Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ha! I Still Got It

A lot of guys in my situation (looking at 40 and ever-decreasing levels of testosterone and married with chilluns) sometimes find themselves in a lonely bar hitting on a woman damned near half their age in desperate need of a number, a modicum of attention, anything, all in the vain hopes of reaffirming what they know ain’t true: that they “still got it.” Fortunately, I’ve yet to find myself in that situation. No, it’s not that my ego is all that strong. It’s just that I’m old and schlumpy and never really had it in the first place. Besides, who has the time to go out drinking?

However, my ego is fragile. It can always use a little boosting. And last night it got just that. Thanks to Montgomery County’s Finest, I know I do “still got it.”

Now, as many of you know, many males of the Negroid persuasion have often had and continue to have a rather, let’s say, contentious relationship with our nation’s law enforcement. A lot of us deserve it—drug dealers, gang members, professional athletes, and the like. But others are innocent babes in the woods, victims of an evil world not of their making. That’d be me.

This poor, little integration baby has been pulled over more times in more states than he can count. They’re always looking for the same things—attitude, guns, drugs. My wife and I even got the drug-dog treatment driving through South Carolina while going the speed limit. There have been countless eyefuckings between po-po and me. I can’t tell you how many descriptions I’ve fit, how many walls my hands have been against. The cops even tried searching my apartment when I called to complain about a neighbor. And I’ve been stopped WWB (Walking While Black) in four different states (in high school, I was stopped walking in the neighborhood I grew up in—the cop apologized after he realized he knew me).

But that was back when I was a young, dangerous, black man. In other words, a looooong time ago. I don’t know what happened—maybe there was a memo, or something—but, when I turned 30, suddenly the coppers no longer hated me. Instead of hot stares, I’d get a “Good afternoon, Mr. Campbell.” It was like they respected me, or something. At first it was confusing, then a relief, and then just downright depressing. Somehow, the po-lice knew I was no longer in the main crime-commiting demographic, no longer a threat. They knew I was … old.

Yeah, nobody likes being a target for the cops—moving or stationary. But there’s something kinda flattering about their derision—especially for a nerd like me. Really, I’m just a labium with legs who fancies himself a writer. Not only could I not hurt a fly—that fly could seriously kick my ass. But, for a brief moment in my life, Officer Friendly thought me so threatening, so dangerous, they’d stop what they were doing, search their databases for my crimes, approach me with apprehension and their hands on their guns. You can’t buy an ego boost like that. No nubile, winking co-ed could even come close. For the last decade I wouldn’t quite say I missed that experience exactly but … well … who likes feeling old?

But last night I was young again.

It was after midnight, drizzling, and I was coming home from work. I was approaching a red light on a deserted, four-lane road. The light turned green before I had to stop, and I swung a left onto another four-laner, passing a stationary cop as I did so. Before I knew it, I was pulled over.

Since the kid, I’ve pretty much become a Sunday driver. So, I knew what this was about. I knew he probably got a good look at the face and the hair and decided to pull me over.

The officer approached from the passenger side window and informed me that he clocked me going 35 on a 25mph road. I wanted to say, “Yeah, right. You just had your radar going while you were sitting at a stop light with only one other car on the road.” But I learned the hard way (a 13-hour stint in a Chicago/Cook Co. jail) that one should never argue with the police. (Hell, once in Atlanta, I got a cop to confess before the judge that he didn’t actually see me violate the law he gave me a ticket for. The judge said, “What’s your point?” and made me pay the ticket, anyway.) Besides, I knew why he pulled me over. He knew I knew. We just had to go through the routine.

Now, despite what Johnny Cochrane said, a person can sound black, and a person can definitely sound white. I sound so white Lawrence Welk calls me “cracker” (for further proof, please listen to this interview I gave last year). So, except for Chicago, when a cop hears my cadence, they quickly lose interest. The same was true last night. You could see the guy’s ears straining for even the slightest hint of Ebonics, a double negative, one misplaced “be,” so my ass could be grass.

I am ever so sorry to disappoint, dear chap. To make it worse, I live in a fine, upstanding zip code, and I work for a company that produces books for the blind. Johnny Law was looking for a Tupac and all he got was a damned Cosby Kid. He almost deflated and washed away in the rain. Instead, he took my license, wrote me a little bullshit warning, and, to make it look good, said, “Now please, slow down, Mr. Campbell. It’s a little nasty out here tonight.”

“I’ll do that, son,” I said, and drove off.

I was tired and, for a moment, annoyed. But then my chest inflated, and I started singing:

“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I was racially-profiled,

“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I still got it.”

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