In Which I Am Not Arrested

The first time I got into trouble with the cops, I was wearing nothing but a damp towel and some sand. The sheriff’s jeep had come bumbling down the hill toward the lake, brights on, stupidly indignant. “You kids know it’s illegal to skinny dip in public? I could arrest you right now. Is that what you want?” He shone a flashlight in our eyes, looking for answers.

My dripping friends and I were speechless. There was something about my complete vulnerability at that moment, however, that also enraged me. I grasped that towel and glared. I . . . probably had rights, right? This guy couldn’t just push us around.

“And what makes you think we were skinny-dipping?”

He sighed, tired. It was late at night, probably long after curfew for kids our age. He could have easily gotten us on that. “Miss, please . . . are you trying to tell me you weren’t?”

Out of nowhere, a poker shark began to show its pointed fin in that lake. Do it, a voice said. He won’t call your bluff.

“Yes . . . yes, I am. We’ve done nothing wrong here. We were all wearing swimsuits.”

He looked me up and down.

“You’re wearing a swimsuit right now?”

If you’re going to go, go all out. I maintained eye contact and confirmed that yes, I was in fact wearing a swimsuit.

“So you’re trying to tell me,” he began, voice wary and weary, “that you are completely clothed under that towel?”

“Are you going to ask that I take my towel off, standing here with your brights shining on me? Is that what you’re going to ask?”

“Look, miss . . .”

“Because that sounds kind of like harassment to me.”

I didn’t stop shaking with rage until hours after he’d left, long after I’d dressed and we’d all driven back to our parents’ homes. “What the hell was your problem?” a friend of mine asked as I stalled in her driveway. “You could have gotten us into some real trouble.”

“I think . . . I have issues with authority,” I said.

I miss my high school issues. The other week while I was staying home for the holidays, I came flying out of the door of my friend’s apartment to meet the cop staring at my father’s car. (Incidentally my friend is an Amazon lady, and I was borrowing her old sweatpants, which had been cut at the shins to make, on me, a very awkward pair of clam-diggers — and with these I had paired my tall sexy boots. I didn’t look homeless, but I probably looked dangerous in some fashion.)

“Is there a problem, sir?” I asked.

“Snow emergency. You’re parked on the wrong street.”

There was some irony to this situation. The whole reason I’d chosen that street was because it had the least snow on it. I’d already gotten stuck in three other spots that night: but this street was completely bare, gleaming black asphalt. If I couldn’t park the damn back-wheel-drive Volvo here, I had no idea where I’d put it, unless I could wait until April to move it again.

“Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t know! What if . . . what if I just moved it now, to another street.”

There was a pause. A moment of eye contact between us. Look at us! I tried to smile uncrazily. Just a couple of goofy human beings, standing on the road at three in the morning!

“Well, you’d better, because the tow truck is following me. Here’s your ticket.”

“Ah. Thanks.”

My smile grew until I thought my head would snap in half, and I gingerly accepted the ticket from his dry fingers.

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  2. FYI – Invoking your rights should never get you in trouble. If it does, there are legal remedies. And everyone has a right to some dignity.

    I really hate cops.

  3. When the cops busted my friends and I for drinking at a pool party on cape cod when we were all in highschool, I remember admiring the cool composed, and almost flippant way my little sister handled herself, even though she was a) at least 3 years younger than everyone there and b) wearing a bikini, with a pink floatie tube around her waist.

  4. Oh that night :) Sometimes I still tell that story so my friends, who were not there to witness your victory at Cedar, can revel in your awesomeness— I remember being kind of in awe of you. I also remember developing a healthy fear of skinny-dipping after that.
    Also, thanks for getting me out of what was, apparently, a ticket upwards of $200 :)

    I would’ve framed that ticket and I would have had you sign it first :)

    Your fellow betoweled swimmer,


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