When I finally got my car back from the cop’s brother, I was really surprised. The shop the guy owned decided to do a promotional video in the style of Pimp My Ride without telling me. I was cool with it, though, since my $100 dollar car got upgraded with new seats, new paint, really new everything. They did their video using an iPad and posted it right away to YouTube thinking they would be the next viral sensation. I thanked them and hit it hard down the road with everything my tricked out little Vega could muster. I was jacked at the power and knew it was time to make a statement.
With the Saturday sun setting, I got my darkest shades, baggiest pants, and hopped into my pimped up mobile to see some old friends. You see, I had a score to settle with the dudes at the grocery store who had turned me a couple of weeks ago for stealing my own car. As I got closer to the parking lot, I cranked my weld breaking speakers with some Ozomatli thinking my Mexican friends would be down with my Latin connection. I timed it perfectly for right when the singer announced, “Let me tell you a little thing about LA. WE LOVE IT!!!,” I was turning into the parking lot as the coolest gringo cholo I could be in a restored Vega. The base was thumping, the horns blaring, and the response…not what I expected. They laughed.
I thought this clan of intimidating souped up Japanese car riding Chicanos would have appreciated my not so subtle throw down. Instead, they thought I was an idiot.
But they loved my car…
We hung out for awhile and I learned that these guys had all been born in America. They were just as apple pie as I was. They all had jobs, degrees, and families that they cared for very much. They were a part of all the same things as me except for one thing, they weren’t too concerned with my background as a white man. They explained that they thought I was stealing the car and that was why they had called the cops. White guy stealing a car equals bad guy… They were looking out for the community and I looked like a bad dude.
Hmmm, the racial thoughts had turned against me. I had been profiled. That night in the parking lot I had a tungsten moment. With spanish guitar calming the air, I thought about these guys as role models. They were solid citizens. I was not. My life had been about “getting by” and I was very tired by the effort it took to live that way. My life in construction had been hard and after a week of trying to dig a hole in poured concrete and through loose rock around a footer at a Wal-Mart, I decided to tighten up. There would be no more picking trash cans for golf club bags or getting drunk after work. Gone were the days of sinking my money into nothing like old cars and bags of pork rinds. I needed to clean myself up, go back to school, and work in a career that would make a difference in the lives of people.
I would become a teacher. Besides, I went to school and did okay. How hard of job could teaching be?
So after having my cultural foundation dug out by these super cool guys, I headed home in my Vega under the auspices of hope and change. Too bad I was still too excited about my journey into a different life to remember that the speed limit is 25mph going to down the big hill into town. Once again, the lights of the law announced my violation of the accepted rules of the road. This time, though, I was guilty and ready to accept the consequences of my actions.
The officer approached my car and said, “Yo man, you’ve got to slow down. Could you step out of the car?”
I new the drill and was ready to go downtown, but this time would be different. The officer reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone.
“Dude, I can’t believe that it is you. You are the guy on the YouTube video. What they did to your car is craaaaaazzzzzy. Can I get a picture of you next to it?”
Having been on the wrong end of so many law enforcement encounters recently, I was quite confused. Somehow my life had been one of “almost” where being arrested was concerned. I still sported a clean record with no blemishes, but being paparazzied by a sworn officer of the law sealed the deal on my life changing momentum. I had better ride this for all it was worth, because who knows when things might change. I’m going to be a teacher.
“Sir, would you like the door open or closed?” I asked.