“It’s a Cop!”

Today’s writing prompt actually made me laugh: “Have you ever had an encounter with the police?” Yes. Yes, I have. I have had a few …. as a matter of fact …..

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My First Ticket

It was probably my junior or senior year and there was a very cool record store in Ferndale called “Sam’s Jams.” They had everything, including some very hard to find vinyl albums. I remember finding old Soupy Sales albums, rare Tom Lerer albums, and stuff I didn’t even know existed on vinyl there. I spent many hours there before they closed their doors.

I was driving in my dad’s 1979 Caprice Classic (I loved that car!) through Royal Oak and Steve was with me. It was in November, so it was already dark out. The speed limit was like 30 and I was going a little faster than that. I remember when the flashers went on behind me – I was terrified! I had never been pulled over before. There were butterflies in my stomach and I was sweating as the policeman approached the car.

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He asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. He asked if I knew how fast I was going and if I knew what the speed limit was. I didn’t know either. He said he’d be back. I became more and more nervous the longer he was in his car. When he returned, he asked, “Do you know you are driving on expired plates?” My dad’s birthday is the first of November, and my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew. I told the cop this and he said very sternly, “You’re dad is wrong. Are you aware that I can impound this vehicle? Where are you heading?” I told him we were going to Sam’s Jams. He told me, “No you are not. You are going home. I would recommend that you not do any driving until your dad gets these plates renewed.” He then handed me my ticket, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t impounding the vehicle. I turned around and drove home (where my dad insisted that he had until the end of the month to renew those tags!).

No stranger to tickets

Don’t take that heading the wrong way, I just have had a few tickets here and there in my 30+ years of driving. One of them came on Thanksgiving.

ERIK ESTRADA & LARRY WILCOX CHIPS (1977)

We were leaving my dad’s house and heading to my ex’s family’s house for dinner. We hadn’t been driving very long, because we were technically still in my dad’s neighborhood when I got pulled over. If my memory serves me correctly, we had stayed a bit longer than my ex wanted to at my folks house. When we left, she was angry and we were arguing in the car. I was driving in a 25 and probably doing 40-45. She was telling me that we were going to be “so late” and the more she yelled, the angrier I got.

The cop was going the other way and he swung around quick and turned on the flashers. This, of course, led to more of an argument. The cop walked up and asked for my information and I believe my ex said, “I knew he was going too fast, sir.” My son asked the cop if I was going to jail – LOL. I got a ticket and an earful that continued all the way to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

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One ticket I got was while driving to work one night. There was an accident at the intersection of 12 and Woodward. I took Woodward to work every night and had to turn right onto 12 Mile. Driving toward 12 Mile, there was a wrecker with a vehicle already on it just before you reached 12 mile. The cop was on the other side of 12 mile and his flashers were on. There were cars going the opposite way on 12 mile, so when I got to 12 mile, I turned right. (So the cop is on my left on one side of 12 on Woodward, and the wrecker is on the right side of 12 mile on Woodward). As I pull into our parking lot at work, he zips in behind me and turns on the lights.

Keep in mind, there are no flares or cones or anything on the street AND there was nothing blocking me from making the turn, so I figured I was ok to do so. Nope. I was informed by the officer that I had drove through “an accident scene” which I guess is a TON of points. He wrote me up instead for “impeding traffic”, which was a little less points, but still a few more than I ever wanted on my record.

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I am a creature of habit. I take the same way to work every day. I like to travel familiar roads. When the GPS has me take another way, or I am in unfamiliar surroundings, I start to get nervous. Especially when the roads are back roads that twist, turn and wind all over the place.

Friday, I was driving to an appointment and the GPS tells me that the road ahead is closed and has me get off and take another route. The roads are twisting and turning all over the place and before I know it, I am in a construction zone. The GPS is yelling at me to turn in like .2 miles and because I am not paying attention to my speed, you guessed it – here comes the Oakland County Sheriff.

He had every right to cop the attitude that he did. “Do you realize you are in a construction zone?” “You do see that there are workers present and that there is no concrete barrier, right?” My heart was pounding. I am always careful – especially in construction zones. My wife can tell you, I usually have the cruise control on. She even jokes about how slow I drive. I was given a break (thankfully) because I had no points on my record. I was told to slow down and he wrote me up for 5 over. I am one lucky guy!

My favorite encounter with the police – October 1987

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I have probably blogged about this before, but when I was a senior in high school the big thing to do was toilet paper houses. There were many groups that went out together – the cheerleaders, the football players, the choir members, and of course, us band people. The band was large and there were three or four groups that went out and TP’d. My group was the TP Bandits.

One of my best friends, Steve (the same Steve who was with me when I got my first ticket) had a birthday in October. He was dating a gal at the time and for his birthday, we decided that we were going to TP his house. When did our “drive by,” we could see him upstairs in his room watching TV with the gal. We parked the car just a bit down from his driveway and Margaret, Ronnie, and I went to work. The three of us used a ton of TP on this huge tree in front of his house, wrapped bushes, the mailbox, etc…. it was a beautiful job!

Once everything was finished, we stood in the middle of his lawn and sang “Happy Birthday” at the top of our lungs. He came to his bedroom window and laughed. After the last note was sung, we turned and ran to our car … but we didn’t get far. As we sung Happy Birthday, a cop car had pulled up in front of the house. Ronnie and Margaret ran away first and I was probably making faces at Steve or giving him the finger or something. All I remember hearing is Ronnie yelling, “It’s a cop!” I then felt a very firm grip on my shoulder and was told to get in the back of the Warren Police Cruiser.

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As the officer closed the door of the cruiser, I could see Steve’s mom running outside yelling, “It’s a prank! It’s ok! They’re ok! It’s just a prank!” Margaret, Ronnie and I sat in the back of this cop car and I kept thinking, “We’re never going to get to go to graduation!” “We’re being arrested for TPing!” “What the hell am I gonna tell my folks?!”

The cop in the car went one by one and asked us our names, our addresses, our phone numbers, and probably a bunch of other things. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I laughed when he got to Ronnie, because he totally started rattling off all his info as fast as I have ever heard him talk! The cop told us that we could go to jail because of vandalism or something and I thought, “It’s TP! Are you serious!?” When the other cop returned the vehicle, he played “good cop.” He told us that he had all our information. He wanted us to go out and clean up as much as we possible could. They were going to drive back by the house later and if it wasn’t cleaned up “we know where to find you!”

Steve got quite a laugh out of the whole thing. I think the cops asked if they wanted us to clean it up and he probably told them yes. It was a huge birthday backfire. I also remember coming to school the next day and waiting for people to razz us. A few people had heard what happened, but surprisingly, no one really said anything. I thought we were totally in the clear. During band class, we were in the middle of a song and all of a sudden, our band director, Mr. Shaner, cut us all off and proudly yelled, “Hey! Did everyone hear what happened to our TP Bandits last night?!” The band erupted with laughter and Margaret, Ronnie and I were red with embarrassment!

Yeah … I’ve had a few encounters with the police …. some were more fun than others!

Knowledge is Power!

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As a kid, we lived for Saturday mornings! We never slept in because we knew that all morning long we had our choice of back to back cartoons! There was Scooby-Doo, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Hong Kong Phooey, Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, The Laff-O-Lympics, The Flilntstones, The Pink Panther and many more! It was great! We’d sit and watch these shows all morning long with a big ole bowl of cereal and laugh away!

One of the things I remember most about Saturday mornings was also one of the things that helped me in school – School House Rock. These little musical features helped me learn multiplication, history, and English. If that it what they set out to do, it worked. Oh, how many times did I find myself singing those songs in school!

Multiplication Rock

Learning the times table is one of those things that ALL kids absolutely hate! God, I hated those 60 second tests where you had to write the answers to as many problems as you could. The stress of that was awful for an elementary student. School House Rock helped!

Let me start with the most memorable. I remember when I had to help my son learn his times tables, I sang the “ready or not, here I come” song which helped you count by 5. This little song centered around a game of hide and seek, and they had to count to 100 by fives while the rest of the kids hid. To this day, when I have to count by fives – I think of this song!

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Counting by twos was illustrated by Noah and the ark. The biblical account talks of Noah bringing all the animals on the ark in pairs. So throughout this number, Noah answers his son’s question of how many animals were on the ark by counting the animals two by two as the exit the boat.

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The first song that was recorded for the series was “Three is a Magic Number”. The story goes that creator Bob Dorough’s son could remember “every lyric to a Rolling Stone’s song, but could not remember his multiplication tables”. If it truly is a magic number, what better way to illustrate it than with a magician?

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What child didn’t do a bit of daydreaming in school? To remember how to multiply 8, all we had to do is think about the little school girl who daydreamed she was a figure skater. She skates her figure 8 and the song told us how.

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Grammar Rock

English was one of my best subjects. I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and going to something called the Academic Olympics. Schools within the district had these little game show like contests with teams for Math, Science, English, and History. I was chosen to be on the English team. I certainly never had an issue with the parts of speech because of School House Rock.

Well every person you can know,
And every place that you can go,
And anything that you can show,
You know they’re nouns.

Yep! Thanks to SHR, the little girl and her dog – we knew a noun was “a person, place or thing”!

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What’s happening? Verb! That’s what’s happening! The coolest “action” hero? Well, I don’t know about that, but a verb shows action….and I always remember him!

I get my thing in action (Verb!)
To be, to sing, to feel, to live (Verb!)
(That’s what’s happenin’)

A verb expresses action, being, or state of being. A verb makes a statement. Yeah, a verb tells it like it is!

Why do I remember this? Because the music was cool. The character was cool. We didn’t even know they were trying to teach us something!!! We were learning and it was cool!

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And what about describing a noun? Well all you had to do was unpack some adjectives…but watch out for the scary, hairy bear!

Adjectives and adverbs were so hard for some kids to get. I could not ever understand why. I got it pretty quickly … because of a little girl and her trip. You see, her friends ask her to describe her camping trip. She said that all she had to do was unpack some adjectives.

We hiked along without care.
Then we ran into a bear.
He was a hairy bear,
He was a scary bear,
We beat a hasty retreat from his lair.
And described him with adjectives.

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Moving on to Adverbs, I had help from SHR and also The Electric Company (which was mentioned yesterday). On the Electric Company, they turned to Tom Lehrer (who is pretty darn funny and has some comedy albums you can still get today). He created the simple song “L-Y”. Why? Well, most adverbs end in “ly”.

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School House Rock’s song about adverbs was memorable because it was just a fun little song that takes place in (where else?) an adverb store! Need an adverb – shop at Lolly’s! The brilliance of this song is it is like a commercial for the store…and they really sell it! Hell, if I really needed to go buy and adverb – I would shop at Lolly’s!! After all … they are family owned!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here.
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here.
Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here!
You’re going to need
If you write or read,
Or even think about it.

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I still remember learning about interjections for the first time. I also learned about the punctuation that followed it …

Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.

This song was full of characters – the kid with the flu who needed a shot, the gal getting asked out on a date, the fans at the football game, and others who were all full of interjections!

The chorus of this song is one of the most well known, so sing along:

So when you’re happy (Hurray!) or sad (Aw!)
Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
An interjection starts a sentence right.

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While all of these are memorable, probably the most memorable Grammar Rock song is about three small words and a small little train conductor. The bluesy swing song with the repetitive refrain and the amazing vocal talents of Jack Sheldon makes Conjunction Junction one of the all time BEST sing a longs.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
They’ll get you pretty far.

Ask any child of the 70’s to give you a conjunction and they will spout off “and”, “but”, and “or” immediately! That’s a sure bet!!

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America Rock

Moving forward, and wrapping up with History, we come to America Rock. Some of the biggest events in US history were brought to life in 3 minutes of musical perfection!

Interest in American History is still abounding today. Recently, there was an AMC series called Turn! which was about the Revolutionary War and George Washington’s spies as well as an HBO series on John Adams and the role he played in the Independence of America. Let’s start there.

No More Kings was a silly little song about the colonists coming to America and being taxed for everything. This leads to the Boston Tea Party and America wanting no part of King George (who can see what’s happening through his telescope).

They wanted no more Mother England.
They knew the time had come
For them to take command.
It’s very clear you’re being unfair, King,
No matter what you say, we won’t obey.
Gonna hold a revolution now, King,
And we’re gonna run it all our way
With no more kings…

Hence the colonization of America!

no more kings

What followed was the Revolutionary War. Which got it’s own song called The Shot Heard Round the World, which of course is then followed by the Declaration of Independence, which got it’s own little song … and Fireworks.

The Declaration of Independence
In seventeen hundred seventy six
The Continental Congress said that we were free
Said we had the right of life and liberty,
…And the pursuit of happiness! (You totally saw the guy chasing the gal when you read that line right?!)

Thanks to School House Rock, today I can still recite:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal
And that they are endowed by their creator
With certain inalienable rights.
That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Who doesn’t sing the “Fireworks song” on the 4th of July??!

Then, of course, after we declared our independence, we had to have a Constitution. Memorizing the Preamble of the Constitution was no problem for me in school … I had it set to music!

We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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There have been many Amendments to the Constitution, and the 19th was a biggie! It allowed women to vote! It is hard to imagine that they didn’t have that right until 1920!! The right was referred to as Women’s Suffrage. School House Rock Tackled this historic occasion with the song “Sufferin’ Until Suffrage”.

Women were American’s too. They wanted the right to vote. The video for this song is part cartoon and part black and white pictures of women throughout history. It’s a rocking number that gets the point across and you can here the “victory” in her voice in this “gospel”-ish song.

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule.

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Throughout history, we’ve seen many inventions that have made our world a better place. “Mother Necessity” was the character who is in this song and the “mother” of the inventors of these wonderful things. We hear of the Wright Brothers and their airplane, Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, Samuel Morse and the telegraph, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone and a few others.

“Mother Necessity where would we be indeed!”

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Finally, the School House Rock showed me how the legislation process happens…with our friend, Bill.

Bill is just that – a bill. How does a bill become a law? I learned how with this song. Performed again by Jack Sheldon (Conjunction Junction) perfectly, you learn about the whole process and lengths a bill goes through to be a law. Naturally, we all feel great when he finally becomes a law at the end!

I’m just a bill.
Yes, I’m only a bill.
And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it’s a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It’s a long, long wait
While I’m sitting in committee,
But I know I’ll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.

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Thank you School House Rock for helping me and many other children learn so much about so many things! Now, to end with an interjection….

Darn! That’s the end.

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