Do you know who I am?
Recently, there were news reports of a Chattanooga City Councilwoman who appeared to be using her position to influence a police officer during a traffic stop.
According to video of the encounter, the elected official, who was a front seat passenger in her car, could not provide proof of insurance or registration. In addition, the man who was driving had no license.
During the traffic stop, the Councilwoman insisted the officer contact the Chief of Police. The cop said no, so the Councilwoman said she would do it herself.
The encounter recalled several incidents in which well-known people responded to police inquiries with the “Do You Know Who I Am?” defense. That may have worked in the pre-social media days, or before officers started recording video with their body-cams. But nowadays, it usually ends up backfiring on the celebrity.
I don’t know how the Chattanooga video became public, but word probably spread that a politician was trying to throw some weight around. The news media took it from there. These days, if you misbehave at a public place, or in the presence of a cop, you’re probably being recorded. The Councilwoman may not have known it that night, but she does now.
Since my career in broadcasting has given me a little recognition, I guess I could say, “Do You Know Who I Am?” when trying to get seated at a fancy restaurant. But so far, that has not been an issue at my usual high-end dining options: Burger King, Hardee’s and Shoney’s.
There was one traffic stop, several years ago. I did not pull out my celebrity card. (Actually, I don’t have one. I do however, have a Blockbuster card. I don’t clean out my wallet very often).
I was twenty years old, and was the morning deejay on KZ-106, the powerful Chattanooga rock station. I had just gotten off work, and was starving. (When you’re twenty, hunger pains hit every fifteen minutes. You eat a huge burger, and never gain a pound. After you turn forty, you sniff an onion ring and go up two shirt sizes).
It just so happened that a new Wendy’s had opened that day in Red Bank, a mere five-minute drive from the radio station. I had looked forward to this, much as a child anticipates Santa’s arrival. I had never eaten a Wendy’s burger, so I considered it my duty to be among the first in line.
Evidently, I was a little too excited about that square burger. Shortly after I turned on to Signal Mountain Road, I saw the dreaded blue light flashing in my rear view mirror. I didn’t even try to pretend he was chasing someone else. I was as guilty as Opie when he was taking credit for making all A’s, even though Miss Crump had made a mistake. Unlike Opie however, I was not particularly cute, and I didn’t have any writers to create an ending in which the cop would give me a hug and play his guitar on the front porch.
“Do you know how fast you’re going?” the man in blue asked. “More than the speed limit, I know,” I said. As I handed him my driver’s license, he studied it for a moment. “David Carroll, David Carroll,” he repeated. “Where do I know that name from?”
“Well,” I replied, “I’m on the radio, you might have heard me…” He cut me off. “Wait a minute! You’re on KZ-106, right?” “Yes sir, that’s me.” He flashed a wide grin.
“I take my daughter to school every morning, and you’re all we listen to!” he exclaimed. As my head started to swell, he went on. “We think you’re funny, we like them jokes you tell, and how you make fun of the news.” I could already envision this speeding ticket being torn up and swept away by the wind.
“Hey listen,” he said. “Reckon you could play her a song in the morning?” To avoid a ticket, I would have played a duet by Tiny Tim and Yoko Ono. “Absolutely,” I said. Then he ripped a page out of his notepad, and asked for an autograph. “Michelle will love this,” he said. “She won’t believe I met you.”
I was just about to go on my merry way. “One more thing,” he said. I started to comb my hair, figuring he wanted to grab a camera to capture a memento of our friendship. He then handed me a citation, and still smiling broadly, he said, “You’ll need to come to Red Bank City Court on Monday at 2:30. Be sure to bring sixty-two dollars in cash. It was great to meet you!”
As promised, I played a song for his daughter the next day. Maybe you’ve heard it. “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won.”
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of the new book “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories, available at ChattanoogaRadioTV.com, or by sending $23 to David Carroll Book, 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405. You may contact David at [email protected]