I was going to open this blog with the observation that I've found more assholes than coins with my metal detector.
For one, it got some chuckles on my Facebook page (add me as a friend if you haven't already. You'll get exposed to stuff I've no business exposing you to herein).
For another, it would have been an accurate appraisal a couple of weeks ago. But being a novice, I had a small pool of reference points at the time. I can now happily say I've since met some pretty nice people.
But this blog ain't about the nice guys. It's about a couple of assholes: The other guy. And me.
My son and I were at a public elementary school wrapping up a metal detecting excursion when some guy decked out in a wife-beater shirt and shorts pulled up, stared at my metal detector, and asked me what I was doing.
I suppressed the temptation to respond that I was searching for armed gophers or making mini-crop circles with which to confound kindergartners. Instead, I simply volunteered the obvious: I was metal detecting.
He then asked why I didn't go somewhere else; the underlying justification for his request being that I was doing too much damage to the school grounds.
Now on the one hand, I could arguably see his point. No one wants to see the grounds of their child's school desecrated.
But on the other hand, my son and I are adherents of a philosophy that believes in minimizing any scarring of the landscape. Given that he's in his fifth year of being steeped in "leave no trace" scouting, he takes that seriously. His being half-Japanese doesn't hurt, either. For my part, the backhoe was on the fritz.
As such, I also knew that we were doing considerably less damage to the turf than the cleats of the average soccer players that frequented the school grounds or the occasional off-road vehicle known to tear up the topsoil of other schools in the area. Also, I strongly suspected that if my interrogator had happened upon a group of gang members hanging out on the grounds drinking malt liquors, he'd have shelved that "concerned citizen"act for another day.
To placate the li'l numbnuts, I invited him to come closer and examine the soil and see where we'd filled in the holes; indeed, to even try and detect where the soil had been tilted.
Instead, he started snapping pictures of my vehicle's license plate and me with the caveat that he was going to call the police.
My patience now exhausted, I felt compelled to rhetorically ask what laws I'd violated and articulated some salient facts on the matter: We were on public grounds. We weren't trespassing. We had no intention of damaging anything (and had probably done a good deed in retrieving a rusty nail or two out of the ground). Nobody was incurring anything amounting to a dollar loss. There was no penal or municipal code prohibiting the activity. In all good candor, I might've invoked the phrase "dumbass" a time or two.
He declined my invitation, but threatened to "kick my white ass."
I mentally went down the list of options available to me:
Brain the guy with my handy-dandy shovel (Pro: Guy deserves it. Con: Would do little to enhance his limited cognitive functions. Might dent shovel.)
Run. (Pro: None to think of, save for exercise. Con: Oh, let me count the ways...)
Take his ass down on the asphalt. (Pro: Nothing I haven't done before. Con: Having reached the mid-century mark, I'm not in the habit of spending my Sabbaths rolling around on the blacktop like a damned idiot.)
TASER: (Pro: He'd get a charge out of it. Con: None to think of.)
And so I whipped out my Buck Rogers zapper and invited him to try make good on his threat (I'm also an adherent of the "Chicago Way" philosophy espoused by Sean Connery in "The Untouchables"). While I am normally loathe to invoke hate crimes, I also reminded the little nimrod that he'd just committed one and if push came to shove, he'd be held accountable for it, as well.
Instead the cretin jumped in his truck and rushed off to call the local cops.
Seeing where things were headed and noting a passing patrol car on a nearby street, I flagged down the officer and had him accompany me to the site of the crime. I related what had transpired, then pointed out the evidence of my felony metal detecting, even taking my own pictures, lest the sneaky bastard complainant come back and make bigger holes with the intent of attributing them to me. If nothing else, I figured, this officer would have the best response time of the day.
Sure enough, I was midway through my version of events when he was assigned the call resulting from the call of the other party.
Thus began a 45-minute period of two officers tagteaming back and forth between the other party and myself. Throughout, one officer let me know that the other guy was super pissed and wanted me arrested for pulling a TASER on him. The other officer was playing his cards closer to the vest, offering the same tight-lipped, "I don't know what's happening" comment I'd offered others I'd once been in charge of detaining.
At first, I felt pretty good about the whole thing. My conscience was clear and I'd stuck by my guns. Well, at least my TASER.
But when it was related to me that the man-still at some unseen other location-had said that I'd been digging holes and leaving them unfilled, I realized something. If the guy could resort to revisionist history on this point, who knew what manner of other prevarications he was capable of. I also recognized that aside from my kid, there were no independent witnesses. And being it was a one-on-one, he-said/he-said incident, I could theoretically find myself being placed under citizen's arrest.
I went down a mental list of some of the off-duty incidents I'd been involved in over the years. From chasing down felony hit-and-run motorists and GTA suspects, to intervening on attempted murders and assaults, holding down indecent exposure suspects, detaining a U.S. Navy Commander who was taking pictures up women's skirts-including my girlfriend's-with a micro-camera, and taking down a domestic violence suspect in a supermarket.
But in each and every instance, I had the inarguable peace of mind of knowing that not only had the other party left tangible evidence of breaking the law, but I'd also had the benefit of having the sympathies of other witnesses before going to the ground with some guy. (In the supermarket incident, even the idiot's friend told the West Covina cops he couldn't believe how professional I was in putting up with the man's aggressiveness as long as I did.)
None of this was at play here and I made a point of telling my son that if any of his friends said that they saw me in the backseat of a patrol car to just tell 'em I'd gone on an "involuntary ridealong."
Fortunately, the first officer calmed the guy down, which must've taken some doing. Imagine someone doing silver-tongued advocacy on behalf of Bugs Bunny to Yosemite Sam and you have an idea of what he was up against. In the end, I was allowed to leave with nothing more lost than an hour of time and whatever anonymity I might have enjoyed with the two officers two hours before.
Now if you've hung with me thus far, I'll share with you some insights I've gleaned from this episode. Mind you, these are objective conclusions.
First off, I could have defused the situation early on. Never mind whether or not I was in the right. I mean, it's not like I haven't made similar concessions for years in refusing to see movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Allow me to explain: I refuse to bite my tongue toward loud-mouthed filmgoers and people who kick the backs of seats...so why run the risk of dealing with such episodes in the first place?. Hell, I even avoid making eye contact with my fellow motorists. (The women stopped looking back some time ago, anyway).
God knows I've long known that there are some things that you can be in the right on that can still come back and bite you in the ass. How much easier things would have been if I'd simply humored the guy's vigilant instincts and left the grounds without any loss of liberty. The kid and I had been winding down anyhow.
Second, in calling the guy a moron I had only been redundant and needlessly escalated the situation.
Third, by ticking the guy off, I'd contributed to a synergy that ultimately resulted in two local cops being obligated to deal with the two of us. Now, this I do feel somewhat bad about. I'm sure they had bigger fish to fry.
More than one reader has expressed surprise at some of the stuff I've written about: My hesitancy to adequately familiarize myself with my sidearm. My sympathies with head-kicking cops. Other things that didn't go through some p.c. filter. Why would you write this stuff. Don't you know that everything you've ever written can be used against you in a court of law?
Yeah, I do. But so far I haven't fired my gun at anyone who didn't have it coming and have even refrained from taking out some that did. And quite a bit of it is written with tongue firmly entrenched in cheek.
But it's not within my constitution to suffer fools gladly and I've made the point before: Physical battery is against the law. Intellectual battery isn't. And any dumb SOB that wants to go out of his way to tangle with me had better have some well-apportioned gray matter between his earlobes.
That's not to say I wouldn't be game to box his ears and if the idiot wants to put on some gloves-and I'm sure that the responding officers no doubt have the idiot's name on file somewhere-I'm game. Hell, we'll make it a charity event. But I ain't dropping down a weight division, so he can consider his scrawny ass forewarned.
As far as the kid was concerned, it proved a valuable civics lesson. The only thing I do feel bad about is having imposed on a couple of cops to roll out on what amounts to a fart in a hail storm. I can say that I had previously left a message with one of their peers who failed to ever call me back (THANKS FOR NOTHING, DAVID).
Would I have handled things differently? I honestly don't know.
I do, however, know where you can get a used metal detector. Cheap.