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Austin Police Chief Offers Worse Excuse Ever

You’ve probably heard by now about the police in Austin, Texas chasing down and dragging away a woman who was doing nothing but jogging down the street, supposedly for jaywalking and refusing to show her ID (which she may well not have had). The police chief has offered an appalling excuse:

Officers in Austin, Texas provoked public controversy last week after several cops forcibly handcuffed a woman out jogging as part of an initiative to curb pedestrian injuries. But Austin’s police chief only ratcheted up that controversy when he minimized the incident, saying at least his officers didn’t sexually assault anyone.

“In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas,” Austin police chief Art Acevedo said, according to reports by the Daily Texan.

If the best excuse you can come up with for your officers abusing their power is “hey, at least they didn’t rape her,” your department needs to be shut down and you need to never be anywhere near law enforcement again.

Witnesses who saw the stop and arrest of Amanda Jo Stephen said they were taken aback when police pursued a woman who was simply out for a jog. “I hear a cop shout at an innocent girl jogging through West Campus with her headphones on,” said Chris Quintero, a UT-Austin student who was sitting at a nearby Starbucks. He said the officers then grabbed her by the arm and placed her in handcuffs as she pleaded that she had done nothing wrong, and several officers corralled her into a police car. Police said she failed to provide identification when asked.

Acevedo said of the incident, “All that young lady had to do when she was asked for her information was to provide it by law. … Quite frankly, she wasn’t charged with resisting, and she was lucky I wasn’t the arresting officer because I wouldn’t have been quite as generous.”

More proof that you should be fired. Immediately.

Comments

  1. eric says

    All that young lady had to do when she was asked for her information was to provide it by law

    Your papers, please.

  2. JustaTech says

    When I go running I wear headphones and I don’t carry my ID. I don’t carry my ID because I don’t want to risk losing it. And when I am listening to a podcast on my headphones, I really truely and genuninely cannot understand anything a person says to me. I can hear noises (I want to hear the traffic and stuff) but I can’t understand the words people are saying.

    Since when is it illegal to not carry your ID? Can cops arrest you walking out of the ocean in your swimsuit for not having an ID?

    And I don’t blame her in the slightest for getting upset. If I was running and in the zone, and some big man grabbed me I would sure scream and holler and try to get away before I recognized that it was a cop.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    We’re required to carry ID papers at all times? When did that law get passed? What law is he talking about?

  4. eric says

    Can cops arrest you walking out of the ocean in your swimsuit for not having an ID?

    Sounds like the initial arrest in this case was for jaywalking (which is illegal to begin with – AFAIK, there is no state or district in the US where it legally gets you anything worse than the equivalent of a traffic ticket). The ID thing was Acevedo ignoring the first rule of holes.

  5. lldayo says

    When I used to jog I would tie my apartment key to my shoelaces and that would be all I needed. It would never occur to me to carry an id (especially since I might not even have shorts with pockets on). It’s also good they didn’t rape her because then the chief could say, “Well, at least they didn’t kill her!”

  6. Brain Hertz says

    I’ve seen it claimed elsewhere (can’t find it right now, I’ll keep looking) that the requirement that the police are referring to is for her to verbally identify herself when asked, not to provide documentation of it. I have no idea if that’s what the law really says, but that’s the claim.

  7. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    It’s also good they didn’t rape her because then the chief could say, “Well, at least they didn’t kill her!”

    Don’t give them ideas!
    If they had killed her she wouldn’t be making such a fuss.
    The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Robert Marks once said his ambition was to “arrest more criminals than we employ”. Mr Avecedo only aspires to employ people who commit less serious crimes than members of other police forces.

  8. says

    This happened in Austin, we can only imagine what it’s like in the LESS liberal cities in Texas.

    I remember the joke going around back when I was in HS. Something along the lines of:

    “Most cops say, “Halt! Halt! Stop or I’ll Shoot!”; in Texas they say, “BLAM, BLAM, you’re STOPPED!”.

  9. A Masked Avenger says

    We’re required to carry ID papers at all times? When did that law get passed? What law is he talking about?

    In the US it varies by state. Some states have “stop and ID” laws, that require everyone to identify themselves to police whenever they demand it. Other states, including mine, require this only for traffic stops. In addition, there are cases where cops are specifically empowered by law to demand your identity–generally, like traffic stops, when they’re issuing a citation for an infraction–and if you refuse to provide it, they can arrest you and bring you back to the station for the sole purpose of establishing your identity.

    I’d like to see many of those rolled back. But most of all, I think the cases where we don’t have to identify ourselves should be jealously defended. As far as I can tell, this woman was under no obligation whatsoever to identify herself.

  10. Ellie says

    I have a friend who lives in Austin, and hates jaywalkers, and still wonders what they were doing and what kind of cops they were. I guess there’s more than one kind? She was also unaware that the City of Austin required ID to be carried at all times.

  11. eric says

    As far as I can tell, this woman was under no obligation whatsoever to identify herself.

    I’m betting the police’s story will go something like this:

    1. We observed her jaywalking, and tried to give her a ticket.
    2. She fled the scene (tranlation: was jogging with earphones on, and wasn’t aware of us).
    3. When we finally caught her, she was uncooperative and resisted arrest (again – earphones. She didn’t even know what was going on).
    4. It was because she fled the scene and resisted arrest that we asked her for ID, which she could not supply, so that is a fourth crime we will be charging her with.

  12. Brandon says

    …forcibly handcuffed a woman out jogging as part of an initiative to curb pedestrian injuries

    This is such spectacular bullshit in the first place. If the goal is curbing pedestrian industries, ticket the drivers. In a single afternoon run, I see a dozen or so illegal and dangerous activities done by cars. These threaten lives, for no apparent reason. Even if the runner was jaywalking and endangered herself, she still wasn’t posing much of a threat to anyone else. Going after pedestrians instead of going after drivers behaving recklessly is a classic blame the victim move.

  13. Synfandel says

    People are arrested for jay walking in Austin, Texas? For jay-walking!? If the police are on a pedestrian safety campaign, I can see them cautioning jay walkers or maybe even ticketing repeat offenders, but arresting them!? Ay caramba! What do they do with litterbugs, shoot them on sight?

  14. notyet says

    This will probably shock no one, but in Arizona (at least Phoenix metro area) you will be arrested if the police stop to harass you and you are not carrying ID. This includes pedestrians and/or people seated on park benches. Their excuse, you might be a terrorist. No kidding, this was actually said to me by a police officer. I have far less anxiety since moving from Arpaio country.

  15. doublereed says

    I think that excuse COULD work if the police chief immediately fired the officer or something. Then he could be like “Well, we got rid of him before he did something even worse! Not such a big deal.”

    But uh… it doesn’t sound like he meant it that way.

  16. Baktru says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are. Why, how is that an issue?

  17. A Masked Avenger says

    This is such spectacular bullshit in the first place. If the goal is curbing pedestrian industries, ticket the drivers.

    That’s crazy talk. Drivers gotta drive. Pedestrians need to stop making themselves targets. How fast was she walking? Was she wearing visible enough clothing?

  18. A Masked Avenger says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are.

    Pardon me for saying, but oh my fucking God.

  19. A Masked Avenger says

    This will probably shock no one, but in Arizona (at least Phoenix metro area) you will be arrested if the police stop to harass you and you are not carrying ID. This includes pedestrians and/or people seated on park benches. Their excuse, you might be a terrorist.

    Terrorists are small fry. They’re really afraid you might be a Mexican. Especially one of them crafty ones who can pass for a gringo.

  20. Brandon says

    That’s crazy talk. Drivers gotta drive. Pedestrians need to stop making themselves targets. How fast was she walking? Was she wearing visible enough clothing?

    I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. Are you joking?

    Pedestrians aren’t targets, they’re people that should be able to leave their homes and go places without being menaced by cars at every turn. Suggesting that running quickly or wearing the wrong color of clothes would absolve someone from responsibility for not running them down in the street is absurd. The way our society privileges driving above all else is absolutely absurd.

  21. Synfandel says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are. Why, how is that an issue?

    Surely this is a troll? Police have the right to ask who you are if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed, or are committing, a legal offense. When police start demanding “Ihre Papiere, bitte” for the hell of it, you’re in a police state.

  22. says

    “What do they do with litterbugs, shoot them on sight?”

    Only if they’re “wetbacks”*.

    “That’s crazy talk. Drivers gotta drive. Pedestrians need to stop making themselves targets. How fast was she walking? Was she wearing visible enough clothing?”

    She was wearing, “Run me over!” pumps.

    “Especially one of them crafty ones who can pass for a gringo.”

    Nah, the Maricopa Shurf’s deptties all carry a cantelope as a guage to measure their calves.

    * See post on Texas legislator.

  23. sugarfrosted says

    In this case it’s perfectly reasonable to arrest someone for not providing her ID after breaking the law, because if you don’t require this, the law becomes unenforceable. Like if you jay walk all you would have to do is lie that you didn’t have your ID and lie about your name and then because of this you would get no repercussions for breaking the law.

    This is such spectacular bullshit in the first place. If the goal is curbing pedestrian industries, ticket the drivers.

    Are you suggesting ticket drivers for pedestrians walking in the street? What are they doing wrong? I’m confused. The goal is to curb pedestrian injuries, because pedestrians randomly crossing the street does in fact increase the risk of injury. Is driving in a place where pedestrians aren’t supposed to be, but are, a crime? I’m totally dumbfounded right now.

  24. says

    Officers in Austin, Texas provoked public controversy last week after several cops forcibly handcuffed a woman out jogging as part of an initiative to curb pedestrian injuries.

    Why was she out jogging as part of an initiative to curb pedestrian injuries?

  25. bybelknap says

    Never, ever, ever trust a cop. The only solution to cops is to be heavily armed and armored, even while jogging, and shoot them on sight, before they can shoot, or taser, or rape you.

  26. Brandon says

    Are you suggesting ticket drivers for pedestrians walking in the street? What are they doing wrong? I’m confused. The goal is to curb pedestrian injuries, because pedestrians randomly crossing the street does in fact increase the risk of injury. Is driving in a place where pedestrians aren’t supposed to be, but are, a crime? I’m totally dumbfounded right now.

    I’m suggesting that the vast bulk of pedestrians deaths involve drivers breaking laws. If the goal is to curb pedestrian injuries, traffic enforcement should be targeted at the most dangerous road users, not the most vulnerable road users.

  27. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are. Why, how is that an issue?

    Because placing everyone under suspicion by default is utterly incompatible with a free or civilized society?

    Like, fucking duh? Where the hell do you live?

  28. says

    A Masked Avenger writes:

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are. Why, how is that an issue?

    I don’t know where he’s from, but as far as I know, we are required to have ID on us in Spain (at least this is what I’ve been told).

  29. imthegenieicandoanything says

    There’s a far, far, farworse case, from New Jersey, today.

    I remember the unfunny hilarity of MP&tFC’s courtroom scenes, which involved beyond-stupid bobbies randomly beating anyone and everyone with their truncheons. Their testimony, an bizarre, ill-written false confession, followed a reading of the charges, which ended in the entire court and gallery chanting in chorus “AND RESISTING ARREST!”

    Fuck America’s policemen, one and all. Any resemblance to justice and order is accidental and dependent on mood.

  30. moebius2778 says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?
    I still don’t see it. It’s been mandatory since forever in where I’m from and where I live now. Police have the right to know who you are. Why, how is that an issue?

    Well, for example, take myself. I have two major forms of ID: a passport, and a driver’s license. About a year ago, I let my driver’s license lapse for half a year, because I hadn’t driven in at least a year. And I don’t carry my passport around with me, typically.

    Should it have been illegal for me to go anywhere without my passport? Because it’s incredibly rare that I carry mine unless I’m flying somewhere. And I really don’t want to lose it – they’re kinda expensive, and a pain to replace. (Couple hundred dollars if I’m reading things correctly – at least partially, because without a passport, I don’t have any convenient documentation that shows I’m a citizen and therefore eligible to receive a passport.)

  31. Olav says

    Azkyroth #31:

    Because placing everyone under suspicion by default is utterly incompatible with a free or civilized society?

    Like, fucking duh? Where the hell do you live?

    I don’t know where Baktru lives, but where I live (the Netherlands, I am ashamed to admit) it is indeed mandatory to be able to show ID when requested by police. There is a € 90,- fine if you can’t produce your card.

    Our police are in general not, thankfully, known for the level of violence that their American counterparts sometimes exhibit. But of course they still are the same kind of authoritarian pigs and will sometimes stop people for stupid reasons, just so they can write them up for failure to provide identification. So yes, I can certainly see that happening over a jaywalking “incident”.

  32. raven says

    And the one part I still don’t get is… What the fuck is so wrong about having to carry ID?

    If you are swimming, exercising, running, or playing a lot of sports, you don’t have any place for your ID. Plus you can easily lose it. (And I suppose never vote or drive again). In some places you almost need picture ID to get…picture ID.

    This woman was…jogging. When I was a jogger (a long time ago), nothing I wore had any pockets. And it never occurred to me to carry an ID. It’s not like it is illegal or anything.

  33. says

    Olav “….where I live (the Netherlands, I am ashamed to admit) it is indeed mandatory to be able to show ID when requested by police. There is a € 90,- fine if you can’t produce your card.
    Our police are in general not, thankfully, known for the level of violence that their American counterparts sometimes exhibit…”

    Lies! While I was there with a friend, the police caught him for a minor felony and stomped the heck out of him. I still wake up at night in terror, hearing the “clop clop” of their wooden shoes! And furthermore…

  34. Ichthyic says

    In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty

    something tells me this guy’s district commander is going to leave teethmarks when he’s done with him for saying that.

  35. jaybee says

    I live in Austin and bike about 60 miles a week for exercise. My “to go” ziplock contains a $20 bill, my cell phone, and my driver’s license. Perhaps it is good for legal reasons to carry the license, but the real reason I carry it is that I if I ever get in a wrestling match with a car, the EMTs or the coroner will know where to find my wife.

  36. dingojack says

    In case you’re interested here is a list of countries that have compulsory, non-compulsory and no National ID cards.
    Dingo

  37. says

    dingojack writes:
    In case you’re interested here is a list of countries that have compulsory, non-compulsory and no National ID cards.

    I see Spain says required from the age of 16. LOL! I guess I better get one since I’m almost 46. Of course, I also have US nationality and haven’t truly lived in Spain for over 3 decades.

  38. dingojack says

    Lucky you’re not in Thailand. ID is required for those over seven (yes 7!) years old.
    ;) Dingo

  39. lorn says

    I assume she didn’t have her number tattooed on her forearm.

    I hear you can easily identify undercover police in Texas. You look under their left arm for the tattoo of their blood type.

  40. anubisprime says

    It could be said that with that level of analytical skill, situation awareness and above all responsibility for his officers…then this bunny is just a politician on a career trajectory…appointed by politicians , answerable only to politicians and endorsed by politicians.

    He is in fact only echoing the mind set of his mentors!

  41. mordred says

    Concerning the carrying an ID thing. I don’t know about other countries, but here in Germany the cops tend to claim you have to carry a “Personalausweis” with you, but AFAIK the law only states you have to be able to identify yourself with a valid ID, not specifying the when and where – meaning you got to have an ID as an adult, but you can store it in your flat all the time if you like.

  42. DaveL says

    several cops forcibly handcuffed a woman out jogging as part of an initiative to curb pedestrian injuries.

    Have they ever considered the approach of, you know, not physically assaulting pedestrians? It just might work.

  43. dingojack says

    DaveL – well, you know: ‘We had to burn the village in order to save it’*
    Dingo
    ——–
    * A common refrain of ‘family destroyers’ too (along with ‘if I can’t have them, nobody can’)

  44. davem says

    Coming from a country where the very notion that jaywalking is an offence is just plain nuts, I’m just scratching my herd here… Jeez, guys, just paint some peedestrian crossings on the roads. Sorted.

  45. says

    @39:

    He’s at the top of the food chain in the PD. Unless the mayor is a political opponent, he’ll not be getting his ass chewed until there’s a change at that level.

  46. says

    I was walking home a few nights ago and there was a truck coming down the street. I stopped and waved him ahead. He waited (sensibly) for two oncoming motorists to clear the intersection and then pulled out, turning left. I then started to jog across the street. A third vehicle that was at least 150-200 feet from the intersection–which is well lit–sped up and almost simultaneously put on his turn signal and started honking his horn continuously. He increased his speed until he was about fifty feet from the corner, took his foot off the gas and made a more drastic turn than was required. He did not come close to hitting me but he was obviously attempting to intimidate me. Had I been interested in doing so, I could have taken his license number, called the cops and given his information to them.

    Pedestrians, in the state of NY have the right of way in marked or unmarked intersections–regardless the driver’s desire to get to where he’s headed.

    The guy in the car was a douchebag–as are an astonishing number of other drivers–and I was sorta hoping he’d get out to yell at me. Otoh, he might have been carrying a gun (illegally, in all likelihood,carry permits are hard* to obtain up here) and just reached a 2nd Amendment solution for my contesting his right of way.

    * hard = you have to get a reference from at least three people, have no felony convictions, pay a fee of several hundred dollars and attend classes.

  47. eric says

    sugarfrosted:

    In this case it’s perfectly reasonable to arrest someone for not providing her ID after breaking the law

    It’s jaywalking. You get the equivalent of a parking ticket for it (at worst), that’s it. The only thing the cops need are your name and address. They simply ask her for this info, write it on the ticket, and they’re done. There is certainly no need to arrest someone for not carrying ID when (1) not carrying ID is perfectly legal in this country, and (2) the police can get the info they need without it.

    I know this may be hard for many of our European friends to understand, but many police agencies in the US have a very difficult time admitting to mistakes. When they make one, they often respond by “doubling down” – accusing the victim of police misconduct of worse crimes,so that the person will back off and stop pursing action against the police. From the description, it sounds very much like what happened here. Police cuffed and arrested a jogger because she had earphones on, didn’t hear their initial order to stop and didn’t understand what whas going on when they physically stopped her. Rather than admit that this might have been an overreaction on their part, they are now going to do everything in their power to make what happened appear to be her fault. ‘We had to arrest her – she didn’t show ID’ instead of the much more honest ‘we probably should’ve taken a couple minutes to explain to her what we wanted before cuffing her and throwing her in the squad car.’

  48. sailor1031 says

    and several officers corralled her into a police car

    WTF? Seriously, how many cops does it take to physically abuse a lone woman jogger?

  49. raven says

    Pedestrians, in the state of NY have the right of way in marked or unmarked intersections..

    That is true here as well.

    I’m still very careful about crossing the street. And never, ever assume that a car will stop.

    1. I’ve seen two people local who got drunk in the middle of the night, got out in the street and got killed by cars. Technically it is their own fault but technically they are still dead anyway.

    2. A common story around here is, A very old usually lady, goes out to get her mail. The mailbox is across the street. She gets hit by a car and killed. It’s often her own fault for not looking before crossing the street. So what, she is still dead.

    3. And, I’ve been almost run over crossing the street a few times myself. Nothing like having to run or jump to instill a fear of getting hit by a car.

  50. Childermass says

    It’s also good they didn’t rape her because then the chief could say, “Well, at least they didn’t kill her!”

    You are all wussies. Why here in Oklahoma, we have Ramsay Snow in charge of law enforcement.

    /My name is Reek. It rhymes with Leek. No! … not my …

  51. Olav says

    Eric #53:

    I know this may be hard for many of our European friends to understand, but many police agencies in the US have a very difficult time admitting to mistakes.

    No, it isn’t hard to understand. Rather, it seems to be a universal truth about police forces everywhere.

    All Cops Are Bastards.

  52. steve78b says

    Here in good old Oklahoma, a man was killed by 5 policemen (I counted in the video) arresting him rather roughly after assaulting him after his wife slapped their 19 year old daughter and he was attempting to calm his wife down. Wife is heard on the video saying that he had nothing to do with it. You can see it on the KFOR television website. Police chief said they had not done anything wrong!

    KILLED!! When he had done nothing wrong at all. I think arresting someone should leave them alive.

    I eye ALL police carefully and am on my best behavior because I don’t want to be “ACCIDENTALLY” killed.

    Steve in OK

  53. freehand says

    Olav – we in the US are mostly descended from misfits, dreamers, cads, horse thieves, second sons, gamblers, and even some ne’er-do-wells. They found comfort, refuge, and sometimes even a living in a land where nobody asked about your real name, because they’d just get a lie back anyway. A request for paperwork identification was seen as intrusive and an affront. We have all learned the lessons of our forefathers:
    1. Never tell them your real name.
    2. Always carry a backup pistol.
    3. Always park your horse backside in, so you can make a quick getaway if necessary.
    .
    Some of our fellow scoundrels become officers of the law. This one for instance, Wyatt Earp, was: a city policeman, county sheriff, a teamster, buffalo hunter, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, brothel owner, pimp, miner, and a boxing referee. […] he was arrested, sued twice, escaped from jail, then was arrested three more times for “keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame”. After which he became a city marshal. (Wikipedia)
    .
    Really, if you were a lady, would you acknowledge a ruffian like that trying to get your attention?

  54. leonardschneider says

    Personally, pedestrians would be safer without painted crosswalks, at least at intersections that aren’t light-controlled. Painted crosswalks create a false sense of security, in a few ways:

    – Peds develop a frame of mind of “Welp, I’m in the crosswalk, so nothing could possibly happen to me!”
    – Let’s face it, for a driver moving 35 mph those stripes are all but invisible.
    – Peds will rationalize that they have the right-of-way at a crosswalk… And step off the curb, right into traffic. Yes, I’ve seen this happen. Often.

    Berkeley is the absolute worst for pedestrian idiocy. The “I have the right-of-way” scenario above? Yep, Berkeley, and all the time. Doofuses will start to walk into traffic on University Ave. and have to jump backwards out of the way — or else get splattered — because, golly, the car(s) coming towards him can’t go from 35 to 0 in twelve feet. I figure it’s about a fifty-fifty split between self-righteous car-hating jackoffs and pure-dee dimwits who seem to want to die in the street.

    The dimwits are thickest around campus, especially around the housing units. The ability to walk into the street without even looking to see if there’s a car coming — then looking surprised when the car swerves and honks — was always proof to me just how overrated college really is, and how useless its attendees could be. Really, fairly high-powered schools like those in the UC system, UC Berkeley in particular, are only examples that yeah, you got twin 1600s on your SAT… And you don’t have a drop of basic common sense anywhere in that $30K-a-semester brain of yours. (You’re also of voting age, but are mystified by the complexities of ordering a pizza for delivery over the phone; I guess mommy always took care of that. But that’s a whole different story.)*

    Jaywalking, of course, is also a tiny issue. On weekdays, Hearst Ave. anywhere near Soda Hall, the Mechanical Engineering building, and the food courts was a slalom course, with undergraduates for pylons. Yes, it would be a drag to walk either up to La Loma or down to Euclid (or at least use the friggin’ crosswalk at LeRoy) to cross to the main campus. I wouldn’t do it either, I’d jaywalk. But I would look to see if there are any damn cars coming before stepping off the curb! Of course I never fulfilled the evil fantasy of taking out some computer science student ambling into traffic from Soda towards Blum or O’Brien Halls… But it’s not like it never crossed my mind.
    “… Right in front of my car, officer, there was nothing I could do. Besides, he was jaywalking, look where the smear is.”
    “And what direction was he coming from?”
    “From the north, Soda Hall.”
    “Oh. Another comp-sci student; third one this week. Well, there’s no shortage of them, I swear they reproduce like amoeba.”
    “You may be right, how else would computer science students reproduce? So what will you do with him?”
    “If he’s not claimed by his family within seventy-two hours, we, uh… Well, you know that Korean take-out place on Shattuck near Bancroft?”
    “Yeah?”
    “Don’t eat there.”

    ——————————————————–

    The most hilarious thing Berkeley ever did in the name of pedestrian safety was the Flag Program. The rationale was that pedestrians get hit because drivers don’t see them (and not because the pedestrians are stepping in front of moving cars with no time to stop). So, logic says to make a way for pedestrians to be more visible. The end solution: buckets holding orange flags on sticks; the flags measured about 14 x 20 inches. So when a pedestrian wanted to cross the street, s/he’d grab one of the flags, wave it like a drunken cheerleader while crossing, and deposit it in the bucket on the other side of the street. (The idea of “looking to see if cars are coming” was never addressed.)

    There were certain flaws with this project.

    First, and most obviously, the flags kept disappearing. They were claimed as souvenirs by students (a lot easier to take than street signs), shopping-cart looneys who wanted to decorate their wheels, and just random people who decided they really needed a small orange flag. Of course, the closer to campus, the quicker they’d be gone.

    Another problem was the unpredictability of pedestrian traffic. An intersection would have a set number of flags, say six on each corner. By the end of the day two corners would have no flags, one would have six, and one would have eighteen. So if there were no flags on your corner, you’d have to steel your nerves and cross the street without looking like a complete idiot an orange flag to wave.

    Lastly was the city’s choices for locations to put the buckets. There were plenty of places where the flags made sense, mostly along University Ave., Shattuck Ave., College Ave., and Oxford St. These are all streets with lots of traffic and plenty of distance between lights or stop signs. There were painted crosswalks, but I’ve already discussed how useless they are. (Shattuck and University are also multi-lane, so you need more than a couple seconds to cross.) So, naturally the city put their buckets o’ flags at intersections with stoplights and pedestrian signals, and at four-way boulevard stops. Some were installed where they made sense, but intersections which already had a decent degree of pedestrian safety seemed to get preference. I mean, seriously: at a signal, you’re not really in much danger unless (a) you’re a jaywalking idiot crossing against the light, or (b) a driver blows through the red, and that’s not something anyone can protect against. The driver has made the decision to ignore the bright red light, you think he cares about your little orange flag?

    I’ve been gone a while, so I have no idea if the pedestrian flags are still in place, or if they fine-tuned the locations to where they made sense. They’re probably still around, with the city laying out a few hundred bucks every month to replace missing flags. My one regret: Never locating a fellow Monty Python’s Flying Circus fan and reenacting “The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights.”

    —————————————————————————

    * If I seem contemptuous of college in general and college students in particular, well, seven years of delivering pizza in Berkeley provided me with a ground-eye view of both. I was… Unimpressed. In fact, I was rather distressed: my customers were ostensibly the future of America… And were unable to follow simple instructions provided both verbally and in written form, spent a depressing amount of time whining and puling like small children over their own fuckups…
    (“We told you over the phone, and it’s printed on the menus: if you want to pay with plastic, you’ve gotta have the card in your possession.” “But it’s my dad’s card, and he said it’s okay!” “So where’s your dad?” “Laguna Nigel.” “Sorry, but no card, no food. You don’t have any cash?” “But my dad says it’s okay!”)
    … Seemed incapable of any type of drinking other than “binge,” would on occasion make the VERY unhealthy decision of trying to steal from me, still didn’t know where they lived after seven months of residency, would try to pull hustles even the most craven white trash would dismiss out of hand as stupid…
    (“It’s been over half an hour! I get my pizza free, right?” “Don’t get out much, do you? Domino’s hasn’t done that for a couple decades. And we’re not Domino’s.” “I should still get it free for having to wait so long.” “No. You were told a wait time when you ordered. Looking at the time on your delivery slip, I’m actually early.” “Well I’m not happy, so I should get my pizza free.” “This isn’t a debate. No. Your order is $14.40, you either pay up or the food leaves with me.” “Pffft. Fine. But you’re not getting a tip!” “You know what? The second you started trying to scam me I knew I wasn’t getting a tip, so I haven’t lost a thing. Here’s your change and have a nice night.”)
    … Still insist on joining the racist queer-bashing woman-hating clubs known as “Greek Fraternal Organizations,” don’t seem to work (at least not the ones who order pizza delivery), display the social and political awareness of a Bazooka Joe comic, try to pay for their food with marijuana and get all bent out of shape when they’re told to come up with real money, and whose primary reason for selecting UC Berkeley is that it’s a full day’s drive from their parent’s house down in Orange County, thus vastly lowering the chances of mom and dad showing up unannounced and finding out what they’re really up to. In short, if college students represent the future of our country, we’re fucked.

    I seem to have gotten off topic. I’ll stop now.

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