JULY 14, 2006

Not too long ago I got a hankering for a hot dog from my favorite hot dog stand, a place that's been around for ages and has a well-deserved reputation for serving some of the best dogs in town. So earlier this week, Randy and I decided to cruise down to the Wharf to pay this little place a visit and enjoy something I like to call "dirty food" -- it's not the kind of food you can eat every day, but every now and then it's OK to give your system a little shock.

Unfortunately, this particular joint isn't exactly a well-kept secret, so the crowds can get a little heavy. When Randy and I arrived, we took our place at the end of a long line of tourists and regulars and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible (not so easy given the fact that we were the only two guys in the entire area wearing suits.)

As we slowly made our way towards the order window the smell of the hot dogs filled the air and we were getting more and more impatient. But the growl in our stomachs was suddenly overshadowed by the sound of the sleek little foreign sports car that pulled up right in front of us.

The driver, a young guy with flashy designer clothes and an attitude like he owned the place, got out of the car and casually walked to the front of the line. He acted as if he was reading the menu, but my finely-honed police sense told me that this knucklehead was about to cut in line.

I warned Randy, and he eyed that punk like a Doberman eyes a plate of fresh meat. And what do you know, pretty soon the guy is worming his way onto the line, right in front of a group of kids busy talking.

Now I don't like getting involved in minor issues on the street, whether I'm on or off duty. But don't come between me and my meat; when I'm hungry, cutting in line is a Stottlemeyer felony.

So, putting civic duty before self, Randy and I abandoned our place in line to confront the guy just as he was rattling off his order. I informed him that we had witnessed him cut in line, and that he would have to return to the end and wait just like everyone else. He gave me the wiseass comments I've come to expect from punks like him -- "are you the line police, the hot dog cops, oh I get it the wiener patrol?" -- that kind of thing.

That really got Randy, who looked ready to move in for the kill, but I kept my cool. I ordered the smart-mouthed teenager out of the line. He still refused. Then Willie, one of the establishment's long time employees, overhead us and refused to serve the guy, calling the next group of customers to the window.

Once to the side and out of range of the waiting customers, Mr. Motormouth continued with his rant, hurling insults at us and threatening a lawsuit for violating his rights in the hot dog line. My mind began racing for a Penal Code, Vehicle Code, SFPD Municipal Code -- any code or violation I could possibly get this brat for.

Then I glanced over at his car, and it hit me. I turned to Randy and in my best 'cop talk' rattled off a series of alphanumeric police codes. It took several tries before Randy got it, but when he finally did, he whipped out his cell phone and made the call.

At this point the line violator had realized we were cops and decided to explore a new world of insults and threats, this time relating to our abuse of power, how he pays our salary, and how he'd have our badges for this. He was so busy hurling idle threats, he didn't even notice at first when the tow truck pulled up. But it sure got the knucklehead's attention when the truck driver started to tow his fancy car.

After that, Randy and I stood back and watched with joy. The dumb kid had been eager to show off his fancy ride and thought he was too good for the rules of the line. Well, he wasn't too good for the rules of the road: he'd parked in a red zone, and now he was getting towed.

When he realized that, our formerly smart-mouthed friend began BEGGING the driver to release his car, explaining that it belonged to his father and that dear old dad would kill him he found out he'd not only taken the car but had it towed!

Unfortunately for our hot-dog-loving friend, the tow truck driver had probably heard it all before, and was unmoved. When the truck pulled away trailing dad's car, the kid sat down on the curb and started crying. And I admit it, I might have laughed a little.

So next time you feel like you're too good to wait in line or that laws apply to everyone else, remember this: sometimes it pays to play by the rules. Oh, and remember this too: never come between a man and his chili cheese dog.

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