If you are a lifelong Mantecan then undoubtedly you’ve developed a little Manteca Entitlement along the way, whether it’s riding the slides at Oakwood for free because you knew the right people … or that you can turn left onto Yosemite when leaving MHS if you really, really need Taco Bell … or the expectation that your coffee will be on the house at Johnny’s (Ed’s Patio for you pre-East Union Baby Boomers). These entitlements are part of the wonderful nuance of being raised in a small town, but when you begin to rely on these entitlements and not see them as a gift extended to those that have earned their Manteca Lifetime Member Cards you can find yourself in a little hot water.
A lesson in poor judgement and humility...
It was a few months back. I found myself in front of the familiar flashing blue and red lights of Manteca’s Finest. It was early morning and I was headed to town with my dog Charlie to get dog food and a copy of this newspaper, and I may have been exceeding the posted speed on Spreckels Avenue. Guilty. This would seem an innocuous enough infraction, except for one terrible fact – I have a suspended license!
(My license is suspended as the ramification of the embarrassingly regrettable decision to drive after drinking a few years ago.)
“License and registration please,” the officer asked kindly.
I was disappointed that I didn’t recognize him and, more to the point, that he didn’t recognize me. (Entitlement 101). I had my “Aww shucks, I was heading into town to feed my dog” country boy speech prepared to lay on a familiar face, but his was not. I did, however, take a peek at his badge and notice a Portuguese last name. Well, this will be quick and painless. I’ll get the standard: “The laws and regs of this town apply to you as well, Manteca to a T. Now get your dog food and license and have a nice day”
This is not what happened.
We should probably back track a bit. I’ve made several attempts to regain my license and am currently enrolled in the required classes, but I have a terrible habit of never seeing them through to completion. One thing or another always gets in the way – work, a comedy show, a SF Giants game. Mostly, though, it’s my ill begotten sense of entitlement. For one, I’m usually driving a desolate country and in a tractor no less. Certainly the laws and regulations of this great state are willing to turn a blind eye, correct? Incorrect. There is definitely a “country” mentality happening here. The thought that outside the city limits is the old west and we have our own laws. Couple that with my Manteca Entitlement and you have an idiot in a Jeep that believed being pulled over while driving illegally was just a formality.
“Step out of the vehicle please.”
I came clean immediately as to my license situation. He asked if I could remove Charlie from the vehicle for a quick search. I had no contraband and said, “Be my guest.” It was at this time I took a look down at myself. Old blue pajama pants, ratty T-shirt, flip-flops and morning bed hair. I was painting the type of picture that screamed, “Search my vehicle.” A few more of Manteca’s Finest pulled up shortly after and, to my pleasure, one was a friend from high school. Finally, I’d be ushered out of this situation. “Looking good, Teicheira,” he chuckled. He knelt down to pet my dog as I explained my predicament. Then another officer I knew walked up, “Teicheira, did you bring up your column to the officer that pulled you over?”
Oops, did I leave this part out of the story? Yep, I had pulled that maneuver. The “Don’t you know who I am?” as I scuttled to make an initial connection with the officer. As you can see, he was quite impressed.
We stood there for a few minutes and the original officer walked up, “Do you have some type of tether for your dog? And I notice he is without license as well.” (I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek dig as a comic).
“I’m having your vehicle towed.”
I looked to my officer friend, who returned a “You’re on your own” glance my way. He let me know it would be negligent on his part to allow me to drive off, citing that his car computer showed that this may not be the first time I’d been pulled over sans license. Damn you, entitlement!
I had no tether for Charlie.
“Well, he can’t be untethered on the streets of Manteca and he is unlicensed.”
Things have now become serious. You can take a man’s Jeep, but his dog?! I argued that I never planned on having Charlie “on the streets” of Manteca, and now I noticed the Animal Control vehicle pull up. Country instinct kicked in at this point. I walked over to the Jeep, and yanked the extension cord that was connected to the shop-vac I had and proceeded to tie it around Charlie’s neck. “Does this work?”
Before the officer could say anything, the gentleman from Animal Control laughed and said, “Works for me.”
I signed my ticket and began my walk.
Let the humility begin...
I begin my walk from the Target parking lot and am headed to my mom’s down Cottage. Yosemite Avenue looms in front of me like the Rio Grande at the Mexican border. How will I get through this intersection without being seen? Because at this point I’m looking like a 21st Century Huck Finn, complete with dog and extension cord.
The area behind the Chevron near the Cottage and Yosemite intersection is always a hotbed of activity. One of the campers approached me on my walk of shame, “Hey, you got a smoke, bro?” No, I don’t smoke, sir. Before I could turn and continue, he added “Where you staying at these days?” Is this someone I know? An old-school mate down on his luck? “At a house out by the dairy,” I responded. “That’s a long walk, bro; each night, bro”.
Humility 101. I didn’t know him. He thought I was also homeless. I reached in my pocket and offered him a few bucks, “Here get yourself some smokes.” He refused and apparently took offense to another homeless person looking down on him.
I continued on and decided to avoid the Yosemite intersection border crossing and instead “swim Yosemite” near the Jack-in-the-Box. But the traffic current was much too heavy. Not to mention the fact I’m dragging poor Charlie at this point. He has never worn a leash – as if any self-respecting country dog should ever. I tucked tail and made for the crosswalk. “Please don’t let anybody at the Chevron recognize me,” I thought. That Chevron is like the Tijuana of this border crossing. It teems with activity in the morning. I had my best unassuming slink walk in motion when it happened. “Teicheira?!” a voice from the Tijuana gas pumps rang out.
Humility 101. It was an old friend, Patrick Scott Hall. I hadn’t seen P.S. Hall in nearly 15 years and here I was looking my best on the streets of Manteca. I walked over as he quizzically added, “Dude, what are you doing?” My answer was honest, “Regretting every decision I’ve made since high school!”
We both laughed and he gave me a ride out to the tractor. “I love your column” was the last thing he said as Charlie and I climbed into the cab.
Just last week I went before the judge; a judge who three years ago informed me, “Mr. Teicheira, the laws and regs of this town apply to you as well as everyone. Don’t let me see you in here again without a valid license.” I approached the bench this time – no excuses, no elaborate “but I’m a country boy” charm, just ready to take my rightful punishment. He doled out a week of picking up trash; a sentence that it appears will play out at Manteca Park Golf Course a few weeks from now.
Humility 101. The prospect of running into an old coach or teacher reading this column on the 3rd tee – as I walk up in an orange vest – is more than enough incentive to finally finish off my classes and become a part of society. As I turned to walk away from the judge, he took one last jab: “This is your last chance, kid. By the way, I enjoy your column.”
Quote of the Week...
“I tell you what, kiddo, you write a great column and grow one hell of a head of hair, but after that it gets pretty sketchy for you doesn’t it?” – Ray Mendes, while standing stall to stall in the MRPS bathroom
MYSA dinner time...
Mark your calendars: Saturday, April 25 at the MRPS Hall, beginning at 6 p.m. All-you-can eats ribs, plus salad, roll, potato, and wine for $30 in advance or $35 at the door. The evening will also include raffle items, silent auction, no-host bar and dancing until midnight. This helps support Manteca’s only youth softball league. For tickets, contact Erin Candini Luke at 209.456.0925.
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do.”