Sunday, July 21, 2013

You Can't Buy Experience

Several years ago, my husband and I were out late one night. He'd gotten hurt at work and I had to go pick him up from the ER. A friend gave me a ride to our car at the bus yard, and I drove to the hospital - where I spent three or four hours waiting for him to be released.

At roughly two in the morning, on the way home, the two of us decided we were hungry.

"Let's run by an ATM," Hubs said, "McD's is open all night."

"Great," I agreed, "but I can't remember where the closest ATM is."

So we're driving through a shopping neighborhood, trying to remember which end of it had the bank with the drive-thru ATM. Now, I can admit we looked a little suspicious, driving aimlessly through a business district at 2 a.m., so I wasn't overly concerned to see that police officer pull up behind me. He stayed right behind me, then pulled in the other lane, so I figured I was off the hook.

He stayed right beside my fender.  Just about the time we spotted the bank, his set of roof lights flashed on.

And then another one on our right.

and another on our left

and another, and another, and another....

I did the only thing I could - I stopped and waited. I expected someone to walk up to my side of the car.

"Driver!" I heard the voice. I've seen cop shows - I knew what came next. "Turn off your vehicle and put your keys on the top of the car."

I did.

"Keep your hands in sight and step out of the vehicle."

I did.

"Walk backward to the sound of my voice."

Yeah - like that's easy to do at 2 am in the dark with flashing lights on every side.

I did.

You know on TV when they slap the cuffs on someone's wrist? Yeah - turns out that is surprisingly painful, actually!

They handcuffed me, checked my pockets and led me away while they went through the same procedure with my husband. Then they searched our car, including the trunk with dogs and automatic rifles. There were at least 10-13 police officers there with nine cars, one or two of which were canine units. And they weren't taking any chances that we weren't armed and dangerous!

Meanwhile, I'm grinning like a fool because this is really kinda cool! We had a paper trail proving where we'd been all night long, and I knew we hadn't done anything wrong, so it was just a matter of let the cops do their job until everything got sorted out. Meanwhile, I'm getting great first hand experience of what it's like to be arrested. I can imagine how mortifying it would be to someone whose honesty was in doubt, or who had no proof of their whereabouts.

Half hour later, they finally figured out we were not the droids they were looking for.  Turns out there had been  gang-related violence earlier that night. When I picked up the car from the yard, I apparently drove through that area, someone thought our car was one that had been involved, took down our license number and called it in. So when they found us wandering around Jordan Landing, not only did we look suspicious, but we were in a car, complete with license number, wanted in relation to a shooting.

So, it ended up that West Jordan police offered us sincere apologies for our inconvenience. Which was fine with us, we assured them, we were happy to let them do their job - which they did quite well that night. (They were very professional and respectful even when they thought we were gang-bangers!)

Point of this story: While I wouldn't suggest trying to get yourself arrested, there are experiences every day that can translate into your writing. Even when they aren't quite as freakishly awesome as being pulled out of your car at 2 am at gunpoint.  Everyday living provides, if you practice looking for experiences to beef up your writing.

Now, the sad part is that I have not yet written a single character getting arrested into one of my manuscripts. But that's okay, because when the need arises, I'll know that my character is going to have welts on her wrists for two days after, and that she can't help but notice how really young that officer is in uniform that's got hold of her arm as he leads her toward the police cruiser, and how sickening it is to watch several fully loaded firearms being pointed at the man she loves.

You can't pay for experience like that.

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