I saw an article in yesterday’s newspaper about a rancher on horseback who lassoed a bicycle thief in a Walmart parking lot near my home. As a cowgirl and a cyclist, I was immediately intrigued by this delightful story. It took me back to my youth in Montana – to my own sordid past, when I learned four lessons on how not to evade the police.
I didn’t set out to be a criminal. I just acted like one on two memorable occasions. What can I say? I was a teenager. I’m not dissing young adults, by any means. I’m just pointing out in my defense that my frontal lobe was not yet fully developed. It’s a fact. Look it up if you don’t believe me.
Assuming you took a moment to Google “at what age is the brain fully developed”, you have just confirmed that this blessed event doesn’t happen until 25 years of age. Since I wasn’t anywhere near that old at the time of the alleged incidents, I rest my case. But first, you are probably wondering how I learned my lessons on how not to evade the police.
Lesson 1: Don’t try to outrun them when they chase you
My primary mode of transportation in my youth was my bicycle, and it still is today. Back then, though, I didn’t always follow all the traffic rules. On one particular day, I freely admit that I did the unthinkable…. I didn’t stop at a stop sign.
No cars were coming from either direction, so I decided to just blow through it on my bike. I mean, its not like I was in a car. Soon after, though, a car did appear. It was a police car. And… it was following me.
I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I thought the best thing to do would be to try to ditch them. That was my underdeveloped frontal lobe’s fault. But, since that was the only brain I had access to, I cut through a city park and darted down an alley. I heard the officer on his loud speaker say something like, “You on the bike! Stop!”
I didn’t stop. I was too deep into it by then. I had to ride that crazy train until the end, and the end came fairly quickly. The officer wasn’t born yesterday and had barricaded my exit with his blue and white cruiser. Luckily, I had enough of a frontal lobe to think it best to surrender.
Since I didn’t look like the typical Montana degenerate, I got off easy. I wasn’t handcuffed or taken down to the station. Neither did they impound my bike. Instead, the exasperated officer let me off with a warning and some sound advice. “Next time,” he said. “Just stop at the stop sign please.”
Lesson 2: Don’t try to dive for cover under a tree
A few years after the bicycle incident, I received my second lesson on how not to evade the police. I was working as a cook at a Mexican restaurant at the time. One night after work, the dishwasher fella and I decided to chill with a bottle of wine at the city park. You know – the one I cut through in lesson one.
We found a tree to lean against and were just sitting there talking. While we were taking swigs out of the brown-bagged bottle we had brought along, we noticed a police car on the perimeter. It wasn’t just sitting there, though. The officer was shining a spotlight into the park.
I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I suggested we dive for cover under a large evergreen tree. He didn’t argue, but since I was his boss what could he say? Besides, we were both teenagers, so we had two underdeveloped frontal lobes working against us. It couldn’t be helped. The only thing we knew to do was to scramble under the tree.
I don’t remember whether we ditched the wine or not. We were 19, which was the legal drinking age at the time, but I was worried that it might be against the law to have alcohol in a city park. Or maybe it was illegal to drink in the park after dark. Or maybe we weren’t supposed to be in the park after dark at all, even without booze!
Since everyone knows it’s better to be safe than sorry, diving under the tree seemed the best course of action. Of course, it didn’t seem the best after we were surrounded by several police cars, but by then it was too late. If we’d had our bikes with us, we could have tried to outrun them. Since we didn’t, we were forced to surrender.
Lesson 3: Surrender when they tell you to surrender
They ordered us to come out from under the tree. We did exactly what they said, but only because we were on foot. Or maybe we were a little intimidated by all the red and blue flashing lights and an officer on the loud speaker issuing a stern order. “You two under the tree!” he barked. “Come out! Now!”
After we scrambled out and stood up, we were greeted by six armed men shining 1,000-watt flashlights at our innocent young faces. Two of the officers, I’m sorry to say, recognized me. “Salina,” one of them said, exasperated. “What are you doing?”
I assure you I was not well known in the law enforcement community. In fact, I hadn’t been in the slightest bit of trouble since lesson one. The only reason they knew me was because they were more than police officers. They were my Taekwondo instructors.
After we got everything sorted out and they assured me that we were not doing anything illegal, they gave us some sound advice. “Next time,” they said. “Just stay where you are.”
Lesson 4: Wait 25 years before trying to evade the police
Years later, after my frontal lobe had reached full maturity, I finally recognized the wisdom that came from that experience. Now, I know that when a man and woman scramble under a tree, it might look suspicious. It might even appear as if the woman is being forced under the tree against her will.
Now that I know that, I assure you I will never do that again. Neither will I blow through stop signs or attempt to flee if I am being pursued. Next time I hear a voice through the loudspeaker say, “You on the bike, under that tree!” I will do whatever they tell me to do. I learned my lessons on how not to evade the police and I learned them well.
Just to be safe, though, I try not to be seen in city parks after dark… particularly if I’m on my bike. But nowadays, it’s not the police I’m worried about. It’s the cowboys.