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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Why road blocks to check ID are bad for chimps

It's a slow news day at Project Bow. Just a lazy, lazy weekend. Sword and Bow exchanging not so pleasant opinions about each other over breakfast, Bow chewing his cud after lunch. Me with a hubber score of 100 and about two dollars in earnings on Hubpages today. One of our hens took an exceptionally long time to lay an egg. Nothing much happening. But everybody on the web seems to be all concerned about the right of Arizona police to check for proof of citizenship or legal residency. And all I can think of is: how would this law impact chimpanzees?

Bow is a native American. He was born in Missouri. He is not a foreigner. But the one time we were stopped by a police officer at a roadblock where they were looking for illegal aliens, I got very scared. Luckily, everyone in the car behaved well, and the officer didn't ask me to step out, so we passed that test unscathed. But it could have resulted in pandemonium, if anything had gone even slightly wrong.

We were on our way back from New Hampshire, and we had just crossed over into another state. I think it might have been Vermont. In that part of the US, you can't go very far without crossing a state border. But this wasn't a border stop. It was something more random than that. They were stopping all the cars and talking to all the people.

I had no idea what the laws with regard to chimpanzees were in that state. The officer was bound to notice that Bow, strapped into his child safety seat in the back of the car just like Sword, was not an ordinary child. Between them, trying to keep the peace and provide entertainment on the long and tiring trip, was Samina, our summer intern. Samina was from India, but her name sounded Arabic. Were they looking for terrorists? Would they stereotype her?

We had not flown, because the airlines would have treated Bow like cargo. We had to drive. It was the only way. The police officer examined my driver's license. Then he asked Samina where she was from. He tried to ask something about her immigration status, and she didn't understand what he was asking her. I hastened to explain that she was on a six month tourist visa. He examined her documents and accepted this. "Is this your child?" he asked me, pointing at Sword. "Yes."

"And is that your chimpanzee?"


"Okay, then. Have a nice day."

We were lucky, I think, that everybody in the car behaved so well. Because if any one of my kids had chosen that moment to throw a tantrum or get out of line, that might have been dangerous. If I had been asked to step out of the car, or Bow had thought I was being hurt in any way, he wouldn't have just sat back and let it happen. We always kept far away from confusing encounters with strangers, but the one stranger you can't avoid is a police officer intent on questioning you.

When you have special circumstances, then you understand how scary being stopped needlessly by the police really can be.


  1. Wow! You made $2 on HubPages! Lucky!

  2. Suzanne, yeah! And some change,too. ;->

  3. Might be time to leave Arizona! Sounds like a potentially very scary scenario until the law is overturned, atleast. People can be so ignorant - and those are the scariest!

  4. I wonder what the police officer thought about Bow being in a safety seat. I think he was cool by only asking whether he was your chimp. However, I think Bow was even cooler.

  5. oh. By the way, I have revised my blog. Something boring though. :)

  6. Alexandra, are you in Arizona? Luckily for us, we are not. What scares me the most is that people with otherwise libertarian sentiments now seem to be supporting police state mentality. I think it's a knee jerk reaction to rampant "liberalism", with the idea that those who are not for us must perforce be "aggin' us".

  7. June, we were lucky that the police officer we encountered was sensible enough not to enquire any further. Clearly, none of us was terrorist, and that was good enough for him. So, yes, he was cool! And Bow is very much to be commended for sitting quietly in his seat when all that was going on.

    I'll go take a look at your blog! BTW, did you notice that my video bar featured a TV quiz show from Taiwan yesterday?

  8. A TV quiz show? I didn't notice. I haven't had my internet yet. I have been using the free signals, which is very unstable. Can I see that video again in your blog? Do the videos show up randomly or can you select and put them there in your video bar? Now you are the expert for me to consult questions like this. :)

  9. June, I don't have complete control over what the video bar shows, but I get to input some topics, like "ape language studies" and "Aya Katz". None of my topics explain why the quiz show from Taiwan showed up. It seems as if it might be influenced by my Hubpages widget about grammaticalization in Chinese!

  10. hum. That's interesting. Now I am curious how a Taiwanese quiz show video would show up in your page here. I am sure none of the quiz shows in Taiwan would talk about grammaticalization. XD

  11. What an interesting post. I used to live in New England and plan on spending my retirement years going between the Ozarks and New England, so I keep up on news there. I read on Facebook all the time about the border issues going on in Vermont. I remember back in the late 80s/early 90s, I'd cross that border like nothing. There was even a border crossing way up in Maine that had no formalities at all. Just the open field and an old decaying fence. Wonder if it's still like that. Glad to hear your story turned out well.