Chapter 7: Detected, Inspected and Rejected
After eating my lunch, I spent several hours out there reading, riding, relaxing, and recuperating. I was sunning barefoot in the fading light down by the river when I got on my bike and headed home through the North end of town. By that time it was getting dark, and I was once again near the bar where the attack happened last night.
You might think I’d avoid that place for a while, but Moab is a pretty quiet town. I don’t know what made that one guy go off on me, but I figured it wasn’t going to happen twice in the same week. I know it’s bad statistics to think that a rare random event can’t happen twice in a short span like that, and it wasn’t exactly random anyway, but human brains are like that. I’ve got a fair bit of math under my belt, and I still find myself being innumerate occasionally.
So, I’m cruising down the semi-residential neighborhood when I see red-and-blue lights flashing off the buildings around me. Then I heard a woop woop! siren, just a few brief bursts to get my attention. I glanced over my shoulder and saw a cop car close on my tail, apparently pulling me over! Who pulls over a bicyclist, especially in Moab‽ The regular excuses for a stop don’t work; no, officer, I wasn’t speeding, and no, officer, my left blinker isn’t out.
But hey, I’m on the public street, so yes, the cops do have a right to pull me over. Sigh. I pulled over into a parking lot, and the cop pulled in behind me.
They made me wait. Yeah, like they’re calling my license plate in for a check? Grrr…
Finally the cop exits his vehicle and walks up to me, still straddling my bike, feet on the ground, hands on the bars, clearly no threat to anyone. The guy shines his light in my face and says, “Good evening. May I see some ID, please?”
Being a bike rider, I didn’t have any actual obligation to carry my driving license, but I did anyway, and I’m not so cranky that I was willing to withhold it. I handed it over.
“Devindra Bhat,” he read, his pronunciation terrible. “And where are you coming from, Mr. Bhat?”
“I was up near the Arches entrance, relaxing down by the river. I live here. I’m a local.” Most bicyclists around here aren’t local, so I was hoping to gain a few camaraderie points here, ‘us’ against those annoying tourists.
“Yes, I see that from the address on your license, Mr. Bhat,” the officer said, unimpressed.
Well, so much for that gambit.
Having warmed me up, he then sprung his real question on me: “Were you around here last night?”
I certainly was, but I also purposely avoided interacting with the police then, too. I was involved in an assault, so one way to look at it is that I fled the scene of a crime. I was the victim, but they could throw obstruction of justice at me. “No, why do you ask?” I replied, as bland as unsalted butter.
“We took a gentleman in last night, all beat up. Said he was done by a naked black guy.”
You’ll recall that I’m a bit combative when confronted, so I somewhat unwisely retorted “Do I look black to you?” I’m dark-skinned, but I expect even the King of Crackers to be able to tell someone of African descent from an Indian. I laid my first-generation immigrant accent on a little extra heavy to give him a hint, in case it helped.
He thought about it a bit, then slowly said, “Noooo, but who knows what our customer last night thought? Maybe it was you he saw anyway.”
“You say this guy was naked, Officer…Poulsen,” I said, after glancing down at his name tag.
“That’s what our guy said, yes sir. ‘Nekkid as a jaybird’ is the way he put it.”
“Wow.” I raised my eyebrows in as convincing a mask of surprise as I could manage. “Well, as you can see, I do prefer to ride around clothed. As for fighting, do I look like I’ve been fighting? Here are my knuckles…no torn skin, no bruising,” I replied, holding my hands out flat for inspection, palms down.
The cop didn’t even look down, just kept a solid lock on my eyes; he wasn’t about to be deflected. “About the same time, some guy got knocked off a bike that looked a lot like this one. He looked dark-skinned, too, just like you. I was on duty last night and saw the whole thing,” the cop said.
Thompson’s toenails! I’d have to be careful here. “Knocked off a bike, riding naked…wouldn’t you expect to find a bad case of road rash, then?” I held out my arms. “No scrapes, no scuffs. If it was me, how’d I get away without a scratch?”
“Oh, I didn’t say he was naked while riding the bike, just that a naked guy attacked someone last night.”
Now I plastered my confused face on, adding a soupçon of concern. “Wait, if this was the same guy, he was clothed while riding, but then naked when he attacked the other guy?”
He just looked at me up and down, real slowly, probably thinking about whether he could justify a strip search to check me all over, but then he just gave up on it. “Now that you put it that way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, Mr. Bhat?”
Apparently I am not attractive enough to justify a strip search. I think I might be insulted now. “That set of facts certainly has got me confused. I don’t know if this dark-skinned man was the assailant or the victim.”
“In most fights, Mr. Bhat, it’s a bit of both,” the officer said. Switching gears, he said, “Mr. Bhat, can I have a look in that bag thing there behind your seat?”
I knew I could refuse, but while I didn’t see any good reason to do so, my combative nature when confronted rose up again. “May I ask why?”
The officer said, “I want to see if you have any clothing in there matching that of the rider from last night.”
“Oh. Well, okay.” I twisted around halfway and unzipped the bag for him, then lifted the top up for him to see in. It was about half filled, having a small folding tool set, a spare tube, a tube repair kit, tire levers, a rain shell, rain pants, and a compact hand pump.
He poked around in there a bit, then said, “I don’t see any bike shorts in here.”
“I do sometimes wear them, yes, but when I’m wearing them, it’s usually so I can put these heavy and long cargo pants away in this bag. I didn’t do that tonight, so I don’t have my riding shorts with me. They’re black with an orange stripe,” I offered, knowing my shorts from last night were red with a black stripe.
“Why aren’t you wearing your bike shorts tonight, Mr. Bhat?”
I didn’t have to act exasperated; it came naturally. “Because I went to work dressed this way, at a customer site, because I didn’t want to arrive in bike wear! I didn’t need bike shorts today.”
The officer took some time to consider this, then took some notes on his pad. “Well, Mr. Bhat, I’m going to let you go.” He handed me back my license. “You be safe out there, okay?”
“I surely will, and you as well. Good night, officer.”
I got back home, went up to my bedroom, got my spare orange-on-black bike shorts out of the drawer, and carried them down to the heated bike garage and put them in the bike’s trunk bag. I’d have to get rid of the black-on-red set; it wouldn’t do to be seen in them around town any more. The chamois was getting a little chipped up anyway. It’s kind of a shame to have washed them only to toss them, but oh well.
Between the early start, the time spent out near Arches, and then being grilled by the officer, it was getting to be about bedtime. I nuked a burrito and wolfed it down, then climbed back up the stairs, stripped off, and slid under my bed’s thin covers. It was still seventy-two outside and maybe ten degrees warmer inside from the greenhouse effect acting on my large bedroom windows. It’d get down to about forty-five overnight tonight. In about a month, I’d be putting the window reflectors up again, followed a few weeks later by the window fans. By mid-summer, I’d do away with the top sheet. And then there are about two weeks in August here where overnight temps are over comfortable sleeping temps even with all of those measures, so I’d have to turn on the ceiling fan as well.
There’s one benefit of being a home nudist: in most parts of the US, we can get away without air conditioning in the warm months. And why not? Isn’t that the condition under which humans evolved?