I was raised in southwest Louisiana. My dad and uncles shrimped Calcasieu Lake in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They’d get off the shrimp boat and walk to St. Mary’s of the Lake to go to church on Sunday. My parents have lived in the area for over 20 years. I loved my way of life and how I raised. Even though it never seems to get easier, I feel like no matter how hard you get knocked down there’s someone there willing to pull you up.
I was leaving my parents’ house to head into town to pick up groceries. I drive past this young looking sheriff’s deputy on my way out. On my way back, I get stuck at the bridge because a barge is going through. There’s roughly 15 trucks in front of me and a handful of trucks behind me. After the barge goes through, the whole caravan of us head south.
We hit a stop sign in Old Settlement where everyone has to take a left turn. I stop just like everyone else stops and go about my business. Then I see a sheriff’s car pop out of nowhere to pull me over. I’m a bit sour, but I figured I can’t get in trouble in this town anyhow.
The young deputy strolls up to my window. I know this isn’t going to be good when I see that this kid has on a pair of Gucci wrap sunglasses that are black framed with gold corners. Maybe he got lost on his way to New Jersey and got stuck in south Louisiana. He asks me for my license, registration, and insurance. I hand it to him. He looks at my ID for a solid 30 seconds, and asks me where I’m headed.
This is step one in me blowing a fuse. This kid saw me leave my parents’ house. He sees my listed address (when I moved back I made my parents’ address my permanent address so I could get mail despite my moving about). Where in the blue hell does he think I’m going? He then asks me why I seem to be agitated. I tell him I’m expecting guests and I need to be cooking.
He goes back to his squad car. I’m annoyed, but not angry. He comes back.
“ARE YOU ASIAN OR ARE YOU WHITE?”
“I ASKED ARE YOU ASIAN OR ARE YOU WHITE?”
The moment I say Asian, he smirks. I don’t know how being Asian is pertinent to being pulled over for running a stop sign. He has my ID. He can see my picture. He can see my completely Asian non-English name. So this is step two in me blowing a fuse. I’m angry at this point. I call my parents and tell them they’re gonna have to bail me out of jail if I’m not home in 20 minutes. With my windows down, I’m getting eaten up by mosquitoes.
As I’m fuming, I feel a wet nose touch my elbow. I nearly jump out of my skin until I look to my left and there’s a white German Shepherd mix looking dog smiling at me. I start petting him and he nearly jumps into my window. The pup had no idea why I was parked in front of his house, but he thought I was friendly enough to come inspect and play with.
Gucci sunglasses comes back to my car and issues me my stop sign violation ticket. He tells me the court date, and I ask him if I can change the date because it’s the same week at the bar. He smirks and tells me you can show up or not show up. This could have been step three in me blowing a fuse, but the pup got the better of me and I just left.
A few days later, I decide to venture all the way out to the sheriff’s office. Mind you, the sheriff’s office is on the Gulf in the middle of nowhere. It takes over an hour and 20 minutes from Lake Charles to get there. As I venture out there, I notice signs up that the Chief Deputy is running for Sheriff.
When I finally get there, the girl at the front desk was confused why anyone would show up to the office, but sure enough the Chief was willing to see me. Burly guy about my height and about the same age as my dad. I explain to him exactly what happened like I have here.
He tells me two things really bother him about the stop. First, the deputy has no business being out on the island (where my parents live is only accessible by crossing bridges). Second, traffic stops don’t require demographic information and it was completely unnecessary for deputy Gucci to ask about it. Apparently, the young deputy just transferred from the marshal’s office and hadn’t been to the academy yet.
I tell the Chief I don’t often pull the race card, that I grew up in the area, I’m generally on the right side of the law, and that my parents don’t want that type of deputy in the neighborhood. I tell him I understand if I had gotten pulled over in some Asian gang area in Houston or in east New Orleans, but I’m a preppy Asian guy with my windows rolled down in the deep southwest Louisiana. I’m not exactly the prototypical criminal in the area. The Chief calls dispatch and tells them to have the deputy report to him as soon as the deputy clocks in for his evening shift. Chief tells me not to worry about my citation and that he’d talk to the DA in the morning.
Then the conversation turns. It turns out he graduated high school with my parents’ next door neighbor. He knows our house. His son also just graduated from law school and is struggling like I have been. We talk back and forth about the legal market in Louisiana and how tough it’s been. I talk about how I feel like I made a bad investment. We talk a bit about LSU and politics. He picks my brain about why i went to law school, why I left the state for law school, and why I have lost hope in politics in south Louisiana.
He explains to me things he has tried to do in Cameron, and that he wishes he had a real education so that he could have done more. He invokes God and tells me that I shouldn’t put my hope into people to begin with. People are imperfect but God will provide you the proper direction. He tells me that even though it might be a struggle for now that one day I’ll do well for the world. He then tells me how proud he is of me.
At this point, he’s like my dad. As I’m leaving the office, he tells me he’ll be by my parents’ house whenever they fix the bridge (one of them is down for repairs) because he still needs to campaign in the neighborhood.
Even though it was an inconvenient gas guzzling thorn in my side to deal with this stupid deputy, I ended up making a friend out of the Chief Deputy (and possibly the next Sheriff), got out of my ticket, and got some down home inspiration about my direction in life. So as much as I complain about southwest Louisiana, when push comes to shove… if you have a problem… and you’re willing to deal with it head on and be honest… most of the time people will show you quite a bit of courtesy back.