The Law in Vermont

     A Vermont state trooper lit his blue lights and stopped me.
     I pulled off the side of the road and stuck both hands out the window.
     He strode up behind, checking out me and the car, and he said, “What’s with the hands?”
     “Well,” I said, “the last time a cop stopped me was in Los Angeles. I used to live around there. He told me that if cops stop you they want to see your hands. All the time. He said I should stick my hands out the window if I get stopped.”
     The cop laughed and shook his head.
     “A cop told you that in Los Angeles?”
     “Yeah,” I said. I put my hands in my lap.
     The cop wrinkled his nose.
     “Something smells good,” he said.
     “Coffee,” I said.
     I showed him my hands again.
     “I don’t have any guns,” I said.
     I reached into the plastic bag beside me and pulled out a bag of fresh-ground coffee.
     “I used to live in Chicago,” I said. “In Chicago I’d say, ‘Would you like this?'”
     The cop laughed again. “No,” he said.
     “Well, in Chicago,” I said, “it’s sort of …”
     “What are you doing, living in all those places?” the cop said, as traffic sped by.
     It didn’t speed, actually. I mean, this is Vermont. It was going like, 40. It seemed pretty fast.
     “I used to edit newspapers,” I said. “Now I edit a news website.”
     “Well,” the cop said, “don’t write about me.”
     “Oh, no,” I said. “I wouldn’t do that.”
     The cop said my license plate sticker had expired.
     “Oh, man,” I said. “I forget that every year. I moved here eight years ago and I bet I’ve got eight free months out of it just because I’m stupid.”
     The cop told me to renew my registration.
     I promised I would.
     “So you lived in all those places,” he said.
     He was not an old guy, nor a young guy. He looked about 42.
     “I did,” I said. “I lived in New York City, back when people liked the cops there. Not like now. I lived in Mexico too. Cops used to stop me to steal my truck. Federales. The (unprintable). But I had a Get Out of Jail Free card, ’cause I was a reporter.”
     The cop laughed, and checked the traffic.
     “I tell you what,” I said. “I don’t care for cops in big cities. I’d warn you against it, if you think it’d be a promotion to go to New York or Boston or someplace. But every place I’ve lived, I liked the police chiefs. It takes quite a combination of skills to be a police chief.”
     “It does,” the cop said.
     At this point, the only thing left for us was to go out for drinks and dancing.
     “Well,” I said, “are you sure you don’t want the coffee?”
     He laughed and said no.
     “It’s no problem,” I said. “I could get some more.”
     “Nah,” he said.
     So I drove off one way and he drove another.
     And that very same day I renewed my license plates. Just like he told me to.

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