(Just a few short years ago...) When I was sixteen years old, I had a summer job at Wendy's. (It was a horrible job, but that has nothing to do with this post.) One afternoon...listening to music and daydreaming about what I would do with the rest of my day...I was driving happily along after finishing my shift. I had a white Mazda RX3...standard...that would backfire every now and then when I changed gears quickly. (Keep this in mind, as I continue the story.)
As I was driving along, just about to turn onto the highway, I noticed something (out of the corner of my eye) that didn't seem quite right. I looked closely and saw a young guy standing behind an old man. The old man was mowing his lawn, and the young guy had come up from behind him and was strangling him with a tshirt. It seemed as though the young guy was trying to take the old man's wallet, but he could not get it free from his pocket. In his adrenaline-driven panic, he was choking the old man...close to death.
Without thinking about what I was doing, I whipped the car around and started heading directly for the old man and young thief. The young guy released the old man and bolted down the street...with me hot on his trail. We were inside the city limits...with a stopsign at each corner. Therefore, I had to stop and go a lot...but I kept the punk in my sights.
We had traveled six or seven blocks when I heard many frantic voices screaming..."They done shot Bobby...OH MY LORD...They done shot Bobby!" Just then, I saw the young thief take a dive through the air from the street to a house below street level. As he landed, I saw that the source of the screaming voices was ten or so hysterical people on the porch of the house he dove onto.
Satisfied that I knew where he lived, I turned back around to go check on the old man and call the police. As I drove back up the street, I saw people lined up along the sides of the road...straining to get a better look. They were looking at ME! Then, I saw five police cars in front of the old man's house. "GOOD"...I thought..."NOW they can go get the bad guy!"
Still pumped up from the chase, I parked and jumped out of my car...heading toward the police and yelling, "Let's go get him. I know where he lives." They were standing in the old man's front yard...in a circle...and they were NOT moving. They were also staring at me. "Come on...I KNOW where he lives!!!"...I screamed. ::WHY AREN'T THEY DOING ANYTHING?:: Two officers began to walk in my direction. They looked at me...then looked at my car...then looked back at me. By this point, I was really frustrated that they were not reacting..."Sir...PLEASE...come with me. I can show you where he lives."
At that moment...I had that same (icky) feeling that you get when you are called to the principal's office but you don't know what you did wrong. ::HEY GUYS! DON'T YOU KNOW THAT I'M THE HERO HERE?:: One officer spoke up, "Maam...is that your car?" ::DUH...DIDN'T I JUST DRIVE UP IN IT?:: "Yes, sir, that is my car." Then he said, "We have received many reports from the neighbors...of a white lady in a white Toyota...chasing a barefooted black man down the street...shooting at him. What can you tell us about that?" ::OOOOOOMMMMMMMGGGGOSSSHHHHH...THEY THINK I'M THE BAD GUY!::
Trying NOT to laugh...cuz no one else was laughing...I said, "Sir...as you can see, I don't have a Toyota. It is a Mazda. AND...I was NOT shooting at anyone! My car backfires when I change gears too quickly. That is probably what people heard. NOW...can we please go get the BAD GUY???"
Still a bit puzzled by what had occurred, the two officers escorted me to their car and asked me to show them where the perpetrator (I really wanted to use that word!) lived. When we arrived at the home, the officers lined up ALL of the young men who were in the house...ALL eight of them...and asked me to pick out the guy I had seen strangling the old man. Of course, he was not there. In the time it had taken for the officers to realize that I was NOT the bad guy, the real bad guy had gotten away. As far as I know, they never found him.
Through the years, I've thought about this particular day many times and tried to imagine what the scene must have looked like through the eyes of EVERYONE ELSE. From my perspective, it was sooooooooooooo utterly clear...it was absolutely cut and dry. There was a victim and a predator...a good guy and a bad guy. (AND ME...the HERO!) And...YET...from their (the police officers' and witnesses') perspective...from where they were standing...it was not so clear. In fact, they got the facts turned completely upside down and inside out.