Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Short Profiling Cringe

There has been a barrage of news reports, newspaper and magazine articles, political stump speeches, protests, and infuriated ACLU attorneys sparring in the last decade over profiling. Racial. Religious. I am certain there are thousands of blogs out there that discuss, at length and ad nauseam, all sides of the issue. I can see both sides. America should not become a police state, a country that assumes you are suspicious and subjects you to harassment because of the way you look or the way you worship.

But, I must come clean. When I am standing barefoot on airport security lines for visits to Nana in Florida, trying to control boys who are playing limbo under the queue ropes, watching and collecting our stuff as it gets x-rayed, and lugging carseats on and off the belt, I do wish they would pay more attention to passengers named Faisal Shahzad. I want an officer to say, “Ma’am, come here, you can skip this line. Jump on this beeping cart. We will strap your kids in and feed them candy until the plane departs. Then we will dose them with Benadryl. We have made a determination based on stereotyping that you are no threat.”

I feel that I am at some liberty to write this because I was a victim of profiling in 1988. I, five-foot-one, Tracy Lynn Wetherill, spent time in the back of a police car due to profiling. I was short-profiled.

I inherited my Pop Pop’s powder blue Oldsmobile Delta 88 in high school. It was a powerful beast, comfortable for the senior population it was marketed to. Soft, wide seats covered in blue velour. Lots of compartments for maps, Kleenex boxes, rolls of toll quarters, and guidebooks for my grandparents’ meandering road trips through New England. Peppy power windows, seats, brakes, and steering. It was also afflicted with a problematic “crank sensor” (which I still don’t know what that is) that later caused the car to randomly shut down at highway speeds. I became adept at coasting on shoulders.

Two state troopers pulled me over on a dark spring night because they did not see a head driving the Delta 88 on Route 100 in Somers, New York. The seat was electrically shimmied to the closest position, but my short frame still required a slouch to command the V8 engine. The police lights whirled. I was scared as I looked in my rearview mirror. I wasn’t speeding. I wasn’t drinking. I was just driving along. Profiled. Short-profiled.

There was the problem that I had a junior provisional license, and shouldn’t have been driving past nine o’clock. That’s how I ended up in the back of a police car with two huge, burly, hat-wearing state troopers. They made me abandon the Olds and drove me (in silence) up Cherry Street to my yellow house on Valley Road. I asked them if I was going to be arrested, and I saw the driver pass an amused look to his partner.

“Do you think you are going to get arrested?” the driving trooper asked.
“I hope not.” I answered with dramatically enhanced innocence. I ended up with just a warning.

There certainly was a measure of cringe as I slipped in the back of the police car. Fortunately, this is my only experience in a police vehicle. The serious cringe came when my mother answered the door at 195 Valley Road and found me standing between two troopers.

“Was she speeding?!!!” she yelled, my mother as accuser.

She claims, now twenty-two years later, that she did not yell this. But I remember the cringe like it was yesterday.


  1. Very funny Tracey...I have been in the back of a paddy wagon once too....a story I will have to tell you one day.