shhh

Shhhhh! It’s Stolen.

“Wayne Williams has escaped! Wayne Williams has escaped!”

When I was a teenager, I gleefully yelled this out of a car while riding through downtown Atlanta. I was having such a great time yelling it that I wasn’t bothered at all that no one was reacting to my modern-day, white-trash version of Paul Revere. Maybe everyone had already forgotten about Wayne Williams, a serial killer who had terrorized Atlanta 10 years earlier. Either way, this is what happens when you take a kid from a small town in Middle Georgia, and unleash him on the big city. Brilliance. Pure brilliance.

I’d love to say this was the only instance of me acting like a dipshit while traveling through the city, but I can’t. There was a much worse incident, and it was all caught on video. A video I had to watch while sitting in a roomful of detectives and police officers. A video of myself, driving through Atlanta once again, this time while singing along to the NWA song “Fuck The Police.” Not just the chorus. No, I’m talking about the full five minutes and forty-six seconds.

If you’re the type of person who cringes when you hear a recording of your voice, imagine how it feels to watch yourself on video, rapping lyrics like:

Ice Cube will swarm
On any motherfucker in a blue uniform
Just cuz I’m from the CPT
Punk police are afraid of me

I was sitting in the roomful of “punk police,” because two of them had picked me up from school earlier that day on suspicion of possessing a stolen video camera. Before I was taken to the station, however, they started by asking a few questions in the principal’s office and I immediately knew that I was in for a long day.

“Tony, do you own a video camera?” asked the short detective who had a thick, non-ironic moustache that made him look like a miniature version of Magnum P.I.

“No. I’ve always wanted one, but they’re pretty expensive.”

“So, you don’t have one?”

After all the mafia movies and cop shows I had watched, you would think I would have recognized what was going on and called for a lawyer.  I did not.

“No. Not yet. Hopefully one day.”

“Well, we were just at your house. Your grandmother let us in, we have your camera and we want to know where you got it. We believe it was stolen.”

After all the episodes of Matlock my grandmother had watched, you would think she would have known to ask for a warrant before letting the police into our home. She did not.

After some more of this type of back-and-forth questioning, Mini Magnum put some handcuffs on me and I was taken to the station for the real fun. That video of me singing “Fuck the Police”? That was just the beginning.

I used to have a lot of parties at my house when I was in High School, and for some reason I thought it was a great idea to capture them on video. I guess I never thought that one day I would be sitting in a room full of detectives, reliving night after night of underage drinking. But, there I was, sitting front row for “Tony’s Most Embarrassing Home Movies.”

After my rousing rendition of “Fuck the Police” it was time to watch the first party video.

“Who’s that guy right there?” asked Mini Magnum.

“I don’t know his name.”

Video version of me: “Hey Mike! Are you fuuuuuucked up, or what?”

The video stopped and the questions resumed.

“So, tell us again where you got the camera.”

“Some guy.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you think it’s stolen?”

“No.”

Mini Magnum hit play again.

“Man, this is a great camera. Where did you get it?” asked the videographer of one of my finest moments.

Then, the video version of me moved in closer and filled the entire frame with my chubby, drunk face, put my finger to my lips and whispered, “Shhhhh! It’s stolen.”

“What did you just say?” Mini Magnum asked.

Silence.

Try as I might, I couldn’t sink far enough into my chair to exit the room.

Rewind.

“Shhhhh! It’s stolen.”

“I thought you said you didn’t think the camera was stolen?”

“It’s not.”

“Shhhhh! It’s stolen.”

“So, you don’t think the camera is stolen?”

“Nope.”

The only thing that kept me from crying like a baby and confessing all my sins was that the person who sold me the camera had, though methods I can’t legally speak of, made sure that it didn’t officially exist. Despite all my fears and embarrassment, I was confident that they couldn’t prove anything and, for the first time since getting myself mixed up with Mini Magnum, I was correct.

A few weeks later, I returned to the police station to pick up my video camera and this visit was a lot different than the first. This time I wasn’t embarrassed or scared, since I wasn’t in handcuffs and I didn’t have to watch videos of myself acting the fool. Instead, I acted the fool by wearing a smug grin on my face as Mini Magnum handed over my video camera.

“I’m going to eventually prove it was stolen,” he said. “You’ll be back here soon.”

Thankfully, he was wrong on both counts and I never returned. Instead, much like Ice Cube, who traded his A.K. 47 for starring roles in family-friendly movies, I eventually grew up. No longer am I a menace to society who yells things out of his car and possesses stolen goods. Hell, I don’t even mind the police these days, although I still get tense whenever they are driving behind me. But, I still like to daydream of Mini Magnum, years later, drinking in a bar and talking about the one who got away, while I drive by in a car, leaning out the window yelling, “Tony Jenkins has escaped! Tony Jenkins has escaped!”

2 thoughts on “Shhhhh! It’s Stolen.”

  1. I, for one, am glad you turned away from a life of petty crime. But not before you did some stupid stuff. It really is fuel for good stories.

  2. Ahhhhhhhh … No matter how many times I hear this story, it makes me laugh. I look forward to the day Tony Jenkins escapes with purloined porn drumsticks.

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