It sucks when the days get shorter and I still have to finish work at 5 PM. When I have until 9 before it gets dark, I have time to rest a bit, eat, and go hiking. It’s healthy for me.
Daylight savings time is almost upon us, and I finished work early today because all the normal people at the office were doing Halloween stuff. After being upset about things on the internet for a while, I decided to seize the day and go to my usual hiking spot.
Not that long ago, when the air quality in the Bay Area was really bad, I also finished work a bit early and went to my second-most-frequented hiking spot, which runs next to a creek in the woods. There are enough plants that the air was cleaner there. On that day, I went to my tai chi rock in the creek and did tai chi there. Super chill!
The spot isn’t obviously part of any particular park. There’s just an unmarked trailhead next to the road.
When I was returning, I saw flashing cop car lights and had to talk to a park ranger about what I was doing. He accepted the explanation and sent me away with a warning, but it seemed to bother him that I give off a complete lack of giving a fuck what the sign says. It’s just like…alright, you caught me going out of my way to find a quiet place where nobody goes. I’m the only person out there, so the only person it’s bothering went out of their way to be bothered. That’s their problem.
I’ve been skateboarding since childhood, and I actually have a lot of experence getting kicked out of places by cops and being calm and reasonable and getting sent off with a warning. I’ve come to a gentleman’s agreement with a cop about not getting cited if he doesn’t see me skating the curb, but I’ve never gotten ticketed.
The point is that I know damned well the law doesn’t mean anything, and cops are just going to use their power how they see fit, with a lot of discretion and no accountability. The law is just a means, which they’ve been dispensing with because it’s inconvenient.
On this night, I got to the top of the mountain as the sun was going down, did my form, and started walking back. I really like that spot at that time, because there’s an unobstructed view in most directions and you can see all the lighs in Silicon Valley. It’s a sign of the apocalypse and also pretty. It was nice to do tai chi while listening to crickets instead of the freeway.
I quite enjoyed walking back in the dark. How often do I look up at the stars? How often do I walk over uneven terrain like that by feel instead of by sight, with a focus on how walking feels after the tai chi? A thing for me right now is paying attention to my knees. The sustained walking is meditative. Overall I’m doing better with tai chi instead of zazen, but I’m missing a certain stillness. A 45 minute walk in each direction is a nice meditation, and the trail is pretty steep in places.
It’s like a ritual cleansing to get the week off me.
Park Ranger wasn’t feelin’ it. Unbeknownst to me, he’d already ticketed my car for being parked right under the “no parking after dusk” sign. That means he must have looked at my bumper stickers, which read:
- Every hamburger begins with an animal begging for its life.
- Cure ignorance, not autism.
- If at first you don’t succeed, perseverate.
Clearly I’m some kind of communist or worse.
Again, I didn’t know about the parking ticket when the park ranger ran into me. He was walking down the trail with a flashlight and immediately asked for my license and asked me to walk with him back to his truck, which was a short walk up the trail. I asked what we’d be doing when we got to his truck, and he said he’d be writing me a citation for being in the park after dark.
The first thing he did was to ask where I was going, and to confirm which car was mine. In other words, this dude was on a mission to teach me a lesson. He was just a park ranger, so he wasn’t a real cop who would’ve beat me up for giving him attitude. I correctly judged that I could make ticketing me an unpleasant experience for him without him starting to hit me.
I explained that I finish work at 5, then go to such-and-such place to do tai chi there, because it’s nice and quiet. I actually happened to be wearing my “eye contact is overrated” autism t-shirt, but it was covered with logo-less black hoodie. Autism didn’t figure into the situation except being the reason I needed a quiet place to stim out and process the day.
During the week it’s impossible sometimes. Landscapers come with ultra-loud equipment starting early on Thursday mornings. It’s…a bad sound, and it goes on for hours. I wear gun range ear muffs indoors, just like they’re wearing outdoors a few feet away from me on the other side of the window. The exhaust fumes penetrate the apartment.
This recent Thursday, I didn’t have a morning work call so I left for a walk right as the leaf blowers started up. I wanted to maximize my time away from them. Planned destination: the park 10 minutes away. Suburbia is a sensory hellscape disguised as somewhere nice. Cars the whole way. Idling trucks and their fumes. Seriously half a dozen different individual houses had their leaf blower people around at the same time on a recent morning, in that span of a few blocks. On this day, there were multiple concrete trucks on the corners of the park, modifying the sidewalks to be wheelchair-accessible. OMFG not today I just want to do tai chi in the park before I have to work with leafblower noise.
The park itself is adjacent to the freeway, with just a wall separating it. It’s loud, but the sound is relatively more peaceful than landscapers. There’s a footbridge to the neighborhood on the other side, which involves crossing the freeway without the luxury of a sound-attenuating wall. Noise and exhaust to the max.
I know of a church that’s another 10-15 minutes deep into the neighborhood. There’s a parking lot there, and I can do my tai chi form and walk back. Starting to push it in terms of starting work late.
On the way there were birds, at least. Upon my arrival, two Asian ladies were doing qi gong exercises in the parking lot! Fuck! I walked past to hit my vape pen a few times, then turned around, determined to quietly do my thing on the other parking lot. I started walking over there, and then noticed that they’d brought a small stereo playing traditional music. Abort mission. This is not the time to, like, sit with it. I actually just need some chill time before the planned overload starts, and that effort is turning into overload.
At times there’s literally nowhere quiet within a 30-minute walk of my apartment, and those 30 minutes unpredictably involve getting bombarded with exhaust fumes and someone’s extra-loud engine that they modified for man points. The refrigerator in my apartment is old and crappy, so it turns on for 15 minutes at a time, with a 60 decibel buzzing noise. The upstairs neighbor just moved out, but over the bedroom there’d be noise from the TV.
So much stress before the work day even starts, in an attempt to escape stress. At least I got exercise, if I’m going to have to breathe poison and have my brain jammed with noise.
I like going out for walks at night, because it’s dim. It helps when the world is dim and quiet, with the logical endpoint being a float tank.
This is the importance of taking evening walks in that spot. I’ve been going there at least 5 years, so I know I’m likely to be the only one out there, and I know how to get back.
Actually, that’s not true. There are locals who come in the evenings, who live in extremely expensive houses, except they come on foot. It’s not so unusual for me to encounter some people coming uphill on my way back down. I imagine they’re going to the bench at the top of the nearest hill, which is a spot they officially let people go at night on July 4th.
Knowing this, and knowing I just got a warning for the exact same thing just recently, I knew that ticketing me was an act of discretion. I asked how often he tickets people out there, and I knew he was lying when he said it happened frequently. My plates have one of those dealership things from another part of the state, so I’m clearly an Outsider, visually confirmed upon seeing nigger in a hoodie.
I’ve seen those park ranger trucks parked up on a hill where they could see me clear across the park walking home all the time.
White people hate it when you make comments about how the woods are now free of black people in hoodies so everybody can feel safe. “You’re entitled to your opinion.”
I let him know that it’s absurd for me to get a ticket for tai chi in the woods after a quarter century of cops being chill about skateboarding.
“This isn’t about race. You’re parked right under the sign and the park is closed.” Everybody knows that if I had my girlfriend and her dog with me, he’d send us on our way with an admonition not to do that again, after checking to see we had dog shit bags with us. I know because that’s what the female park ranger did when that happened to me in the same spot (only other time I’ve interacted with rangers there). That was less obviously way after dark, though.
It’s inconceivable that he’s out there every night writing citations for people who have their own fucking vineyards walking their dogs or going for an evening jog. That’s fucking stupid and doesn’t happen. They paid millions of dollars to have that guy kick people out of the neighborhood so they could do that in peace.
I asked what he was keeping the park safe from, and he obviously couldn’t justify it: keeping me safe from myself and “people coming out at night starting fires.” I was carrying nothing but a water bottle.
I said that, actually, irresponsible corporations start forest fires. “You’re entitled to your opinion.” It’s not my opinion; it’s a fact. Don’t you watch the news?
That’s right I’m talking down to you, motherfucker. Took him a second to get us back on track to where he’s in charge and I’m bad.
It’s like what Arendt said about Eichmann: you’ll never get a satisfying answer from these people. Their problem also involves a basic philosophical confusion about the nature of rules. To Mr. Park Ranger, it means something serious that “the sign says.” To me, it’s absurd on its face that the city of wherever has an interest in preventing my solitary relaxation walks that pose no hazard to anyone.
“The rule” doesn’t exist in the same sense that my car exists. The law is made up in the same way that race is made up.
The problem with walking in the woods at night is that middle Americans are afraid of it like they’re afraid of everything else in the universe. If people could walk through the woods, just like that, without consulting the white men, that would be anarchy! The woods belong to the rich people, the state, somebody who’ll keep the niggers out.
Now, Park Ranger will surely whine to his coworkers about another black person who “tries to make everything about race.” Entitled niggers, amirite? I clearly broke the rules. My court summons thing clearly says that official sunset was 6:14 PM, and I was out there at 7:45 PM. Essentially, someone that gets off work at 5 PM isn’t allowed to go for a relaxation hike after work in a Bay Area suburb.
Democratic or not, there’s simply no moral authority for something like that. It’s simply nobody’s business, and it’s behavior that’s been normal since the dawn of humans and before. And we hadn’t killed most of the wild animals for most of that time. There’s something profoundly wrong with anyone who has a vindictive grudge for what I did, which is to make a white guy uncomfortable by reminding him that there are vegans and people who don’t believe in curing autism or obeying signs that tell them not to park on the side of the road.
Every morning at 8:15, there’s a cop blowing a whistle I can hear from two blocks away, every time somebody crosses the street on the way to school. She “has to” blow the whistle, again because of “the rules.”
It’s so fucking stupid that, for social purposes, I suffer from a neurological disorder that makes me rigidly follow rules like an inconsiderate asshole. In reality, it’s projection like everything else is with normal people. I’ve actually put a lot of effort into working on my cognitive flexibility. Park Ranger doesn’t know that more than one cognitive set exists.
I’m somehow threatening society and need to be fined, with threat of jail for nonpayment. I can afford the ticket without giving a fuck. It’s annoying that this man has the power to make me appear somewhere and pay a few hundred dollars because he doesn’t like my kind. My car doesn’t like like that’s the case, and I don’t dress like that’s the case. It’s doubtful he realizes I’m one of The Tech People and get paid more than him to keep his data safe on the internet.
What he’s trying to do is impose as much financial hardship on me as possible, and possibly fuck with my job because of having to tell my boss I have a court date. In reality, I can just ask for PTO when I get the notice in the mail, without giving a reason. He’s trying to break my budget and put me behind on bills, preferably court bills, so that real cops with the power to treat me a lot harsher for giving them attitude will get involved. He’s trying to suck me into a black hole of debt and legal problems, but doesn’t know that I’ve worked very hard for many years to make people have to try harder than that to fuck with me.
I’ve spent a lot of time at skateparks. For legal reasons, there are always signs about helmets and such, but it’s never, ever enforced. Spending an extra 90 minutes at the park (before 8 PM on a Friday!) isn’t typically punished, either. Everybody knows that there aren’t routine patrols or anything. It’s like speed limit signs and traffic lights with unsafely-shortened yellows.
It’s important that the police always have a pretext for fucking with whoever they’re going to fuck with. It’s a game. The point of adding so many rules is to make the game unfair, so it’s actually impossible to live life without breaking the rules, so that, there you go, you’re a rulebreaker and they caught you.
If a petty law like that is being enforced, it means that either the city needs revenue or somebody doesn’t like you.
At this late stage, it’s prima facie ridiculous that there’s rule of law, and everybody knows this. It’s just not plausible that that guy doesn’t make exceptions for anybody. Someone who’s that much of a dick would want to be a security guard, cop, or soldier. Not a park ranger.
At least I was in the best possible state when this happened, so that I could cheerfully sign my ticket and walk off with “Have a horrible day!”
I got back to my car and sat for a few minutes reading the tickets, then turned around and drove home. He’d driven all the way to the bottom of the hill to make really sure I left, because you gotta keep an eye on ’em.
One day I could easily die of a situation like this and that’s just something I have to accept is possible, like somebody rear-ending me to death or grievous injury.
On an empty path at the top of a hill by myself, I can’t get away without someone demanding my papers. That’s the point. The normal people are going to make the city a sensory nightmare and you’re not allowed to leave. Anything that helps, they’ll interfere with. Drugs, health insurance, solitude, whatever.
The woods are not for people whose schedule ties them down until 5. The woods are for the owners, where they tell their secretary when they’re leaving the office that day.
The worst thing about the park is the fact that it’s adjacent to some rich people’s stables, so they have groups of kids riding horses around the trails, covering the trails in horse shit that attracts flies. The only real danger of walking back at night is the rich people’s horse shit.
The horse shit isn’t against the rules, even though each horse walk leaves shit on the trail that’ll just sit there until it decomposes completely. Every single person that uses the trail has to avoid horse shit, which is fine because rich little girls like ponies.
I’ve been way at the top of the trail, 45 minutes in, and been driven crazy by music from a party reverberating through the hills.
Actually antisocial things that ruin the park for everyone are tolerated. Disobeying the parking sign when nobody’s around, and it’s not possible to be blocking someone where I parked, isn’t tolerated. The rule is arbitrary, but rulebreaking has to be punished. It’s deeply threatening that someone would feel free.
One of the most annoying things about racism is that it’s fundamentally chickenshit. The park ranger hates my guts and wants to harm me to the fullest extent of the rules. He doesn’t know the implications of the ticket and the civil infraction for me.
I really just went to the woods and got hunted down by a malicious white man over my bumper stickers. Except that he’s too cowardly to just fucking say so. He has to do it using paperwork and talking to me like I’m a child he’s protecting from myself. He hides behind the fact that I was indisputably breaking the rules to obscure how much of his own free will went into fucking with me.
If I’d brought up race and I was wrong, and he really was just more autistic than me and blindly enforced rules, he would’ve sounded proud of that instead of uncomfortable with the topic. It’s like…alright, you’re going to write me a ticket AND give me a bullshit court date AND tell me with a straight face that you’re the Grinch? Yeah, right.
He has the state behind him and I don’t, and we both know this, but it’s clear that I have contempt for him as a human and wish to hurt his feelings. Telling me it’s impersonal and for my own good when it’s not is profoundly unmanly. It’s just the two of us on a hiking trail. He’s got radio backup, but in that moment it’s just the two of us and I’m not playing along with how the situation is supposed to make his dick feel bigger.
He has the choice to try and beat me up, teach me a lesson, and write a false report about it. He doesn’t have the balls, even though he’s trying to hurt me just as much with bureaucracy. He doesn’t have the balls to admit to himself that he’s a petty, malicious prick. The denials aren’t there to convince me. I know the score. They’re to convince him that he’s a Good Person even though I just pointed out that he’s shitting on my Friday night for no reason, because I wanted peace and quiet.
They always win. No exceptions.