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Jim Walker: Voyeurism and the high-speed chase

Don’t Take Me Seriously

Posted: June 29, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 29, 2012 1:30 a.m.

My friends, nothing stops office production like television coverage of a high speed police chase— as presented from the news helicopter following the fugitive’s car. People gather around the TV set in fascination because, even though such chases don’t always end in horrific crashes, this is the closest thing we voyeurs can find to “watching a train wreck” in progress.

And though, of course, no one wants anyone to get hurt … we are all very disappointed if the guy gives up quietly.

I mean, he has driven 50 miles on the freeway, at 120 mph, weaving erratically and hanging on the edge of doom — and then he pulls over and meekly lies down in the street?

Why bother running in the first place?

Now, I understand that when a police spike strip flattens a guy’s tires, he realizes his run is pretty much over. But at least he could have the decency to ride those sparking rims until they burst into flames.

We viewers deserve some reward for the valuable time we’ve wasted staring at the TV.

Similarly, when fugitives’ cars run out of gas, the real pros jump out of their cars while they are still rolling, leap awkwardly over fences or railings, and then limp into the bushes, where police dogs drag them down by their butts.

Watching this kind of broad comedy adds chuckles to many thousands of otherwise dull lives.

It should be clear that these fools don’t have well-thought-out expectations for coming events when they decide to run. Instead, they most likely start with panic, followed by a series of insights into their own stupidity – with their resultant actions dependent on the level of chemicals in their blood and their prior criminal records.

Meanwhile, we voyeurs have our own reactions to a fugitive’s choices. Let’s take a look at both of these.

Event: Police lights appear in the mirror.
Potential fugitive: He hopes they are after someone else.
We viewers: We aren’t there, yet. (But we have been and have hoped the same thing.)

Event: The police are clearly after our potential fugitive and not someone else.
Potential fugitive: He has had a few beers, is driving on a suspended license and is late for preschool pickup —so running seems to be an attractive option, and he puts the pedal to the metal.
We viewers: Well, we get there when the news chopper does, but let’s say that begins here. Someone in the office hears about the high speed chase and turns the television on. The rest of us are drawn to the action on the screen like zombies to fresh flesh.
“Wow, that guy is flying!”
“He’s going to kill someone!”
“What is he driving — a minivan?!”

Event: There are slower drivers blocking all freeway lanes.
Fugitive: Is running on alcohol and adrenaline and thinks he’s invincible (and has a better car). He weaves between the other cars and then decides to drive on the freeway shoulder to roar past them.
We viewers: “Where does he think he’s going?”
“He’s never going to get away.”
“Aw, come on. Someone box him in. Don’t let him get by.”

Event: The freeway shoulder narrows and there is nowhere to go, as all lanes of traffic slow.
Fugitive: He can’t stop now. He’s almost to his daughter’s preschool. He takes the off-ramp far too fast, clipping cars as he slides onto the surface street.
We viewers: “He’s going to kill someone!”
“Watch out people! Get out of the way!”
“Oh boy, here comes a big truck! Hope it crushes him.”

Event: The fugitive runs a red light and the semi clips him, knocking off a wheel and spinning him onto the sidewalk. No one is hurt, but the minivan is out of commission.
Fugitive: He figures he can leave his car, registered in his name, right where it is, and no one will be the wiser. He slides out among other pedestrians, only recognizable because of his bright purple Laker’s jersey, baggy yellow shorts and knee-high white socks — and slides on down the block, intending to pick up his daughter on time so the wife will be happy. He figures he’ll deal with the rest later. 
We viewers: Enjoy watching him hide in a dumpster when he hears sirens approaching – and enjoy even more watching him standing in the dumpster with his hands behind his head, surrounded by policemen with drawn guns.
“What a moron!”

Then, we realize watching this farce has made us all late for our commutes — and we race out of the parking lot, maybe to start the process all over again.

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