Whatcha Gonna Do

"FIRST, we get stopped by the Cops."

That's how I began my middle-of-the-night email to Ouisie last Friday, who'd just sent a message saying she hoped my evening had been more dramatic than hers (which was spent watching videos).

Offhand, I guess it was.

We were on our way to see Moulin Rouge (which I would characterize as visually dazzling rococo filmmaking surprisingly and yet effectively juxtaposed against conventional burlesque, play-within-a-play Noises Off-esque narrative).

As soon as I saw the flashing lights, I pulled onto a side street (overcome by a wave of panic-induced nausea).

I know cops don't like sudden moves and I figured jerking open the door and projectile vomiting would inflame anyone's itchy trigger finger. Or at the very least, prompt a citation for P.I. (public intoxication).

I was, of course, NOT drunk. I am, however, VERY high-strung.

"Do you know why I stopped you ma'am?"

I pondered several potential answers in the 5 seconds or so it took me to respond, the most obvious of which was, "because I drive a vehicle commonly and stereotypically favored by rappers and drug dealers and you don't think it belongs in this neighborhood, which explains why you let the Chevy Suburbans doing 65 in the right-hand lane cruise right by without so much as a second look, because THEY are the preferred vehicles of soccer moms and the CIA."

That's not what I said though.

And my college-pal Charlie (who's a lawyer) confirmed for me later that the correct answer to ANY question posed by a police officer is NEVER, "because you're a racial profiler?"

So what I said, instead, was "No."

At which point I was informed I was going 40-something in a 30-something.


I gave him my license and registration and he headed back to his car (for an eternity).

At which point - trying to lighten the mood, I guess - my fellow cineaste joked, "Huh. Guess HE's not a big fan of your column?"

Which I countered with something snide about the fact that if we'd taken his 6-cylinder toy car, we'd never have been stopped in the first place because it won't even GO 35.

I'm not usually so mean to him, but I was on the verge of a crippling panic attack, and was quietly trying to figure out an escape route that would keep one or both of us out of jail. (And when I say "one or both," there again, I really mean ME.)

Then he wanted to know why I had LIED about why I was stopped.

First off, that's a strong word.

I did NOT lie.

I was speeding, but for all I know, he could've been stopping us to see if we were wearing our seatbelts (we were).

Besides: I have 13 lawyers on my cellphone speed dial - all of whom would've crucified me if I'd answered ANY questions on any subject without a lawyer present... Duh.

Hop Sing suggested I should've responded with humor, along the lines of:

"because of the illegal drugs in the console?

the unregistered gun in the Kate Spade bag?

the pedestrian we ran over back on Main Street?

the expired tags?

...and finally,

because we stole this vehicle (from a drug-dealing rapper)?"

NONE of those things are TRUE of course - Hop Sing just has a vivid imagination (and poor impulse control).

The officer gave me all the paperwork to take to city hall - prompting me to wonder why they don't just equip the police cruisers with credit card machines, so they could swipe my AmEx and let me get back to my life.

So we get to the movie; retrieve our tickets from my coworkers whom we'd sent ahead as scouts; and I promptly curl into a fetal position where I remained for the next two hours.

My partner in crime then went off to the concession stand and returned with approximately a bushel of popcorn and a what appeared to be a multi-litre keg of bottled water (approximately the same size as the kind you'd normally find attached to a water cooler) - positively elated that he'd scored this bounty for only a dollar more. (Never mind the fact that we could've fed a smallish third world country and solved the drought in Ethiopia with these provisions.)

As I relayed this to Ouisie, she says this size obsession is common tribal behavior among the hunter-gatherers we know - as her betrothed has begun clipping coupons which lure him in with the promise of "buy ONE gallon of Picante sauce; get the SECOND gallon free!!" It seems to escape his notice that even if our entire social circle moved into a commune together and pooled our culinary resources - it would still take us the better part of a YEAR to consume ONE gallon of picante sauce, let alone two.

Anyway, the movie wound down more or less predictably (the narrator had already telegraphed the ending in the opening sequence - much like in American Beauty, except not).

But as the denouement approached, my seatmate - worn to a frazzle by the middle-aged magpies sitting behind us who'd chatted throughout the course of the film - actually turned and SHUSHED them.

I was aghast.

I was as annoyed as he was, but I'd had enough drama for one night, and I had no interest in him starting a fight I knew I'd have to finish. At the very least, I expected one or both of us to end up suffering a jaunty blow to the head.

In the event we had been hauled off to jail for assault, I was pretty sure I could take care of myself. At a minimum, I planned to swallow a razor blade wrapped in tape and then throw it up later to deal with the bulls and my fellow inmates. ('Cause that's just the kinda thing they teach you in petite-flower diva school.) He, on the other hand, was sure to be somebody's bitch by morning. 'Cause I hear they like 'em pretttttty in Cellblock C.