Another lunch hour. Parked in the Register lot, facing Soscol, I’m reading news on my iPad mini while eating my sandwich. Occasionally I take breaks to watch the traffic go by.
A nicely dressed young man strolls in front of my car. Out of the blue, he begins screaming. The word are loud and angry, but from inside my enclosed vehicle I can’t discern a single syllable. The dull roar of traffic gobbles them up.
This verbal explosion is unnerving bordering on intimidating. Can he see me staring at him? Are my car doors are locked?
They aren’t. I’m flustered. Can I lock them with the ignition off?
The guy keeps walking. No longer shouting, he begins to strip off his shirt. It’s chilly outside. I figure he’s burning up.
He cuts a diagonal path across Vallejo Street and disappears from view.
Where is this fellow going? Is he chronically distressed? What happens when he gets to his destination?
I go back to my reading and begin eating my yogurt-banana combo with a plastic spoon. I congratulate myself for eating healthy. Bananas, the perfect winter fruit, I think.
I snap to attention. Everyone knows that sound. It’s the first notes of a police siren.
Directly in front of me, maybe 20 feet away, a car has parked next to a fire hydrant. Behind it, a Napa police office is getting off his motorcycle.
A pullover. I have a front row seat to an actual police pullover!
Something is going down. Although my lunch hour is running out, I vow not to leave until this incident plays itself out.
The helmeted officer cautiously approaches the sedan from the passenger side. The driver, a bearded, middle-aged, white guy, lowers the window electronically.
I can’t hear a word. I can only read body language.
With his right hand resting next to his holstered firearm, the officer leans toward the open window. Soon the man behind the wheel is digging around for what I presume is his driver’s license.
When he bends over the passenger seat and half drops from my view, the officer moves his hand to the grip of his firearm.
I tense. My brain flashes on all the news-making traffic stops across the U.S. that ended tragically. Dead motorists, dead officers.
Please don’t let this go badly. I don’t want bullets flying.
I note that I am parked directly in the driver’s field of vision, but behind the officer. Stay alert, I tell myself. Be ready to duck.
I slowly take my cellphone out of its case and lay it on my lap. That’s what onlookers in these situations are supposed to do, right? Prepare to make a video.
Only I’ve taken off my glasses. It would be impossible for me to put them back on, then press the video button while also ducking. As a documentarian, I am worthless, I think.
The driver hands over a crumpled paper. The officer takes it and walks back to his motorcycle. He begins talking into a mouthpiece in his helmet.
He’s checking databases? Stolen car? Driver with warrants?
Minutes pass. The man in the car sits motionless behind the wheel. He appears resigned. Whatever document the officer most wanted, I don’t think he had it.
I note that the officer apparently hasn’t called for backup. I take this as a good sign. I am no longer on full alert.
More minutes pass. The pullover has become tedious.
Finally the officer returns with an electronic device and passes it into the car. The driver makes what I interpret to be an electronic signature.
I’m impressed. So this is how tickets are written these days.
And that’s it. Pullover over.
The driver wastes no time heading out into traffic. The motorcycle officer roars off in the same direction.
I put my plastic spoon and my cellphone away.