Rear View Paranoid


I thought my life was flashing before my eyes as paranoia began creating a vortex for its ascent from my stomach up into my head. Fear shot electronic impulses through my entire body as the flashing continued. Get hold of yourself dude, everythings cool!! Its an actual flashing not my life flashing. A quick peek in the rear view mirror reveals there is a cop car advertising its intentions behind me in my car. The cop car drove past me in pursuit of another driver. My adrenal glands began chuckling as the paranoia flew out the window into the cosmos. Those flashing lights weren’t for me at all. The welcome relief washed over me but the tension remained. WTF? At this point of my life I am an upstanding law abiding citizen. Well aside from whatever I may do in the privacy of my own home but that’s my business. My car is legal, I drive and obey the traffic laws, (like never speed when a cop is near by, etc.) so I have no reason to fear even if I do get pulled over. I no longer keep any stashes under my seat or papers in the console. Hell man, I even had my seatbelt on. So why this rush of paranoia every time a cop is behind me when I drive? Primal evolutionary instinct? Not exactly but it can be traced back to my teen years.
Like most of the derelict suburban youths of my era my first contact with police outside of school visits, or watching Dick Tracy and Courageous cat and Minute Mouse, was our own teenage version of cat and mouse with the cops. We wanted to get drunk drinking cheap beer or wine and they wanted to catch us and sadistically pour it out while sarcastically letting us know we should head home to Mommy and Daddy. In truth it was an okay relationship for both parties, they could tell the adults in town that the streets were free of drunken degenerate teen hoodlums and we only had to cry over spilled beer, not get in big trouble with Mom and Dad. But it all changed when the evil Satan Smoke, Beelzebub bud, the Devils Weed crept its vile horned joint rolled self into our teen culture. The sinister antichrist herbal delight swept into our teen lungs, relieving our teen angst, making us teen laugh, giving us teen munchies, and made us feel all around teen fucking awesome.
Unfortunately the post teen portion of suburbia was not as enchanted with wacky weed as we were, they were certain it would turn each and every one of us into drug addicted serial killers who threaten to tear and shred the very fabric of their three martini society to shreds. Our relationship with the police altered drastically at this point. The police needed to massage the concerns of the scotch swilling adults assuring them no marijuana could find its way into their neighborhoods but we wanted to massage our minds with that very same illegal weed of wit and wisdom. Now our job as teens was to smoke pot and get high free of handcuffs and the cops hoped to arrest us and lock us up so the rest of society could rest easy knowing the refer mad hooligans were locked up alongside murderers, rapers, and armed robbers. Where we belonged. (is there a special font for sarcasm?) Then and only then could society relax and take a deep breath. Not a breath test, because I’m pretty certain most of our parents would register above the limit for alcohol. Anyway, the dichotomy changed, we found better hiding spots and continued our evil ways and cops continued in fruitless pursuit of passionate pot puffing juvenile perps.
Once we began driving however, the cops had the advantage. With badge comes privilege and the police were willing and able to take liberties in their attempts to remove our liberties. Now they could exact their revenge for our ability to avoid capture by flashing those strobe like red lights to pull us over on a minor violation accomplishing two things. First they knew that it sent a surge of paranoia through our circulatory systems causing discomfort, perhaps even incontinence. That’s the primal response I was speaking of earlier. Secondly, a pull over and the badge equipped them with everything they needed to search our cars to find out where we kept our hash pipes or hidden stashes, because they knew we were still prolifically puffing the perverse pot of decadence. With any luck they would then have the opportunity to use the Miranda right speech they had committed to memory for real. The bust of the neighborhood, a few more hardened (well stoned anyway) criminals locked away making society safe to continue forcing its backward values on their youths.
So now, even when I’ve reached the age where high school students read about our antics of demonstrating while high on the woeful weed in their history classes I still stiffen in paranoia when a cops lights flash in my mirror. That’s living proof of evolution right there, my brain has adapted to the fear of danger caused by flashing red lights just as our ancestors developed the fight or flight response from being chased by ferocious human devouring animals. My children probably have this red light fear gene embedded in their DNA already. Or maybe its just a stoner reaction. If that’s the case I wonder is if this paranoid phenomenon will ever cease. Will I ever be able to drive normally when a cop is behind me? Am I destined to peering behind my wheelchair in the old folks home if a light flickers while rolling to early bird dinner?
I get that the institution of policing is important, ever since I reached the point I understood I really never was invincible I understood that believing in anarchy is a part of teen angst coming of age, but like I said, I obey laws. For the most part anyway, and the few laws I may bend are hardly worth punishing because I obviously will never learn and will never consider my minor indiscretions to be evil or wrong. But seriously guys, there must be a way to break this cycle of fear every time I see a cop.

Teenage Punchline, Mischief night, 1970


Being the youngest of five boys I was pretty much predestined to be the practical joker of the family. Sometimes pissing off your big brothers is the only way to get noticed, even if the result is a painful punch in arm. I swear there must have been a target on my upper arm because each one of them wailed on my arm in the exact same spot. But pain aside it was worth the effort to piss them off. Dirty smelly sock in their pillowcases, fake puke on their dressers, fake shit in the bed, fly in the ice cube, dirty soap, stink bombs, I did it all. My cornerstone trick was to place a book atop the lightly opened door so when they came home drunk it would crack them in the head as they walked in That is until the last time I pulled it using my chemistry book my middle brother. He was so pissed when that heavy text book crashed on top of his head he threw it towards my head as I lay in bed giggling odd job style effectively turning the periodic tables on me.

So mischief night was pretty much a challenge to me. TP’ing trees were cool and if trivial history reports can be believed it was when a brown bear first experienced the joy of the softness of Charmin. Shaving cream flowed like silly string and eggs got hurled by the dozens, but everyone did that. Of course a bag of strategically placed dog shit set on fire was popular but using the front stoop was beneath me. It was up to me to raise the mischief stakes.

I choose my victims wisely most of the time. On this particular evening I thought it woul be hilarious to care my steady girlfriend. Her younger brother was enlisted to distract and prepare her with some scary stories. The usual array, maniacs in cemeteries on the loose, strange noises and typical Goosebumps style tales. So my cute little blond high school sweetheart was feeling a bit anxious when I set my plan in motion. I had snuck in her house, into her room and hidden myself in her hamper. I know it seems kinda creepy now but back then I wasn’t a pervert yet. There I waited while her brother warned her about the lunatic seen around the neighborhood the last few nights. Coupled with the twice told tales I was certain she was on edge and when I surprised her she would jump ten feet in the air. It was all I could do to contain my laughter covered in her dirty laundry as I imagined the results.

I heard her enter her room and tried to ascertain exactly where she was so I could get the most benefit. I lifted the top of the hamper up ever so slightly and slowly hoping to get a good view when I noticed her walking directly toward me. As she got into striking distance I jumped up throwing the hamper lid in the air and gave her my best maniacal goblin scream. That night I learned something new I had not even considered. I learned that my cute tiny little blonde bombshell had a right hook that could earn her the golden gloves award.

My head snapped sharply to the right and I could feel my eye socket swelling already. By the time I regained my composure and turned to face her loud scream prepared me for the delivery of the left cross that was to follow. That cute little bundle of fifteen year old sweetness damn near knocked my ass out. I went reeling to the ground and she stood over me like a warrior ninja waiting to finish me off. When she realized it was a lame attempt to scare her and she had just punched the shit out of her boyfriend the mood changed. Huge surprises come in small packages. She hit harder than my brothers.

Now of course there is a silver lining here, my cute little hey babe felt absolutely horrible for having put my lights out and causing my eye and cheek to swell up coaxing her to apply the perfect amount of tender loving care for a sixteen year old impressionable boy. I just never imagined the impression she made would be on my face. After a number of kissing and soothing followed by a hint at possible extreme measures to make me feel better the reality set in. “What the hell were you doing hiding in my laundry trying to scare me?” I rubbed my sore face and decided the prudent thing to do was leave that unchallenged and just apologize. No more mischief for me….PEACE