ninety miles per hour and swerving at people. They were pulling over regular people in sedans and SUVs. It’s a personal gripe of mine that the Ohio cops won’t pull over a pickup truck, ever. When I drove an F-150 XL as a company vehicle, I’d test that by blowing down I-70 at 85 in a 55 and get away with it every day. Do that in a Porsche and they’ll put you under the jail.
We were home by two AM. I never saw my friend in the Chevy truck again. If he managed to hurt anyone, it wasn’t between the border with Pennsylvania and Interstate 270. I’m still not sure what I did to upset him, other than sitting behind him on the freeway with my very bright LED bulbs (on, I must note, low beam). I’m not sure how I can avoid doing it in the future. Basically, because I was driving a vehicle that was sensibly sized for the task of transporting a family across the country, I was at the mercy of this piece of human garbage and his shiny-bed pickup with the un-scratched Class IV receiver.
Meanwhile, three states’ worth of highway patrol officers ignored the situation so they could make their ticket quotas and avoid the hassle of having to deal with an out-of-state criminal. You can’t fill your quota if you’re busy booking a guy for assault. You can’t make revenue waiting for a very big tow truck to impound a very big pickup. No wonder nothing happened. Nobody really cared.
Of course, if I’d been killed, if my passengers had been killed, then the highway patrol would have ostentatiously man-hunted for the person responsible, they’d have issued a statement, some progressive blog somewhere would have run the usual copy-and-paste bit about “rolling coal”, and I’d have been too dead to notice. In the end, what saved me was the fact that I’d watched Smokey And The Bandit a bunch of times as a kid. By doing nothing about that kind of on-road aggression — by choosing to focus on revenue activities — the police tacitly encourage bullying behavior from people who think their Silverado makes them judge, jury, and executioner. Don’t look for that to ever change. When seconds count, the highway patrol is busy counting dollars and cents.
Marineguy on Mar 08, 2015
If I were alone I probably would've just tossed my "cash tray" contents out of the sunroof, peppering his hood with pennies and nickels, and then took off. If my family was in the car I like to think I'd have just pulled over. Maybe he would've pulled over with me, in which case I would've called the cops. Then maybe he would have decided to get out of his vehicle confront me, after which I'd again call the cops let them know there was no longer a rush to get there. When seconds count...
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