So the guy jumps out of the car while it’s rolling and he breaks left while the car continues straight, which unfortunately is downhill on the side of a dark, grassy hill in the TVA recreation area on the north side of the Chickamauga Dam. As best I recall there’s nothing down that hill but some large trees and the mandatory “scary even in the daylight” cinder block restrooms, but I doubt even George Michael would be in there at 4 a.m. and that’s the thought I go with. (Hey, I had half a second to think it through, so back off. Unless you’re a Wham! fan, I suppose.)
Being the more rational (or at least more practical) between my client and I, I don’t see a need to get out of my own car just yet, so I veer left and follow my customer at a much slower rate and take a second to wonder what his goal was in that little stunt. People bail, stopped or not, in wooded areas, neighborhoods, mall parking lots—heck, anywhere but an open field. Maybe he was new to crime? I had plenty of time to consider this now that I was following a felonious jogger, but rather than continue pondering the “if’s” I thought I’d just ask him directly.
“WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR CAR, SIR?” I said over the P.A. system. He glanced over his left shoulder and actually mouthed something, but I could not hear what; I only saw a puff of breath caused by the chill night air.
“I’M SORRY, I DIDN’T CATCH WHAT YOU SAID,” my voice blared through the P.A. “IT JUST SEEMS KIND OF WEIRD THAT YOU JUMPED OUT OF YOUR CAR LIKE THAT.”
Another hasty glance, another unintelligible puff of air.
“I’M JUST NOT HEARING YOU, SORRY. I’M GUESSING THAT WAS NOT YOUR CAR? DID YOU JUST CHANGE YOUR MIND OR SOMETHING? I’M A FORD MAN, MYSELF.”
He hadn’t slowed down or changed course, and I continued to keep him framed in my headlights.
“LISTEN DUDE, WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I CAN GIVE YOU A RIDE, IT’S COOL,” I said.
The open field really let my amplified voice carry, and at this he turned to look back again and I could just see that his unshaven left cheek was crooked up on one side enough to cause his left eye to squint above it, as if he had just said the word “What?” to an absurd question. And it was at that precise moment he tripped and flew forward towards the ground like a poorly secured surfboard being launched off of the roof of a car that just came to a sudden halt. It was kind of amazing.
He landed without grace, his feet pigeon-toed and his arms doing nothing to break his fall. “OOOHHHH!!!” I cried in mixed awe and sympathy, and gently applied the break to pop out and bag my prey. I was already congratulating myself for my cleverness when I discovered that I was not, in fact, stopping. “AH, SHIT,” I said. (The P.A. was still in my hand, button depressed.)
The slide went on for hours, days, weeks, it seemed, and the bottom of his feet got larger and larger until I couldn’t see them anymore over the hood of my extremely non-compliant cruiser in the short, wet grass. “Ah, shit,” I repeated, but this time unamplified.
The car finally stopped, and I jumped out to see if this guy was dead or not.
“Please,” he muttered, “please stop talking to me.”
“Weird!” I say. “Everybody says that to me. Let’s get you out of there.”
I cuff him just as another squad car finally arrives and ask him, “You are not a George Michael fan, I’m guessing?” He canted his head in confusion like a puppy, and asks the approaching cop, “Can you please, please ask him to stop talking to me?”
The other officer smiled. “Everybody says that to him. Let’s get you out of here.”
He began to cry. We got out of there.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.