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What I Watched Last Night

By Scott Buckner

You'd think after almost 20 years of being on for an hour at the same time every Saturday night, we'd be sick of Cops. But we're not. Sure, copping is tough business, but I think the real reason why Cops still hasn't worn out its welcome is because week after week, the show illuminates one enduring, immutable fact:

People are fucking stupid. And boy, do we love stupid people.

It's not like Cops is some obscure little public-access show aired at two in the morning in the cable TV stratosphere. Heck, I'm willing to bet it's been a Saturday-night favorite for years in the TV rooms of county jails everywhere. That's why after all this time, you'd think people would have learned how not to get arrested the same way over and over again. But no. Which is a good thing, because then Cops would just disintegrate into an hour of upstanding citizens getting tickets for jaywalking and parking in fire zones.

I'm not saying I'm brighter than the average street criminal, but there are 12 very important Lessons For Dummies I've learned from watching Cops that I'll forever carry with me:

1. Rule 1: Shut the hell up. Rule 2: Sit down and shut the hell up.
I've seen a surprising number of people not even involved with whatever the cops got called for end up in handcuffs because they thought the calendar said it was National Fuck With A Cop Day. That's why running your mouth and heaping on piles of raging hostility over something as simple as a traffic citation can be a good way to meet Mr. Taser. Also, you won't be in less trouble if you figure as long you're going to jail anyway, you might as well try taking a swing at a cop while you're at it.

2. Guns always win. Don't even try.
A gun in the hand of a cop can fire bullets at screamingly high and potentially life-ending velocities from hundreds of feet away. A knife, machete, or box cutter in yours doesn't. Duh.

3. Nobody outruns Motorola.
Things to keep in mind the next time you get pulled over and begin to think trying to outrun the cops might be a fantastic idea:

A) Cops communicate by radio.
B) Police departments own more than one radio - and usually more than one cop.
C) Radio waves travel at the speed of light.
D) The speed of light travels roughly 670,616,629 miles per hour. The space shuttle's speedometer doesn't even go that high.
E) Drunks and carjackers can't hold a curve at 50 miles per hour, much less keep a car pointed straight at 120 miles an hour. So unless you've already made it around the earth's equator in less than thirteen one-hundreds of a second without having plowed whatever you're driving into a ditch, you won't either.

4. Fake manners don't earn points.
If you're gangbanger in handcuffs, calling a cop "sir" for the first time in your life is as believable as saying you have absolutely no clue where the nine pounds of smack crammed into every available nook and cranny behind your car's dashboard came from. Just be yourself.

5. If you can't be good, be invisible.
The world is full of nosybodies. So if you're going to have public sex with someone who isn't your wife, the worst place to do it is parked behind a strip mall after closing time. The second-worst place is in the front seat while parked on a side street. If you really want to impress your crack whore, go for the best abandoned building you can find. If you're a big spender, spring for the nearest roach motel with a nap rate. Bring clean sheets and she'll love you forever.

6. Know who you are.
If your wife just left you or you've lost your job - or hell, it's just Saturday night - nobody's going to blame you for getting your drink on. But if you're going to turn yourself into a shit-faced, incoherent mess, leave the house with some sort of identification, even if it's just your name and address scrawled on a piece of paper jammed into your sock. Having identification on hand will immediately put you a cut above the usual riff-raff. In fact, having a driver's license that isn't suspended or revoked will put you in a class all by yourself. It'll also make everyone's day go faster if your drunk ass falls into a creek and your corpse isn't discovered for a long time.

7. A cop-car glass 1, skulls 0.
Slamming your head repeatedly against the back-seat window of a squad car is always pointless, because a trip to the hospital for a self-inflicted crushed skull never, ever trumps a trip to jail after the emergency room staff has washed its hands of you. If you want to turn yourself into a brain-damaged piece of angry psychotic work, that's just fine with the cops. They'll just stick you in with the other angry, brain-damaged psychotic pieces of work at the county jail when you get there eventually.

8. "Public intoxication" doesn't have to be a synonym for "public asshole."
A drunk crab-walking down the street who has managed to hold onto some shred of decency will always be treated better than a mean one who has to be Tasered. Saying "I love you, man," singing Irish whaling songs, and not pissing on the leg of whoever rolls up in the squad car might not actually keep you from going jail, but at least you won't end up with dislocated shoulders and a knee in the back of your neck mashing your face into the pavement. Waking up in the tank with a hangover isn't nearly as painful as waking up in the tank with a hangover and three fewer layers of skin.

9. Being poor is no excuse for poor housekeeping.
Even people with good jobs are cutting back on everything these days, so any cop answering a domestic disturbance call at your place won't hold it against you for not replacing that bathroom door with a huge fist- or shotgun blast-hole in it right away. But if you insist on having the cops make your place a regular stop, the least you can do is have your crapshack kind of presentable. Sweep the floor. Swat the roaches. Change the flystrip hanging from the bare light bulb when it gets loaded. Swipe some abandoned wire hangars from the laundromat and hang up those giant piles of clothes on the floor. And for chrissakes, when the cat dies in the corner of the front room, find some neighbor's garbage can.

10. That's why public transportation was invented.
Unless you have X-ray vision, you'll never be sure whether your best friend or the drunk-ass floozy you're scoring with at the bar is carrying around a big bag full of weed or rock to stash under your seat and say it's yours when you get pulled over for a burned-out taillight. So don't give anyone a ride anywhere in your car. Ever. Not to your crippled elderly mother or even the pope if you see him hitchhiking in the rain. Sure, they might be pissed at you for awhile, but have them take a tour of Cook County Jail and they'll be more understanding in the future.

11. Cop dogs love hide-and-seek.
Some of the worst places you could possibly hide from cops looking for you: Inside a clothes dryer. An overturned plastic kiddie wading pool. Beneath a hump of piled-up clothes in the corner of a closet. Even if they give up trying to find you, the dog they call in won't. When the dog finds you - and it always does - it will eat you. That's what they do.

12. Dress appropriately. Or inappropriately. Just dress.
For your own sake, gentlemen, if you're intent on violating a few misdemeanors or felonies, wear some clothes while you're doing it. We at home don't care one way or another whether you choose to show up on national TV in drag or being yanked naked by your ankles from underneath a car parked in someone's driveway; you'll be equally amusing either way. We just know road rash is never kind to whatever you've got between your legs swinging in the breeze. Just sayin'.


Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.


Posted on July 28, 2009

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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