Akin to energy transfers in thermodynamics, our lives are a never-ceasing and often futile attempt at fighting entropy and descent into disorganized chaos. It’s an uphill battle; the universe is forcing us into a world of disarray, and every uneducated decision we make or don’t make based on chance has a higher probability of resulting in irreversible disaster* than it does actually salvaging control over one’s own life and maintaining the illusion of order.
For this reason, any spontaneous or rash decision that, for no apparent or explicable reason, results in positive (or neutral) circumstances should be celebrated as a blessing from God.**
Such describes a moment on a recent road trip of mine through the dark recesses of Northeastern California. Specifically, I was in Lassen County: a place that can hardly be considered Californian, nor can it really be considered Nevadan.
Nor Oregonian. If Lassen County decided to be its own country, Sacramento would hardly notice, let alone the insufferable bickerers of Washington DC.
Regardless, as humanly desolate as the county was, it was stunningly beautiful. The weather was unpredictable, the cows were top-notch, the hills were mostly visible through the fog and sleet, and the roads were empty. It was a paradise of sorts.
I was driving while enjoying the ambiance of the environment when suddenly I noticed a CHP officer going the opposite direction flip an illegal U-turn immediately after passing me. I was the only car on the road, so that could mean only one thing. I checked my speedometer: 70 in a 65 zone. That’s just enough for a dickhead to ticket someone. Here are the thoughts that immediately passed through my head as a shat myself in a fear that informed my misinformed following acts.
Oh God. I’m speeding. I’m gonna get a ticket. I’m gonna go to traffic school. What should I do? I know! What if I pull over before he pulls me over? Yes! And then I’ll take pictures of cows! That’ll confuse him!
I figured that even a dickheadish CHP officer would feel awkward accusing a parked car of speeding. It was my only hope of getting out of a ticket I wasn’t even sure I was getting. So, sure enough, I immediately pulled my car over on the side of the highway, pulled out my camera, and started taking cow pictures. The cop rolled up slowly next to me.
Him – “Excuse me.”
Me – “Yes?”
Him – “Uh… is everything okay?”
Me – “Oh yes! Everything is just fine. Just taking pictures. Of cows. Taking pictures of cows. And rainbows. Everything is just fine.” I made sure to gesture to my camera, as proof of my claim.
Him – “…okay then.”
And then he left. I couldn’t believe it. I got off! I got in my car and started driving, watching my speed carefully. That’s when another CHP officer hiding in a driveway pulled out behind me and started trailing me for about 15 minutes down a particularly isolated stretch of US-395. When he finally turned off, I drove a couple minutes and decided to pull over to take more pictures of empty fields and decaying barns.
When I got back in my car, a third CHP officer pulled up behind me before I could start it and drive off. He got out of his patrol car and walked up to my window.
Me – “Is there a problem, Officer?”
Him – “…just wondering if everything is okay.”
Me – “Oh yes. Everything is fine. I was just taking pictures. Of farmland. I love farmland.”
Him – “…okay… just making sure. Carry on.”
He got in his car and waiting for me to leave before he himself pulled out to follow me for about five minutes. When finally he turned off, it wasn’t long before I spotted a fourth officer camped out waiting for me in a side street. He followed me for a block before turning off into another side street.
Out of paranoia, I left the main highway and decided to go by country road. About ten miles or so off the main highway, I spotted some scenery I found quite spectacular, so I got out of my car to take yet another picture. It was then a fifth officer driving the opposite direction blew passed me, flipped a U-turn 100 yards down the road, and then drove by me again excruciatingly slowly, watching me as I nonchalantly took pictures of pretty much everything, trying to make myself look occupied and oblivious to the officer. Without speaking to me, he passed me, and then sped off into the distance.
That was the last I saw of the CHP. There were five officers in a span of thirty minutes, which is more than I saw of civilian cars. I saw more CHP officers then than I have in any one of my drives between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For the record, the county barely has 35,000 people (less than the population of UCLA). The comparably sized Los Angeles County has 9,800,000 people. That’s 9,765,000 more people.
I don’t quite know what they were after, that is, whether it was a speeding infraction in the first place, but I’d like to think that my poorly reasoned escape plan got me out of heavy fines by turning me from the reckless male driver to the mentally unstable, vaguely suspicious guy in a green corolla who is a little too enthusiastic about rural life.
Or maybe they were just genuinely confused as to why someone would be an apparent tourist in beautiful Lassen County, CA.
* Disclaimer: any and all fear-mongering is hyperbole. This includes news outlets.
** Or FSM