Sunday, May 25, 2014


I heard the helicopters overhead. Once again they were making slow circles in the air over my school. The good news was that most of our students had gone home for the day, but our afterschool program was still going on and those kids were looking up to the sky, trying to discern what the threat level was. If they had been listening, it would have been obvious.
Through a loudspeaker hovering above us, the police were telling a group of young men that the dirt bikes they were riding up and down the streets around our school were not legal. "Get off the bikes and park them," barked the voice from the sky. The nasal whine of the motorcycle engines continued as they raced up and back, seemingly oblivious to the commands they were being sent from on high.
That's when I thought: If I were sixteen, riding my dirt bike up and down the streets near my house, would I stop just because some guy was yelling at me from a helicopter? Even if it was a police helicopter? Why don't they come down and make me?
When I used to race my Kawasaki dirt bike up and down the streets in front of my house, they weren't streets. They were dirt roads, and my house was a mountain cabin. And if there was a helicopter in use by any law enforcement agency anywhere near my location, it was being used to spot forest fires, not to spot the periodic teenager on a motor bike. Now I wonder which times and situation are more enlightened.
My youthful rides were probably no less annoying to the people who lived in our vicinity. Probably even more disturbing, since I was providing a near constant barrage of engine noise in an otherwise pristine setting. Who is going to notice a couple of dirt bike engines above the din of your standard Oakland afternoon din? Above the roar of the helicopter's rotors? And that loudspeaker?
Eventually, the dirt bikes stopped, and the helicopter went away. I knew they would be back, but the voice from the sky had won that round. Thanks for keeping us safe and sound, but not necessarily safe from the sound.

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