If you are a reader of either the books or newspaper column by Miss Manners, you may have noted that she uses a question and answer format: etiquette questions from readers: answers from Miss Manners. She prefaces her answers with the salutation, “Gentle Reader.”
Well, as listeners to NPR, I am reasonably certain that you folks also are gentlewomen and gentlemen. That being the case, and even though I generally am too frugal to be the wagering type (There are way more losers than winners.), I’m willing to wager that not too many of you ever have been stuffed into the back of a patrol car. On the off chance that you have a passing curiosity about this though, I’m going to share my recent experience.
First off, when the officer offers you a ride, “yes,” is your answer. That being the case, you enter with the caution to watch your head. Now, I’m not a very large person either in height or weight but crowded doesn’t begin to cover the size of the space available for you in there. That seems curious, since patrol cars look to be of regular sedan size, but somehow, they are so-configured that there just isn’t a lot of back-seat passenger space. First off, the rear seat is partitioned so that only one person fits—barely. The lucky rider is boxed in on the back right and the leg room makes airline leg room seem commodious. Then, there’s the seat! You know those molded, plastic, booster seats that used to be offered for small children in restaurants? Well, that’s about what you get. It’s small, it’s molded plastic, but it is not removable. You are anchored. God knows what a 350 pounder would do in there; talk about a sausage in a casing! Your thighs would squish up around your ears. The other thing that you may have picked up on is the fact that it’s all plastic in there. Not conducive to great air circulation or comfort, but then I don’t guess that that is the point. Gives a whole new aspect to the thought of sweating a confession out of someone. And, remember, you cannot open the window. That would defeat the purpose of confinement, wouldn’t it?! On the other hand, my mother-persona did note that this whole arrangement would be an easy clean-up should one be so indiscreet as to leave behind any bodily fluids. Just hose out the whole mess; in its own way, it’s much more time-efficient than carpet cleaners, vacuums, detail-cleaning and disinfecting. Given the probable passengers, the whole arrangement is very practical, I suppose. Finally, because of all the “isolation booth” aspects of the accommodation, a cheery conversation—or any conversation really—isn’t easily going to happen between you and your “driver.” It does give a quiet-time opportunity to carefully observe your surroundings though and, if necessary, to try to stifle your sobs. And, on the positive side, there is no fare meter. When you arrive at your destination, you are not asked to pay up. The fare for this ride apparently is included in your municipal tax bill.
Ok, Gentle Listeners, are you convinced that this is not a ride that you are willingly going to be looking to catch? Good move! It’s like when you hear sirens—either police or fire— (and I encountered both in this little adventure), the back-story is certain not to be one of happiness, hence the welcome opportunity for stifling sobs.
Now, comes the part where I do my, “Lucy, you have some ‘splaining to do,” act. If I’m lucky, you have hung with me through this adventuresome ride and maybe even are wondering, “WHAT DID SHE DO?”
First, I must tell you that Officer Nowak was very kind to me. He saw me by the side of the road trying to stifle my sobs and offered me this ride out of kindness, since my other option was to walk along for a mile or two while probably openly sobbing, because, Gentle Listener, I had murdered my beloved car: the Pod. But it wasn’t pre-meditated!
Music: Theme from "Mystery" (PBS)