John Walker's Electronic House

by on Feb.09, 2003, under The Rest

The story of my being pulled over by the police:

Now, in my time, I’m committed some fairly henious crimes, but none moreso than that fateful November night in Bristol.

I was driving back from having dropped off some friends from college. I dunno, maybe we’d been robbing old ladies, or planning our next big bank heist, but it was late. It was about 2 am, I was tired from a day’s hard criminal activity, and wanted for a break and some sleep.

So tired was I that I didn’t even think to break a single law as I drove back, and entirely failed to speed along the really tempting stretch over the Bristol downs. (Here I have edited out a joke based on “really tempting stretch over the Bristol downs”, but I’m not sure if this is because it’s distasteful, or because it just doesn’t quite work. Well, it’s not likely to be the former).


I have wondered in the past how you can tell if a police car approaching behind you with lights flashing, sirens blazing, fireworks launching off the roof, etc, is after you, or wanting to get past you. As you notice the whirl of red and blue in your mirror, there’s that stomach-worry that you’ve committed a terrible offence (“Could I have murdered someone without remembering? I’m sure I’d remember… Or maybe I ran someone over earlier? Did I feel a bump? I mean, the radio is on awfully loud. What if I ran someone over?”) by which point it’s gone sailing past you at fifty million miles an hour, probably chasing after a cup of coffee they’ve decided they want.

But the thing is, like other things that are like this that would illustrate my point brilliantly if only I could think of them at the moment, when it’s for you, you just sort of know. Noticing the flashing headlights in my mirror, and then seeing the flashing top lights, I entered into the mode of someone on television.

Like wet shaving, no one teaches you to be pulled over by the police. They only way anyone can possibly know what to do is thanks to watching television and films. I don’t know what life must be like for people who don’t have televisions. The sorts of families that shun the “goggle-box” or whatever equally repulsive pseudo-denegrating name they may have adopted, and instead all read books, but proper ones, not any of that nonsense fiction, apart from fiction from more than one hundred years ago, because that’s Proper Fiction, and not the mind rotting deviance that is wiping our childrens morals from them, with their Harry Pulman and the Philosopher’s Spyglass. What do these people do when they look up and see the flashing lights in their mirror? Get out a notebook and write about being pulled over?

So there I am, pulled over at the side of the road, and something in my head decides the correct course of action is to “stay in your car”. I have no idea if this is what you’re supposed to do, or if this is only relevant when you’re on the side of a freeway, coccaine spilling out of every door, being approached by over a thousand armed cops and an armoured tank. So I adopted by role in the movie, and sat still, and the gracious police woman (WPC) adopted hers.

I unwound the window, and she stooped to look in, and said (after briefly glancing at her script),

“Do you know why you’ve been pulled over sir?”

I always thought that this question was reserved for those moments when it’s blindingly obvious why you’ve been pulled over. When you’ve been driving down the wrong side of a dual carraige way, in a car with two missing wheels, throwing recently emptied whiskey bottles out of the window at passers by, naked. But I genuinely had no idea why I’d been pulled over, and could only reply, feeling like I was ruining the script, “actually, no”.

Then she said it. Then she told me my crime – the wanton madness I had been consumed within. One of my… one of my headlights wasn’t working.

Yes, look disgusted.

I was then told that a part of the Highways Act of 1454 or whatever, said that I was required to participate in a breathalyser test, and that I needed to step out of my vehicle.

In all fairness, the WPC was really nice, and was very friendly about the whole affair. Behind my car was stood a police man, (PC. Not ‘MPC’, which strikes me as a little strange. Since it stands for ‘Police Constable’, does that mean that if you aren’t a girl police person, you are genderless? Or maybe both genders?) who had been writing down my registration number, and other such official duties. He went back to the police car (which would also be ‘PC’) to get the breathalyser, while myself and the WPC had a bit of a chat. She asked what I did, and I told her I was a youth worker and a student, ooh, what are you studying, youth work and applied theology, ah, and do you work here, no, near Bath, ah, yes, until we were once more joined by the hermaphroditic police officer.

His job was to attach a small plastic tube to the top of the black box. Her job was to comment on how cold it was, being November, and two in the morning. He wasn’t managing his job. It kept falling off.

To fill, she explained that it would measure to see if there was any alcohol in me, and I commented that this seemed somewhat unlikely as at that point I hadn’t drunk any alcohol for over a year.

Eventually he managed to clip the thing on, and then explained to me to meaning of the various lights. “These will measure the amount of blood in your alc…”

WPC snickered.

John, without pausing to think, said,

“The amount of blood in my alcohol? Perhaps you should be blowing into it?”

And that’s the story of how I came to be in prison.

No, not really. Thank the shiny earth, WPC laughed, meaning that PC had to just look stony-faced, and repeat the instructions properly.

Oddly enough, I registered no alcohol on the thing, and was then I would assume free to go.

But no, actually, there was something else. They read me my rights.

WPC asked me for my driver’s license, registration documents and MOT certificate. I told her I did not have them in my car. She said, “it’s an offence to not present [those documents] on demand by a police officer, and so I’m going to have to read you your rights.” I asked, “Should I carry them around with me in future then?”, to which she said, “it is an offence to not present them on demand to a police officer, but, no, I wouldn’t if I were you.”

Bemusing to say the least. And then I got that whole spiel, “you do not have to say anything, but anything you do say will be written on a baseball bat and beaten into your face just as soon as we’re out of public view”, and then I was told to take the documents into my local police station within seven days, or I’d be shot dead.

So there it is. My criminal record laid bare before you.

It’s an incredible tale, and one that quite a few production companies are showing a lot of interest in, with a view to perhaps franchising the story into a series of major motion pictures.

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