Flaw and order
On getting away with murder (maybe)
I am a strong supporter of our nation’s law enforcement. I say this because when it comes to me personally, they often decide not to enforce the nation’s laws.
We have this cushy arrangement where I am a young girl who is not visibly a minority, and it typically means I can do things like “blatantly ignore traffic laws at the expense of public safety” without repercussion.
Don’t worry — I haven’t, like, gotten away with murder or anything. But sometimes, I think…
Joking! Murder is the real deal. I would never involve myself in something so messy. One time I lost my phone and found it at the bottom of a bucket of produce, so I think the attention to detail you would need in a cover-up situation would be a little exhausting.
I would be the kind of murderer to execute the perfect crime — wrench; billiard room; pinned on Colonel Mustard, because everyone likes a good military scandal — only to realize I’d left my purse in the conservatory in a hurry to make it in time to the GAP.
So, no murder — unless it’s something clean, like arsenic. No one screws up arsenic.
The point is, I cannot help but notice I am afforded significant leeway when it comes to legal transgressions. This became very clear to me this summer when two encounters with the police made me thankful I did not have to confront, you know, a centuries-old legacy of institutionalized racism which has shaped an oft-deserved legacy of distrust between law enforcement and the people they serve. Or something like that.
The first incident: trespassing on federal property.
If you have ever thought, “Hmm, I wonder what is the worst place in northern Virginia and possibly the world to pull over and recalibrate iPhone maps?” the answer is unequivocally “The National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.” The National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center has made it abundantly clear: there is to be no recalibration on their premises.
When an officer stopped me as I pulled in and warned me I could be charged with a felony, I tried to explain to him the recalibration policy was not something I had previously been aware of. Through tears, as his countenance and resolve simultaneously hardened, I tried to elucidate I had simply been looking (for an hour, in vain) for DSW Shoes after having sushi with friends nearby.
I am aware this is a very asinine thing to tell an officer of the law while crying. Or ever. There was literally nothing redeeming about that sentence.
My blinding privilege causing him to squint, I was allowed to go — only with the express consent to return home immediately. I got lost for 20 more minutes, then went and bought two pairs of sandals.
The second incident: trespassing on less-glamorous town property.
A friend and I decided to bring a laptop and a sleeping bag out to the dock near her house and watch “Frozen.” This was trespassing — and we knew it — but we figured it was OK, because there is nothing less threatening than two women of age genuinely enjoying jokes made by an anthropomorphic snowman.
It was not OK. It was trespassing. Also embarrassing, because the amount of fast food we had smuggled in with us made it look like we just held up Ronald McDonald in a nearby alleyway (we didn’t, but if we did — another perfect crime).
Again, though, we left the scene unscathed.
Reflecting on these two events, I realized that I, like so many others, was a victim of profiling — just one lucky enough to be on the right side of things.
And by that, I mean I was profiled as someone who was completely unbearable. Apparently, nothing helps you avoid getting charged like making an officer realize processing Ridiculous Sushi Alibi Girl would be the worst bureaucratically-spent hour of his life (a very difficult category to top).
And oh, it would be. When legally convenient, I can be insufferable.
Julia’s column runs biweekly Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.