Did that spoon come with the car?


The actual twisted spoon in the ignition


Sometimes the funniest things come on while working the streets. It’s the unusual and weird stuff that make the job fun. You just never know what’s going to come up.

A few months ago, I backed up an officer on a car stop. I stood by while he contacted the driver and patted him down for weapons. He had stopped the driver for running red lights and racing another car.

After he patted the driver down, the officer walked around the beaten up 1992 BMW and looked inside. That’s when the officer asked,  “Why is there a spoon in the ignition?”

“I bought the car like that?”

First of all, who buys a car with a spoon stuck in the ignition? We thought it was stolen, but the driver told us he had all the paperwork for the vehicle.

The driver, who was unlicensed, told us his other BMW was impounded last week, so he bought another one. Apparently he only drives BMW cars.

“The car came with the spoon?” I asked.

“Yeah. I just leave it in there.”

“Do you start the car with the spoon?”

“No, I use the key.”

“Why do you have a spoon in the ignition?”

“It keeps the steering wheel from locking. They put in another ignition switch so I can start the car.”

I just stood there shaking my head like I normally do on calls. I also wondered if there was a fork and knife in the car in case he lost his spoon.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

The curb with countless stories


The curb that keeps taking it like a champ

If you work as a traffic cop long enough you’ll return to certain locations over and over for collisions. It’s just the way it is. Usually these spots are heavily traveled intersections where the volume of traffic means it’s only a matter of time before another collision occurs.

This is true most of the time, but there’s one L shaped intersection where I work that has much less traffic, but has seen plenty of single vehicle crashes. If only the curb could talk.

This was what I thought about while standing there the other night at another single vehicle traffic collision. The only thing different that night was the name of the driver and what part of the curb he hit first before colliding into a tree, a building, a pole or a sign.

Sometimes the drivers say they were going too fast. Other times they say a phantom car cut them off. Either way, they crashed into the same curb.

I looked at the curb and saw all of its battle scars from vehicles that were traveling way too fast over the years. Each chipped portion of curb told a story of a vehicle that tried to go up against it, but lost like the others before it. All suffered the same fate and were towed away after their wheels were reduced to twisted metal and flat tires.

This particular curb has withstood the test of time and everything that man has tried to do to it with a car. Maybe one day people will figure it out and slow down. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before I go back and have another story to tell about this spot.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever had a woman crash at this location. Good job ladies. Too bad the guys can’t figure this out.

The phantom car

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I love the excuses people try to come up with when they crash into parked cars. First of all, when it’s 2:15AM and you’re not DUI, then you shouldn’t be crashing into stuff. It’s pretty simple when the road is straight and you want to go from point A to point B. Just drive straight.

When there are parked cars on the side of the road they don’t move. They’re parked. They’re actually giant paper weights on wheels at that moment. In fact, the parked car is as harmless as a sock on the floor of my son’s room.

Tonight, this guy tried telling me the lane got narrow and that was how he crashed into three parked cars. I pointed to the street and asked him if the lane width at the collision scene was the same as it was 500 feet down the road. He looked and told me it was the same.

I told him his story didn’t make sense and it wasn’t working for me. I asked him to help me out so I could write a report that people could understand.

With a confused look he fell back on an old collision investigation favorite. He blamed the phantom car, which allegedly moved into his lane and caused him to crash.

The phantom car has been the cause of many collisions at night. You’d be amazed on what kind of damage the phantom car has caused over the course of my career. 

The phantom car is like the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot. It’s been seen, but its existence has never been proven. 

Of course, he couldn’t stop at the phantom car excuse. He had to throw in one more excuse to make the unbelievable more believable. He told me one of the parked cars was sticking out, yet he never saw it before the crash. 

I often wonder if people realize how silly they sound when they try to pull stuff out of their ass.

Until the next time the phantom car strikes. I’m sure we won’t have to wait long. 

My 6,000th crash


Two of my used steno pads

This past weekend I took crash number 6,000 of my traffic career. Some people might wonder how I know that. Well, it’s because I’ve written down every report number in steno pads since I started working in the traffic detail.

When I first started, my traffic training officer suggested I get a steno pad and keep track because it would come up when I had to testify. From that moment on I started writing each and every report number down. At the end of the month I’d count the number of collisions I took and then add it to the running total.

Over the years I’ve filled up steno pads as the number of collisions continued to rise like the stairways of the world’s tallest buildings. First there was 100 and then 200 as the crashes started to stack up.

I remember the night I hit 1,000. It was a pursuit crash, which turned into a mess after another department chased a car into our city. I thought 1,000 sounded pretty cool at the time.

The years continued to pass as the 2K and 3K milestones were hit. As I got closer to 4,000 I told some friends it was coming up. I’d go to calls and people would ask me what number I was on. Finally 4,000 came when a DUI driver crashed and rolled his vehicle.

The next milestone was 5,000 that occurred when a bicyclist got hit by a car in an injury collision. Not too long after that, the watch commander came up to me and said, “I heard about 5,000. I’m not sure if I should congratulate you or say I’m sorry.”

So, Friday night came and I only needed 3 more collisions before I hit 6,000. Who was it going to be? Which person was going to be unlucky 6,000? It came at 1:30AM when a red SUV crashed into a traffic signal pole. This particular vehicle had such major damage it would never see the road again.

What would be the best way to commemorate 6,000?

This past year my call sign was changed to 729 after I had been 784 for 15 years. I stood in the street and decided I would use my old call sign because that’s what I used at 1K, 2K, 3K, 4K and 5K. I figured why not.

So, I got on the radio and asked for a traffic collision report number for the 6,000th time as I said, “784, time and DR.”

The dispatcher replied by calling me “784” as she gave me the report number. I wrote it down with a smile because 784 was alive and well one more time at the scene of a car accident.


The busiest Thanksgiving night ever


I started in the traffic detail in 1999 and have worked almost every Thanksgiving night since. Thanksgiving always falls on my normal work day, but I don’t mind coming in because it’s always slow. It’s the one night where it seems like the city calms down and takes a break from the usual nonsense. I usually only take one collision report and that’s about it. Two collision reports would be a “busy” night on Thanksgiving night.

So, when my son asked to ride with me on Thanksgiving night, I told him he was going to be bored, but he still wanted to go.

We had dinner at my mom’s house and I went into work late. I spent the first hour of my shift catching up on paper work as he waited for the action to start. The radio was dead and there were no calls holding just like I expected. Things were going just like I predicted.

Little did I know an unforeseen force was about to unleash its fury on our city. We were like a small boat out in the ocean as a great storm was about to strike. That’s when the flood gates opened and the calls jumped off.

For the next six hours the city exploded with calls. Before I knew it, I had handled 3 DUI collisions and a regular crash where an unlicensed driver ran a red light.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the stabbing call where an apartment floor was full of blood and looked like a slaughter house. What kind of person stabs another on Thanksgiving night?

That was the busiest Thanksgiving night in my career. Good thing I’ll have Christmas off. Who knows what’s going to happen that night.

Happy Holidays. It’s scary out there.

What kind of dream was that?


I rarely have dreams about work. If I do, it has to do with going back to the academy for some reason, but that’s another story. The other night I had a dream with an accident investigation twist to it.

The dream started out with me driving down the street in my patrol car in the early evening. There was also a clown and a midget singing a Barry Manilow song in the backseat.

I’m kidding. My dreams aren’t that weird, but if yours are, you might want to seek out some help.

Back to the story. I was driving down the street when I saw a car going the same direction as it suddenly swerved to the right. The passenger side tires went up the curb as the car started driving down the sidewalk. The car swerved back to the left and ran a red light as it crashed into a car.

This is where the dream gets weird. OK, maybe more weird.

After the initial collision, one of the vehicles went toward the corner and crashed into the parking lot at a car dealership. It seemed like every car was hit as a shock wave went through the parking lot.

That’s when I wondered in the dream how I was going to measure all of the points of impact for the report. I also thought about how I was going to do the diagram with all of those crashed cars in the parking lot. If you work traffic, you know what a pain in the butt this would be. This probably became a stressful dream at this point.

Anyways. The suspect vehicle stopped and two guys started running northbound at the intersection. I got out of the patrol car and started chasing them. Somehow I caught one (it’s a dream) and then fought to get his hands behind his back. That’s when I woke up wondering what kind of dream I just had.

I told my son about my dream and he said, “Who dreams about stuff like that?” He then made me laugh even more when he said, “I guess 20 years will do that to you.”

Maybe in my next dream every driver will have a license, be sober and actually have insurance. Probably not, but one can hope.

Who gets the next Darwin Award?

darwinWikipedia defines the Darwin Awards as “individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evaluation by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.”

Today, I saw a guy trying to win his own Darwin Award. I was driving through my neighborhood when I saw a car parked with its right tires up on the sidewalk at the corner with its hood up. As I passed, I noticed a man lying underneath the car with his legs sticking out. There was a slight decline where the car was and there was nothing behind the tires to prevent it from rolling backwards.

I just shook my head and wondered what kind of dumb ass thought this was a good idea. I also wondered if the guy knew how often parked cars get struck by people who aren’t paying attention. I guess self-preservation wasn’t one of his priorities.

I’ve been to so many collisions I wouldn’t even tie my shoe in the street, let alone be on my back under a car in the street.

I cracked up when I saw this because I’m a little twisted. I bet he’s the type of guy who works on his electrical outlets without shutting off the power. He probably sticks a knife into the toaster while it’s still plugged in or looks into a gun barrel with his finger on the trigger.

After I picked up my son from school, I drove by the Darwin house again. My son saw the guy and started laughing as he said, “Oh my God.”

I stopped and took the picture because you can’t make this stuff up. At least the police officer would have a picture of what the scene looked like in case the car was hit and the guy was run over.

Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before I take a fatal collision like this. It’s unavoidable. There are too many people in the world performing their own natural selection.

It’s truly amazing what people do to get themselves hurt or killed. Maybe I should start carrying Jesus candles with me in my patrol car. That way they can at least have a memorial when it does happen.

If Charles Darwin were still alive and saw this picture I bet he’d say, “I told you so.”