“An Arresting Story”. By Henry Regehr
At two o’clock in the morning my wife announced that it was time to hurry to the maternity ward of St. Joseph’s hospital in Vancouver. Everything had been prepared, the overnight case was packed, the doctor had been called, the ’54 Bel Air Chev was gassed up and we were on our way. The quiet streets allowed us to make the trip with efficiency and we arrived in good time. My wife was gently led to the ward. At that time fathers were not allowed into the birthing rooms, and it was made clear that my presence would not be required for the next while. I wandered out, a bit lost, useless, and anxious, and headed for the car. What was there to do? The doctor would not be calling for several hours to announce the birth of our firstborn. At loose ends, I drove around foggy, dark Vancouver streets feeling quite helpless. Speeding, for no reason, up Cambie Street, I passed two police officers standing beside their patrol car. We made eye contact, I slowed to the legal limit and drove on, distractedly turned into a residential area as I imagined what distress my wife might be experiencing at that moment. Suddenly, I was brought back to the present by a flashing red light. The police officers from the Cambie Street sighting approached my car from both sides and the thorough questioning began. They heard my story of bringing my wife to the hospital with obvious disbelief.
“Get out of the car”, was said quietly but firmly. “Put your hands on the car, take a step back and spread your legs”. It was an awkward position, and my anxiety went into overdrive when I was frisked. This was my worst nightmare.
The click of handcuffs is the sound of freedom being lost. It was a feeling of helplessness quadrupled. No car passed us, so I was comforted that no one I knew would recognize me. But how would I explain this to my community, to my friends, to my wife when she found I was in jail instead of St. Joseph’s? We walked to the trunk of my car. They were looking for any incriminating evidence, it seemed, but found no break–and–enter tools, no contraband, no liquor.
The view from the back seat of the police car is very restricted and I was utterly helpless. After an exceptionally long wait, the sniffer dog arrived and, from what I could see, meticulously moved around my car. Several cars passed and I hid my head, but anyone could recognize my two–tone, blue and white car with the white stripe across the back fender. I was imagining the story in the Vancouver Sun the next day with wild terror.
Finally, the nightmare came to an end. The police officer said, “You can be on your way” and added an altogether too cheerful “Goodnight”. And the flashing lights, the police car and my terror dissolved as I drove home to await the doctor’s call.
It came next day, at noon, and I rushed back to the hospital to hold our precious daughter and visit my loving wife.