I have lots of cop stories. Don’t judge me. I was a good kid, just mischievous – and often, unlucky.
One of my favourites begins in North Carolina with a call from my college buddy Clark who rang one day and said, “Get over here, I just bought a car for two-hundred bucks.”
So I jumped in my $700 P.O.S. Toyota Corolla with a wooden sunroof (that’s another story) and sped over to where he told me he was. Which was in the ghetto part of town. Literally and figuratively. Ghetto.
I found him in the parking lot of a run-down housing community, head under the hood, staring into the engine bay of a dark metallic green beast of a vehicle. It wasn’t a Cadillac, it was another brand’s attempt to be a Cadillac.
From the first glance, it seemed to me to be worth well over $200. No dents, no rust, interior in good shape, stereo worked. Bargain.
“What’s the issue?”
Clark told me the beast’s engine was running fine, but that the linkage between the accelerator pedal and carburettor wasn’t working, so even though there was air in the tires, fuel in the tank, and tunes in the tape deck, no road trip was in the near future.
This was not acceptable.
I quickly joined him under the hood to inspect the goings-on. We quickly discerned that the entire linkage assembly wasn’t busted at all. It was completely missing – and without that, we were a no go.
So I did what any resourceful, and mostly broke, young man would: channelled my inner MacGyver. The easiest and most cost-effective solution I could come up with involved tying one end of a very long length of picture framing wire to the carb throttle, running it down and through a hole in the firewall, then up from the interior footwell where we wrapped the excess wire around a stick.
The beast was an automatic with power steering, so to drive it all you had to do was steer with one hand, and accelerate by pulling on the stick handle connected to the carb with your other.
After a few sketchy laps around the parking lot, it was decided that we should skip class and hit the road. Destination: Unknown.
So there we are blazing down the highway when the dreaded blues appear in the rearview mirror. Clark is driving and I am in the back seat holding and operating the “stick” accelerator. There were two reasons for this:
- It was tiring to keep pulling on the cable, so we took turns.
- Because we didn’t have anything to cut the framing wire with, we had wrapped the excess around the stick which made it uncomfortable to hold. By unravelling some of the wire, the handle got thinner and easier to hold, but with extra length, the only place to control our speed from was in the back seat.
What all this meant was that the speeding ticket Clark was most likely about to get was all my fault. And we both knew it, but the cop who was now sauntering up to us with his cliche mirrored cop glasses didn’t.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that Clark, for whatever reason, was also wearing a pair of those cliche mirrored cop glasses. And he never took them off for the entire rest of this story.
Cop peers into the window: What’s the hurry?
Clark: No hurry Officer.
Cop: So why were you speeding then?
Clark points to me in the back seat. I hold up the stick handle and wire and give it a good yank. The engine revs loudly – thankfully we’re in neutral – and then two things happen at once:
- Clark loses his shit. Can’t stop laughing.
- Cop loses his shit. Can’t comprehend what he is seeing.
When the steam stops spewing from his Cop ears we begin to explain the situation, and how “we’re just driving to the service station so we can get it all fixed up properly” and so forth. (Yeah, right.)
After much deliberation Cop tells us to make sure we get it fixed and starts sauntering back to his own car.
And we think we’ve gotten away with it, when all of a sudden the cop turns around, comes back to the car, bends down and gets into Clark’s face and yells:
“And take those goddamned sunglasses off!”
We drove all the way to Pittsburgh that night.