Breakin’ The Law – Part One
Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.
I HATE law enforcement officers. Well, actually, I hate the law. Yes, I kind of get why we need a set of rules to protect the stupid fucking people from doing something fucking stupid. But I really don’t see why we are in such a hurry to protect dumb people from themselves in the first place. There are so many laws out there that it’s hard to keep track of them all. And some of them are just plain stupid.
I’ve never felt like I was above the law, just that the law was always bendable in my direction. Law enforcement officers don’t see it that way. And that’s why we don’t get along. We’ve just never seen eye to eye. In a city like Los Angeles, whose police force has upheld a long tradition of being known for being fucked up, corrupt, and racist, it’s hard to like the police. Especially after they pull shit like this:
Most big metropoli around the world (non-American cities) have very intricate train systems that move the masses of people from their homes onward to work. Trains that are extensive and have schedules and lines that run all the time. Los Angeles; however, is a city that long ago scrapped its train system (once the largest series of rails in the world) for the automobile and thus has diminished our subway to the point of being nothing more than a little piss trickle that virtually connects nothing with even less than nothing.
There I was, one hot summer day in 2002, riding the subway. I had left work with a full Starbucks venti-sized ice water to help me drink the heat away. I came to the station sweating and ready for the train to whisk me away to my house and into an adequate amount of air conditioning. I walked up to the ticket kiosk and was unable to purchase a fare due to that particular machine being broken, so I went to the other ticket kiosk. Same thing: broken.
I was over it. I looked around the empty station for any reputable authority figure. In Los Angeles, there are no turnstiles or doors to walk through: Our metro is entirely on the honor system in terms of ticket purchasing. While scanning my whereabouts, I spied a used ticket on the ground for the direction I was headed. I picked the ticket up and put it in my pocket.
The platform was hot and as per usual in LA, the wait for the train was at least fifteen minutes. I was shvitzing in that station and when the train finally did arrive, I was relieved to find it was completely air conditioned. I got two seats to myself and sat back to enjoy my twenty minutes under Los Angeles’ city streets. The train was especially packed that day and filled with its usual ruffian clientele. No matter to me, though. I put my earbuds in, turned on my music, and kept to myself.
I didn’t happen to notice the two LAPD officers board the train because it was so packed. I only first noticed them two stops before my own and tried not to make eye contact. I failed. One of the officers looked right at me. I saw him say something to the other officer and that officer looked at me as well. No matter, I reasoned to myself. I haven’t done anything wrong. Well, nothing I couldn’t talk my way out of, at least. Or so I thought.
I stood up to let a woman take my seat at the stop before my stop. Then I walked over toward one of the sliding doors in front of the officers, showing no fear. All of a sudden, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A chill ran up my spine. I knew it had to be one of the cops. I removed my earbuds from my ears and turned around. Sure enough, it was Officer Do-Right wanting to tell me something.
“Where are you headed?” the pig asked me.
“Um, I’m headed to North Hollywood,” I replied with a questioning tone in my voice. FUCK! I thought to myself. Surely they would ask for my ticket, but the officer didn’t care to see it.
“Wait for us at the next stop,” the officer said.
For a minute, I kinda started to panic. I didn’t know what the fine for not having a ticket was, but I sure as shit knew I couldn’t afford it, whatever it may be. The-less-than-a-minute journey from the Hollywood and Highland station to my station in North Hollywood seemed like an eternity in hell with the cops holding the torches. Finally, my train pulled into the station, and the doors flung open. I began to walk out of the car and away from the scene when the officer said:
“Wait right there.”
So I stopped, totally busted. I just looked at both of them and upheld my innocence. “Have I done something wrong, officers?”
Without missing a beat, the second oinker, Officer Silent-Bob, spoke up and said, “Actually, you have. We need to see your license.”
I looked at both of the officers, and as I began taking out my wallet from my back pocket I said, “Well, please enlighten me as to what I’ve done.”
I took a big ol’ uncomfortable swig out of my venti Starbucks ice water and nervously awaited an answer as the officer checked my ID.
“Do you know that it is illegal to be drinking water on the subway?” the first officer asked.
“Um…it is?” I asked, thinking his words were silly and preposterous at the same time. Seriously? I thought I’d been pulled over for fare evasion, not hydration!
“Yes, it is. If you were to spill that water on the train, anyone could slip in it and fall,” the officer explained. Or at least tried to explain. I thought his rationale/excuse was a crock of horse-shit, and so I called his bluff:
“So a mother…” I started, “mothers can’t breast-feed their babies while riding the train because their milk might spill and someone could slip and fall in it?”
Granted, there was most certainly a hint of sarcasm in my voice, but since WHEN did drinking water become a crime? I can understand beer or soda or juice: all of which stain and are sticky messes to clean up. Water though? Don’t they use water to clean the subway train floors at night?
The cop was not having it. He got out one of his pads and as he started writing on it, said, “There are signs everywhere: no eating or drinking on the subway.”
Way to totally ignore my point, douche bag! I just sat there patiently while he filled in whatever paper he was writing on. The entire time I was waiting for either of the coppahs to ask me for my ticket to ride, yet neither officer bothered. Finally, the first officer finished writing, ripped the page from the pad it was attached to, and handed me the yellow ticket.
“I need you to sign this,” he says to me.
I looked at the piece of paper. What I had naturally assumed would be some kind of warning was actually a ticket! That sonofabitch had written me a ticket for this supposed “offense!” I looked at it in disgust and was wondering where I could sign to get these two donut-eaters outta my face. In looking for the signature line, something caught my eye that made me get steaming mad. There, on the violation line, was written the amount of my fine:
It read $250… $250!!!!!!!!!
I gasped in disgust and looked at them and said: “Two hundred and fifty dollars?! $Two HUNDRED and fifty dollars? I can’t afford $250! That’s the most ridiculous fine I’ve ever heard of!”
“Maybe you should pay attention to the law then,” the second cop said as he stepped toward me. “There are signs everywhere.”
I looked around the station and behind me, searching the walls for any signs that said you can’t drink water on the subway. There weren’t any. “There aren’t any signs anywhere that say that!” I said like a wise ass.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t signs in the other stations or that it isn’t the law. Because it is. Now sign the ticket!”
I could not believe this. Most Angelenos don’t know we even have a public transportation system, yet I had been riding the subway for months and had never seen anyone stopped for blaring loud music or eating or drinking from water bottles. And a $250 ticket? How the hell did they justify that? They should have rewarded me for being one less idiot driver in the city with the worst traffic in the universe.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not paying some stupid $250 ticket. Take me to court!” I said, triumphantly. I did what any good Thoreau-loving, red-blooded American would do: I took the ticket, ripped it up in their faces, and threw it in the trash!
They seemed speechless, and they were! I turned and walked away from the scene: reeling that I got away with the entire situation! I kind of can’t believe that the two cops didn’t go all Rodney King on me. I mean, first I had refused to sign it, then I ripped it up in their faces, and then walked away? Surely I shoulda been a target for a beat down, but remarkably, I got away with it.
Not only did I sashay away from the scene of the “crime,” I stormed away from that ticket for the next several years. Right after the afore mentioned sitch with the bacon happened, I received a notice from the courts that I had been ticketed and that I either needed to plead guilty or contest it. Either way, my presence with the law was requested. But I wasn’t biting. I was moving to New York in six months and figured, Fuck California, let ’em come find me in the Big Apple.
By the time I was living in New York, I had completely forgotten the entire incident. I lived in NYC for a year and then I moved to Sydney, Australia, for a year. After that I moved back home to Missouri to help my mother with my ailing grandfather for a year. I finally made my grand return to Los Angeles in May of 2006.
cont’d. in part two
more by KOELEN ANDREWS
photograph by Anthony Indraus