The Incomprehensibly Vast Machineries of Law Enforcement are Thrown into Gear,
and wharfinger Goes for a Car Ride with the Nice Policeman

I woke up this morning and fed the cat, and then the phone rang. It was Officer Mnmbl Nmblbl from the Harvard U. police, around the corner. He sounded pretty grim: "We regret to inform you . . ." and all that. We now switch to the present tense, the better to offer you -- our valued reader! -- a more compelling narrative.

"Well, I've got some not so good news for you this morning, Mr. Mcnmblnmbl."

Bummer. I just got a new car on Friday. Was it stolen? Did somebody ram it? What a hassle. Bear in mind that I'm not really awake yet.

"Uhh . . ."

"It's a green 2001 Mitsmbmbl, right?"

"Yeah, that's mine. Is it mine still?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah. One of our vehicles lost a hubcap and it scratched your car."

"Vehicle"! I love that. Well, at least the car's still there and mostly intact, but I imagine a huge scratch down the side, right through the paint. What a hassle.

"Uhh, bummer."

"Yeah. Well, you're at 50 Mumble street, right? Officer Mnurflnurfl's heading over there to pick you up and you can have a look at it."

"Cool. Thanks."

Okay, we'll see what's up with Officer Mnurflnurfl. So I put some clothing on and go outside. It's a beautiful day: Clear and sunny and chilly.

Officer Mnurflnurfl appears, lights flashing! He is cheerful and polite, recently a member of the Marine Corps. He's having a ball with the flashing light thing. I'm cheerful too, though not a Marine. I hop in the car and we drive a few blocks to where I parked my car last night. As we approach the spot, he tells me where the fateful hubcap came loose, and how it travelled: "It was like a rocket! I've never seen anything like it!"


I can't see any marks on the car at all. We pull over and get out. He shows me the mark: A slight scrape on the left rear quarter panel, right at the bottom, behind the wheel well. It's a slightly pale spot about one inch by two, where the surface of the paint was scraped. I'd never have noticed it if they hadn't called me.

Well, now. These guys did the Right Thing, of course, and I'm glad they did. It's good to deal with people who do the Right Thing, especially on such a beautiful morning, and God knows they called even though I might have turned out to be some kind of a nut. But still: It's a tiny little mark. These guys have a lot of time on their hands, don't they?

So we exchange cards. Officer Mnurflnurfl writes down everything he could think of asking me, and he drives me back to my building. In transit, we discuss the weather. The weather's worth discussing this morning: We've had nothing but rain and murk for days. It's been like living in Mordor with orcs that say "cahh" all the time, but now there is light.

These Harvard guys have a lot of time on their hands. The Cambridge cops wouldn't have bothered. They'd just mutter "Fuck you too, buddy", and keep driving. They've got real problems to deal with.

Listen: A new car is fun, and this one is more fun than most. For contrast, lying awake at 4:00 AM worrying about the paint is not fun. I live in Cambridge. The car will be scratched. Why get all bent out of shape about the inevitable? Life is full of surprises. The tense of the narrative may change without notice. That's the way it goes.

Since I was late, traffic was light by the time I left for work, so I got to spend some time at 110 mph on Route 2. The scratch didn't seem to make much difference.