- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

Driving down to the Signature Theater Sunday night, desperately seeking tickets to see the show “Assassins,” I was stunned to realize that even with my student discount, I was still going to have to pay $38 a ticket.

That’s great when you’ve actually GOT a paying job, but I work for free, so a $76 date night (not including dinner) seemed a bit more than my ailing wallet could take.

Thankfully, someone clued me in to one of those Washington secrets: volunteer to serve as an usher. You usher, you get a free ticket! Let me tell you, even a bad show is worth seeing for free, but a GREAT show — like “Assassins” — was definitely worth every single time I mentioned that “the show lasts two hours, there is no intermission, and reentry during the show is prohibited.”

We leave the theater elated at the show’s success, but then a little real-life Washington, D.C. drama brings us right down to earth.

Driving home, I notice an accident ahead: it’s completely dark out, but I can make out two police cars, a bus, and another car, blocking the lane. Seeing the other five cars in front of me go around the wreckage, I figure this is where the police are directing us, and follow suit.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The officer ahead waves, telling me to go back. “I guess the people on the other side have to go, I can understand that,” I think, and make my way back. The officer then puts his arms up, which I think means to go forward. I scoot forward, trying to see the officer’s grainy little hands to see what they’re doing. Then he runs at my window, veins a-bulging.

“I told you to STOP!” the officer shouts.

“I’m sorry,” I reply, “I couldn’t hear you.”

“ROLL DOWN YOUR WINDOW!” he screams, which I comply with immediately (the guy does have a gun). “Who said you could drive down here?”

“I’m sorry, I just saw everyone else going down here, I thought that’s where you were directing us,” I said.

“Do you just follow EVERYONE down the road?” he screams. “What are you, a lemming?

“I’m giving you a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the street!” he declares triumphantly, pointing to the line of four or five OTHER cars ahead of me he just pulled over for doing the same thing.

My girlfriend is in shock. I’m past the point of caring: It’s gotten to the point where this guy is just too stressed out of his mind to reason with, and that if I have to fight this thing in court, so be it.

Five minutes on the side of the road later, I hear an exasperated voice in the police loudspeaker: “You can just go.”

Why, thank you, I say to myself, I think I just might.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful I didn’t get a ticket — that officer’s bad day could have cost me a lot of money, both in paying the ticket and paying the insurance fees that would jump thereafter.

But, honestly, I didn’t need to get chewed out like that, either.

I realize that a police officer’s job is stressful — so are those of doctors, lawyers, teachers, actors, and, yes, even journalists.

It’s easy to tear into somebody when you’re having a rough day — but that doesn’t make it right. There are some people who just don’t need to be dealing with the public when they’re stressed.

David Pepose, of St. Louis, Mo., is a member of the Class of ‘08 at Brandeis University.

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