Monday, September 19, 2011

The Day I Was On The Other Side of The Law

My title may be a bit extreme, but over the past month five or so people have found my blog by doing a Google search of, "living life on the other side of the law." With that being so I have come to the conclusion that I need to give the readers what they want.

It was about this time of year, three years ago. I was bowling in the very late league on Wednesday night and when it was over I headed home. The time was about 12:30AM and the drive home, typically, was uneventful as traffic was usually sparse. Now I do remember a time back in 2001 when there must have been a street racing crash and these three heavily modified cars were in a heap of rubble. That was the only time though anything outside of the ordinary happened. That is until this one night.

I had just passed Mackenize Road when all of a sudden blue and red lights were flashing in my mirror. Surely this wasn't for me as I know Watson Road at this time of night is one of the world's biggest speed traps. I tried to stay calm, but the lights weren't passing me and I pulled off and was followed.

My mind, at this point in time, was in overdrive. Why was I being stopped? If I wasn't speeding this must be serious. Did someone steal my car and do a whole lot of crimes and now the world thought I was public enemy #1? Did someone steal my identity and now I was wanted for atrocities in countries I had never heard of before?

Being so scared and in a state of absolute panic I began thrashing about my center console and glove box. This was probably disconcerting to the officer because I'm sure it looked like I was either trying to find something or destroy something.

When the officer made it to my window I rolled it down and he said, "Sir, do you know why I stopped you?" Words didn't come easy and I was slightly rocking back and forth and I almost blurted out that I was probably wanted in another country because I was convinced my life, as I knew it, was over. My mind fumbled about trying to come up with something that didn't involve the end of the world, but it quite simply wasn't happening.

After several more awkward seconds the officer asked for my license and insurance papers. I had my license, but it was the insurance papers that I was trying to find when I was thrashing about my glove box, and eventually I found it and handed it to him. With those in hand he disappeared.

I still didn't know why I was stopped. With this ambiguity I was now convinced my fears were becoming true. A few minutes passed and he returned and said, "Sir, I pulled you over because..." The moments between his because and the next word was the longest bit of nanoseconds in my life. I was sure this was it. Life was over, "your tail light is out." I heard his reason but it didn't process. There were no crimes at the level of atrocity and nothing major. However, because I was in such a internal panic his words were not processed.

When I give presentations to officers I sometimes tell this story because, without a doubt, I had to be one of the most suspicious individuals you could think of. I made no eye contact, my movements were jerky and erratic, and words were thought of long and hard as if I was trying not to say the wrong thing.

The ordeal wasn't over, "Sir, would you have any idea why your brake light is out?" Was this a trick question? How would I know? I'm not a mechanic, but then I remembered my run in with the horse. Hitting a horse does lots of damage and somehow it also did damage to the right rear tail light. I knew the answer, but why didn't the officer?

Truly, that last line played true. As I say in presentations, "I think, therefore you should know." and at this point in time, of all times, was the worst time for it to happen. I kept trying to find the words to explain it, but I knew, since after a few more awkward seconds that just because I knew he didn't know, that telling an officer in Saint Louis that I hit a horse would be much like telling my teachers when I was in school that my little Maltese dog ate my homework.

Then, I had a stroke of genius. Okay, it wasn't so much a stroke of genius as my eyes wandered to the pictures I had in my backseat. It was visible proof that I had, in fact, come into contact with a horse. I quickly grabbed it, and almost stuttering said, "I was in South Dakota last month and hit a horse."

"A horse?" the officer asked with a certain hint of inquisitiveness. The tone also sounded like this concept was so far-fetched that I had to be telling a lie the size of the Pacific Ocean. He grabbed the sheet of photos, looked at it, and said, "Wow, a horse?! Sir, you've had enough trauma for one year, but get that light fixed soon." and that was that.

My run on the other side of the law might not have been the most impressive spree of lawlessness, but for me it was a time of extreme stress. I did make one error that night and that was my opening statement should have been that I am on the autism spectrum. I am aware that I, at times, do look suspicious and add on top of that the stress that was going on and yes, he probably had every reason to suspect that I was hiding something.

Looking back on my life this routine traffic stop is one of the reasons where I am today. The year this happened was 2008. My book had not yet been released and working at a place like TouchPoint wasn't even in my imagination. Yet, when the chance came a little over a year later to do some part-time work for TouchPoint by giving presentations to police officers, I said yes because I saw the need to explain what goes on within a person like myself in a situation like that. Had this stop not happened I might have said no to that offer because I would have laughed at the prospect at myself being a lecturer and public speaker, and if that had happened you would not be reading this. But everything did work out, here I am and you are reading this and since I have spoken to around 1,000 officers! And to think, all this and everything I am now all might have started the night I was on the other side of the law.

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