Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Fit Your Profile

I'm driving to work today.  It's about 60°, sunny, just a hint of wind.  Am I bragging?  Of course I'm bragging.  Earlier in the day, when I told Elizabeth to put on something warmer, she said, Why?  It's not like it's winter out there.  You call that winter? and she gave a disgusted nod to the window, to the outside, as she tugged her sundress straight.

Hard to argue with her.

So I'm driving to work, and I think I hear my phone beep.  I don't want to check text messages while I'm driving down Lincoln - that would be against the law.  So, law-abider that I am, I pull over to the curb on this splendid day in Alameda, throw the car into Park, and grab my phone.

False alarm.  No text message.  But since I'm parked there, I decide to throw caution to the wind and check my email, too.  Hell, I may even have jumped onto Facebook to see what my 400 closest friends were up to.

Time passed.  By the clock on my dash, I'd say about 12 minutes.  That's when I see the guy.  Tubby white guy, standing in the middle of the street.  A safe distance from my car - it's a 2000 Honda Accord, real gangsta.  If I were a tubby white guy in Alameda's East End (oh wait, I am!) I'd be approaching a car like mine ver-ry cautiously.  He winds his hand in the air, giving me the universal roll-your-window-down signal, except no one rolls their windows down anymore, right?  But I'm old enough to know what he means.

So the window goes down and the guy's got a big grin stuck to his face.  I don't know what it is with me and my Alameda neighbors, but clearly there's something in the air.  This grinning guy wants to know what's going on.  Real easy like.  No hassle, my brother, just what's going on?

I'm perplexed - the penny hasn't dropped - so I say something confused like, Wa?

And he says, I noticed you've been parked here for a while (please see my note above for the approximate length of time I had been parked on Lincoln Avenue in Alameda.)  Me and my neighbors, he says, we just like to keep a watch out for each other.  So I was wondering, are you meeting someone here?

That's when the penny dropped.

I respond - suddenly a little aggressive and not confused because the penny just dropped - so I respond, Gosh, no.  I'm just legally parked here on Lincoln Avenue in Alameda, California.  I didn't know there was something wrong with that.  Is there something wrong with that? 

It's a good thing there's no traffic on Lincoln, because my Samaritan is just standing there in the middle of the street as he collects himself.

No, he says, nothing wrong with that.  It's just that there have been some robberies in the neighborhood and I noticed that you were parked here not doing anything.  And because of the robberies, well, we're all just a little conscious of who parks where and for how long.

Robberies? I say.

Yes sir, he says.  Robberies.

I have to hold my hand up to shade my eyes.  Did I mention how pretty a day it was in Alameda?  And he's standing right in front of the sun, and I can't get a real good look at him, so I hold my hand up and he notices that and steps, all courteously, off to his left to let me see him without being blinded by the light.

Just a tubby, middle-aged white guy, doing his Neighborhood-Watch duty.

Gosh, I say again.  (I'm fond of Gosh when I get mad.  It's keeps me focused on not saying what I'd really rather say.)  Robberies?  And to think, my kid goes to the school just up the street, right there.  And I live just back there.  And here I am, parked, and you come out after twelve minutes and accuse me of . . . what?  Scoping out these joints?  Right here, in broad daylight, on this street?  The street I travel every day of the week as I take my daughter to school?

Now I'm getting good and worked up.

A robber?  Is that it, I say.  I fit your profile?  What, is it because I didn't shave, and that brings out my swarthy features?  And the vehicle?  Wow.  A decade-old Accord.  Regular pimp-mobile.

Actually, he says, I didn't say a thing about profiles.  It's just that with the robberies going on, we're  concerned when we see someone that we don't recognize in our neighborhood.

I want to scream Boo at the guy, see if he'll jump.  But I don't.

See, I say instead, there you go again.  Accusing me of being a robber.  It's kind of funny, is all.  I haven't been accused of that in my own neighborhood before.  I know it's hard for you to believe, but we actually do share this neighborhood.

Ok, he says, so it'd be all right with you if I called the police and gave them your license number?  And we'll just let them handle it?

And he's hard to make out because he's moved back into the sun but I know he's grinning now like a real shit-eater.

Call the police?  Sure.  Wait a sec, though, I say as I reach for my wallet.  It's a sterling cigarette case.  A stupid affectation, I know, but I love it.  I'm sure to the tubby guy, though, it's just bling.

I hold up my wallet and say, Don't you want my Driver's License, too?  For when you call the cops?  I'm sure the Alameda PD have nothing better to do than to come out here to investigate why I'd be parked on your street for twelve minutes looking shifty.

I know this is stupid.  On some level, I realize that.  I mean, here I am.  I'm the guy who says, Hey - if you want to profile passengers as they board planes, please go ahead.  If I fit your profile, target me.  I'd feel safer if the TSA actually used their judgment and pulled me out of line instead of the granny on vacation from Topeka.  But when I'm actually profiled?  By a tubby white guy?  Clearly, a different story altogether.

Great, then we'll just let the police handle it, the guy says as he walks off.  So now I call him a jerk.  The last resort of a pissed-off Greek.  But he just walks off back to his house.  Stupid house with a stupid truck full of stupid bricks in the bed.

You have a nice day, now, he says.

Even though I call him a jerk a second time, I'm actually happy with myself for not getting out of the car.  Two tubby guys squaring off in the middle of Lincoln Avenue - that would have been adorable.  But I didn't.  Do that.

So I sit in the car for 30 more minutes.  I time it with the clock on the dash just to be sure.  I sit there for half-an-hour because at that point, I do indeed want to talk to the Alameda PD about my heinous actions.  Parking on a Sunday afternoon - for no good reason.  None at all.

I also don't want the tubby guy to have the satisfaction of having scared me off.  Ladies - this is really how men think sometimes.

But the coppers, they don't show.  I'm sure my neighbor is irritated.  He's pays his taxes just like the next guy, and what's it get him?  Nothing.

Me?  I'm going to make myself the perfect martini after work.  I'll be calm then.  I'll enjoy it then.  That'll be me, enjoying a peaceful end to this peaceful day.  You just watch.  Really.

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