Wednesday, September 15, 2004


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!


Indri said...

"as his life has clearly gone entirely awry." This is too funny. I mean, it's sad, but it's funny.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the cops there, tons of them, for the past two nights (my new bike route goes by there). I thought they were attending a funeral. It sure kept me from blowing through the red light.