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FREEWAY FOLLIES

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THERE’S NOTHING particularly unusual about the block-like building currently under construction on Industrial Boulevard west of Reunion Tower, except that it’s being made out of brick instead of reflective glass.

Nothing, really, is evident on the exterior to suggest there’s anything different about this one from a dozen or so other projects in and around the Central Business District, except that it doesn’t have any windows.

The architectural concept is austere. It’s functional. All that and ugly, too. It’s downtown Dallas. It fits in nicely.

But don’t let that fool you. This building isn’t going to be the new headquarters for a bank or the home office for an insurance company. This is a special place: a sort of one-of-a-kind hotel and private club that’s so exclusive it took a lot of arm twisting by a federal judge to even get it under way.

And not just anybody can stay here, either. In fact, Governor Bill Clements probably couldn’t get in if he called six months in advance for reservations.

They call this splendid institution the Criminal Justice Center, a 1980ish ad agency euphemism for “jailhouse.”

If the cost overruns stacked up to date are any indication, this should be a showpiece. The pity of it is that most Dallas citizens will never have an opportunity to experience its grandeur firsthand.

Through some unfortunate circumstance of our modern social culture, the closest the average citizen comes to being busted for criminal activity is a routine traffic violation. But if handled correctly, the motorist can say something to the arresting officer that’s so completely offensive that what was intended to be a mild warning for driving 40 in a 30 miles per hour zone can actually land the over-achiever behind bars. Or at least reserve a slot on the docket at any one of several leading municipal traffic courts.

“It’s certainly not unusual for a motorist to react in a less than prudent fashion when he’s pulled over,” says a 25-year veteran of traffic enforcement with the Dallas Police Department.

“To begin with, they’re usually a little bit shocked, since getting stopped simply isn’t part of their everyday routine.”

What the average motorist needs to understand, the officer continued, is that the experience is generally just as stressful for the patrolman as it is for the person being “detained.”

Officers, through training and experience, are instinctively cautious when approaching the vehicle they’ve just apprehended. The little old lady behind the wheel may have just hijacked a filling station and is now on the verge of doing something really screwy.

That may sound farfetched, but it happens just often enough on a national basis to maintain the attention of law enforcement personnel everywhere.

The prudent procedure for the motorist, once he sees those tacky flashing lights in his rearview mirror, is to locate the closest safe space on the roadside, slide over, and stop.

If you’re apprehended in the far left lane of a busy expressway, the patrolman would prefer you park on the median, rather than attempt to work your way through four or five lanes of heavy traffic.

Once you stop, the idea is to sit there with both hands on the steering wheel until the patrolman approaches your car and tells you what he wants you to do next.

If you go groping for your driver’s license under the seat or in the glove compartment before he asks to see your license, there’s a strong possibility you’ll experience the remarkable sensation of having a chrome-plated service revolver pointed at close range in the general vicinity of your left temple.

The next step to further your chances of attaining a gentle chastisement (as opposed to being slapped with a citation or something worse) is to do exactly what you’re told and give it the old “yes sir, no sir” routine, then hope for the best.

It’s amazing how many people choose instead to smart-mouth the cop, never realizing that for the time being they are under tacit arrest.

Most traffic officers are exposed to a monotonous litany of one of the following lines:

“Me? What did I do? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I would have pulled over sooner, but I thought you were an ambulance.”

These, of course, rank right up there on the list of most frequently told lies with “The check is in the mail,” and.. .well, you know the rest.

Officers are accustomed to these excuses and might be tolerant of them, depending upon the individual’s delivery.

Now let’s move up one more notch on the scale of abrasiveness:

“Go ahead and write out the damn ticket. I guess you haven’t made your quota for the day.”

To which one Dallas patrolman responded, “I don’t have a quota. I can write as many as I want to.”

Another well-worn protest comes in the form of, “Now just a minute, officer. . .”

Unfortunately for the motorist, it’s hard to say that without an accompanying kind of jabbing, pointed gesture that-if delivered with just the right degree of malevolence-is automatically reciprocated with the application of a pair of steel handcuffs around the wrists, accompanied by three or four little clicking sounds.

Then there is the ever popular, “You can’t write me a ticket.”

“That line,” says a veteran cop, “presents the officer with a challenge that is difficult to resist.”

A similar rendition that occurs more often than one might suspect is the classic, “But you don’t realize who I am.”

Another one-liner (if delivered with the correct inflection) that is guaranteed to encourage the officer to write up the maximum is, “What’s the matter? Was I the only one you could catch?”

Now we proceed into the graduate school level. The following lamentations, verified by law enforcement personnel in Dallas County, have been delivered within the past year:

Malcolm W., a former architect, was at the wheel of a vehicle while his girl friend was shooting scotch into his mouth from a water pistol. Malcolm was drenched from head to toe with Chivas Regal when he ultimately ran a stop sign and broadsided a pickup truck.

“I was just trying to dodge some drunk old meskin standing out in the intersection,” he told the investigating officer as he was hustled off to jail.

“Shoulda gone ahead and hit him. It would have been a lot cheaper.”

Leon W. of Fort Worth authored this unforgettable statement: “You’re out of your mind. This Jag won’t go 120.”

Clayton B. is a shrink. He had been to his girl friend’s sister’s wedding in Fort Worth. After the wedding, Clayton and his lady were returning to Dallas in his new Corvette. Clayton was a veteran of literally hundreds of these turnpike turnarounds and had paced himself at the wedding reception accordingly. As he hit the highway for the ride back to Dallas, he fell into that unfortunate gray area of not being quite legitimately drunk but drunk enough to fail a Breathalyzer test. (There are men who have performed intricate brain surgery who couldn’t have passed a Breathalyzer at the time.)

A DPS officer on routine patrol was startled when Clayton’s Corvette suddenly began veering sharply, occupying all three lanes at once.

The officer pulled Clayton over and listened unsympathetically as Clayton told his pitiful little story. “My girl friend unbuttoned my shirt and started kissing my chest and my stomach and that just drives me craaazy!” stammered one of Dallas’ leading psychiatrists. “I. . .I just momentarily lost control.”

The fact that Clayton was telling the truth didn’t seem to help much. The officer charged him with DWI, then fetched his girl friend.

Clayton, as he tells it now, insists he got off lucky. The officer, in his enthusiasm over busting the turnpike lovebirds, somehow didn’t notice the little baggie of marijuana perched on top of the dashboard in plain view of God and everybody.

When Clayton went to retrieve his car at the pound in Arlington, the grass, like the “Star-Spangled Banner,” was still there.

Traffic patrol personnel in the Park Cities area seem to attract more than their share of colorful behind-the-wheel performances.

One woman attempted to escape a speeding ticket by explaining she was rushing home “because my pie is burning.”

The Park Cities police also have some traffic legends concerning that peculiar social hybrid known as the SMU student on a Saturday night.

It took the police almost 12 blocks to apprehend one of these distinguished young scholars, who was doing a Fireball Roberts impersonation as he weaved down Hillcrest Avenue on New Year’s Eve two years ago.

The student didn’t exactly enhance his situation when he got out of his car and, well, let’s just say he spit up.

Then he got indignant. “Look, I’ve gotta get my date here back to her sorority house before curfew,” he shouted at the cop. “Now that girl’s gonna be in trouble, and it’s all your damn fault.”

Unfortunately for the young man, he’d somehow forgotten that two hours earlier his date had become “grossed out,” as they say on The Hilltop, and had left with someone else; his car was empty.

Just to make sure, the officers did check the trunk before dispatching the student to sweet dreams on a steel bed.

An American League baseball player, quartered in the Sheraton-Dallas while his team was playing against the Rangers, had some trouble in a rental car after a night game several years ago.

The arresting officer was less impressed by the fact that this was a big league ball player than he was by the player’s phenomenal upstream cruise on Elm Street. He had negotiated the entire length of downtown heading the wrong direction into one-way traffic, leaning on his horn and casting obscene gestures at the drivers who dodged him along the way.

Finally, the ball player noticed the flashing lights of the patrol car behind him and pulled over, with two wheels over the curb.

After being transported to the city jail, where he was presented with a handsome assortment of charges, the athlete remained abusive. “Don’t I get to make a phone call?” he snarled.

He was given access to a pay phone, and he mumbled into it for several minutes before being directed into the tank.

About 40 minutes later, a man from a Chinese restaurant arrived at the jail with the ball player’s carry-out order.

A reporter in Fort Worth was attempting to drive home from a press party during the Colonial golf tournament. His trip came to a sudden halt when a drunken tree in Forest Park collided head-on with his Volkswagen.

At least, that’s what he attempted to tell the cop. When that didn’t work, he said, “Look, you stupid son of a bitch. I work for the newspaper that uncovered all that corruption in your auto theft division, so don’t think for a minute I’m going to stand here and swallow all this drunk driving BS you’re trying to lay down.”

Two days later, he still wasn’t entirely convinced he’d said the wrong thing to the cop. “At least I finally came up with an excuse for where I’d been all night that my old lady believed,” he rationalized.

Every now and then, an outrageous excuse presented with the correct elements of sincerity will slide by. Last month, a man on Skillman was pulled over for driving erratically for almost a block. His wife sat next to him on the front seat with the countenance of a copperhead. “I just got to ogling this sweet little chippie walking down the sidewalk, and my old lady rolled up a magazine and started slapping the hell out of me with it,” he said.

That one worked. Try it yourself sometime if the circumstances seem just right. But in almost every case, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut and letting nature take its course.

Other little scenarios that may or may not work, depending on the circumstances, follow.

Driver: “I know this looks bad, but I slammed into the parked car to avoid hitting a crippled paper boy who had fallen in the intersection.”

Cop: “Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain why you were driving in reverse.”

Driver: “What’s my hurry? Well, I just now happened to notice that my driver’s license expired three years ago, and I was rushing over to get it renewed.”

Cop: “While you’re at it, maybe you can do something about those 1966 license plates.”

Driver: “Before you start in with your lecture, Mr. Policeman, I want to know if you’ve got a permit for that pistol you’re carrying. If not, I’m gonna run you in on a citizen’s arrest.”

Cop: “Don’t worry. I only use the gun to play Russian roulette with handcuffed prisoners.”

Driver: “All right. I realize I was probably speeding, but I was going to get married today, got cold feet, and was leaving the church in a hurry.”

Cop: “Maybe so, but 95 miles per hour on Ross Avenue is a little extreme.”

Driver: “There’s a reasonable explanation for why I was driving on the wrong side of the road. My car developed a leak in the fuel line and 1 was (urp) overcome by the fumes.”

Cop: “What kind of mileage does this car get on I.W. Harper?”

Driver: “Okay. I’ll admit I might have had a little too much to drink and was driving on the sidewalk, but I probably wasn’t doing anything worse than the rest of those crazy drivers at this time of night.”

Cop: “Not exactly. The Shriner’s convention left town last week.”

Driver: “I’ve got an emergency at home, officer. The finance company is repossessing my furniture, somebody poisoned my dog, the garage is on fire, and my wife is next door in bed with my best friend.”

Cop: “Well, no deal’s perfect.”

Driver: “You’re actually going to run me in because I have three lousy joints in my pocket? What is this? East Berlin?”

Cop: “After you’ve dealt with Judge Cole, you’ll wish it was.”

Driver: “My wife is in the hospital about to have a baby, and I was rushing there as quickly as possible.”

Cop: “I didn’t realize there’s a hospital in the parking lot at elan.”

Driver: “Before you think about writing any citations, officer, I think it’s best to warn you that my brother is on the city council, and he’ll have your badge for this.”

Cop: “If that’s the case, maybe you can explain to him why you don’t have any pants on.”

Driver: “Sixty-five in a school zone, huh? Well, heh-heh, my accelerator just got stuck. Guess I ought to have that fixed.”

Cop: “Yeah, and it might not be a bad idea to have those four flat tires repaired, too.”

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