This is one of those stories that if you didn't hear if from the person it happened to, you wouldn't believe it. All names changed to protect the innocent.
One of my friends at work, Joe Habib was going home at around 2 am from a night out with his friends; he was about three blocks away from his apartment when the NYPD pulled him over. It turns out he had a broken taillight and they left him off with a warning.
If you didn't guess by now, Joe is of Middle Eastern descent. Guess what happened next. As he was driving away from the first police stope, the same officers pulled him over, again.
There was no explanation. A barrage of questions started. Joe is a nice fellow and polite, yet he was bewildered what was happening.
The cops said that they had to take him to the local precinct. Joe said that he only lived three blocks away and he had to arrange for the care of his dog. The cops drove him and his car to the apartment, where he called his ex-girlfriend to come and take the dog. He couldn't offer her any explanation, only that she needed to do it.
Joe his cooling his heels at the precinct, when all of a sudden the situation got very serious. The FBI shows up, puts him in handcuffs and whisks him away to the federal courthouse in Westchester County. Now, Joe is getting worried and demands to call his lawyer once they arrive.
It's now 4 am and his lawyer friend John is wide-awake after hearing what is happening. He tells Joe that he's going to call his friend Henry, who specializes in this sort of thing. The FBI has been asking Joe questions about terror groups to which he belongs, murders he may know of and riots that he may have incited.
Joe is in put in the lock up with several surly looking individuals. One is a convicted kidnapper, another a convicted murderer and the last one is in for domestic violence. Joe is wondering if he's going to end up as someone's "girlfriend" before the night is over.
Joe has no clue what the FBI agents are talking about, but by this time Henry calls and talks to the FBI. He’s threatening them with everything he has. He tells Joe to call the US Marshall Service, which issues warrants and looks for wanted felons
Joe gets a very nice woman on the phone. She says t there is nothing in his federal file about anything the FBI is questioning him about. She asks if she can call him back. He explains that he's in a lock up and he'll wait while she does whatever it is she needs to do. She ends up faxing some document to the courthouse and the FBI lets Joe go without a word.
He's emboldened at this point and asks how he's going to get home? They tell him he's on his own. He calls Henry again, who again threatens the FBI with whatever he can. They arrange for the local police department to take him back to the local NYPD precinct.
Joe has taken many names and badge numbers by now. When he gets back to the precinct, he needs help getting his car back from the impound yard where it was towed. I asked him why they didn’t just leave it by his house.
The desk sergeant makes a phone call, hands him his card and release form. He tells Joe that if he has any trouble getting his car, have the impound yard call him. He also arranges to have Joe taken to get his car.
Joe arrives at the yard, where there are about 40 people in line ahead of him. After the night he's had, Joe is in no mood to wait anymore. He walks right up to the front of the line, tells the fellow he wants his car, now. The fellow starts to argue and Joe tells him to call the sergeant immediately or he can be part of the lawsuit he's going to file next week.
Joe gets his car within five minutes. He gets home and falls into bed. When I see him that day, he starts the conversation with, "I bet my day was worse than was yours." Yes Joe, it certainly was. Now, go get your taillight fixed before the NYPD pull you over, again.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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