At 4:45am on a recent weekday morning, I was all alone walking down a dark side street in the village of Southampton where I live. The only creatures stirring were myself and a flock of deer breakfasting on a homeowner’s expensive plantings.
I was on my way to the Southampton High School where I was going to work for the Board of Elections as a poll inspector. I had to be there by 5am to join the other poll workers to open the polls.
Since I live about a quarter of a mile from the school it’s a simple walk.
That’s where I was going and why I was out before the sun came up. I live in a rural area where few people walk. Being a city dweller most of my life walking is second nature to me. The thought of driving a few blocks to get somewhere has always struck me as strange and lazy. So I walk almost everywhere as long as my legs and feet can take the distance and conditions.
As I neared the school a glow on the road came up behind me. I then heard the sound of a car engine. Wondering who else would be out at this hour, I turned around quickly to be sure I was seen and wouldn’t get clipped if the driver didn’t notice me walking, even though I was on the sidewalk. A car pulled up alongside me and stopped. I also stopped. I looked over and saw that it was a Southampton Village police cruiser. I immediately thought I was going to be rousted because I was the only person around…it was dark and I was wearing dark clothes…and I was walking in an area where no one walks!
I stood there waiting to get grilled when the car window descended and the officer stuck his head out the window. I was expecting a flashlight to be beamed in my eyes but the officer simply said, “Are you heading to the voting place?”
Surprised I replied, “Yes, I have to be there by 5am.” At that point the policeman did something I never expected. He said to me, “Want a lift?”
I said, “Sure” and instead of jumping into the front seat I climbed into the back. The officer seemed surprised but said nothing. The ride to the school only took a minute so we didn’t have any other conversation other than my thanking him when we arrived.
But when we did arrive my fellow poll workers were waiting outside the school for the security guard to open the door. As the police car pulled up and I climbed out they looked at me and said, “What happened? What did you do?”
I said I was exercising my right as a citizen and taxpayer to get a tax-free ride from a public employee.
On a side-note, there is zero legroom in the back of a police squad car.