Monday, April 30, 2012

Ultimate Trouble - Story #3

The Magic Hat

In December 2003 we were on a family vacation in the Florida Keys when I decided to mix a little business with pleasure by meeting with the aviation department of the Monroe County Sheriff’s department.  The aviation unit had just finished a new office building and hangar at Marathon airport, about halfway between Key Largo and Key West and operated an emergency medical Huey (UH-1) and a couple OH-58A’s.  All of their helicopters were surplus from the United States military.  My son Brad and I went in to meet with a couple of the pilots who were very proud of their mission with the unit.  They were gracious enough to give us a tour of their facility and talk with us about their future helicopter requirements.  I invited them both to lunch and they accepted.  About halfway through the meal one of the pilots went to his car and brought Brad and me each an official Monroe County Deputy Sheriff hat.
““Now I’m going to give you one of these hats, but be careful what you do with it.  Everyone wants these hats, because they’re made of this perforated material and are really cool in the summertime.  They also like them because they’re official police hats and they can use them to get discounts around the Keys.  Don’t tell anyone that you got them from me.”
            “Thank you,” I replied.
            “Yeah, thanks,” said my son Brad as he put it on his head and shaped the bill of the cap.
            It wasn’t long after I found the benefits of the Monroe County Sheriff’s hat.  It was like a magic hat.
            “I’d like to go scuba diving.  What do you have available?” I asked the cute young attendant at the Coral Dive Shop in Key Largo.
            “Yes sir, officer,” she replied.  “We have a boat going out at 8 A.M. in the morning that goes to a sunken barge and then by a reef that usually has quite a few nurse sharks.”
            “I’m not sure,” I said trying to sort through our schedule in my mind.
            “They’re really the best dives we do.  And, of course, you’ll receive a 40% discount because you are a deputy sheriff.”
            I quickly calculated the savings in my mind.  “Does that discount apply to my family?” I asked.
            “Sure does,” she answered with a smile.
            I multiplied the savings by 4.  “I’ll take it,” I said. afraid she might change her mind.
            From the scuba shop we went to dinner at a local restaurant.  It was a rustic place with a typical nautical theme.  Oars and ship wheels and ropes decorated the walls.  I wore the magic hat through the meal and received the surprise of my life when I asked for the bill.
            “It’s on us,” said the owner/cook sticking his head out from the kitchen door.  “We’re just happy that ya’ll stop in, you know, it makes us feel real safe.”
            Mary gave me a nudge, “You should tell them that you’re not a real police officer.”
           "I never told her I was one," I replied. 
           "It's that damn hat....take that hat off," she answered.
            The next day we enjoyed a great scuba dive.  I wore the hat on the boat, to and from the dive site, and the crew treated us like royalty.  I was getting used to the privileges that came with the magic hat. But all good things come to an end, and later in the day, I reached the limit of the magic powers of my Monroe County Sheriff’s hat.  Mary was looking for a bottle of her favorite wine which was not available in our home town.  I let her out in front of the wine store and waited in the fire lane.  To my surprise there was a light knock on my window.  I looked up to see a short and pudgy Monroe County Deputy sheriff.
            I rolled down the window.
            “License and registration,” he said in a stern authoritative voice.
            I reached in my pocket and gave him my license.  “This is a rental car,” I said.  “So I don’t have the registration.”
            He took the license and stood behind the car writing down the license plate number.  He went to his car and was on the microphone obviously running the plates through the DMV.  Soon he climbed out of his car, flipped open a ticket book and began writing a ticket.
            “What in the world?” I thought.  I then looked over and saw my magic hat lying on the back seat.  “No wonder,” I thought.  “I wasn’t wearing the hat.”  At the same time Mary came out of the liquor store.
            “What’s going on?” she asked.
            “He’s writing me a ticket.”
            “What for?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “You don’t know, what do you mean you don’t know?”
            “I didn’t do anything.”
            “I’ll take care of this,” said Mary.
            “No let me, I’ve got a better way.” 
            I put on the magic hat, opened my door and strutted towards him.
            “Is there a problem officer?” I asked lifting my chin and making sure that he saw the magic hat.
            “Yes, you’re parked in a fire lane.”
            “I wasn’t parked, I was waiting for my wife.”
            “I don’t care what you call it,” he answered.  “You’re not allowed to park or stand inside that line.”  He continued writing the ticket.
            “What is wrong?” I thought.  “The hat’s not working.  Sir, I continued shaking my head back and forth.  Certainly you can give me a break.”
            “And why would I do that?” he answered.  “I’m not through with you.  But I have to finish writing this ticket.  So please shut up and let me finish.”
            Slowly and methodically he finished the ticket, and then with a quick tug he snapped it out of his book and handed it to me.
            “Now let me ask you another question, are you an employee of Monroe County?”
            “No,” I answered.
            “Then you are under arrest for impersonating a police officer.  Put your hands behind your back.”
            Mary saw that I was having trouble and came charging around the car.
            “What’s going on here!” she demanded.
            “Mary, please don’t get into it with this guy,” I pleaded.
            “I’m arresting your husband for impersonating a Monroe County Deputy Sheriff,” he answered.
            “For what?  For wearing a hat?”
            “That’s an official Monroe County Sheriff’s hat,” he said.
            “And it was given to him by the Monroe County Sheriff’s department.  I want to know where it says he can’t wear that hat,” she continued, pushing closer to the officer’s face.
            “Article 19 section 2,” he answered.
            “Show it to me,” she shouted.
            The deputy backed up.
            “Oh my god,” I thought.  “He’s not going to pistol whip her, he’s going to pistol whip me.”  I surveyed his belt to see if he had a stun gun.
            He spun me around and looked directly in my eyes, “I would recommend that you get back in your car right now and take off that hat immediately,” he said.
            I breathed a sigh of relief.
            Mary wasn’t through with him, “Why did you give us a ticket?  I was on my way out of the store.  You saw me coming and you still gave me a ticket.”
            “Please God,” I thought.  “Tell her to get back into the car.”
            A red Buick slowed down and pulled close to our car.  The electric window rolled down revealing a snarling, middle aged woman.
            “Fight it,” she yelled.  “They’re always doing this to tourists, giving them tickets for no reason. You’ll win!”  She gave the officer an evil look and drove off.
            I was leaving the next day, so I couldn’t fight the ticket.  It ended up costing me $55 for this story, but considering the discounts I got wearing the hat, it was still a good deal.