I will confess from the outset: I am a Leadfoot. For those of you who have not heard this term it is a person who drives too fast. Being always late and broke does not help in this regard. Growing up in California the urge to drive faster than the other guy is rampant. On the freeway, especially in the left lane, it always seems like you are an obstacle, standing in the way of the person driving the car behind you, preventing that person from realizing the ultimate purpose of their life: passing you. This mentality is pathological and contagious.
The first time I had a gun pulled on me it was during a particularly desperate time of my life working for an outfit called Mad Science. I was a post modern science clown performing at children’s birthday parties, doing workshops at schools and driving all over the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area. It was a weekday and I had an INSANE schedule, driving all over the east side and making a final trip all the way from North East Redmond to South Seattle. The morning workshops and parties were hectic but I made them with very tight margins left for timing and it was the last demonstration. The drive from Redmond to Seattle can be beset by traffic and though it is worse now back then it seemed to be one of those days where you are in a hurry and the world decides to dial it back a notch and throw every obstacle in your way. Furthermore I had to stop and buy dry ice before doing the workshop at Zion Prep! As luck would have it, there was a QFC just a mile from the school and I had less than 15 minutes to do the 20 minute drive. So what did I do? I dropped my foot to the floor and did my best Mario Andretti impersonation. I was passing cars on the left and the right going 20 mph over the speed limit at times. I zipped, zigged and zagged trying not to piss anyone off too much and apologizing. After a few minutes of this I noticed a gold Prius keeping up with me. Then it was in front of me and clearly trying to slow me down, but my California bat-out-of-hell driving skills allowed me a way around him here and there. I exited at Rainier Ave and headed south to the QFC. The gold Prius followed me into the parking lot. My heart was pounding, but I needed that fucking dry ice for the workshop. I jumped out of my car and opened the back hatch to grab the dry ice bucket. I heard a voice say, “step away from the car.” I turned and beheld a man with a badge and his gun pointed at me. “What is going on here?”
I said, “Hey! I’m sorry. I really need to get this thing filled with dry ice for the workshop I’m teaching and I’m already late. You can write me a ticket, here are my keys.” I gave him my license, registration, insurance and the keys to my car. “I’ll be right back.” And I walked toward the QFC.
“I’m calling for back up.” He said. I walked into the store bought the dry ice walked back to the car, petrified at what was about to take place. When I got to the man he told me he was a homicide detective, that no one was responding to his back-up requests and that he didn’t have a ticket writing pad. I pleaded with him that I was just a stressed out wanna be science teacher trying to work with an impossible schedule, that I was already late, that I was really trying to be careful with my speeding… He eventually relented, much to my surprise and gave me his card. I drove to the workshop covered in sweat and probably scarred the young students for life with my scraping the bottom of the barrel enthusiasm and desperation. It could have been worse.
2016 was the bumper year of people pulling guns on me though. The homicide detective was very cautious, unstressed and steady. These next two lug nuts were anything but. I had just made about 87.5% of the trip from Seattle to Westport and was just leaving Aberdeen. I was speeding, about 15 mph over the limit when the sirens and lights popped up behind me. I pulled into a large mostly empty parking lot and the officer approached the car. I had seen the cop and immediately slowed down but didn’t know if he’d managed to capture my speed on his lidar. I rolled down the window, “How can I help you officer.”
“You were going 47 in a 35. And you your brake light is out.”
“My brake light is out?” I cried out with disapointment. “Awe man, which one?”
“Are you sure? Let me check.”
“Stay in the car.” He said but I had already opened the door and was out by the time he finished saying it. He had taken several steps back and was speaking in a very stressed out voice. “Get back in the car. GET BACK IN THE CAR.” My back was to him and I ignored him, went to the back hatch pulled opened it and grabbed a long wooden 1 by 1 that I’d been using to prop open the hatch since the strut had broken. I walked back to the driver seat without looking at the cop, I just totally ignored him and, from the tone of his voice, he was livid. I turned the power on without starting the car and wedged the wooden stick between the brake pedal and the drivers seat. Then I walked to the back to check the brake light because I really didn’t believe that my brake light was out. Sure enough, it was out.
“DAMN. I didn’t realize the brake light was out.” I looked at the cop for the first time since I had exited the vehicle. He was out of sorts and had both hands on his gun pointed at me. “damn” I said again and walked back to the font seat, took out the wooden stick and returned it to the back of the wagon. I then got back in the car and waited for him to write me the ticket. His hands were shaking when he handed me the ticket. I got soaked for about $180. The waves were shitty that day, too. I should have never gotten out of bed that day.
One day this year I was in a particularly bad place – in my head. I was really upset about stuff and I hated my life. I was also possibly in the midst of a manic episode replete with racing thoughts and grandiosity. It was in this condition that I tried to cross the notoriously worst road within the city limits of Seattle. The road is Rainier Ave South and this was before the recent rechannelization that has made it much safer. This was back when it had 4 lanes, two in either direction. It used to be called “The Rainier Dash” because of the lack of crosswalks in this particular section. That too is a thing of the past. Anyway, in my bad head space I tried to cross this road and in a spectacularly bad decision I decided to just walk the fuck across it without giving any head to the traffic. Fortunately there were no cars on half the road and only one car heading south as I walked westward. I made it across three lanes and the one car, a red 4 door of Asian make, passed by me very closely. I had heard the engine rev as it approached me, speeding up. Reflexively and impulsively, even though the car was just behind me, I KICKED THE CAR as it passed. I was giving no fucks that day and certainly not thinking clearly. The car then went around the block so that as I made it to the side walk corner, the man stopped. I walked to the open driver’s side window.
“What the fuck you doing?” The old man asked. “Why did you kick the car, asshole?”
“Why did you almost fucking run me over?” I looked down at the seated driver, he had his hand on a gun in his lap. It was resting on a handkerchief and looked like a .38 pointed at his door and thus at me.
“I didn’t run you over, asshole.”
“Oh, I see. You have a gun. Go ahead mother fucker. Shoot me. Go on, pull the fucking trigger. C’mon, I’m not afraid to die. Do it. Shoot me.” I yelled something to that effect. He looked at me like I was crazy and drove away. Psychotic episodes are no fun for anyone.
Matt, I like your stories. I hope you also have happy easy days. -Amy
I’ll keep ’em coming. Thank you for your kindness. Ima dig up a happy story for you!