Like most black people with a modicum of sense and a willingness to continue their streak of consecutive years lived, I regard the police with a feeling that exists at the intersection of skepticism, annoyance and trepidation. Basically, I see them the same way I see ricotta cheese—good in lasagna but might kill me if I’m not careful.
Because of this, I’m very intentional in limiting my interactions with them. Of course, I’ll never quite know if today’s the day “eating graham crackers while black” or “observing photosynthesis while black” draws their attention, so there’s only so much I can do. Still, I can refuse to invite them into my space, and I do. Calling them is reserved for only the most dire circumstances. Maybe Jason Voorhees is in my house, with an ax. Or maybe Susan from accounting is in my kitchen, with a casserole. To date, the only time I’ve ever called the cops was in 2012 when I thought my car was stolen. Fortunately, it was just repossessed by Ally Auto. (You think they’d leave a note or something.)
And then last Sunday happened.
I was faced with a terrible dilemma. My plan for the day was to take my daughter and my mother-in-law to an event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., do some work while they’re there, pick them up, and then meet up with my wife (who also had to work). My wife’s commitment began at 12:30 pm, so she left the house at noon. Moments after she left, I received a call from her.
“What’s up? You forget something in the house?”
“No. Someone’s parked in front of the garage.”
I glanced out of the window, and sitting in front of our garage was a white sedan. My wife’s car was parked on the street, so she was able to leave. But the sedan was blocking my car in.
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I gotta go. So ... let me know what you do.”
This is not the first time this has happened. Our house is on a busy-ish street. And aside from the fact that THERE’S A FUCKING GARAGE RIGHT THERE, there are no yellow lines or signs indicating that the garage is a garage. But this is the first time that it happened when I needed to be somewhere and couldn’t leave.
I asked a few of our neighbors if the car belonged to one of their friends. They all said no. I even walked to a nearby coffee shop to ask the people there. Still no. This left me with one very likely conclusion. The Steelers were playing at 1 p.m., we live perhaps a mile away from Heinz Field, and the owner of the car parked here and walked down there. This is a frequent occurrence during Steeler home games. We live close enough to Heinz to walk, but not so close that it’s $10,000 an hour to park on the street like it is in the blocks closer to it on game days. This, however, was the first time someone parked in front of our garage. (It was a day of firsts!)
I took pictures of the car’s plate and did a reverse lookup online, with the hope being that maybe, possibly, if I found a name I could also find a Twitter/Facebook/Instagram account and send the owner a message there.
“This is a surprisingly ... easy process” I thought, as I googled “reverse license plate lookup” and found a dozen different websites offering that service.
“This shouldn’t be this easy,” I thought as I put the license in the search field of one of the sites.
“Ah ... there’s the catch,” I thought as the site—and three others I tried—asked for $20 for a name. “Yeah ... fuck that.”
Out of options, I called two tow companies, and they both said the same thing:
“You need to call the police. And then they’ll call us.”
“But I’m calling you now. Why do we need a middle man?”
“That’s just the way it is. Things will never be the same.”
“Did you just quote Tupac’s ‘Changes’?”
Now, when I went outside to inspect the car, I saw several context clues that led me to believe that this was a car belonging to a white person. Most notably, it contained ski equipment and it was a Hyundai. The only niggas in Pittsburgh who ski belong to groups of niggas who ski and tell everyone about it, and Pittsburgh niggas who ski and tell everyone about it drive BMWs. So I would be calling the police on a person I’m 99.999 percent sure was not black—which gave me a medley of conflicting feelings I’m still processing. The guilt I felt about getting a (presumably) white person’s car towed was negligible and engulfed by the delight of the opportunity to do some white people shit to a (presumably) white person. But in order to do this thing I HAD TO CALL THE FUCKING POLICE. Which meant I’d also have to give them my name, tell them my address, and have them come to my fucking house, WHICH IS THE PLACE WHERE I LIVE.
So I called the police. And a police person came to my house. And because police people are allergic to doorbells, he knocked like he was the police. I opened the door slowly, just so he had time to process my blackness and not be surprised enough by it to shoot me. I told him what happened, he wrote things down on what looked to be a Post-It, and then he did like four laps around the car. Maybe to search for crack he could plant on me, I don’t know. Crack-finding safari complete, he came back to my door, said “A truck is on the way, sir” and left.
Ten minutes later, a truck came, did some tow truck shit, and the car was gone. Now able to leave, I put my daughter in her car seat, opened the garage door, left my house, and felt, as I drove away, the whitest I’ve ever felt before. Whiter than a Marmot windbreaker. Whiter than farmer’s market kombucha. Whiter than the back of Post Malone’s neck. Whiter than Rebel Wilson’s Twitter feed. I felt free as the whitest bird. And by “the whitest bird” I mean “Lena Dunham.”
Wanting to test if this newfound whiteness was legitimate, I went to Credit Karma to see if my score jumped. It didn’t.