Friday, May 2, 2014

Drunk on the First Amendment

Okay, you will have to forgive me with this one.  It’s part confession and part rant.   I am beginning to write these words as we close in on mid-night, mountain time, on May 1.  I went to bed, woke up, and now I can’t sleep, so I’m going to tell you a little bit about my first day of May. 
Just to orient us:  In the previous post, I wrote about Winslow, Arizona.  From there, we mozied over to Williams, where we stayed for a week.  We hadn’t planned to stay for a week, but we had some serious issues with The Big Ass Truck, which extended out stay.  All in all, it was fine.  We made three trips to The Grand Canyon’s South Rim (North Rim is still closed), two to the Sedona area, and Knightsmama got a day in Flagstaff for hair trimming and leg waxing.  I was able to research and write my first essay for the class I am taking in humanities (part of my sabbatical agreement).  After that, we headed north, back into Utah, then west and north again, to a friendly and inexpensive campground in Glendale, Utah, from which I now write you.   From here, we have been visiting Zion Canyon National Park and environs.  Captain Crunch has been volunteering at Best Friends Animal Shelter, whose motto is “Save them all.”  We will stay in this area a full week, and three half days will be centered on this shelter.
Riding Bikes and the Grand Canyon
The shelter is just something we discovered here, and Captain Crunch loves it.  We have been to the main Zion Canyon Park twice, so far, with an additional visit to the north Kolob Canyon . We will go back to the main park tomorrow, and then we will give a day to Bryce Canyon National Park.  You can tell that we have loved this area of the country, and in particular, we have loved Zion Canyon National Park.  That is why the events of this late afternoon are so troubling.
            Our day began in the usual ways, waking without an alarm, a bit of coffee and  breakfast (hard boiled eggs and leftover hash browns, for me) .  Some reading, checking emails and Facebook.  Then as the boys woke and ate, I disconnected our two propane tanks because it was time to refill them.  On the way to Zion, we were able to accomplish that task.  But since it was further to drive back to the campground than to continue to the park, we just kept the propane tanks in the bed of the truck.  At the park, I put them into the back seat, so no one would be tempted to heist them. 
            We had had a lovely day visiting the museum, taking the shuttle to various scenic stops, hiking along the Virgin River.  It has been rather chilly here lately, but today, the sun was out, and the temperature must have been in the mid to high seventies.  Everyone enjoyed wading into the cold water.  Captain Crunch, always the dare-devil, submerged more that the rest of us.  I even hiked, with my trusty cane. My hip did not give me too much pain.  Sometimes my legs still go tingly and somewhat numb.  Pardon the over-sharing, but sometimes the junk gets that pins and needles feeling.  I plod on, making sure my legs are doing what is expected of them, and let the family know that “Numb-Nuts” is slowing down.   At times I sit, twist the back, stretch the lower back and hip sockets, and then resume my shuffling,  
Captain Crunch Dancing on Stone
            Like I say, the hip wasn’t too bad today.  I think I walked a couple of miles, maybe three.  We stopped at the Zion Lodge where the boys got some ice cream and I bought a beer.  It was a light thing, a lager from Wasatch Brewing, called First Amendment.  We sat on the lawn.  The boys did some running races.  A young man with a t-shirt that said “Bazinga” on it, accomplished some amazing tricks with a yo-yo.  From my youth, I recognized Cat’s Cradle, Walk the Dog, and that cool switch-a-roo in which he made the yo-yo disappear into his pants pocket.  I should have gotten his name so I could hire him for a birthday or something.   It was almost 3:00, so we boarded the shuttle and headed toward the Visitor’s Center. 
            At the Court of the Three Patriarchs, we disembarked.  We walked up the brief, somewhat steep hill to get the good view of these amazing rock formations that the early Mormons named for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   Of course, we had to take photos of Dr. J. with Mount Jacob looming behind.  While I took photos, the boys got hold of my cane, and began tussling over it. Boys!  It always something.  We boarded the next the shuttle.  At the next stop, Knightsmama got out and began a 1.7 mile hike to the Visitor’s Center.  Then the boys and I continued riding, eventually arriving at the truck.  We placed the propane tanks back into the bed of the truck—all strapped in safely with bungee cords (what did we do before bungees were invented?)  We snacked on some chips, drank some water—the boys gulped some half-pint sodas.  I walked over to the Visitor’s Center to wait on Knightsmama, browsed among the books, took photos of covers of books I might like to buy someday when I revise all these posts for my Big Book on America (yes, I do laugh at that, but one can dream).  I bought some old-fashioned postcards, bumper stickers, and a pemmican type bar to munch on while I waited outside for Knightsmama.   When she arrived, she browsed the books, retrieved me to point out titles she liked (more cover shots) and those she thought Captain Crunch would like. 
            I am enjoying gifting you with all these mundane details just so you can see what a normal little afternoon we had had, and how much time and sober activity passed between the time I quaffed the 4.0% ABV First Amendment and eventually left the park behind the wheel. 
Dr. J. and Jacob
            But there is more.  Finally, everyone loaded him- or herself into The Big Ass Truck.  Dr. J.  sat in the passenger seat and Knightsmama and Captain Crunch occupied the back seat.  The propane tanks were appropriately bungeed in the back of the bed, safe but obvious.  And I  pulled out of the parking lot to head home.  Ah, but before we do that, we left the National Park by the south entrance to find a Post Office to mail a postcard to The Buckaroo, her father in Texas; then we re-entered the park to travel to the East Entrance and out toward our campground.  The way out of the park, by this route is eleven miles, if I remember correctly.   From the river valley floor, we traverse a fairly long series of switchbacks.
            This is where the fun began.  I have been accumulating lots of video footage of the scenery out the front window.  We are living an incredible adventure on this trip.  Since leaving Texas the first week of April, I have been overwhelmed by the landscape of West Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah.  Stunning. Stunning.  Stunning.  Over and over and over.   It is not the same.  Low desert.  High desert.  Mountains.  Snow.  Cacti.  Shrubs.  Cottonwoods.  Aspen.  Ponderosa Pine.  I have a blog post started just about this topic and my emotional overwhelm.  So I asked Dr. J. to film our ascent up these switchbacks.  Admittedly, I drove a little faster than I normally would.  But let me say, I was safe.  There was someone in front of me, so it is not like I had free reign to juice it without impunity.   And I had Knightsmama in the car, and she is like a driver’s ed teacher keeping track of each and every infraction.  But we were laughing because the vehicle in front was a Jeep Liberty, similar to the one I owned but sold to afford to buy The Big Ass Truck.  I was mourning the fact that I no longer own a Jeep Liberty.
            We arrived at the opening of the famous mile long tunnel, which our great ancestors blasted through the mountain into the Virgin River Valley.  We had to wait because the tunnel is so narrow with such low clearance at the sides that RVs must go through without opposing traffic.  We waited at our end until the RV, with a line of cars behind it, exited.  I put the trunk into drive and entered the tunnel.  The tunnel is great fun.  It contains no internal lighting, so car lights and an occasional window, opening into the canyon below, are the only lights while you push up the incline.  The road is narrow.  Maybe I pulled out over the center line to see past the cars in front to see the darkness.  I don’t know.  I think I did.  It was something I would do.  But we kept joking and laughing about this or that while I drove.
            Eventually, we emerged from the darkness and worked our way toward the official exit from the park.  We admired once more checkerboard mountain; we talked about rock climbers. We peeked over cliffs into valleys.  At one point a rental RV parked jutting out into my lane and I pulled around him.  Another time a big horn sheep grazed at the edge of the road.  I made sure I wasn’t close while I called out to the family to twist their necks and have a look.  It was the first big horn sheep we had seen, and we had been looking.  On one hike, Captain Crunch has once called Knightsmama a “big horn sheep,” and we laughed about that. 
            Then all of a sudden, I saw blinking lights behind me.  There was no place to pull over, of course.  It is a very narrow and curvy road.  So in a bit, I made my way to a pull out, which, as irony would have it, was the park’s official entrance ( or exit depending on your point of view).
So I rolled down the window, retrieved my license from my wallet, and sat there, looking ahead, but looking behind with the mirrors, and two uniforms approach The Big Ass Truck very slowly.  They are Park Police or whatever they are called.  One approached on my side of the truck.  He was short, but he was going to be the leader.  He stood at such an angle behind me that I had to kind of twist to see him.  This guy was following procedure.  He was going to make sure I have to really contort if I were going to blast him.  The other guy, skinny and fresh-faced, stood on the passenger side, more or less across the vehicle from Stubby.  Either they were automatons, or they had made all sorts of assumptions about this long-haired gray dude from Texas in a Big Ass Truck.
            “Do you know why I stopped you, sir.”
            I tell him the truth.  “I have no idea.”
            “Well, sir, we’ve have seen you cross the yellow line seven times.”
            What do you say to that?  I said nothing. 
            “Did you know that, sir?”
At Zion National Park
            Look, what am I going to say?  “Well, sir, I wasn’t counting my own self, but there was the time in the tunnel when I wanted to see around the car in front because the darkness of the tunnel is amazing and I actually trust myself to get right back across the line when I see an on-coming car, of which, I am sure you noted yourself, there were none.  And then that Big Horn Sheep kind of startled me.  Not to mention that RV that was parked in the wrong lane blocking traffic.  I had to get around him.  By the way, did you pull him over?” 
            Instead, I said, “No, sir.”
            Well, for the next twenty or so minutes we go round and round about this and that.  They were confused about  my name.  Skinny asked me if my first or last name was Winstead? 
            “No, sir.  My first name is Lyman. Middle name is Winstead. My last name is Grant.”  Poor guy, never met a man with three last names.  (My sister, The Queen Bee, once dated a guy named “Tommy Frank George.”  He had three first names.)
            Then there was all sorts of worry about my truck’s registration.  Stubby couldn’t just look at the tag in the window—I think he was still afraid of standing in front of me.
            And we, honestly, had somehow not placed the current insurance card in the BAT.  Knightsmama tried valiantly to pull up the copy she had in her google docs , but out there in the middle of nowhere, our phones’ functioning was spotty.
            Finally, we came to the point.
            “Sir, have you been drinking?”
            “Why yes, I had a beer about two hours ago at the Zion Lodge,.”
            As I remember it, there was more back and forth.  Stubby and Skinny conferring, doing stuff in the car. 
            I was becoming impatient.  People were driving by on their way out of the park, and several folks were stopping and getting out for photos at the entrance sign.  It was kind of a scene while I sat in the truck and Stubby and Skinny did their duty.  And I was embarrassed that we didn’t have our insurance card.  We had the policy provider, the policy number, which we gave to the officers.  We just didn’t have the little slip of paper with the date:  July 2014 on it.  I know the expiration date. And I know it automatically renews and the payment is already scheduled. 
            Stubby returned.  “Sir, since we did witness you swerving and since you have told us that you have been drinking, would you agree to do some field tests?”
            “Good grief.  Really?”  I was starting to show my indignation.  “Sure.”  How soon can we get this over with.
            But before I could open the door:  “Do you have any guns or weapons in the truck?”
            I was stunned.  Knowing how I fumble any questions (remember our crossing into Canada?) Knightsmama and Dr. J. answer for me. “No, Sir.”  It’s the truth.
            Good grief.
            So I climbed out of the BAT, and Stubby started giving me directions.  “Take off your glasses.”
            Oh this will go well, I thought. 
            “You won’t need them.” 
            So you are an ophthalmologist, in addition to being a prick.
            He made me stand in one place, but I couldn’t see him with the sun behind him.  We changed places.  He explained to Skinny why we changed places.  I began to think I that I was a volunteer from the audience during a training session.
            “Are there any issues, any health issues, that I should know about as we do these tests?  Are you under a doctor’s care?”
            “I see a doctor about high blood pressure.   Hell, oops, Heck, then, of course, I’m sixty-one. I have creeky hips and gimpy legs.”  I should have told him I walk with a cane.  That would have given him something to ponder as he put me through various tests.
            “Okay, sir.  Stand straight up. Arms at your side.  Put your feet together.”
            I did it.  Or so I thought.  “No, sir.  Put your feet together. “
            “That’s as good as it’s going to it, officer.”  I put my hands in my pockets.
            “Keep your hands out of your pockets!”
            Have you seen how short my arms are? My hands barely reach my pockets.  “Yes, sir.”  Sorry, sir.  You’re the boss, sir.  I feel humiliated, sir.  I am doing all this with my boys watching, sir.  Are you happy, sir?
Just Another Tourist Hanging Out in Zion
            So we go through a series of tests.  For the first, while I stood straight up, feet together, hands at sides but not in pockets, eyes looking forward.  My eyes followed Stubby’s thumb while he moved it slowly from right to left to right to left.  I couldn’t turn my head; I had to follow the thumb only with my eyes.  I did this.   Then I began thinking he was moving it closer and closer.  I also began thinking about my feet and how I like to stand with my weight on my left leg, because the right hip hurts.  Don’t move your head, Lyman., I reminded myself.  Keep you feet straight.  Stop moving your arms around.  When is this going to end? How slowly can he move his thumb anyway.  Where’s Skinny?  What’s he doing?  What is this proving?  There was way too little to do here, and way too much time to think.  I was really beginning to get mad.  He is just teasing me, I thought, seeing if I will stop following the rules.  Deep breath.
            Finally, that ended.  Then I had to walk in a straight line. Heel to toe, for nine.  Count them out loud, nine steps.  I was to begin with my left foot.  I began with my right.  I had to start over.  I wanted to laugh.  To tell about all the times that Knightsmama has told me to turn left and I turned right.  I am not under a doctor’s care for my every-day brain glitches.  Maybe I should be.  I say the word “Wednesday” when I mean “Sunday.”  I will say “November” when I mean “February.”  I have a mild undiagnosed learning disability.  Do I tell Stubby about this?  No.  Get this over.  Left foot, right foot.  One two three four five six seven eight nine, ten. Shit.   Tip toe tip toe tip toe (Just like Stubby said, but I added a little dance move to it.  Good Grief). One two three four five six seven eight nine.
            Finally, again, the last test was one in which I had to lift my right leg and count. One thousand one, and so on.  The first try, I made it to one thousand two.  This was a god damned yoga pose that I can rarely do stone cold sober at nine in the morning.  Sigh.  Next time, with a little prayer.  I made it to one thousand twenty-three and Stubby had me stop. 
            This was the deal.  I knew I was sober.  I knew I was safe to drive the family.  Knightsmama is a watchdog about such matters.  I am a watchdog.  I have too much to lose to go around driving drunk,.  Besides it is dangerous for others.  I was willing to play along with the officers because basically I had no other choice.  I had played their little game.  I was feeling done with this entire fiasco.
            I knew, or at least suspected by this time, they had completed all their computer work in the vehicle and discovered that I have a clean record.  There are no warrants or outstanding tickets.  They can look up insurance from their vehicle.  They knew my insurance was clean, up to date, and eligible for renewal.  They knew my taxes were paid up.  They probably knew that I only rarely crossed the yellow line between lanes.  And they knew they were pissing me off.  
At this point I had permission to sit on my bumper.                                   
“Well, sir, there was enough inconsistency in the tests that I am going to ask you to take a breathalyzer test. “
            At this point, both Stubby and Skinny were standing in front of me.  Skinny has the little plastic gun-like instrument. 
            Stubby began again.  “I am asking you if we have permission to administer . . .            “I need to talk to my wife about this.”  I was furious.  I was about to do something that would escalate this.  I stood up and began walking around the side of the truck to talk to Knighsmama.
            “Sir, I need to ask you to sit down.  Hands out of your pocket.”
            Mister, you want my hands in my pockets. Otherwise, I am going to hit you.
            I wasn’t trusting these guys at all, any longer.  They wanted an arrest.  They wanted it really badly.  “Look, can I talk to my wife?”
            “We would view that as resisting this investigation.”
            “Then, let me ask, what happens if I refuse to do the breath test/”
            “That is your right, sir. But then we could arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence.”  There was a threat in ol' Stubby’s eyes. 
            There was such a large part of me that wanted them to have to arrest me.  Put me in cuffs.  Haul me to wherever they haul folks at Zion Canyon National Park.  To waste their time on a lane crosser.  At some point , they would have to admit that they were making shit up, explain to some supervisor that taxpayers’ money was being wasted on arresting an old dude for laughing with his family.  What is the law in Utah anyway?  Or are we under Federal law?  
            Or maybe, I fantasize,  if I had a gun in my pocket, I could now whip it out, start blasting away, aim at the propane tanks and blow us all sky high.  What would John Wayne do?  Or Clint Eastwood?
            “Okay, Let’s do it.  I had one beer over two hours ago.  I’m not lying . . . “  I ended there, but added under my breath a few insults to their intelligence and genealogy.   My eyes, however, were communicating my contempt.  Let them arrest me on my sour looks.
            Skinny went off with the instrument and returned, a little later, shaking his head. 
            Poor guys.  They must have been so disappointed.  They were ready to convict a perfectly sober, old clumsy guy because he couldn’t easily start walking on his left foot. 
            Eventually, I returned to the driver’s seat of the BAT.  Eventually, Stubby returned, and admitted there was no evidence to arrest me for anything.  No ticket for having a valid Texas registration.  No ticket for having valid insurance, but misplacing the document.  No ticket for swerving over a yellow line.  No ticket for being sober. 
            “Thank you, officer.”  I said. 
Actors Pretending to be Cowboys in Williams
            But I didn’t mean it.  And maybe I wish I hadn’t said it.  The entire experience was a bizarre demonstration of institutional dehumanization.  At every moment in his communication with me, Stubby’s one and only purpose was to discard my humanity and treat me as a thing.  In his mind, at every step I was something to be managed and contained.  Of course, I was drunk.  Of course, I was lying.  Of course, I had a weapon.  Of course.   
            At each step I was given a choice.  Do what he wanted me to do or he would assume I was guilty and arrest me on the spot.   “We ask your permission to insult and belittle you in front of your loved ones.   If you choose not to be insulted and belittled, we will arrest you.”  That’s the choice they imply.  At every step, Stubby and Skinny did their job by the book.   Stubby even explained The Book to me:  “You may have weapons in your pockets, sir.” 
            And I did something else I regret doing.  When Stubby had explained in the nicest way possible that I was free to go, he did so from his perch behind my left side.  I craned my neck so I could see him as he talked.  When he finished, I said “Thank you, officer,” and then I don’t know why, I asked “Shake hands?’  I began to move my right hand toward him, but he backed away. 
            “No, sir.”
            What was I going to do?  Infect him with ricin? 
            More important, perhaps?  Why did I want to shake hands with him?  Because I am weak and want to get along with every authority figure?  Because, no matter how rudely I am treated, I am a people pleaser?  Because I just wanted to force him to be an ass one more time.
            Knightsmama tells me I have taught our boys a very valuable lesson today:  sometimes authority figures treat you badly, treat the innocent badly, and that the best way to handle it is maturely, without escalation.  I had done nothing wrong, and I proved I had done nothing wrong.  More important, I did nothing to worsen the situation. 
            Maybe that is a good solution for an individual.  Today, the machine, the Borg, made me quake as I repressed my individuality and righteous anger, but tonight I am home with my family all safely tucked into their beds.  This is a good thing.  But as a culture we have to stop the over-reach of power, the dehumanization of citizens by small people with unpredictable institutions behind them. 
            On the road, I am a nobody, an individual.  At home, at my job, I am one face of a large educational institution.   I don’t think I have ever behaved like Stubby or Skinny to our constituents.   I pray I never do.  So maybe I am not ashamed I offered to shake Shorty’s hand—all forgiven and all forgotten, all right?  I am a man who can think and feel.  I am not part of the machine.  How about you?

            It’s getting late.  It’s time to return to bed.  Sure, yesterday (now it’s long past midnight) my Fourth Amendment Rights may have been endangered.   But yesterday at 3:00 I enjoyed  a cup of First Amendment.  It kind of caused a great deal of trouble.  Nonetheless, today when I post this, I will enjoy the First Amendment once again even more.  Arrest me.

Soundtrack Double Feature.  Junior Brown:  "Highway Patrol."

Brewer and Shipley:  "One Toke Over the Line."


  1. Imagine how you would feel if you were subject to stop and frisk simply because you were guilty of walking while dark skinned in NYC.

    I suspect you were guilty of driving while looking like one of those gosh darn hippies from Colorado.

  2. Bit ' em. I am fuming just reading your description of those two jackasses. Glad you didn't do something I wanted to do

  3. Supposed to have typed "Got 'em"; can't see s*%t.

    1. Now the damned auto correct snagged me. Shit. "Git 'em."