If I were writing a novel, this would have to be in it, as it is a ridiculously literary bit, such an obvious bit of symbolism it’d be embarrassing if it weren’t true.
For weeks now a couple of motorcycle cops have been lurking on one side of Porter Square’s St. James Episcopal Church, pulling over drivers on Massachusetts Avenue and issuing tickets. Yes: symbols of authority hiding behind the church — and it’s quite a beautiful church, truly the most classically attractive part of the area — to extract money from the unsuspecting, who drive through the Beech Street intersection clueless there are watchers in the sidewalk nook at St. James’ back door. Last week I even saw one poor bastard in an electric-green Geo Metro pulled over, a withered, middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, hunched over and shifting uncertainly in his obsolete, cluttered little runabout. Truly a pathetic sight. This man should not be bothered with a ticket, as his life has clearly gone entirely awry.
The metaphor is complicated by the reason behind the traffic stops, though. I asked first one officer, then the other for that reason today, and each gave brusque and even mildly threatening non-answers, implying they were too busy to talk and they would deal with me later. But the police officer serving as crossing guard at the corner (in a nice bit of pathos, he is hearing-impaired) told me very simply that the drivers were busted for passing a school bus when it stops there on weekday afternoons.
Don’t pass a stopped school bus. Even if it means blocking a busy intersection, I guess.
The motorcycle cops could have said this in a tidy, terse four words, if they’d been inclined to be helpful, but they preferred to be menacing. So, despite them doing what should be a service to the community, their tone left me suspicious rather than grateful. And, in fact, I don’t think the bus has been present during the several traffic stops I’ve seen there. How many times a day can the bus come? Are the police pulling over people they think would have passed a stopped school bus had they been given the chance? Surely not the little man in the Metro!