My friends and I had frequent encounters with law enforcement. But we were rarely ever doing anything actually wrong or illegal; it’s much more due to the fact that small town cops don’t have a whole lot to do. Our tiny city was apparently some sort of “meth capital of the Midwest,” but have no fear, because that group of three kids walking through a public park at night (us) are sure as hell not gonna get away with it.
This time was a little different.
It was our last day of classes in high school — the beginning of a new chapter in our blah blah blah blah.
I hung out with my friends Jerry and Colin, which wasn’t really any different from any other Friday. Here’s how I described them in the New Effington story:
Jerry was my predominant partner in crime through my later high school days. If there was ever a road trip to be had for no reason (like driving four hours to go to the Mall of America on a complete whim), he was right there with me. A little heavyset in high school, curly hair, a bit like Jonah Hill from Superbad, with just as much propensity for getting into trouble, and just as much bitterness from generally getting shit on in life. And easily just as funny.
Colin was a little shorter than me, but I don’t really know by how much, because I’m about 6-foot-one. Everyone is shorter than me. Longer hair, glasses, and more of a quiet person. He wasn’t shy at all; just wasn’t as much of a loud fuck as Jerry or me. Always willing to join us on our adventures. Lived with parents who were simultaneously strict, yet evidently somehow entirely unaware of his whereabouts during our frequent troublemaker road trips 50+ miles away to random locations.
We weren’t cool, so our method of celebration was to go explore a new forest I had found on the outskirts of town. This was sort of a regular thing for us. I drove us to our various houses to get our swords. I had two small wooden swords I’d purchased off eBay for about $17 each, which was a ripoff now that I think about it, even for the mid-2000s. Jerry had a wooden katana, and Colin had a real shortsword, though I doubt it was sharpened.
If you want to call us nerds, or weeaboos, or whatever, fine. I guess that’s not unfair. I could try to justify it and say they were for hacking at branches in the way of our exploration, which is indeed what would say out loud whenever we existentially questioned what the hell we were doing wandering around in a forest as 17-year-old men with fake swords.
But I have a different point to make, one that is larger than what precisely we were doing: Adolescent boys were not meant to sit in classrooms all day. In prehistoric times, or hell even up to the Middle Ages, teenagers as ‘young’ as 14 and 15 were already married, at war, had learned the trades and crafts for their given tribal occupation, or sometimes all of the above.
Boys crave adventure. We are born to want to be heroes. Men did not evolve in cubicle farms; we evolved to hunt and fight. Of course that’s certainly not all there is to the male gender, even back in this mythical prehistory I’m preaching about. But that desire for conquest is real, and is very much at the back of many/most men’s psyches.
I think this concept is at least partially responsible for male problems related to rampant depression, alcoholism, video game obsession, gambling, and even some of man’s propensity for violence. Real life is unsatisfying. Modern society is fucking boring. Go to school, learn shit, do math, do everything according to this pre-set plan. If you can turn on a magic video game box and escape into a world where you’re a mighty warrior, or a beloved football star, why wouldn’t you?
Gallavanting around in the forests around our small town, that dream was realized. We were explorers. We had weapons. But it was also all harmless: We weren’t really exploring anything. There was no REAL danger. A safe escape.
Regardless, we never really got a chance to explore new forests together with our swords, which when I type it out sounds a little homoerotic. Not even 5-10 minutes after we got there, Jerry’s aunt called his cell — she had apparently locked herself out of the house or something — and she needed his spare key to get back in. So we turned around and headed back to where I’d parked my car.
We’d only been in what I’d call the “foyer” of the forest for a few minutes, and hadn’t even really gone in yet. Despite this, we noticed ticks on each other, and ourselves. I remember I had three on me, and both Jerry and Colin had at least two each. I would subsequently randomly found two additional ticks in my car throughout the next couple weeks.
All from a couple minutes in some moderately tall weeds, before we’d even gotten into the forest part.
We opted to forgo the forest for that day. I especially hate bugs; I’m like a little girl about it. A cockroach touched my foot once while at a late-night gas station, and Jerry described it to friends as, “I’ve never seen a white guy jump so high.”
The grocery store had some insect repellent that specifically included ticks, but we opted out. I don’t remember why exactly, but I surmise it was likely due to one of the following reasons:
– We were still a bit worn out from frantically searching our bodies for blood-sucking insects
– We didn’t have a whole lot of money to blow on $8 specialized bug spray
– Who knows how well the repellant would work anyway?
– The acid was starting to kick in
– It was getting dark outside anyway
Ended up all going back to my place to play Halo or whatever. Video game guns weren’t enough to satisfy us for very long, because Colin found one of my various water pistols laying around, filled it up, and shot me. I persuaded him to stop, as I was currently at my computer and didn’t want it to get wet (I was researching “tick prevention”).
It was a ruse, though. I surreptitiously grabbed a small squirt gun of my own and sat down to play Halo with them. Once Colin was sufficiently distracted, I got Jerry to nudge him in the side. Colin looks over in my direction and immediately gets a face full of water.
I realized this was all gonna get ugly REAL quick, so after I shot him, I immediately ran outside. A full-fledged water gun fight is not going to work out well in the middle of my mom’s basement.
Colin purused me up the stairs and out the back door to the house. I may have ran track in high school, but the backyard was not spacious enough to really outrun someone.
So I ran across the street to where my car was parked (illegally, in a student-only parking lot of the local university). I reached it several seconds before he could, got in, and locked all the doors.
I tried to drive away to safety or something, but Colin had other plans. He decided to jump onto the hood of my car. I guess I could do the “accelerate quickly and then slam the brakes” thing, but I wasn’t trying to KILL the guy.
(Far from being angry at someone potentially denting up the front of my car, I really didn’t care about these sorts of things. It’s not that I mistreated my vehicle, it’s just that small dents or paint chips don’t mean anything to me. If he had started swinging an axe around inside the engine parts, then yeah I would have asked him to stop.)
It was a grand old time. I roll down the window a bit, stick out my gun, and shoot at him to get him off the car. I’d drive literal circles around him, firing out my window like some sort of mix between a Spanish bullfight and a drive-by shooting. Jerry eventually comes outside, sees the chaos, I yell at him to get in, and he hops in the passenger seat.
The parking lot that we were all screwing around in was enormous. It’s 230 meters long (about 1/6 of a mile, or two American football fields) and about 80 meters across (a third of its length).
Here’s a Google Earth image of where this took place, pictured with parked cars for size reference:
And it was about that empty at the time, too. Probably even more so. Summer had just hit for high schoolers, but the college students left a couple weeks prior. There might as well have been tumbleweeds rolling around on the asphalt.
The shenanigans went on for quite some time. Probably at least 20-30 minutes. Peeling around in circles with my car, us screaming curses at each other, and it didn’t take long until I was on the roof of my own car shooting at Colin while Jerry was driving. He didn’t even have a learners’ permit at the time, but you can surmise for yourself how much I actually gave a shit.
Much to the imagined audience’s dismay and disbelief, there were several betrayals. The specific details aren’t essential for you to get caught up in. We teamed up to get Colin, then Jerry would attack me. I got out of the car to avoid getting shot, and then Colin would hijack my spot in the drivers’ seat. But later Jerry would be revealed to have been on my side the whole time. This switched back and forth a few times.
The two of them were in the car, with Jerry driving. They tried to imitate my earlier actions, driving around in circles and shooting, but they couldn’t pull it off. I had more driving experience, and also frankly just didn’t give a damn about my own safety or the safety of others, so I didn’t exactly need to watch where I was going.
I ended up on the roof again, but this time I was shooting INTO the car, the drivers’ side window being wide open. While Jerry continued to drive. They didn’t have a clear shot at me (how do you shoot something on the top of the roof that you can’t see?), but I was able to get them both without much difficulty.
And that’s when we saw a police officer walking in our direction. Maybe 50-60 feet (20 meters) away.
Jerry noticed a couple seconds after I did; or at least, I assumed he’d noticed since the car came to a complete stop and the shooting ceased.
— — — — — — — — — —
The Next Day . . .
The three of us wake up after our first night in prison. We’re completely baffled as to how we’re going to explain this to our parents. This still remains the only time I’ve ever actually been to jail.
Nah, I’m just kidding. Of course we didn’t go to jail. Don’t be ridiculous. I didn’t even get to be strip-searched.
Like I said earlier, we had been “spoken to” by cops many times throughout all the times we hung out as friends. But usually, we were just pretty much honest about whatever we were doing, never had anything too illegal/weird in our possession (I had a traffic cone in my car once, but that cop was more interested in searching for drugs we didn’t have), and the police would just take down our information and let us go after a bit of jerking around.
We were unquestionably in the wrong here. We didn’t do harm to any property, but it sure as hell didn’t look like we were making a great effort to avoid it.
Also, as I said earlier, Jerry didn’t have a drivers’ license at all. He was certainly driving my car — if you call swerving around in circles with a dude on the roof “driving.” I think Colin had a learner’s permit at the time, but I doubt the police officer would have taken me seriously if I’d suggested I was giving them lawful driving education.
We were scared shitless. Suddenly our fun water gun fight didn’t seem like such a great idea anymore.
The cop turned out to be a college campus police officer, but that distinction didn’t really matter too much since we were indeed on university property. Not that I would have been well served by calling him a rent-a-cop in any scenario.
He took our identification, and by “our” I really mean “my” because I don’t think either Colin or Jerry had any on their person. Why would they? He wrote down all our names and addresses, asked us a bunch of questions, lectured us a bunch, and turned us into very sober teenagers with our tails between our legs.
The officer went back to his SUV and began that extended period of near-eternity, with us waiting for him to come back. We had quite a long time to ourselves to think about how much trouble we were about to either be in or get out of.
We were pretty confident that Colin’s strict Catholic parents were going to murder him, disown him, or just ground him until Jesus comes back.
Though Jerry wasn’t especially concerned about his aunt getting excessively angry, he figured he’d just completely ruined his chances of getting his drivers’ license that summer if this little incident was going to be on his permanent record.
I had a different idea.
I walked over to his side of the police vehicle and motioned to him. If this were a real city that I had grown up, with actual dangerous situations cops could get into, he would have noticed me walking toward his squad car, got out his gun, and yelled at me to get on the ground.
Well this is borderline-rural North Dakota, so he rolled down his window to talk.
I tried to convince the officer that this was all my idea, and that since it was my vehicle, to just give me any legal punishments and leave them out of it. I had a job to pay for any fines and lackadaisical-enough parents, so I figured I could handle this better than Colin and Jerry. (I also had a massive martyr complex as a teen.)
It wasn’t really about any legal arguments. I tried to present myself as humbled and sorry for what we’d done, and that we were just dumb kids having a bit of fun on our last day of school. It’s not like we were out smoking booze and drinking pot or whatever. Any sympathy or relatability I could get out of him would help, because cops always have a TON of latitude as far as what ‘crimes’ they want to ignore or prosecute. I didn’t have any tits to flash him, but I’ve always just had that easygoing and disarming personality that gets me out of 90% of my troubles in life. I certainly got a high roll on my charisma when it came to how the traits of ASPD randomly assign themselves.
After a minute or two, it was clear he was done talking, and that I had exhausted all my dialogue options. I don’t know what effect I’d had, if any, so we’ll just have to find out. I walked back to my vehicle, with my two fellow newly graduated high school students looking like a mixture of exasperated and anxious.
Jerry “What’d you say to him?”
Me “I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t seem like he’s letting us off. He was definitely writing a ticket or something.”
When the officer came back to us, he handed me a $100 citation for “permitting an unlicensed driver.” He told Jerry that because he was a minor, they would either send someone to his house or mail some documents to his address, and then he’d have the information about the ticket, where to pay, how much to pay, etc. The cop’s estimate was $250, but it wasn’t a certainty. Jerry would also lose points on his license. (The cop never even addressed Colin. Since he was in the passenger seat, I guess he wasn’t really “doing” anything at the time we were caught.)
He could have jacked us around and charged us with reckless driving, or endangering public safety, or any other related serious-sounding criminal acts. We were certainly being as unsafe as humanly possible with the tools at our disposal, save for being intoxicated or damaging actual property — which we hadn’t done yet anyway.
We thanked the officer, apologized, yada yada yada, and the cop left.
None of our parents ever found out. I think I told my mom about it a year or two later, long after I’d already moved out and gotten my own place, during one of our “I’m gonna confess to you all the hilarious shit I got away with as a teen, because what are you gonna do about it now” and she just rolled her eyes.
It didn’t make any sense to us at the time why Jerry got any different legal treatment for being a minor since both me AND Jerry were 17. Colin was actually the only “adult,” having turned 18 a few months prior — not that he had any ID to prove it. And even today, I’ve still never heard of someone getting mailed their ticket, outside of those automated traffic cameras. What cop pulls you over and then tells you he’ll send you some shit in the mail? Well Jerry never did receive anything, and nobody ever showed up at his house. He did somehow lose points on his license which he didn’t even HAVE yet, which he only found out much later when he went to get his license.
Colin may as well have not been there at all, which was probably for the best, as he easily had the least disinterested parental guardians out of the three of us.
I paid my fine in the most direct way I could. I didn’t bring it to trial, didn’t protest it or fight it in any way, nothing. I took $100 in cash directly to the courthouse and paid up. I even got a receipt. (In hindsight, I wish I still had it. I’d post it here.)
At first we were actually pretty embarrassed, and we kept it all on the DL. But it didn’t take too long before it was quite the source of pride for the three of us, especially me and Jerry. It became known as “The Parking Lot Incident” amongst all our various groups of friends. It wasn’t the most egregious criminal act one could get in trouble for, but it was undoubtedly one of the funniest.