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Thursday evening and dusk is falling at M and Wisconsin. The bwoop, bwoop of a D.C. police cruiser interrupts my conversation with a friend. We pull over on 31st with the cruiser right behind and a motorcycle cop wedging his way in front…as if we might flee. The motorcycle cop is a skinny white guy who looks maybe 15 going on 16. A heavyset black cop lumbers up from behind. They look at each other in disgust, and the skinny guywe’ll call him Officer Friendlydemands, “What’s your excuse for not having your lights on?” I think it through for a second: It’s dusk, and Georgetown is lit up like a pinball machine, but I just say I don’t have one. He comes closer and asks, “What about not having a seatbelt on?,” now peering at the black woman seated next to me. “I have no excuse for that, either,” I respond. Officer Friendly asks for my license and registration, now on his tippy toes looking over my shoulder into the back seat: The tinted rear windows on the Explorer have engaged his interest. I feel like asking him what the hell he’s looking for, but with cops getting capped at the rate of one a month, he’s probably just making sure. He comes back once to ask for my address again and gets another leisurely peek into my back seat. We sit for 25 minutes, with the guy from the cruiser directing the snarl of traffic that has formed behind us. The skinny cop finally comes back and gives me a warning for the lights and a ticket for the seat belt violation. “Thanks for everything,” I say in parting. He shoots back a look that is all business and zero tolerance. David Carr
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