Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Copgoblins of Crescent City

Our story: It is November, 1970. Chris and Rick, intrepid hippie adventurers and Vietnam war veterans, are traveling from Marin County, California, to Seattle, Washington, in Oatus, a 1946 Dodge flatbed truck with a house they have built on the back, and the Family Dog, a VW Beetle.
November 19, 1970, Friday, continued
In the opinion of the gentleman at the California Highway Patrol Motor Vehicle Inspection station outside of Crescent City, Oatus is evil in respect to his poor operational continuity and after liberally plastering us with citations, the inspecting officer suggested we pull over soon and correct a few dozen of them.
God knows we'll do that. We don't like them any better than they do. Because of them we are fifteen days out of San Francisco and still not out of California. Tonight, however, would bring an end to that, we thought, totally unaware that we were under siege. We had just turned off Highway 199 onto Highway 101 and were looking forward to a mere twenty minutes of remaining California citizenship. We pulled over to the side of the road to let a few cars pass and then pulled out again.
Bang! A Copgoblin passed up my Port side, cut directly in front of me and sandwiched himself between us, a maneuver he could not have performed successfully if I hadn't stood on my brakes hard.
After such a jugheaded stunt, I figured we would probably get a safety lecture along with another generous sprinkling of citations, and so we did.
The citations were for having nonfunctional brakes, one nonfunctional brake light, and for willfully refusing to pull over and fix these things after being supposedly directed to do so three separate times by the officer at the Crescent City check stop. First time I had heard of it. Chris attributed the whole misunderstanding to semantics.
At any rate, since the shoulder we were parked on was much too steep to do any work, we were told to find a place that was suitable and get to work!
Then, after taking numerous pictures of the truck, he took his leave of us.
We rolled slowly down the road, sadly looking for a spot to accommodate us. We pulled over once to let a car pass but the car pulled over with us.
It was another Copgoblin and we had just saved him the trouble of having to turn on his Agatcha light.
This fellow was six feet, two inches of chinless God's Wrath named John Lewis. He was not amused; this was the “worst operational hazard” he had ever seen on the road (he must be new on the job).
He would not be placated.
His judgment was final.
For two cents he would impound the vehicle as unsafe and we damn sure better know that he was vested with the power to do so! In fact, he was so emphatic that we understand the vast extent of his powers that he repeated the fact several times during his righteously indignant tirade.
He was now operating at such a peak of efficiency that he was asking us questions that he would not allow us the time to answer. He, Officer John Lewis, had all the answers here and was functioning accordingly, totally in control of our situation, our little drama here at the side of the road.
To ring down the curtain on his triumphant performance, he accused us of trying to escape again and issued another citation to us for disobedience of a direct order to stay put, which we were now subsequently directed to do, without recourse or appeal.
To further clarify to what extent we must stay put, he began playing the Flawless Organizer Amidst Morons game with perfect exaggeration.
“When I say stay put I don't mean stay put fifty miles down the road! I don't mean stay put over there...” (he indicated the other side of the road)
“I mean stay put! HERE! RIGHT here! Do not go one inch that way...” (he pointed north) “...and do not go one inch that way!” (he pointed south)
We managed to get out one sentence, by refusing to be interrupted, to the effect that we really weren't liars; that if we had stayed back where we were stopped the second time to work on the violations, we would have capsized Oatus into the sloping ditch there when we jacked him up.
Officer John Lewis knew he had caught us for sure this time; in fact, we had caught ourselves with our own words.
“ We-ell now! After you were stopped at the inspection point you totally ignored the cutoff to Highway 199, didn't you?”
Caught by hard fact again, since we were, clearly, northbound on Highway 101, we had to admit we did and this caused Officer Lewis to go into spasms of great delight.
“There are plenty of flat places out that road to pull over onto. Plenty! I know! I've been out there hundreds of times!”
Smitten to the dust, our lying deceitful selves exposed for what they were by the scalpel of Badged Truth, Officer John Lewis, Copgoblin Extraordinaire, drove off in triumph to locate more evil.
Captured as we were with absolutely no possible alternative, we bit off our curses and prepared to tear into the brakes again.

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