In Monday’s post’s comments, some readers used the term “frugal weirdo.” This term makes me happy and sad, all at the same time. It makes me sad because we frugal people are so few and far between, we are outcasts. On the other hand, Frugal Weirdo is a badge of honor. I’d rather be a wealthy weirdo than a broke, normal guy any day of the week.
Unless you live on the moon, you know that marijuana is legal in Colorado. This has created quite a bit of consternation among the surrounding states. Kansas went so far as to put up fake drug checkpoint signs to scare people. Rumor has it that police in Cheyenne watch for cars with Colorado plates. I experienced this phenomenon last week when I was pulled over in Iowa. Here is how it went down.
Officer, I’m just frugal, really
Last week, I mentioned that I drove to Chicago on my recent work trip to save money. It was a lot cheaper to drive than to fly and rent a car. Besides, I don’t mind driving and it gave me a good excuse to listen to the “Game of Thrones” audio books. The trouble started on my return trip in western Iowa.
I don’t speed much any more. It’s been at least a decade since my last speeding ticket. It just isn’t worth the fines. Besides, I’m a lot calmer now, so I just take my time. So I wasn’t at all worried when I passed a speed trap near Council Bluffs. I was in the right lane, while others were flying past me in the left. However, 5 minutes later, I found myself getting pulled over. The officer came up to the window and the conversation went like this:
- Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?
- Me: Ummmmm, no actually.
- Officer: The speed limit is 65 and you were going 69.
- Me: UmmmmmK…
- Officer: What are you doing in Iowa?
- Me: I’m returning from a work trip in Chicago.
- Officer: Really? Why didn’t you fly there?
- Me: Well, my company doesn’t pay for my travel. Driving worked out to be cheaper than flying.
- Officer: Hmmmmm. I’m just going to give you a warning. Why don’t you join me in the front seat of my squad car and I’ll write it up?
- Me: Ummmmm, OK.
That’s when the fun started. As soon as I got out of the car, the officer asked if he could pat me down. I consented*. There I was on the side of I-80 with my hands on the hood of the squad car getting groped by The Man. Lovely. It’s at times like this that my imagination runs wild:
Don’t tase me bro!
In my mind’s eye, I was on that TV show “Cops” and the officer starts hamming it up for the camera:
- Officer <while stroking his copstache>: This Coloradan expects us to believe he drove across county to save a couple bucks. Who is he trying to kid? When we find his stash O’ weed, we’re gonna send this Frugal Felon up the river for 10 years of hard time.
- Me: No, really, I was just…
- Officer: Son, you’ll shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you!
- Me: No, really…
- Officer: That’s it, say hello to my little friend Mr. Taser you Frugal Freak!
- Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
Queue the music: Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…
What really happened
In reality, the officer and I had a <sarcasm>nice chat</sarcasm> in the squad car:
- Officer: So, you’re from Colorado, want to tell me again what you’re doing in Iowa?
- Me: Like I said, I was on a work trip to Chicago. I’m on my way back.
- Officer: Why didn’t you fly?
- Me: I have to pay for my own travel. It’s cheaper to drive than to fly and rent a car. I like to save money whenever I can.
At this point, the officer looked at me like I was insane. Clearly, he thought I was running drugs or involved in some other illicit activity. The conversation went on:
- Officer: Chicago? Really? What do you do there?
- Me: I program computers.
- Office: Program computers?
- Me <starting to act surly>: Yes, I write complicated algorithms for medical devices. I also design and implement virtualization based architectures for high-availability systems.
This flummoxed him a bit and he didn’t know what to say, so he went back to his original line of questioning:
- Officer: So, you drove? Really? Do you have a family?
- Me: Yes, I have a wife and two children. I look forward to seeing them later today.
- Officer: Tell me again why you drove?
Around in circles we went. He couldn’t (or didn’t want to) grasp that someone would drive to save money. Same questions, over and over, to see if I was consistent.
Later in the redundant and ridiculous conversation, he hinted that he’d like to search my car. It never came to this.
The incident ended awkwardly when he asked to verify that my eye color was the same as what was on my license. We stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment and he finally let me go.
The incident was annoying, but thinking back, I’m mildly amused. I’m sure the officer suspected I was a drug runner, bringing a stash to Chicago. He thought he had caught a big fish. Little did he knew, all he caught was a Frugal Weirdo.
*If I had more time, I would have been belligerent (“Get a warrant if you want to search me!”). However, I was on my way back home to see my family and I didn’t want to wait for hours on the side of the road in a police car.
**Iowa people, I really do love you and your state. We travel to see you every year for RAGBRAI. I love wandering around your small towns, looking at your wind turbines and watching the sun set over your cornfields. I hope my incident was nothing more than an anomaly.
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