Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Prince of Pyrotechnics Part 2 (or Pete vs. the Police - Part 23)
In a previous blog post, I introduced my brother Pete and his proclivities with all things pyromaniacal. It should come as no surprise to learn that he has had some run-ins with the police on those occasions when he actually got caught doing something he shouldna been.
Not every episode involved fire and explosives. For example, one time he was arrested for breaking and entering – a home that wasn’t even finished being built yet. All the neighborhood kids would explore the new housing development that leveled the woods behind our house; Pete was just the one that got caught for it. I didn’t even know it was illegal. Which is not to say he didn’t deserve to be punished. There were plenty of things he did that he didn’t get caught doing, and plenty of things he got blamed for that he never did. I figure the karma evens out.
When I was seven, I, and millions of other Tiger Beat readers, had a massive crush on Shaun Cassidy. I believe it was both my brothers Tom and Pete who played Frisbee with my single of “Da Doo Ron Ron,” but it was Pete who took a lighter to the 45 to melt and warp it first. He also used to beat me up for singing Barry Manilow’s “Copa Cabana,” and he once tried to flush my best friend Nina down the toilet, getting her so far as the bathroom.
I don’t think he ever got in trouble for these things, but really, Nina probably had it coming because she threw a glass of water on him first, and in hindsight, shouldn’t everyone have the Shaun Cassidy and Barry Manilow beaten out of them?
It’s like there’s a weird vortex of karmic balance swirling around Pete and somehow he manages to ride out the storm safely in its eye. Even if punishment is meted out to him, it rarely has the desired effect. For example, he is rumoured to have been the first person in Wake County to receive the new “In-School Suspension” punishment. Prior to that, there was only regular suspension, and how is that a deterent if it gets you out of school? ISS was supposed to be different, but since the program hadn’t yet been established, it just meant that Pete spent the day sitting in the Vice Principal’s office listening to Led Zeppelin on the radio.
Now, we’ve all heard our friends boasting about how they got out of a speeding ticket with creative storytelling and/or feminine wiles. Pete didn’t need those things; he just let the gods take over.
While taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood on the way home from work one day a couple years ago, Pete found himself being pulled over by a Youngsville police officer in a brand new, souped up Dodge Charger police car with all kinds of fancy lights and sirens. The officer informed Pete that he was doing 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.
Pete waited inside his own car as the officer went back to his to write up the ticket. In the rearview mirror, Pete could see that smoke was wafting up from the dashboard of the cop car. He thought maybe he should warn the nice officer, but he could see the guy waving his hands in front of his face to shoo the fumes away, so the cop was obviously aware of the situation.
The smoke got worse, but the officer continued writing the ticket. When he finished, he brought a copy of it to Pete.
Even so, Pete was still feeling a certain sense of sympathy and concern for the guy and said, “You know your car’s smoking back there.”
“Yeah,” said the cop, “I don’t know what’s going on there.” But then he just continued his usual spiel of pointing out the court date and explaining the ticket process, apparently fully committed to issuing the ticket and ruining Pete’s day.
When he was finally done with the spiel, Pete grudgingly took the ticket, saying “Thanks. By the way, your car’s on fire.”
The smoke had become thick and black, and flames sprung up from the dash. The cop started calling into the station using the radio on his sleeve, and whereas at first Pete thought about helping in some way, he then decided it would be best to move his own vehicle away from the danger. He made a U-turn and passed the police car as it was engulfed in flames.
When he got home, Pete pondered whether or not there would be a record of his speeding ticket. Had the original copy been incinerated in the burning vehicle before it could be recorded? Did the police in Youngsville, North Carolina have computerized records, or had they spent all the taxpayer money on a souped up Dodge Charger with fancy lights and sirens and a semi-professional wiring job? His plan was not to pay the ticket but to show up on his given court date and casually read the docket to see whether or not his name was on it.
But a couple days later, the phone rang, and Pete’s wife Pam answered.
“Ma’am, this is Chief Pritchett of the Youngsville Police Department. Did your husband get a speeding ticket the other day?”
Pam hesitated. “Uhhhh…I’m not real sure if I should answer that question.”
“You can tell him to forget it; we have no record of it.”
Furthermore, the police felt the need to send Pete a letter by Registered Mail informing him that they had no record of the citation that he didn’t receive on March 26. So, somehow they had his name, phone number, address, and the date of the ticket but no official record.
Needless to say, the letter now occupies a place of high honor in Pete’s man-cave, on the ever-expanding Wall of Stupid Letters from the Government. One letter alleges Pete’s illegal pyrotechnic displays; the other dismisses a kind of embarrassing record of their own.
But news of a flaming cop car spread like, well, wildfire, partly due to a quick-thinking citizen who recorded a nine-minute video of its total destruction and posted it on Youtube. It appeared on a local newscast a few days later and currently has over 11,000 views.