Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Arresting Politics?

A few posts back I took suggestions for titles that I would then write a story to fit. Jenne suggested "My First Arrest". Since I wrote that post I've recalled a few incidents with various police departments during my stint as a Hotdogger that, while not ending in actual arrests, came close a few times. One of those incidents took place in Boston, Massachusetts on Tuesday November 8, 1994. It was Election Day and we were out for media coverage.

We had not planned out how to get coverage for the Wienermobile prior to that day, but being the adventurous types we decided to skip putting a real plan in place and instead headed into the heart of Beantown to see what we could do to get some good press. We almost got a doozy of a story. Almost.

Now, for those who have been to Boston on Election Day and have driven a commercial vehicle shaped like a hot dog there are a few things you surely know:

1. If you drive on Storrow Drive be sure to let some air out of the tires, and
2. Police who work the streets near Faneuil Hall on election day don't have a sense of humor, nor do they care to debate what actually constitutes a commercial vs. non commercial vehicle.

Right. So, what happened was this... Jeanne and I had a few hours to kill before we needed to hit the road and head to an event in Detroit. We decided to take a quick jaunt into downtown Boston to see if we could get interviewed or at least get a photo of the big dog in the paper. Boston media outlets have large circulations, so we'd rack up the impressions if we got a mention somewhere.

We drove around town for a while looking for crowds gathering or camera crews out on the street filming. We finally found some near Faneuil Hall. As we got close we scouted for a location to pull over and park, a nearly impossible task for a hot dog car in Boston. We saw a street right next to Faneuil Hall that looked perfect.

It was a two block stretch of road on the South side of Faneuil Hall. It was a one way street which happened to have a sign that said "Commercial Vehicles Only". We didn't have commercial tags and we really wanted to go down this street since there were tons of folks marching around, holding signs and shouting out for their candidate. Surely there would be some cameras around. And since we lived by the creed "better to ask for forgiveness than permission" we decided commercial tags or not that we'd take a quick spin down the street. It was only two blocks long after all.

As soon as we pulled on to the street, we ran into an issue. Ahead of us was an ambulance stopped in the middle of the street. We hadn't seen that. With nowhere to go I put the car in park until we had space to move. Taking advantage of our lack of movement, Jeanne grabbed a bunch of wiener whistles and hopped out of the dog to hand them out.

Since I was the driver on this day I stayed behind the wheel, ready to roll at a moments notice. People on the street began flocking to the driver's side window and asking me for whistles. After just a few minutes we had a huge crowd around us. I looked outside the passenger side window and saw Jeanne asking someone if she could carry their candidate sign for a photo op. Things were looking promising. But when I looked back to the driver's side window I saw a cop.

And he was angry.
He told me to move it.

The conversation went like this:

COP: "Move this vehicle now."

DD: "Okay, I'll just exit to the left down that side street then."

COP: "No. Pull over to the right."

Before I could do that the ambulance began to back up. I couldn't move while the ambulance was moving, there was a van behind me and no where to go. So I just sat there waiting for room to move. Apparently oblivious to the fact that I had zero options to move right then, the police officer got angry again. He must have thought I was not moving just to bug him. You could see the blood pressure building.

COP: "I said move."

DD" "Officer, I cannot move. There's no place..."

COP: "That's enough! Pull over!"

DD" "I understand, but the ambulance is right in front of me. I cannot move."

COP: "Drive around it and park on the left." he said through clenched teeth.

At that time Jeanne had seen what was happening and opened the Wienermobile's gull wing door to get in. (The gull wing door is one of the unique features of the big dog, much like the door on a Delorean, or even more so like the wing of a seagull, the door opens up and down vs. out and to the side like a normal car - a distinction which will be important to know in a bit).

COP: "I told you to move!"

DD: "I will, I will. My partner just opened the door and..." he didn't let me finish.

COP: "MOVE NOW!"

DD: "But I can't. The door is still open and she's not in yet!"

COP: "I've had it. MOVE NOW!"

Jeanne had just closed the door and quickly took a seat.

Jeanne: "Dude! What's going on?"

DD: "Hang on, gotta move. This guy is having a bad day and taking it out on me right now."

I should mention that all this time a crowd has been gathering and watching this go down. Some of the crowd ignored the cop and shouted at us through the passenger window to toss out some wiener whistles. Jeanne obliged as we slowly pulled around the ambulance and pulled over to where the police officer pointed.

COP: "Show me your license and registration!"

DD: "Am I getting a ticket?"

No answer.
I handed over the requested info.
People were still asking for whistles. Apparently the police officer did not want this so he slid my window shut. (The front windows on the '88's slid open to the side.)

I did not like him shutting the window on me so I slid it back open. Before he could turn back to his car to look up my info he came back to the driver's side window and told me I needed a permit. Jeanne piped up from the front passenger seat.

Jeanne: "Excuse me sir. What type of permit do we need, and for what? Who do we need to speak with to get one?" She said it very sweetly.

This time he did not respond. He simply shut my window again on both of us this time.

When he returned he had a citation for me.

COP: "I need your signature here."

DD: "Can you explain this to me before I sign it?"

He ignored my question which in turn caused me to start to get really irritated with him. I was slightly irritated before, but now I was really irritated.

DD: "Well then can I at least get your supervisor's name?"

No answer, just a glare.

DD: "Can I get your name and badge number please?"

COP: "It's on the citation!"

DD: "And your Supervisor name is?"

And that seemed to finally push him over the edge.

COP: "I'M GONNA ARREST YOU! GET OUT!"

DD to Jeanne: "Jeanne! Grab the Bacon's guide and start calling the media. I'm getting arrested!" This was going to be great. Who could arrest a Wienermobile driver? We'd get tons of sympathy coverage!

I hopped out of the front seat and made my way to the door. As I opened the door and looked around I saw the huge crowd gathered around. The cop was there. He stepped toward me. Steam was coming out of his ears.

So I extended my wrists to him for him to slap the cuffs on me. A few laughs came from the crowd. He was silent and then, through clenched teeth sputtered out "leave now". I wasn't going to be arrested after all. He was letting me go. "Oh well", I thought, "That probably wouldn't have gone over too well with Russ anyway".

So as the cop gave up on arresting me I too gave up on the idea that getting arrested in a Wienermobile would be a good media story. I turned away from the cop and the crowd and reached back with one hand to grab the handle of the door and pull it down shut. And then I heard two sounds:

"Thunk!" and "Ooooooh!"

Something had prevented the door from closing.

The "Thunk!" came from the door slamming down on the cop's head. For some reason he had not moved out of the way of the door as I pulled it shut. The "ooooh!" was from the crowd. Turning slowly I met the cop face to face and his was as red as a beet. Veins were bulging from his neck. He did not say a word. He merely pointed at me to get back into the vehicle and drive away.

And I did.

I did not get arrested. We did not get any media coverage. That was the good news. The bad news was that we were now behind schedule for leaving for Detroit, and that meant taking a shortcut through Canada. As it turns out that was another bad decision... one that Russ would hear about.
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1 comment:

scott7ace said...

This is a great story. You need to write a book about the Wienermobile adventures.