Saturday, February 05, 2005

4:02 PM// UT Knoxville Cop

I grew up in a small town in Tennessee near Knoxville. Since there was not much to do in Oak Ridge after 9pm, nor was anything open, we would often venture to the bustling metropolis that is "K-Town". This story took place a few years ago when Mike and I were freshmen, and Mike was attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

On one of our usual, nothing-better-to-do type nights, Mike and I decided the evening would best be spent attempting to triangulate something using a map, a compass, and a tall landmark, such as the Sun Sphere (iconic World's Fair thing in Knoxville). We'd never attempted anything so bold before, and it was an interesting application of math. So we set out around midnight to triangulate something.

It immediately became apparent that we needed to get above street-level because we couldn't look very far in any direction; we needed to get above the many short buildings in our way. So we drove to the top of a parking garage. This seemed like a nice plan until we discovered the iron beams used in the garage's construction were interfering with our compass. This led to a discussion regarding compass construction, which quickly became our new evening venture.

Somehow, we ended up wondering around Knoxville at 2am looking for possible compass construction materials. So we decided to park near the Knoxville ?walkway? to further discuss the nuances of compass construction while getting some fresh air. The closest place to park was on a street between UT's campus and a parking garage. On the other side of the garage was the walkway.

So we ventured down to our coveted walkway and had a nice long chat/walk. Well, around 3am we decided it was getting kind of late and we headed back towards the car. The most direct route from the walkway to the car was to pass through the parking garage, which, at 3am on a Sunday, was quite empty. A car drove slowly down the street as we made our way out of the garage towards my car. Later we would learn this was our neighborly UTK cop.

We got in the car and started down the road with intentions of finding our respectful homes in Oak Ridge. Naturally, there was a construction site in the middle of the road we happened to be on, requiring us to make a small detour. Because we were so close to Mike's dorm, he was most familiar with that immediate area, we turned into the dorm's parking lot to regain our bearing. During this process, the cop, who apparently found something suspicious about two young men emerging from an empty downtown parking garage at 3am, had made a U-turn and was following us. As soon as we pulled into the dorm's parking lot, the familiar glow of pulsating blue lights washed over us. Apparently, we had made some suspicious moves and now that we were on his "turf" he could apply the rigorous investigative skills of the UT police force.

He explained that he pulled us over because he wanted to know what we were doing in a parking garage so early in the morning, and he reminded us of his authority to pose such questions as we were now on UT's campus. Of course, we had only passed through a parking garage after being on the UT ?walking? for nearly an hour, so we had no idea what he was talking about. We said something to the effect of "we weren't in the parking garage, officer; we were just taking a walk". Even as I said it, it seemed like I should make up something. "Just out for a walk" is exactly what I would say if I was doing something suspicious. So I thought about explaining the triangulation quest we had begun, which subsequently turned into a quest for appropriate compass materials. But I think he would have employed the safety blanket that is the Patriot Act and promptly shot us both in the face for that response.

So instead we stuck with the "don't know what you're talking about; just out for a walk" routine. I expected the drug van to pull up any second. Instead he told us that he had nothing on us and we were "free to go". I love it when authority figures say things like that; as if there was ever any risk that I wouldn't be released for doing nothing.


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