I happened to toss my cigarette butt over the railing to the trail below. Something I normally don’t do. I loathe litter. But I was in a bad mood. It was after midnight and I had just drunk my last beer and smoked my last cigarette and I was flat broke and it was the middle of the winter and it was pouring rain. So now I was trapped on this balcony for the foreseeable future with no beer and no cigarettes and no nothing and my life was just a piece of shit that had amounted to nothing. So I was in a sour mood. So I just flung the cigarette butt over the railing in an act of defiance like “FUCK THIS WORLD!!”
Unbeknownst to me, there happened to be two cops walking on the trail below me. I don’t know if my cigarette butt hit the cops on the head. But at the least it must have come very close. Because the two cops immediately made a bee-line to where I was sitting on the balcony. And one of the cops was raging mad as a hornet. As if my tossed cigarette butt was an affront to his very manhood. And I — homeless degenerate lurking on the campus — represented everything vile and evil and wrong with our current society. In other words, he took it very personally.
“DID YOU THROW THAT CIGARETTE BUTT??” said the cop.
“Yes I did,” I admitted. The butt no doubt had the DNA of my saliva on it. So there was no way to avoid the rap.
“ARE YOU DRINKING??” said the cop.
“No. I already DRANK it all!!” I said, with real anger in my voice (I was still pissed about being out of beer).
“ARE YOU BEING A WISE-ASS??” said the cop.
“Not consciously,” I said.
So the cop started writing me up a $450 littering ticket.
“You’re not going to give me a littering ticket for one cigarette butt are you?” I said.
“I SURE AS HELL AM!!” said the cop, thrusting the little yellow citation at me.
So I ended up doing 45 hours of community service picking up litter and thousands of cigarette butts in the park to repay my debt to society. All because of that one lousy cigarette butt.
And it didn’t end there. That cop developed a personal vendetta against me. Every time I turned around he would show up. Catch me in the act of drinking in public. And hit me with a $250 “open container” ticket. He must have hit me with nearly 10 tickets over the course of the year. And one night he even gave me the flashlight treatment and hand-cuffed me and arrested me and hauled me down to the Berkeley police station where I spent the night in the drunk tank (the weird thing is I wasn’t even drunk at the time, I had just started on my first beer).
But then, over the course of the next year, over the course of all our interactions, I finally wore the cop down with my fabled charm. Or maybe he just forget what he was mad about me in the first place. And he actually started to feel friendly towards me. And whenever he’d see me he’d say “Hey Pete, how ya doin’?” with a beaming smile on his face. And we’d banter back and forth with a little friendly small-talk before we went our separate ways.