This morning I dropped my baby off at daycare so I could go to my therapy appointment at 11. (Don't worry, just getting some help working through some normal new-mom transition stuff.) The last time I parked in that building it cost me something stupid like $12 for the 1.5 hours I was there, so I was determined this time to find a spot on the street.
Once I reached the neighborhood I saw an open spot on the other side of the street, but I figured I might be able to get something a little closer. Not being successful at that, I drove around the block and back to the open spot.
The people right in front of that spot were parked at a terrible angle with their head in and the tail of the SUV pointing out a bit into the middle of the road. As you know, this presents a challenge when you're trying to parallel park. The truck had a local food and hunger charity's bumper sticker on it and there was a guy streetside unloading some food into a milk crate. I pondered if this was the charity's location as I pulled forward and back, forward and back, trying to get my station wagon closer to the curb.
I thought to myself, this guy must think I'm an idiot. After all, when I see someone totally botching a parallel park job, I roll my eyes. No one in Seattle can park properly, as far as I'm concerned... and now I'm turning into one of them.
I figured I pretty much got a handle on it and was about to put the car in park when I heard "PUT YOUR HANDS UP! PUT YOUR HANDS UP! GET ON THE GROUND!"
Running towards the SUV on all side were about a dozen of Seattle's Finest, guns drawn. And when I say guns, I include extremely large weapons, not just handguns. About four black police undercover SUVs with their lights blinking pulled up to surround my car and his.
So of course... my hands are up! I know they aren't after me, but I'm still sitting there, with my foot on the brake and my hands in the air, the Top 40 station blaring away on my radio, watching cops and what I can now see are SWAT team members put this guy in cuffs. This guy who's probably in his early 20's and who I had assumed was doing food bank work.
Once the young guy is in custody, a couple of the cops approach the driver's side door of the SUV and take a woman out of there. Of course, with whatever garbage I had going on the radio going I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I could see she was upset. She cries, "what's going on? That's my grandson!" and then she briefly stumbles, as if losing consciousness from the shock of it all, into the arms of the police officer standing next to her. They take her over to the sidewalk and sit her down, and some investigator starts to question her.
"Do we have transport for him?" I hear from somewhere around me. The guns are put away at this point.
You should know that the entire time this is going on, I am debating whether to put the car in park. I keep thinking that it can't be safe to have a car with an automatic transmission in drive while a take-down is occurring and I'm surrounded by weaponry, but I know that I shouldn't put my hands down... because I'm surrounded by weaponry.
Finally some cop approaches my door and says, "it's OK, you can come out now" and one tries to open my door... which is locked, because of the auto-lock feature. I unlock it for him and just sit there in a daze as he opens the door. "Put the car in park," he instructs, and I do, and then he takes me and walks several steps back from my car, which is still running.
"Do you know this guy?" he asks. "Uh, no," I answer. "So you're just parking here randomly?" "Uh huh," I say, and then I laugh, because it's so ridiculous. Then he looks into my backseat and sees my carseat. "You don't have a baby in there, do you?!?" "No, are you kidding? I'd be crying if my baby were with me."
He told me I was OK to go. Of course, I had to go back to my car, turn it off, get my purse, and then go purchase parking and come back and stick it up on my car. I wondered if I should have moved my car but I didn't see the point.
I wasn't really scared by the whole thing so much as I was shocked. Seeing all the guns were pretty scary. I wonder now if any of them were trained on me, just in case I was an accomplice or something.
The other thing I realized as I headed back up the block to my appointment is that all of those police officers were sitting around waiting to do their sting, and they had to WAIT because I was spending several minutes trying to fix my terrible parking job. It's not clear to my why they came at the exact moment they did... I assume they didn't want me to get out of my car first... but I'm just imagining the chatter on the radio about this. "Uh oh, some lady is trying to park there... this is taking forever!"
Once in the waiting room of the therapist's office I happened upon a newspaper story of a homeless guy who just got four rounds in the chest and died when some cop saw him "standing on a corner with a knife." Apparently the guy was deaf in one ear and was well known enough in the neighborhood as a kind of harmless drunk. The knife he was holding was a three-inch whittling instrument. Of course the story is all very vague about how it could have happened, but at that point I really felt spooked.
Naturally I related all of this to my therapist. He was appropriately empathetic and then told me that there is a wet house in that neighborhood, meaning a shelter for addicts who aren't sober. He agrees with that concept but thinks that it attracts a bad element. I then went on to tell him that I hoped it wasn't just a drug crime they were taking this guy down for. Surely it doesn't take a SWAT team to take down a nonviolent criminal.
Then I started wondering what exactly this kid had done, the one out with his grandma unloading food. Though I'm sure it was something detestable, I couldn't help but feel bad for him, wondering how it had come to pass that he was a suspect being stalked by a dozen police officers, guns drawn, just waiting for him to make the wrong move.