Fuck The Police VII: Rocky Mountain High

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

So this past weekend I flew to Colorado to go to my friend's "bachelor weekend in nature." It was one of those ideas that sound strange at a glance, but in practice it was absolutely wonderful.  Think Rocky Mountain National Park as a backdrop for a college reunion.  Rocky Mountain High . . . errr . . . University.

I didn't realize how lucky I was to board my direct flight from Hartford to Denver until just before take off.  I received two texts back to back.  The first was from my ride in Denver, which said our Maine contingent's flight had been inexorably delayed -- at a minimum his arrival time had been delayed from 7pm, 30 minutes after my arrival, until 10pm.  The second text was another friend flying to Chicago from Manchester, New Hampshire.  His flight had already been all out cancelled, stranding him in the middle of nowhere. I mean, Manchester, New Hampshire -- that's NoWheresville.  There was a twinge of surviver's guilt as I buckled my safety belt.

Rocky Mountain National Park (photo credit: me)

By the time I touched down in Colorado, our final passenger from Maine was due to arrive post-midnight, forcing him to make new plans to crash in Denver for the two hours morning/mourning five out to our hotel oasis.  My friend and ride poached me from the passenger pick-up line just after 7pm.

My friend, let's call him Josh, has a bad back.  Not a run of the mill, "I'm 30 and my back aches," but rather the real chronic back fusion holy shit version of back pain.  He'd trade backs with you.  Don't take that deal.  Because of said pain, the less he has to be the actual driver of the car, the better.  Granted, my night vision isn't ace, so the two of us did have a "Feel no Evil, See no Evil" buddy comedy vibe.  Compared to Josh's back pain, my night blindness is a puppy dog riding a rainbow to Cotton Candy Town.  I insisted on driving once he navigated us onto the highway.

Colorado infrastructure, and I'm talking about the roads in particular, have their quirks.  And quirks is a nice way of saying regional stupidity.  One of my favorite examples of this are that on many highways the right lane of a 4-lane road will just end.  Whenever. Sometimes it coincides with an exit, and sometimes it just stops sharply and becomes part of the left lane for no reason.  You can tell the tourists because they are in the cars quickly swerving left at random intervals.

Another aspect of Rocky Mountain automotive fun is that the roads either go straight or, if climbing altitude, they are the antithesis of straight. Hairpin after hairpin. Not my half-blind favorite terrain at midnight in my friends car.  But lastly, the cherry on top of this quirk sundae is that the speed limit jumps up and down between 35-55 like a neurotic caffeine freak.  Within a quarter mile the guidelines can literally change four or five times.  It is excessive.

I had just finished the major hairpin section of the trip when the cop lights flipped on from the side of the road. I had a brief moment of disbelief.  I was just trying to focus on driving safe and sound the two hours up the Rockies.  I was not leaning on the gas.  Still, western Mass has prepared me a bit too well for traffic stops and I had no nervousness around the upcoming confrontation.  Thankfully, he didn't ask me why he stopped me.

Instead he said, "I pulled you over for going 49.  And I know you're in a 45 mph zone here, but a short way back there it was 35.  Can I see you license and registration please?"

I handed him my license and Josh's car registration.  Josh seemed a bit more wary of the situation than I was.

"Where you coming from today?"

"Massachusetts actually. Just flew in," I had my Red Sox cap on as further proof that I wasn't feeding him a line.

"This your car?"

"It's my friend here's."

The cop takes a closer look at the documents, then looks up and at me with a huge smile on his face and says, "A friggin Red Sox's fan. Grrrrreat . . ."  Kindhearted sarcasm abounds.

Turns out he's from Baltimore originally, and he takes a few minutes to lament the recent trials and tribulations of the Oriole's misfortune.  I offer my opinion that they've been getting better recently.  He insists it's nothing like the ol' days of Cal Ripken Jr.  Hard to argue against that point. So I don't.

It's important to note that when the cop looked inside our vehicle, what he saw was a passenger, reclined and propped up on multiple shapes and sizes of pillows, and a driver who also was rocking a pretty gargantuan lumber support pillow.  If we were late night drug smugglers, we had developed incredibly imaginative alter egos for our journey.  It would be a mental stretch to classify us as a high-risk situation, and our policeman friend seemed to realize that we were not the droids he was looking for.

"Gimme a second, OK guys," he asks/tells us as he took my license back to his cruiser.

On the one hand, it is a friggin travesty that I got pulled over going under 50 mph.  What the hell is that about.  And technically, cause I didn't make him chase me down once his lights were on, technically, I was in a 45 mph zone -- no matter where that 35 mph sign may be.  To boot, I could see a 55 mph sign in the distance. I could see it.  In my line of vision was an area where I was going 6 mph under the speed limit. This was a bit ludicrous on an empty mountain road late at night.

Would you officers like some tea?
On the other hand, this was the coolest cop I've ever encountered in the field.  He was genuine, no bullshit, and didn't try to set a baseline of fear for our interaction.  He showed me complete respect and I sent the same back in his direction.  I wasn't even that worried when he retired to his cruiser.

Everything in moderation
He was not gone long. I say that with the utmost respect and admiration. I've been kept stewing in my car for absolutely no reason too many times not to appreciate this courtesy.  I rolled down my window as he approached.

"Ok guys, I'm gonna give you a warning. Just know that if you're partying later, we're pretty bored out here and we got nothing better to do than pull people over, so take a cab if you've been drinking."

I swear it's in cop DNA to threaten people.  But this was a relatively low level warning, and I had to hand it to him, he was proving that he really did have nothing better to do than pull over cars going 49 after midnight.   This was not the time to start pretending to be offended,

"Oh officer, we won't be driving anywhere once we've been drinking, that's why the party is way out in the middle of nowhere." 

The cops facial reaction insinuated that I was interrupting. When we continued his tone was slightly more excited, like he had a great joke to tell and was already starting to laugh.

"It's Colorado law that any time an officer gives a warning instead of a ticket, they have to include their business card along with the warning, so if you don't want my card . . . I can give you a ticket instead."

It was a prepared joke. This was his go to line. He had the smirk of a satisfied comic. He didn't realize  to whom he was speaking.

"Are you kidding," I began, "I would LOVE your card! Now whenever the Sox beat the Orioles this season I can email you fun reminders of our supremacy. This is the greatest traffic stop ever."

The cop had been hornswoggled and knew it.  He let our a belly laugh and wished us both a safe night and a good trip.

But, Officer Bobby Rauch of the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department, just wait until this Friday, April 17th when the Red Sox play the O's in their first four game set . . .  I suspect you'll be hearing from me.

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