Nebraska Needs Our Nuclear Waste

So I’d been on the road for hours driving from one end of Nebraska to the other and the whole entire time the speed limit was 75 until a little spot just before the border with Iowa where they jack it down to 65 with 3 or 4 cruisers sitting there on the median. You know, a classic trap.

Through much of the whole trip (mountain driving excepted, because that involves a shifting frenzy of sorts) I’d been using cruise control to prevent me from speeding and had been very aware of the speed limits. This sign I never saw, but I was going with the flow of traffic and I had taken it out of cruise control and dropped it down to about 65 and at most I was doing 70. In fact there were other vehicles that were going faster than I was at that point.

Next thing you know a cruiser is pulling up like he’s going to pass me, but instead, he saw/confirmed that I had out of state plates and then pulls in behind me and lights me up.

The first thing out of his mouth when he walks up is “You looked like you were going faster than the posted limit so I’m going to give you a warning, no points or anything.” (note, he said “looked”. My radar detector never made a peep so he was obviously just guessing or making it up because he could.)

Then he invites me to come back and sit in his cruiser to stay warm. “Is that normal?” I inquired.

“Sure, I bring people back there all the time. I’d recommend you leave your windows down though so you don’t get locked out. I’d hate for you to have to get stuck waiting for a tow.” He replied. But the instruction seemed a bit insistent and a little odd to me, which I’ll get back to in a moment.

In today’s Police State society, when a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle, arguing the point usually ends in someone getting tased and going to jail. Since they are the ones who are the trigger happy owners of those devices and control said jails, the tasee in those encounters generally is not them. (Perhaps I’ll expound upon that in another post at some point)

So as he turns away I roll up my windows and he turns back seeming like he was going to repeat himself (and with a mildly disappointed look on his face too I might add), but the window was already up before he could say anything further about it. Then I hopped out, locked the doors and stuck my key in my pocket.

As a side note, those who have been paying attention to little details might have noticed that throughout the whole trip I listened to only about an hour or so of music up to that point. I have my iPhone set up to scrobble songs to last.fm and you can see the most recent of them on the right or click through to visit my last.fm profile.

The reason for driving without zoning out to music is because I’m spending the whole time practicing mindful awareness. After all the point of the drive isn’t to try to pass the time listening to music; I can do that at home.

Anyway, I may have been a little road weary, but I was in a very mindful state which is why I picked up on the odd thing about the windows right off and why I already knew what’s going on and what was coming.

Before hoping in the cruiser he wanted to make sure I wasn’t armed so I got to do the lift the jacket and twirl thing. At least he spared me the pat down.

While he was writing out the warning he starts up a seemingly harmless banter asking where I’m headed and such. Innocent enough that is, until he then repeats the same questions but from a different angle to see if I keep my story straight.

Little did he know, I revel in what the Better 3/4ths calls “Chess Conversations” which are conversations involving mind bending logic and word play. A good example being the one where several Grand Masters, Masters and I were standing around between rounds at a tournament trying to see who could use the word “is” the most in a valid sentence and I came up with the jewel “The fact is, is is is, is a sentence.”

To participate in a Chess Conversation, or even to follow along while listening to one, requires one to be in the present moment and able to juggle the many variations and threads that come up in the content, logic and flow of the entire conversation. (It’s very much like analyzing a chess position in fact, hence chess players having a proclivity towards them.) In other words, I’m not the guy who gets the question about fireworks wrong at the border every time. And when it comes to a battle of whit, I fancy myself heavily favored against most… at least that’s what I’ve been told on many occasions.

That said, I also usually know when it’s in my better interest not to play and normally, I wouldn’t answer any interrogative questions, but this is why they choose to target people who are out of state and more likely to be weary travelers on a long journey.

When he asked in a still seemingly “I’m just wondering what my new friend has been up to lately” sort of way why it took me so long to get there based on the day I left I told him my route and pointed out that “I’ve pretty much been driving and sleeping the whole way, so maybe the fact that I’ve been going the speed limit the whole entire time has something to do with how long it’s taken.”

Ignoring me he pulls out a little US Interstate map and asks me to show him the route. The fact that he was acting like he didn’t know that I-70 merges with I-80 near the border of Colorado in the very state that he patrols bordered on ludicrous to the point of insulting my intelligence. Especially when you take into account that there are exactly three ways via an Interstate into and out of Nebraska, I-70 via Colorado on the south side, I-80 via Wyoming on the west side and I-80 via Iowa on the east side. Other than that little stretch of I-70, I-80 is really the only Interstate in Nebraska! But I knew perfectly well that he was looking to see if I hesitated or couldn’t point it out at all. He must really have taken me for a fool, but I still don’t let on that I’ve been on to his game from the start and show him.

Not getting anywhere with that tack he tells me that he needs to check my VIN to make sure it goes with my registration. From my viewpoint he never even looked at the VIN itself, but instead was peering into the front window and then he walked around and peered in the side. He even pulled out a flashlight to try to see better through the rear tint.

Coming back to the cruiser he gives me my license and registration back along with the warning he had written and made a comment to the effect that they get a lot of contraband coming through from California and would I mind if he looked inside my vehicle.

I thought better of quipping that he was thinking of Humbolt County and that I live in Sonoma which is two counties down. But continuing to play the dumb card and not giving any information that I know anything about anything outside of my going from A to B. I replied, “I was wondering what you were doing out there, because it looks like you just did…”

“Well, I saw some packages back there. What are those?” He interjected.

“As I told you, I’m returning home for the Christmas holiday and in my family we have this tradition where we exchange gifts. Those are from my girlfriend to my parents.”

He then wanted to know what they are so I tell him with a tone that was meant to indicate that opening them was not and option unless he planned on buying them from me on the spot at a premium price or was at least better than the Better 3/4ths at gift wrapping, which is to say really, really good.

“Do you mind if I look?” He repeats.

“You know Officer, on any other day at any other time I would insist on a warrant first, but then you’ll just inconvenience me even more than you already have and we both have better things to do with our day so knock your socks off, would you like me to open the door for you?”

This brings us back momentarily to his insistence that I leave the windows open for the bogus reason that I might lock my keys in the car. What was odd to me was why did he not just say “Don’t forget to take your keys”. that’s because if I had left the windows open he would have had unrestricted access into my car without my permission. With it closed and locked he can’t just stick his head in or touch anything. To my knowledge, legally, a closed and locked car is the owner’s way of explicitly delineating and enforcing his/her personal and private space. It’s not a line that the Police can cross on a whim without serious repercussion. On the other hand, with the windows down they can tell a judge, “The windows were down your honor, so there is no reason why they would have an expectation of privacy.”

So we get out of the cruiser and I walk over to the KJ and pull the rear door open to show him the gifts. He doesn’t even touch them or bother to go through my bag or anything else. It’s obvious to him at that point that I’m not hiding some big drug score like he had hoped for and that my wasting time comment to him is spot on, so he quickly sends me on my way.

When I get the chance to actually look at the warning at my next stop I notice that he checked off speeding but down a little bit lower and a little off to the side in a spot not relating to any part of the form he wrote the number 104. I can only assume that it’s some sort of code to say that the box that was checked is bull and that the real reason for the stop was to target an out of state driver fishing for contraband.

I don’t hold anything against the guy for doing his job, however misplaced his attention may have been. He was also professional and pleasant enough. In fact, his skills were decent enough that I’m sure if he had come across an actual drug runner who had less than half a brain he would have caught him. But instead he got me, the innocent non-drug runner who was just crossing the country for the holidays and has two halves of a brain, fully attached and functioning.

I also don’t have anything specific against Nebraska; although the whole speed trap thing is horse pucky if you ask me. But it’s quite obvious that I was targeted for the spot interrogation because of my out of state plates.

The incident however, greatly inconvenienced me and in turn it inconvenienced the people that I stayed with that night because I showed up much later that I should have been able to arrive.

So congratulations Nebraska, your state is now a black hole on my map as far as I’m concerned. There are plenty of other states that I can drive through and fly to to give away my traveling and tourism dollars. So far none of the other states have chosen to profile me because I’m from out of state. I also don’t appreciate the insinuation and fully reject the logic that my status as a resident of California makes me a potential drug runner and subject to less rights and protections under the law against unreasonable searches and seizures as provided by the US Constitution.

Now I just have to choose a new route home.

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~ by ghendar on December 16, 2009.