You Are Being Watched

Don’t assume the cops don’t know things about you just because you are quiet and peaceable.

About 19 years ago, around half-past dusk, in an average town in a nearby state, I was riding in the passenger seat while my wife-at-the-time drove. Pulling a particularly blatant act of poor driving in the middle of town, she made a left turn and cut off an approaching coproach. She seemed completely oblivious when I mentioned this error. Unsurprisingly, the gangster in question made a turn, followed, and stopped her.

As he did the “your papers, please” shakedown on her, he bent over to get a better look at her passenger– me. He shined his flashlight in my face for a moment and uttered words that still echo in my mind to this day. He said “You’re that guy with all the guns.

I am not certain now if he actually added something to the effect of “we better keep an eye on you” or if my memory has added that in the years since. I feel it was implied, if not stated. I never said a word during the encounter.

I seriously doubt I had more guns than the average person in the area. I did usually open-carry around town, and I dressed “uniquely”, yet I had never been involved in any “incident” of any kind. I was quiet and reserved, and never really made waves. I did know people who were more outspoken, though. I didn’t yet spend my time writing anything more than the rare letter to the editor (2 or 3 over the years) and didn’t even have an email address, much less a computer. I hadn’t bought any guns since I had moved to town (as far as anyone in government knew, anyway). I was still months away from being surrounded by the police due to a lack of communication at the elementary school. Yet, he recognized me as “that guy with all the guns“.

Was he joking? Did he mistake me for someone else, as unlikely as that was? Did he know something about me that I still don’t know how he knew? Either way, it was a moment of paranoia made real for me.

How would this event have turned out in today’s “shoot first, ask questions if he survives” police state? Regardless of the intent behind the comment, it was just another brick in the wall that made me the delightful anarchist you see before you today.

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Kent McManigal

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