The other day, I was sitting with some of the players on the baseball team I help coach.
As with most teams, guys on the bench have a lot of idle time during a game. Since they can't amuse themselves by spitting tobacco juice at bugs or giving someone a "hot foot" like we did way back when Jimmy Carter was president, they started asking me questions.
They were an inquisitive group of teenagers, and eventually the session took on a sort of "around the campfire" feeling (without the guy with the chainsaw or "Scream" mask hiding in the bushes). Here are a couple of the topics they were curious about:
Driving without shoes: Contrary to urban legend, you can drive while barefoot. It's not advisable, and the odor can cause your passengers to throw insults and hard objects at you.
Driving in the bike lane: I often see people driving cars in the bike lane on Kettleman Lane. That's the lane to the right of the solid white line towards the curb. They're smiling as they think, "Gee, I thought there was a budget crisis in Sacramento. Thank you, Cal-Trans, for adding this special third lane just for me to drive in." You cannot drive a vehicle in that lane. It's a bike lane. If there is a solid white lane, you cannot drive to the right of it until you are near an intersection. You just might end up receiving a ticket from a kind public servant if they find you cruising in that lane.
Riding a bike on the sidewalk: The municipal code says you can't ride a bike on the sidewalk in a business district, like Kettleman Lane. Unless you're in self-preservation mode and you're dodging grinning drivers in the bike lane next to you.
Helmets: We often see packs of young girls slowly pedaling around the city on those bright-colored beach cruiser bikes. They all wear the standard-issue uniform consisting of giant dark Paris Hilton sunglasses, sundresses and flip-flops as they search in vain for Justin Beiber or those pale vampire and werewolf guys from "Twilight." Just so you know, the girls are supposed to be wearing a helmet if they aren't 18 years old. I'm sure it's futile mentioning it, but I thought I'd give it a try.
Bottle bombs: A few weeks ago, I came across a couple of my former players as they strutted out of a local store carrying big jugs of vinegar in their arms. They were beaming with pride like they'd just scored the goal to beat Algeria in the World Cup. They were on the way to make bottle bombs. Those of you who make them know what bottle bombs are and what goes in them. And those of you who don't know what they are, that sonic boom you heard last night in your neighborhood similar to when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier was probably from a bottle bomb. Just a heads up: Per the Penal Code, they are classified as destructive devices.
Airsoft guns: My son has an arsenal of Airsoft guns that would fill our SWAT team's armory. The guns look so real that I get butterflies in my stomach when I see someone playing with one. The other day saw a guy chasing his kids down the street with a full-size black replica submachine gun in his hands. It was going to be a problem until I noticed the small fluorescent orange tip (indicating it was a "toy" gun) on his barrel. His lack of common sense was amazing. Find a safe place to play out of public view. My son and his friends play in out of the way vineyards and orchards owned by friends and relatives. Or in someone's backyard. There is also a neat place in Galt where Airsoft aficionados pay a fee to battle in a small shanty town. Awesome.
Lawn jobs: "Dude! This is so flippin' cool, burning out across English Oaks Park in the middle of the night. Yeaaaaaaah! Those tire tracks are three inches deep. This is crazy. Wooooo! Huh? What? Why are there flashing blue and red lights in my rearview mirror? Cops? I'm sorry, officer; I don't know how that mud and grass quite similar the turf in English Oaks Park ended up dripping from the fenders on my car. What's this? A ticket? And you're towing my car? That will cost me $500! And the city will be sending me a $3,000 bill to fix the lawn at English Oaks Park? Dude, we should have just stayed home and played 'Call of Duty 4' (sigh)."
I have now officially taken the fun out of summer. Carry on.
Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at firstname.lastname@example.org; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.