Friday, September 4, 2009

I ain't got a thing to prove to you!

Just arrived back home from another fieldwork trip. This time a turn-around trip to my research site on the Colorado River. A nice 14-hour Friday before the long weekend. Woohoo :|

Based on my repeated encounters with law enforcement in Arizona and California, I would like to post a personal letter to all DPS, Pima County Sheriffs, Maricopa County Sheriffs, La Paz County Sheriffs, Imperial County Sheriffs, CBP, and anyone else I missed in this list. If you are one of these folks, know someone, or whatever, please pass on the following. It would help if you could attach a picture of my smiling face to be kept in patrol cars.

Dear Respectable Law Enforcement Officer:

I present the following information in advance of our meeting to clear up potential misconceptions, avoid conflict, and allow us both to complete our jobs effectively and efficiently without wasting time on useless "friendly conversation".

"Nice to meet you on the side of the road like this. I am aware that I am not required to answer most of these questions, but I will be friendly and oblige.

Yes, I am a US citizen. I know it is strange to be driving across the desert in the middle of the night. I am well aware of my speed. I set it on cruise control at the speed I estimated would be most likely to reduce the probability of us meeting. I must have calculated incorrectly.

I have no criminal record. I have never gotten a ticket (aside from some UA parking tickets. Those guys are FAST!). I have been pulled over exactly once before this because a NC police officer did not appreciate me passing him even though I was going below the speed limit. When literally his first words to me were, "I don't know how they do things in Arizona..." I knew I was in trouble. But I digress.

No, I have not been drinking. I am not under the influence of any drugs (besides caffeine). I am regularly drug-tested at work and something tells me a positive would be a bad thing.

No, I do not have any drugs in the car. No, not even a small amount for occasional personal use.

No, I do not own this car. It is a rental. You know this already based on 1) the PERM tag; 2) the "e" sticker; and 3) the fact that you already ran the plate while following me for the last mile and a half.

Why would I be using my personal vehicle for work? Why don't you use yours? I bet your squad car helps you do your job, eh?

Yes, I know it is suspicious that I have had this rental car for several weeks. My fieldwork is consistent but I still can't talk the boss into buying a company vehicle.

Yes, I am a little wiry. My spouse and mother remind me on a regular basis that I am too skinny. No, I am not skinny from taking drugs.

I am a little irritable. I am in a hurry to get my job done and get home to my family. This is a waste of my time and yours. Sure, I'll step out of the vehicle.

My frequent passenger is my good friend Daniel. Yes, he is brown-ish. No, he is not Mexican. Apparently your profiling needs some work. His Spanish is worse than mine--good enough to get into and out of trouble in Puerto Penasco on the weekends, but that's about it.

Yes, I do have a LOT of food in the vehicle. I swim, bike, and run. A LOT. And I get very hungry. No, I do not have the munchies. I do not have drugs in the car. No, not even a small amount for occasional personal use.

I am driving to Walter's Camp, CA or Cibola, AZ. No, you haven't heard of them even though you work 10 miles away. You were trained and plopped down in the middle of the desert. It is close to Blythe. Yes, some people actually set out to go TO Blythe, not THROUGH it. Lucky us, right?

Yes, I am suddenly nervous when you ask to pat me down. I am suddenly aware of the immense power in the hands of a 20 year-old with qualifications that include passing the AIMS test and being able to recite Miranda rights in Spanish. And I just don't trust you.

I am aware that I am filthy. I did not spend the day sitting in my car. I was literally rolling around in soil, repeatedly applying sunscreen and bugspray before rolling around in the soil again in 110 degrees. See? Yes, I do have a beard, and it is ugly. I see no need for a shaving when I spend my days rolling around in dirt.

Can you search my car? I guess, if you'd like to waste more of your time. You'll find a long list of things that would never make it on an airplane these days...a pipe wrench, box cutter, various chemicals, electronics, and a machete (okay I made that one up). If it is March, April, or May, you would find 50+ pounds of native plant seed. Yes, my project is growing plants. No, not those kind. Yes, I am sick of comments about it. Marijuana references have come from my family, my boss, my advisor, the client, and the farmer we contract with. Oh, you weren't joking. No, not marijuana seed.

You would also find a ridiculous amount of spandex, several pairs of running shoes, a wetsuit, swim goggles, and, if there was any extra room, my road bike is packed in there. And likely a wide variety of beer. Yes, this is a strange combination. No, we do not have any explosives or drugs. No, not even a small amount for occasional personal use.

Thank you, yes, I will have a good night. You be safe also. Thank you for the speeding "warning" for going 4 mph above the speed limit."

With this information in-hand prior to me setting out on the road again, I trust that I have cleared up any potential confusion. If you have any questions or would like additional information I am sure you will ask for it.

Thank you for your time. Sincerely,

Matthew Robert Grabau

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