We did a lot of kid stuff, TPing trees, littering front yards with White Castle burger boxes, breaking raw eggs on someone’s car. One night we saran-wrapped a friend’s Toyota with industrial-sized clingy plastic as he watched through the grocery store’s sliding glass doors, locked in on the overnight shift and unable to stop us. A cop pulled up midway through the job to see what we were doing. I was young once. Make it quick and get out of here, he said, driving off. We were white kids in the white part of town, and we were just having fun.
It was in that same white and affluent neighborhood that my friend Nick and I planned another prank. We thought it would be funny to scare a couple of friends while they were hanging out with some girls. We drove over to their house and crept up to the living room window with ski masks pulled down over our faces and realistic-looking water guns in our hands.
We started out stealthily enough, certain they would notice us sneaking up and reward us with shrieks and shouts. But they didn’t see us so we tapped our guns against the windowpane, waved our arms about, and eventually jumped up and down. Despite our efforts, none of them noticed us. Bored, we got back into the car and drove on.
We vaguely registered that there were suddenly a lot of cops around, but didn’t think much of it.
A few blocks later we came across a pizza delivery guy. I pulled up next to him as Nick rolled his window down, resting his elbow on the door and raising the gun. We paused for effect and then pulled away.
We continued our disinterested tour for a while, eventually leaving the gated community for The Stretch—a ten-block tract of music venues and boutique shops where everyone went to see and be seen.
Three stoplights in, we were pulled over. Apparently, even though our friends hadn’t noticed us, the neighbors had. An APB had gone out an hour earlier for two armed men in ski masks.
My white baby face, letterman jacket, and compliant response to the police deescalated the situation quickly. At a certain point, I could tell one cop was almost laughing at the comical scene. Now, if we had been two African American teens, we would have been at least booked, probably jailed, and maybe even shot.
Instead, Nick and I got back in the car and drove home.