Parting Shot

On my way out of that big city I used to hang out in I decided to drive past my old house in the little town outside the big city. The house looked the same, from the road. The woman who’d bought it with me with mighty aspirations of ripping it down and building something more respectable obviously hadn’t done so. I drove down into the little town where I’d gone to school. I hated this place the whole time I lived here, and was convinced that when I figured out how to be happy in this awful place all my problems would be fixed. Instead it turned out leaving it solved most of my problems.

There’s one road in and one road out of that little town, and as I dropped down onto that road a cop car fell in behind me. It was that 2 AM kind of stillness, nothing out but me and the cop following me. I’m bad at cops. I always try to be so anti-confrontation and very subserviently let them know that it’s not cool for them to pick on me just cause they think they can and that I am aware of my fourth and fourteenth amendment rights. But I always feel yucky afterwards. When the cop ran a red light to keep following me I figured he was going to pull me over. He followed me all the way through campus, and when I reached the end of that road he cut off to the left. I knew he was making a loop to cut me off, and I could have turned around and hauled ass. But I didn’t. Why should I? I was just a girl going back to see her old college, and I was not going to be harassed out of my seeing.

I parked, instead, and started walking with Bro. They have ginko trees here that used have this awful homey rotting smell in the fall, but now it’s winter and they’re austere, juicy smelly parts gone underground. The cop car shows up pretty soon, and the follow me, slowly, down the sidewalk, the way guys do when they’re being assholes to a pretty girl. When they roll down the window I’m ready. I do it just like Davka wrote it, once. I turn and I talk loud, confident, “Why are you following me?!?”

He answers me even more loudly, “We are the POLICE and you are SUSPICIOUS and that’s what POLICE do, we follow SUSPICIOUS people.”

For a second I want to deescalate this, placate him. I smile sweetly, “I’m suspicious?”

“YOU’RE SUSPICIOUS,” he yells back, and I realize I’m not afraid.

“Well I don’t care what you call yourself or what you call me. I don’t like being followed by strange men late at night.” I turn away and keep walking. They keep following, and I think any minute they’ll yell out nice ass, but they don’t.

“Your WINDOW is ILLEGAL,” he yells.

I shrug. There’s nothing illegal about my window, unless it’s some weird local ordinance about covering rear windows, which wouldn’t make any sense, cause what about cargo vans?


“No.” Is he blind? Is he going to break it?

“I’ll ask you this ONE MORE TIME. Is your WINDOW BROKEN?”

I stop and I stare at him. I love these old trees. “NO my WINDOW is NOT BROKEN.”

He turns to the guy driving and tells him to go back to my van. Bro and I hang out with the trees a little longer, and then head back to the van. They are walking around it with flashlights, trying the doors, which of course I’ve locked. If I had an alarm system I would have hit the panic button right then, as they were pressed up against the glass with their flashlights. When they see me the younger one goes back towards the car, and the older one turns on me again.

“Ma’am, this vehicle is UNSAFE for operation in THIS STATE with all this STUFF ON THE DASH.”

Bro, personal protection training still intact after all these years, starts barking at him. I smile. “I’m on my way out of this state.”

“WHERE are you going, MA’AM?”

“Oh, I was just driving by on the freeway and thought I’d stop and see where I went to school. Now you’ve reminded me of why I got the hell out of here and I’m ready to get the hell out of here again.”

He’s silent, waving his flashlight around in the windows again. It’s a power tactic, I know it because I use it.

Then he turns on me, quickly, again. Bro, of course, calls him on it.

“MA’AM, are you LIVING in this VEHICLE?”

“What?” I put on a little indignation. I do not tell strange men who follow me around in the middle of the night with guns where I live. How rude of him.

“ARE you LIVING IN THE VEHICLE, MA’AM,” he yells again.

“Have I done something illegal?” I ask him.

“Yes MA’AM, you’ve done something ILLEGAL.”

“Then write me a ticket or HANDCUFF me or whatever MEN LIKE YOU do to SUSPICIOUS WOMEN LIKE ME these days.” I yell it back at him and he is surprised. He just wanted to play with me and now he’s not sure what to do. Write me a ticket for having too much stuff on the dash? I do have too much stuff on the dash.

“I’m going to call Campus Police and let them know that you’re on THEIR PROPERTY and you’ll be LEAVING momentarily.” He’s walking to his car.

“Do you have a card?” I ask.

“NO MA’AM,” he yells.

“Do you have a name?” I am running to the back of his car to take down his license plate.

“BADGE NUMBER SIXTY, MA’AM,” he yells, “that’s SIX ZERO, MA’AM.”

I laugh as he drives away. I will never come here again.


  1. wow tara, my stomach turned to mush while reading this post. i’m so inspired by the way you handle yourself, so in awe of your strength.

  2. Well handled. I wonder what they would have done if you had gotten in your van and followed them?

    I once responded to unnecessary questioning and inquisition from 2 cops saying,”….I’m shifting the dominant paradigm, is that illegal here?”

    One of them was taken aback, found the statement interesting and asked several intelligent questions about that statement that I didn’t mind answering.

  3. wow, tara i’m gaining valuable insight on how to deal with these situations when they come up. so far, so good, but i know it will happen to me. once again thanks for sharing the details of your interactions.

  4. Excellent. Absolutely excellent. Good for you.

    In general, I actually enjoy most cops, but I live in a reasonably sophisticated city where the police are, usually, sane and level-headed and professional. This guy was definitely a harassing, moronic jerk, and good for you for standing up to him and his nonsense.

  5. What a F*&king Asshole. Cops really don’t have to be like that as I’m sure you know very well. Usually I have more trouble with renta-cops like campus security. They are the ones who can’t make it in the real league.

    Good for you for staying cool; good for Bro too!

  6. I had a cop follow me for about 30 miles about a week ago. He finally pulled me over–my passenger-side rear-view mirrow was dinged from swerving to miss a motorcyclist who was driving on my side of the dotted-line during Bike Week at that time. He informed me of my infringement, and asked me if I understood what he was telling me. I said, “Yes, sir.” Condescendingly, he asked me,

    “Ma’am, will you repeat back to me what I told you, and why it is illegal for you to be driving your vehicle this way?”

    I paraphrased what he said, and he was irritated, seriously, that I didn’t remember the infringement verbatim. Having been a teacher, I told him, “You know, real learning occurs when the student repeats the lesson back in her own words…”

    He said, “Where’d you hear that load of crap?”

    Yeah. Not the most educated of folk. I’m just saying.

  7. I am impressed. By the level headedness, and courage. people like you make life worth living.

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