NOTE: Don’t be deceived by the benign demeanor in this photo. All grandchildren are affable when touring a jelly bean factory.
I’ve tumbled into a sort of weird legal limbo. I was visiting my twin grandkids for the weekend when their imaginations got rather carried away. I was “driving” in my typical safe, old-geezer manner (52 mph, Lawrence Welk on the stereo, sipping a Big Gulp prune juice, polyester pants pulled up beyond my belly button) when they roared up behind me, sirens blazing.
“Papa, you have to go to jail!”
“No! What’d I do, Mr. Policeman?”
Officer Miles was so indignant he began babbling. “You um . . . um . . . um . . . you ran into a cow!”
“No, I didn’t. No way!”
“Uh huh. You have to go to jail.” Deputy Audrey concurred and flashed handcuffs in my face. “You have to go to jail right this minute!”
“That’s no fair,” I moaned. “For how long?”
“Eighty hundred days,” Officer Miles ordered, disdaining the California Vehicle Code and plucking a vengeful number out of thin air.
“That’s 21.9 years!” I moaned. “Such a long time just for hitting a cow.”
My pleas for clemency fell on deaf ears and I was dragged off to the clink. Fortunately, security was rather lax and as soon as they looked the other way I was out on the highway again. Not twenty seconds later the same crime-fighting duo struck again.
“You have to go to jail!” One officer on each side, they clutched my arms and dragged me out of the car.
“No!!! What this time?”
Officer Miles searched his data bank for another trumped-up charge. “You . . . um . . . um . . . you ran over a sheep!”
“I never did.”
“Well, where is it? Where’s this alleged corpse of a sheep?”
“Right there.” He pointed vaguely at absolutely nothing.
“This is totalitarianism! Manufactured evidence,” I grumbled. “I’m driving really good and now look.”
“No, Papa. You keep hitting sheep.”
Off I went to the hoosegow, again for the dreaded eighty hundred days.
No sooner were the bars of justice lifted and I was apprehended yet again. I noticed that Officers Miles and Audrey were targeting only certain types of motorists; no one else was being challenged. It’s the latest disturbing sociological trend: “Driving While Being a Grandpa.”
“I was driving really slow,” I blubbered. “And I didn’t hit anything at all. Not one nick.”
“Yes, you did,” Miles corrected. “You um . . . um . . . you hit a chicken.”
“That’s all? Can’t I just pay five dollars for the chicken? Chicken crashes aren’t a jailable offense in California, are they? You kidding me?”
But they had no sense whatever of criminal proportionality. I was hauled yet again to the slammer; I howled for some sympathy or legal aid and must say that the twins’ grandma watched from the sidelines with benign amusement, not lifting a finger in my defense.
Over the next half hour, I was endlessly persecuted and charged with vehicular manslaughter of a pig, a dog, and a kitty. “The unfairness!” I howled to no avail. “No Miranda warnings! No judicial restraint!” And when Miles ran out of animal victims, he pulled me over yet again and handcuffed me, chortling in a tone almost gleeful: “Papa, you’re very, very, very bad.”
“No,” I whimpered. “Now what?”
“You . . . um . . . um . . . you ran over a house!”
It’s been lucky up till now that the jails in Fairfield offer a rather porous security. Because by my own count I’ve been convicted thirteen times, each time for sentences of “Eighty Hundred Days,” and Judge Audrey informs me the sentences must be served consecutively.