I've been dodging the cops lately. Nothing a new sticker that I haven't had time to purchase wouldn't prevent. But the fact is I've been turning into alleys and taking detours at the sight of a police car for fear that one of them will accidentally notice that February 2006 seems a bit last year. And since my need to keep tabs on law enforcement is generally limited to appreciating a man in uniform, except when it comes to wellness checks, I have been surprised to discover that the new cop cars can operate in stealth mode. Their silhouettes no longer display the telltale horned roof of a law enforcement vehicle.
Whereas old school cop cars had those honking huge garbage pail lights on top of their squad cars, the new ones are so low profile you might think the car behind you is sporting a luggage rack, until it starts flashing red and blue lights. On a couple of occasions, while trying to determine whether a car was a cop or not, I've stared into the rear view mirror so long and hard I nearly caused an accident. An ironic twist I'm sure you can appreciate.
Unfortunately, I briefly let down my guard on a side trip to Lincoln Park Zoo after work on one of the gorgeous October days we've been having lately. Instead of parking so there were cars in front and behind me, I carelessly pulled up behind a car without making sure there was something the size of an SUV covering my rear. After a walk around the zoo, I still had time to kill before dinner with my daughter, so I sat in the car checking my email before driving over to her neighborhood. Meanwhile, I kept my eyes on the rear view and side mirrors just in case a cruiser decided to slow down to check parked cars for transgressions.
The problem was that I was checking for a police VEHICLE.
Not a police HORSE. All of a sudden I looked up and the large red rump of a police HORSE was standing by the driver's side window of my car. The officer on board was straight out of Central Casting. In a heartbeat, I was looking for someplace to dump the thirty years I'd lived before he was born.
He was waiting to talk to me. So I rolled down the window and exclaimed how nice it was to see a policeman on a horse so up close and personal. I'm nothing if not capable of stating the obvious.
Smiling at me, he couldn't have been nicer or more polite, when he informed me that he noticed my sticker was expired. Traveling at the speed of a walking horse he was able to see a lot of things a cruiser going by at 30 MPH might miss. Busted. But I didn't see a ticket book out. So I kept up the snappy patter, thanking him for telling me, as he eyeballed my other stickers to see if they were current, which they were. I quickly apologized and said I had two cars, as if having two cars was a valid excuse, and finished with the most unbelievable crap I've ever thrown, "This didn't happen until I started to dye my hair blond." He smiled that smile cops smile when they know that the b.s. you're shoveling is starting to get deep. And went on his way.
I had dodged a bullet I didn't see coming. Nothing left to do but finish checking email, put my computer away, start the car, and head toward my daughter's apartment. The horse with its armed rider was only about 1/2 a mile down the road and I easily caught up with them. As I slowed down to pass, the officer turned to look at me, smiled, and waved. I smiled, too. And waved back.