A while back, there were news reports of an elected official who appeared to be using her position to influence a police officer during a traffic stop.
According to video of the encounter, the elected official, who was a front seat passenger in her car, could not provide proof of insurance or registration. In addition, the man who was driving had no license.
During the traffic stop, the elected official insisted the officer contact the chief of police. The cop said no, so the elected official said she would do it herself.
The encounter recalled several incidents in which well-known people responded to police officers with the “Do You Know Who I Am?” defense.
That may have worked in the pre-social media days, or before officers started recording video with their body-camera. But nowadays, it usually ends up backfiring on the celebrity.
I don’t know how the video became public, but word probably spread that a politician was trying to throw some weight around. The news media took it from there.
These days, if you misbehave at a public place, or in the presence of a cop, you’re probably being recorded. The elected official may not have known it at the time, but she does now.
Since my broadcasting career has made me somewhat recognizable on a local level, I guess I could say, “Do You Know Who I Am?” when trying to get seated at a fancy restaurant.
But so far, that has not been an issue at my usual high-end dining options: Burger King, Hardee’s and Shoney’s.
There was one memorable traffic stop, several years ago.
I did not play my celebrity card. Actually, I don’t have one.
I do however, still have a Blockbuster card. I don’t clean out my wallet very often.
I was twenty years old, and was the morning DJ on a powerful Chattanooga radio station.
I had just gotten off work, and I was starving. When you’re twenty, hunger pains occur every fifteen minutes. You eat a huge burger, and never gain a pound.
After you turn forty, you can sniff an onion ring and go up two shirt sizes.
It just so happened that a new Wendy’s had recently opened near the radio station. I had looked forward to this, much as a child anticipates Santa’s arrival.
I had never eaten a Wendy’s burger, so I considered it my duty to be among the first in line.
Evidently, I was in quite a hurry to sample that Wendy's burger.
Shortly after I hit the highway, I saw the dreaded blue light flashing in my rear view mirror.
I didn’t even try to pretend he was chasing someone else. I was as guilty as Opie was when he was taking credit for making all A’s, even though Miss Crump had made a mistake.
Unlike Opie however, I was not particularly cute, and I didn’t have any writers to create an ending in which the officer would give me a hug and play his guitar on the front porch.
“Do you know how fast you’re going?” the man in blue asked.
“More than the speed limit, I know,” I said.
As I handed him my driver’s license, he studied it for a moment.
“David Carroll, David Carroll,” he repeated. “Where do I know that name from?”
“Well,” I replied, “I’m on the radio, you may have heard me…” He cut me off.
“Wait a minute! You’re on KZ-106, right?” he asked as he flashed a wide grin.
“I take my daughter to school every morning, and we never miss your show!” he exclaimed.
As my head started to swell, he went on.
“We think you’re funny, we like them jokes you tell, and how you make fun of the news.”
I could already envision this speeding ticket being torn up and swept away by the wind.
“Hey listen,” he said. “Reckon you could play a song for her in the morning?”
To avoid a ticket, I would have played a duet by Lawrence Welk and Yoko Ono.
“Absolutely,” I said. Then he ripped a page out of his notepad, and asked for an autograph.
“Michelle will love this,” he said. “She won’t believe I met you.”
I was just about to resume my trip to Wendy's.
“Just one more thing,” he said. I started to comb my hair, figuring he wanted to grab a camera to capture a memento of our friendship.
He then handed me a citation, and still smiling broadly, he said, “You’ll need to come to City Court on Monday at 2:30. Be sure to bring 62 dollars in cash. It was great to meet you!”
As promised, I played a song for his daughter the next day.
Maybe you’ve heard it. “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won.”