Snow, Cops, Trouble

A snow day like this means a block party in my neighborhood

Heading into town yesterday morning, through storm number 1, I found myself in my wife’s Mini Cooper on Lincoln Drive next to a cop. We took the curves together, in slow motion, as if we were riding in carriages, erect, trotting handsomely — as erect and handsome as one can be in a Mini Cooper, anyway. Me and my cop, easing toward the Expressway.

I used to have trouble with cops. I used to get stopped a lot. Every time, I’d get out of my car, because I couldn’t stand that submissive deal, the light blaring down on me. So of course my dragging tailpipe would suddenly rise to the level of a federal offense.

But cops kinda grew on me. I was a cab driver in college, at Penn State, and we had old cop cars, Novas, as cabs. Those suckers were quick. Once somebody called in to the cab office anonymously, said that there was a cabbie driving much too fast in the snow. Me. But the cops at Penn State would never write us up, because we were town employees. Compatriots.

Once I went to a bistro there on College Avenue to pick up a regular rider, a woman named Joan Lee, who was wheelchair-bound. It was late afternoon. I got out of my cab — leaving it running — went in to the bistro, wheeled Joan out. On the sidewalk, Stanley waited. He was the town nut job, a big guy, strong, always hanging around, always talking and posing and looking for something. He said he wanted a ride. I told him to wait a minute.

I wheeled Joan around to the passenger side of my cab, and held the back of the chair as she stood, slowly, turning to get into the seat. Stanley got into the driver’s seat — as if he was going to help pull Joan in from that side. I’d get Joan in, I thought, then go around and deal with Stanley.

But with Joan half standing, Stanley suddenly jerked the gearshift into drive and floored it. Joan and I were thrown back, a rear wheel ran over her legs, and Stanley took off down College Avenue.

A crowd immediately gathered — Joan didn’t seem badly hurt. Two cop cars raced up. I went up to them, told them that Stanley had stolen my cab. Oh, they knew who Stanley was, all right. One cop turned to the other and said, “Go get him.” The other cop roared off in pursuit.

Something shifted for me, maybe at that moment, maybe because this is a story I’ve told a hundred times and the cops sorta emerge in a new light.

Yesterday morning, the end of Lincoln Drive, we parted ways — me and my Philly cop — and I gave him a little wave as he headed up to the Expressway and I stayed along the Schuylkill.

Last night, snowstorm number 2, I drove friends home in the sad little Mini Cooper. On 19th Street, at a four-way stop, I started to pull out even though the guy to my right, it was his turn — a nominal mistake. He mouthed something in my direction. It wasn’t nice. My middle fingers stayed intact, though, on the steering wheel.

[SIGNUP]I’m on a learning curve with this one, too. One rush hour a few years ago on the Schuylkill, I switched to the left lane and maybe, just maybe, was a little close to a guy coming up from behind — okay, I cut him off. Right on my bumper, he let me have it, both fingers raised. I greeted him in my mirror with same. As soon as he could, he pulled up next to me, on my right, and was screaming and ranting at 60 miles an hour and wanted me to pull over and go at it up closer and even more personal.

That buttoned me right up. I wasn’t prepared to pull over and have a fistfight with a crazy person. No more fingers in the mirror.

On my street in sweet Mount Airy, snowstorms equal a block party. Everybody is out already, at 8:50 this morning, shoveling, helping out the old folks.

Last storm, we had a lawn chair saving our space stolen. Now we use much more expensive wrought-iron chairs, too heavy to sneak off with. I haven’t given it too much thought yet — exactly what I will do when I see some neighbor basking on his porch, come spring, in my chair.