The first time I heard the patrol car bleep his horn, we were headed towards the turn to begin the last lap on the NPR. “We’ll be seeing him again,” I thought.
Lap four played out in all its glory: Vapor leadout, Wike the Bike spanking all pretenders in the sprunt, and the Belize Bullet making a last minute acceleration from too far back. We reached the red stoplight at Pershing and the cruiser pulled up next to us. The cop was highly unhappy. “Who’s the leader of this ride?” he yelled.
Each of the seventy riders knew that the answer to this question was, “Write ME the ticket, officer.” So no one said anything.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “I’m surrounded by the crew. There’s nothing that one cop can do against this phalanx of mighty warriors.” So I hollered back at him. “I’m not the leader, but I’d be more than happy to talk with you.”
“Pull over there!” he ordered as the light turned green.
We 70 badasses aren’t scared of no damn cop
I pulled into the turnout and dismounted, confidently approaching the policeman. Well, more deferentially than confidently. My father had always said that the only proper answer to a person in a bad mood with a badge, a gun, a pair of handcuffs, mace, a radio, a riot shotgun, and a fully armed partner on alert was “Yes, sir.”
“You guys can’t ride like that,” he said.
“Yes, sir. Like what, sir?”
“You’re spilling out from the far right lane and filling up the entire second lane as well. It blocks traffic and is incredibly dangerous.”
“Look, I totally respect what you all are doing out here. You’re in great shape, you’re doing a healthy workout, and it’s good. We have no problem with that. But when you block the entire road, someone’s going to get hurt.”
“Now, what’s your name?”
“Perez. Dave Perez.”
“Okay, Mr. Perez. What’s your phone number?”
“Ah, 867-5309. Area code 310.”
The cop looked at me funny. “I’ve heard that number before.”
“It’s, uh, common, sir.”
“I’m not going to cite you, but I’d appreciate it if you got the word out in your club that you can’t block both lanes.”
“I’ve talked to this group before. What’s the name of your club? South Bay something?”
“Wheelmen? No, we’re not a club. This is just an unorganized ride. It’s…”
“Look, I know you guys are a club and this is a club ride. Which club is it?”
“Yes, sir. But sir, we’re a bunch of different clubs.” I held up my SPY armwarmers. “I ride for club SPY. And all these other people,” I jerked my hand over my shoulder, “ride for various clubs. There are people from all over the U.S. and even the world, and even Australia, who join on this ride.”
I was thankful that Caveman James from Colorado had joined us today, as I could pull him out from the throng as proof that we weren’t just one big club ride but rather an amalgamation of unrelated idiots. Caveman had his best American Flyers’ Russian full facebeard and really did look like a foreigner, or a space alien, even.
The cop was scowling now. “Well, why’s everyone wearing the same outfit then?”
“Same outfit? There are at least a dozen different…” I turned around to start pointing out the different kits and teams who were represented on the ride, but stopped mid-sentence. The massive gang of supporters had melted away. No one but Sparkles, New Girl, Mr. and Mrs. Diego, Mel, Hines, and a couple of other wankers had stayed. The only team kits were Ironfly and…South Bay Wheelmen.
“Mr. Perez, those outfits clearly say South Bay Wheelmen.”
“Yes, sir. I can explain, sir.”
“I’m sure you can. Just like I can write a ticket.”
Mercy is the hallmark of justice
“But I’m not going to,” he continued. “I’d like you to get the word out. We want this to be safe just as much as you do. If it spreads out into a long line because you’re going fast, so be it. But when things bunch up and start blocking both lanes, we’re going to have to intervene.”
I couldn’t explain that he’d seen us just before the turnaround, and that with few exceptions we did a pretty good job of stopping for lights, stopping for oncoming cars, checking before we u-turn, and being safe except for the last 400 yards when people risk everything for the glory of winning the sprunt. So I just said, “Yes, sir.”
“And what’s with those socks?”
“Yeah. Why the tall pink socks?”
“It’s ah, breast awareness, sir.”
“Cancer, I mean. Breast cancer awareness. Think pink breast awareness,” I mumbled, blushing.
“Okey-dokey.” He shrugged. “You guys and gals be safe out there, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Now go catch up with your group. Have a good day, Mr. Perez.”
“Yes, sir!” We looked at each other, knowing full well that everyone was already back at CotKU quaffing their third latte and taking bets on who had gotten the ticket.
New Girl rode up, grinning. “Coffee’s on me, Wankster. Thanks for taking one for the team.”
“Oh, it was no big deal. He wasn’t going to give me a ticket.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve already gotten one ticket this year. That’s my limit. Now if this had happened in 2013, I’d never have stopped.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m buying your coffee anyway.”
And she did.