I'm almost afraid to set foot outside my condo this morning, for I have no idea what may lie in store. On Saturday, Stephanie and I experienced what we're referring to as "Weirdest Day Ever." (This played off what we had called "Best Day Ever" about a year ago on a fantastic date.)
Last night, I nearly experienced "Longest Day Ever" courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Saturday's drama featured a horror movie plotline as the backdrop. Yesterday's drama would have been the perfect "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode. And it all happened because I was trying to be a nice guy.
The fun started around 6:30 p.m. in the Carl's Jr. parking lot at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and La Brea. I had left work early for two reasons. First, my cell phone officially died during my brick workout on Monday. Rest in Peace, oh hard-working Blackberry Pearl. I'll never forget all the good times we shared. Second, I was invited to attend a first cut movie screening with a production company at The Lot just off Santa Monica Blvd.
As is so often the case, I was foraging for food before the movie screening when I decided to settle upon Carl's Jr. The food court across the street would be too complicated to navigate quickly to leave in time for the movie screening. I ordered a chicken teriyaki sandwich and parked in the lot to scarf it down while reading a Sports Illustrated issue I just bought while purchasing my temporary replacement phone (a no-contract Nokia while my iPhone 4 is on reservation).
Just as I was finishing dinner (if you can call it that), a scruffy-looking man came over and asked me if I could spare any money for food. Considering I was finishing my meal, the sky was shining, I was in a good mood with some time to kill -- and because I generally do give to those less fortunate when asked -- I provided some cash.
Now is a good moment to acknowledge that many friends and I are split on this topic. I know several generous folks who refuse to give money to those on the street. I completely understand both sides. My perspective is that it's "just" money and if I am so calloused as not to offer at least a dollar to someone -- regardless of how they use it -- then I've lost a part of my own soul. My own sense of kindness and compassion. I imagine what it would be like for me to have to ask someone else for enough change to buy a meal, and that thought alone is usually enough to open my wallet. It is not my place to play G-d and tell people how to spend their money. But if I can offer a moment of kindness that doesn't hurt me in the long run, I'm more than OK with that.
Of course, I nearly had to tell that to the jail warden.
No sooner had I given the man money and started to back out of the parking lot then an LAPD squad car burst into the lot seemingly from nowhere and slammed its brakes directly behind my car.
And when I say "my" car...I mean my dad's car.
Try telling a cop who's pulling you over for what looks like a drug buy that, by the way, this isn't my car. It's my dad's!
LAPD: "Put up your hands!"
RS: "Why?! I didn't do anything wrong!"
LAPD: "Get out of the car immediately! Keep your hand where I can see them!"
RS: "But I didn't do anything!"
LAPD: "Get out of the car NOW!"
I got out of the car.
I still have no idea why I'm being pulled over.
RS: "I gave the guy $5 cash! That's it!"
LAPD: "Yeah, right. Gimmee your license."
Meanwhile, I've got one cop with his hand on his gun staring at me while the other checks my record.
It's at this point that I realize A) I have an outstanding ticket that I need to pay. B) I'm being fingered for a drug buy, but am not totally sure. C) I'm not driving my own car. D) My cell phone is dead -- so if I do get arrested I can't even make a call from my own phone.
Cue "Curb Your Enthusiasm" music. All over feeling generous and giving a shady-looking dude $5 to get a cheeseburger.
As my record was being checked, I truly thought I had a very good chance to be arrested on suspicion of making a drug buy. I admittedly started to panic because the silent cop next to me wouldn't respond to any of my comments or questions.
RS: "Sir, you can search any part of me and my car. I have no drugs, if that's what this is about."
RS: "Sir, will you at least tell your partner that the car is registered in my father Mitchell J Schneider's name?"
RS (exasperated): "Look! I'm a triathlete for G-d's sake...I don't do any drugs!!!"
(Yes, I really said that.)
Finally, the record-checking cop -- the meaner of the two who stood almost two inches shorter than me if that's even possible -- told me I was free to go. But before doing so, did I understand why I was pulled over?
Of course I did. But Officer Mean further explained that the Santa Monica/La Brea intersection in particular was notorious for drug activity, and it looked incredibly suspicious for someone to hand something to a homeless guy and quickly pull away from the lot. I agreed. Then, Officer Mean told me I "was a better man than he was" for giving anybody anything, as he tells those guys to "pound sand" whenever they get close.
I understand his perspective and think it's equally valid. In fact, I'm far more tempted to avoid giving money now -- which is sad. It annoyed me that the person to whom I gave the money didn't even bother to leave the restaurant for just a moment to explain I had simply paid for a meal on his behalf. I scratch your back, you scratch mine, right? Wrong! Of course, I'm not so naive to think the solicitor was completely clean. Still, he left me hanging, and that situation could have ended a lot worse than it did.
Despite all that, I'm not sure this experience will deter me entirely from sparing some change. I'd prefer to continue assuming that people are good until proven otherwise. Shutting myself off to helping others because of one bad episode that lasted no more than 15 minutes doesn't feel right.
Just please be ready to accept any and all phone calls I may be making to you. They may be coming from a jail cell! (If my phone is even working.)
136 days and counting.
PS: Yesterday's events completely obscured the real big news of the day: I signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June 2011! I'll write more about that later tonight or tomorrow.