BY J E SOLOMON
It happened only recently. I was using one of New Jersey’s roads during the typical after-4pm traffic. The two lane traffic was moving quite steadily except for interruptions by red lights. There were some vehicles ahead of me that I readily noticed – a New Jersey Transit service-providing vehicle, a truck and a minivan. I think there was a sedan (saloon car) also.
As we approached another traffic light, I saw some men in uniform, the ones we pay to protect us. Two of them were in the middle of the road and a third was on the side. One of the men on the road had something in one hand that looked like a booklet or a pack of the infamous documents they give out to reckless road users. He waved the stop sign and directed road users in the front to pull over to the side. I saw the truck and the minivan pull over easily while the NJ Transit bus could not because of inadequate space. All movement north and south had come to a halt.
There wasn’t any road crisis ahead and I wondered what the hell was going on. The guy without the booklet directed me to pass the bus and pull over. Then he walked up to me and asked for one of the three cards they usually demand (the one that enables you to get compensation for injuries after a road mishap). It all looked like a special operation so I asked the gentleman in uniform if it was a special operation. “Yes,” he answered. I gave him the i-card, and with a smile. He looked at it, gave it back to me and demanded the other two (the r-card and the photo one) which I readily provided. I saw the NJ Transit bus move on.
With the cards now in his hands, the gentleman began to tell me a funny story. To explain it metaphorically, he accused me of failing to surrender to some foot soldiers inside the two white lines.
Shocked and puzzled, I couldn’t help but to scream, “Oh my God! What? You mean I failed to …..? Oh my God! You just admitted it’s a special operation. And now you’re telling me another story? Oh God! You want to give me a t…..t?” I asked in a voice that was far from calmness. I don’t know how many times I mentioned the Father’s name, but this nice-looking guy quickly began to soften up. He took the two cards to a temporary desk apparently set up for the operation and returned to collect more cards from the other road users.
He finally came back and gave me the cards. Again, I asked if I was going to receive a t….t. “No, just a warning,” he replied. What? Give me a warning for committing no offense? I didn’t get it. And I still don’t get it. In fact, if road usage were to be a game, with rules as in soccer, this would be considered an inappropriate showing of the yellow card to a player who was all by himself and nowhere near the action spot.
I have great respect for this group of uniformed personnel, and for the great risk they expose themselves to in order to deal with the undesirables in our society. It’s okay if they have to embark on special operations either to check who has all the necessary cards and who doesn’t have any or which road user’s face resembles a wanted terrorist or rapist. In fact, they have the legal right to do that.
Just to let them know, their counterparts in some countries on the west coast of Africa actually do this kind of operation regularly, but they do it in a poverty-minded fashion. Over there, the photo-card is like a small passbook into which service-providing road users would routinely fold legal tender documents before they hand it over to the men in uniform. The operations are not about searches for wanted criminals or a hunt for road users without the required documents. Everyone knows why they’re usually on the roads. On hearing my story, a reliable source told me that in Russia, too, men in uniform, those paid to protect the citizens, do exactly the same thing their West African counterparts do.
The New Jersey guys are not known to do that kind of thing here. I mean they don’t use poverty-infested smartness to collect legal tender documents from service-providing road users. So if they have to conduct special operations then they have to let it be seen to be so. It shouldn’t be a pretense to do something funny. We hold them in high esteem and we’re proud of their efforts at trying to keep us all safe.