Saturday, October 27, 2007

An arresting encounter

It seems like all of my recent "encounter" posts involve the police. Here is the closest I think I ever came to getting hauled in while running.

I was running the route of the National Half Marathon with David shortly before its inaugural running. We left RFK and ran down the north side of Constitution Avenue, essentially, to the White House. There along the Ellipse we encountered a construction area where part of the broad open field leading up to the the back fence line of the White House was being landscaped. The sidewalk and parking lane of Constitution were blocked by a temporary chain link fence. A nearby sign read in bold letters, Sidewalk Closed, Use Other Side. (Below: The Ellipse. Constitution Avenue runs along the bottom of this picture, taken from atop the Washington Monument. You can see the National Christmas Tree at the top of the Ellipse)

We had just run five miles in forty-three minutes but we were too lazy to cross the six lanes of Constitution Avenue. Constitution is too busy a street to be running in a traffic lane.

There was a two-foot gap in the fence which led into the construction area. I squeezed through and David followed. This was not a good idea.

We ran along Constitution on the inside of the temporary construction fence. Ahead of us I could see a marked police unit swing out onto Constitution from where three or four cruisers typically sit blocking the entrance way of the road leading into the Ellipse. The road is closed to traffic but the Ellipse is open to pedestrians.

The squad car slowly cruised down Constitution and stopped at the point where we had entered the construction zone. Meanwhile we ran two more blocks and discovered we were in a dead-end. There was no space to squeeze back out of again. It didn't seem like the time to create an opening by shouldering aside one of the posts.

I could see the cop two blocks behind us waiting. I considered scaling the eight-foot high chain link fence like a gang member in West Side Story, but it's never a good idea to scale a fence near the White House. We retraced our steps and ran back out the original opening where, of course, the cop hailed us from his car.

He didn't stupidly ask us for our I.D.s, but he did ask if we knew how to read. He was brightly referring to the big Sidewalk Closed sign. We allowed as to how we could, in fact, read. He asked if we could read English. I decided contrition was the best approach here.

"Geez, officer, there's no way to get out of that work zone down there. Once you go through this entrance, you're stuck." I was pointing to the two-foot gap.

"That's not an entrance. Does that look like an entrance to you?"

"No, I guess not."

"And what does that sign say?"

"Cross to the other side." Hey, I passed fourth grade.


"Uh, I guess we'll be crossing the street?"

"Not here you won't. Do you see a crosswalk here?"

"No I don't."

"There's a crosswalk back there."

One block further back was a signal light with a crosswalk. The cop was grinning wickedly.

"Thank you sir." Shakin' the bush, boss.

While the officer watched, we trotted back a block, crossed in a crosswalk for the first time all year, after actually waiting for the light, and came back on the other sidewalk. We waved to him as we passed and he cheerily waved back. Everyone was smiling big, toothy grins. The better to mutter imprecations under our breaths.

Twenty minutes later we came back the other way as we headed towards the waterfront and SE. The two-foot gap in the temporary fence had been pushed shut.


Rainmaker said...

It's amazing running around DC how many cops there are just waiting and watching for you to do something so they can do something. Of course - the flip side is you can just about run a red light backwards and they won't chase after you since they're soooo busy guarding thier 2x2 sq ft piece of land.

ShirleyPerly said...

Hi Peter! Thanks for your comment on my blog. Glad you guys weren't arrested for trespassing. I wish there were a lot more cops in the Orlando area, though. My last police encounter was to report an assault while I was out running :-(

CewTwo said...

Great story! I loved it!

2 times for me. Once in Downtown Denver when I was a mere teenage sprout. I jay walked. In Downtown across a busy street. It must have been a light night for this officer of the law. He put me in the car and made all the noises. I was properly cowed.

Then again, riding a mountain bike around Frisco, Colorado. I crossed highway 9 at an entrance to a lake Dillon campground. I got the talk about being a responsible bike rider and what is normally tolerated in their area. I was properly contrite.

I enjoyed your story. Pretty good! BTW - I'm on the run again!!!