“Cops hated musicians, especially at two-thirty in the morning…They were preternatural enemies, musicians and cops, as far as Rolly could tell, complete opposites in temperament, personality, style.“Black’s Beach Shuffle
I recently posted the story of my band’s drummer getting mugged after a gig. While I didn’t have nearly as many run-ins with cops and criminals as Rolly Waters does, it’s still an occupational hazard for a lot of working musicians. Let’s face it, the only people around at two-thirty in the morning are cops, criminals, graveyard shift workers and musicians. I was pulled over more than once by the police on my way home from a gig (I passed the sobriety tests, yay!).
But one thing I never expected was when my brother and I almost got arrested outside my own house, just after we’d unpacked the van and were ready to call it a night. The cops were professional, almost gentlemanly, but it was still an unsettling experience.
Coming home from the gig, I pulled up outside my house in Zeke, my Volkswagen van. We had to unpack the equipment and store it in the garage. For some reason, which I don’t remember, I didn’t pull into the driveway as usual but parked on the street while my brother ran in to unlock the garage. His short dash proved to be our undoing.
As we unpacked the gear, we noticed a police helicopter flying over the neighborhood, which wasn’t unusual for that part of San Diego (North Park) at that time. By the time we finished unpacking the helicopter had moved closer to our street. We made a joke about needing to get inside before the crooks ran through the neighborhood. I glanced up the street and spotted a patrol car heading towards us. Its headlights were off.
Then bam! The police helicopter’s spotlight was on us. The police cruiser zipped in behind our van. A cop jumped out and stared at us from behind the protection of his open door. He might have had his hand on his gun (in my fictional retelling he’ll have the gun drawn). I don’t remember if my brother and I actually verbalized our thoughts at the moment, but we both essentially thought, “Oh shit.”
“Good evening,” said the cop. “What’s going on here, guys?”
“This is my house,” I said, falteringly. It was the only thing I could think of to say. Two other police cars arrived, surrounding the van.
“We’ve had a report of a burglary,” the first cop said. He moved onto the sidewalk. “Please put your hands on the car.”
We dutifully followed his orders. The helicopter continued to hover overhead.
After that it’s a bit of a blur. They asked for our IDs. We explained why we were there at 2:30 in the morning. They checked inside the van and searched us as well. One of the other cops walked into our driveway, using his flashlight to search for any evidence of a crime. Eventually they let us go.
It turned out that one of our night owl neighbors had spotted my brother running in to the garage and decided a robbery was taking place. The cops said I should be glad that my neighbors were keeping tabs on things. I was annoyed that my neighbor didn’t notice it was the same Volkswagen van that sat in my driveway every day. I still suspect the cat lady across the street of calling it in.
I’ve often wondered how it might have turned out differently if the cops had turned up when we were hauling the equipment or if they would have treated us differently if we’d been younger men or of a different skin color. Hard to say. At any rate, it was a memorable and somewhat disturbing evening.
I should also point out that my wife, who was in the back bedroom, managed to sleep through the whole thing.