If you have not done so, please read part one, in which our heroes commit vehicular vandalism of trash cans, generally act like jackasses, and hurry to arrive at the theater on time to see Paul Verhoeven’s seminal masterwork, Starship Troopers.
By Peter Kimmich
There we were, trapped. One wrong turn, and we found ourselves going completely in the wrong direction. The theater, our destination, was behind us. The clock was ticking. Starship Troopers was going to start in mere minutes. We did not have time for this shit.
The road we found ourselves on had two lanes in each direction, divided by a double yellow line. Following it to the next light and turning around would have taken longer than we had, especially since those urban planning geniuses often lead drivers through two or three lights and into random parking lots before allowing a u-turn. No, the safest bet was to flip an illegal u-turn then and there. Obviously.
At this moment the town was buzzing with placid yuppies on their way to coffee shops to meet friends, to bland chain restaurants for dinner, to blind dates set up through coworkers, to evening shopping mall trips, and home to cook for their families. And in the midst of it all was a huge blue Ford with a gurgling muffler, an aluminum camper shell and seven or so teens crammed inside with two bean bag chairs and a disco ball, blasting White Zombie on the stereo. Matt checked his mirrors and blind spot (safety first), cranked the wheel, and guided the truck into a free-range u-turn across two lanes of unsuspecting traffic.
Unfortunately the truck’s naval destroyer handling gave it an extra-wide turning radius, and our course looked to take us onto the opposite shoulder. Which would have been fine, except that on the shoulder, directly in our path and stretching from the sidewalk to the traffic lane, was a white construction barricade with yellow reflectors and a sign reading “End.” There was no hint of construction anywhere, as if the thing were placed there, rigid and authoritarian, by urban planners forecasting this exact scenario. Evidently, they wanted this stunt to end.
Three minutes until the movie started. Three seconds before impact, and the wheel was cranked as far as it would go. No time to back up and take another run at it. This was fate. It was the only way. Matt shrugged and held the wheel steady.
“I hope that’s not steel,” he said reassuringly.
Those words would be immortalized in senior quote Valhalla, standing for teenage bravado and, in general, just not giving a fuck.
The barricade splintered like balsa wood, disintegrating with a loud CRACK and littering the street with white, reflective toothpick shrapnel. Matt grinned like he had just won a boxing match of sorts. The hyenas in the back went ballistic. A yuppie in a BMW frantically beeped his horn in a Samaritan attempt to pull us over. We ignored him.
Three minutes and thirty seconds later we were in our seats, snacks and sodas in hand. The outside world, including our list of ruined property thus far, could go screw itself.
After the movie, we headed back to our shitty little town, where we sat around on the bleachers at the local community pool, recapping the night. If there was anything else for teenagers to do after dark in that town, we would have been doing it. But there wasn’t. So there we sat. We all agreed that the movie had violence and boobs, so it was pretty great. The whole garbage can thing was spectacular.
Unbeknownst to us, the garbage cans of the town were intent on getting even. There were three of them, the metal kind Oscar the Grouch hangs out in, floating right there in the swimming pool. We had no idea how they got there, in fact had barely noticed them. But the two sheriff’s deputies in the squad car parked under the trees nearby, they had an idea.
Before we knew it, it was an episode of Cops. The officers rolled up to the group of juvenile delinquents, obviously the ones responsible for tossing garbage cans into the pool amid god knows what other atrocities. The town deserved its justice.
On cop shows, the bad guys are always pressed up against a wall, arms and legs spread, while officers pat them down and ask intimidating, loaded questions. Reality, as it turns out, is exactly like that. Apparently a group of teenagers matching our description had been seen at that exact spot vandalizing everything, according to some convenient witness who happened to be driving down that very same dark, dead-end street an hour earlier. And it made perfect sense that these teenagers would stick around for an hour and wait to be caught. In cop logic, I guess if the glove doesn’t fit, you should try to convince the hand that someone saw it fit in case it decides to change its story.
After keeping us up well past our bedtimes, they eventually let us go. They had nothing, and besides, some kid named Frank was getting into a fight somewhere. But from this altercation I learned three things: 1) Shut up. Just shut the fuck up about everything you know. You don’t know anything. 2) Police officers will lie to your face as a basic interrogation tactic, including telling you that all of your friends have ratted you out. They will even do this when you are the first suspect they question. 3) Being a kid out late is sometimes all they need to hold you in the back of a police car for an hour and a half and turn your whole night upside down. But we probably deserved it.
Some months later, Matt and I were touring the county jail with our martial arts class, courtesy of an instructor who also worked as a guard. Along the way we dropped by an administrative office to be introduced to some officers. One of them glared at Matt and demonstrated an impressive memory for trumped-up BS.
“You’re the one with the garbage cans in the pool, right?”
Out of all the unscrupulous crap we’d done that night or on any other occasion, the one crime that made it into a computer was one we hadn’t even committed. At least Matt handled it with the cool wit of a seasoned criminal. He grinned back at the officer.