It was a simple exchange, really. A man who loves his wife sent her a text after school. And a wife who loves her husband replied. The unaltered exchange follows:
"Had an interesting lunch taking my nap in the park and the cops came and said I was suspicious sleeping in my car some called them I thought parks were public places"
"You are a bum! I will not bail you out. Did they have to call work to verify that you're not a creepy vagrant?"
"No. They checked my licence atold them I knew the chief"
"You are the story gift that keeps on giving!" Let the record show (but Hick doesn't need to know) that this part was sent from the toilet of the faculty women's restroom while I was running copies.
Oh, dear. How I wish I had my mom to call and tell this tale to! She would have laughed until she cried. I can imagine it now, "Val! Stop! You've got me tickled! I can't breathe!" In fact, I sat in the garage for 10 minutes, laughing until I was out of breath, as Hick told me the details.
"Hello..." Said kind of in the way Jerry said it to Newman, because Hick always calls at the most inopportune times.
"Are you home?"
"I'm sitting in the garage under my new metal roof that blocks my radio signal."
"Your new GREEN metal roof that you love."
"If you say so. Did you get arrested?"
"No! But they asked for my driver's license. I can't believe you can't even sit in a park anymore."
"Were you parked right, in the parking lot?"
"Yes. I was leaned back in my seat, taking my nap. I had my cell phone set for 12:23, so I could wake up and get back to work by 12:30. I wasn't really asleep. I heard a car pull in, and a door close. I looked out the window, and a cop was right there!"
"Did he tap on the window?"
"No. But he was getting ready to. The other one was just getting out of the police car. I rolled the window down. He said, 'We got a call that said a suspicious man was at the park, sleeping in his car.' I told him, 'I come here all the time to eat my lunch, and then I have a nap.' He said, 'Yeah, they said you were here yesterday, too.' But I wasn't there yesterday. I went to the restaurant yesterday."
"Who called to complain about you?"
"I don't know. I said, 'There's a white car down by the caboose. Why don't you go check on them?' And he said, 'They didn't complain about that white car. They complained about you. Can I see your license?' So I handed it to him, and he said, 'Can you take it out?' So I took it out of the plastic, and he took it over to the patrol car and I heard him running my license number, and it came back with no warrants and no arrests. Then he gave it back to me and asked me if I would step out of the car."
"Why would they want you out of the car? They had no reason for that. What were they trying to do, see if you had your pants down?"
"Val! I don't know why. Maybe to see if I could walk. If I was drunk. I asked him what the problem was. 'Am I not allowed to park in the park? Other cars do. People walk. People run through here. Am I doing something wrong?' And he said, 'Well, somebody called and complained that you looked suspicious. And there are all those kids over there at recess.'"
"Kids? Were you in a playground?"
"No! I was parked by the picnic tables, except I ate my lunch in the car, not at a table. I could see them coming after me if I was sleeping on top of a picnic table. But I've seen people do that, too. The boxes from the two hot dogs and the bag from the chips I picked up at the convenience store for my lunch were laying right there on the car seat. And those kids playing had to be as far away as from our front door to the gravel road. [let the record show that is 1/10 of a mile] I was nowhere near any kids."
"I don't think they can do that. Imagine the fit some people would throw if they were sitting in a park and had their ID run and were asked to get out of their car."
"I know. I didn't mind giving them my ID. When I asked if I was doing anything wrong, the guy said, 'Well, it IS a public park.' I told him, 'I work right over there at [REDACTED]. I know the police chief and all those guys. I deal with them for work.' It was two new guys I'd never seen. Young guys. I think one was in training. I think I'll go down to the police station next week, and say, 'Hey, Chief, am I not allowed to sleep in the park anymore?' I've been doing that for 20 years! I got there about 11:45, and didn't lean back for my nap until five or ten after. It's not like I'd been sleeping there overnight."
"I don't think they can take your license like that and ask you to get out of the car without a reason. You weren't matching a description of a robber or a murderer. The complainer only said you were sleeping and suspicious."
"Yeah. All they really had to do was tap on my window and say someone called them and they were checking to see if I was okay. Then if they smelled anything, they could have asked me to get out, or searched the car. But all I was doing was sleeping in my car that had been there for a half-hour, parked in the parking lot of a public park! I think next week I'll make myself a big ol' sign to put on top of my car when I park, that says 'I'm eating my lunch and taking a nap!'"
Val is not a politically-motivated person, even though some might want to pin a label on her lapel because she lives in the country and has guns in her house. But it seems to me that Hick's 4th Amendment rights were violated. What has this country come to, when a man can't even sleep in a public park??? (Hick seems to think that's the most normal thing in the world, but I'm of the opinion that he might just get his window broken and his head bashed in before his slumber is done).
It's not like Hick was parked in a car on a private road by somebody's mailbox, taking a whiz in plain view. Or driving an unmarked truck through somebody's yard, picking up parts of their metal roof. Or getting out of an unmarked truck and tromping across somebody's front porch. Yes, those activities are suspicious. But did Val call the police? No. Did Val brandish a gun? No.
Would you have taken offense to this inquisition? I'm not asking if you would have complied. Of course you would have complied, because you had nothing to hide. But does it seem a bit unlawful? Must we all walk around, ever-vigilant, with hands in the air, clutching our IDs for easy perusal should someone complain that we look suspicious?
What say you?