A few weeks ago I posted the e-mail responses to the phony Craigslist I wrote from the point of view of a mother trying to sell, or more specifically, lease-to-own her young child. The e-mail responses stopped coming in and I thought that was the end of joke. I was proud of the feedback I received from people who were privy to the joke and genuinely believed it was a funny thing to do.
I thought it was over and had pushed it out of my mind.
One afternoon, a few days after the last e-mail had come rolling in, I was sitting on my computer in my apartment and I heard a knock at the door. I got up and looked through the peep-hole and saw, to my surprise, two uniformed VicPD constables. I let them in and they identified themselves to me and asked if I was Jonathon Lang. I said yes. We walked into the main living area and I sat down in my computer chair. One officer stood in my living room and the other started helping himself to a tour of my apartment. I can’t remember their names, but one of them was a very tall and very rotund East Indian male and the other was a short and stocky white male. So, let’s call them Mr. Brown and Mr. White. Mr. White was the one who looked around my place while Mr. Brown stood over me and declined my good manners when I offered him a seat. After a moment or two I asked what this was all about. I guess I hadn’t put anything together in my head right away, I thought there might have been a break-in in the building or a family member was in an accident or something. I didn’t figure it out until Mr. Brown (who did most of talking throughout the interview) said that they were responding to a complaint made to the Ministry of Children and Family. I immediately put it all together and asked if this was about the joke I posted on craigslist. Mr. Brown and Mr. White looked at each other and frowned, I couldn’t tell if they were disappointed or annoyed but I think it’s safe to assume it was a mixture of both. I can only speculate, but I think they were expecting to come through the door and uncover some kind of baby trafficking ring. They were probably host to the idea of babies in kennels stacked floor to ceiling, a couple of degenerate child traffickers, and subsequent medals for valor in shutting down such an organization. Instead, they found a mostly harmless young man in his mid-20’s, sipping tea and wearing slippers.
I told them about the post and explained that it was a joke and that I had never had a child, and not because I had already sold it, but because there wasn’t one in the first place. Neither of them found that funny. They were both very serious and very severe. But I could tell that Mr. Brown, the talker, was more invested in the case than his partner. He explained to me the process they had to go through to track me down and how this case had been their main focus for a couple of days. They had gone so far as to acquire a warrant to pull my home address from Shaw Cable using my IP address. After that I thought, good God, I was sincerely under investigation for Child Trafficking. It wasn’t sincere from my point of view but from the standpoint of the VicPD it was very real until the moment I answered the door an invited them inside.
I thought everything was going to be just fine until Mr. Brown said that there were still a number of things that I could be charged with. The hair on my neck stood up and I got a little shot of adrenaline. I thought, Jesus Christ, am I going to be arrested for trying to sell a baby that doesn’t exist? But he instantly relieved me when he said it wouldn’t be necessary. Then my brain started moving and I felt a little audacious, I said, only out of curiosity and as a deterrent for the future, what could I have been charged with? Mr. Brown shot a quick look at Mr. White and then repeated that there were definitely potential charges and then sidestepped the question and started in on a rather long winded lecture about social responsibility on the internet. I smiled and almost laughed because I knew I was safe. I apologized for wasting their time and resources on a nuisance investigation. All the while Mr. Brown and Mr. White remained stoic and downright unfriendly, maybe even a little dissapointed. When I apologized, although it seems trivial now, I was very careful with my language as to not apologize for making a joke on the internet but rather express regret for making a joke that can be qualified in tax dollars. After his lecture about the internet, he flipped through his notebook and then paused, looked at me, and asked what exactly is a Barnge? It took the sum of my intestinal fortitude not to crack in half. It was close, and I had to actually bite down on my tongue just to contain the volcanic laughter has that was threatening to erupt. I explained that it was a nickname turned branding. That was the last question of the interview.
So after the interview was over, all said and done in about 15 minutes, they said goodbye and left. As soon as the door was shut behind them, Jess Atmore, my roommate, came out from his room in hysterics and we had a laughed like hatters. Between the line of questioning, their tense disposition and all the absurdity, it kept me giddy and giggling over the days to follow.
All that week, I wore this story on my sleeve and couldn’t wait to tell the curious tale of the time I was investigated for Child Trafficking. I was excited to recite it all to anyone who would listen and the feedback was great.
A week and a half went by and my excitement cooled. It cooled, until I got a call from the Sannich police department informing me a new case had been opened. Officer Mead explained to me that a complaint had been lodged and that he was obligated to investigate it. I told him over the phone that two officers from the VicPD had already tumbled down that particular rabbit hole and that he needn’t waste his time. In our first conversation, I asked him if he had actually read the post, and he said he had, and I told him the joke was awfully transparent to begin with, he agreed and went on to say that it was very funny and he enjoyed it. I thanked him. I thought about quoting Mead as a press review, like the kind you see on the cover of a paperback, “It had me in stitches.” -Officer Mead, Sannich Police Department.
So after I told Mead all about the VicPD visit he seemed satisfied.
Another few days went by before Mead called me again to say that he was having troubling tracking down any record of my visit from the VicPD and that if he couldn’t get a hold of the case file, he would have to come down and make a visit in person the same way the other two had. I would have preferred the joke had climaxed and rolled off after my first visit from the authorities. That said, Mead was a very affable police officer, probably the nicest and friendliest I have ever spoken to. He called me a few times over the next couple days for extra information and finally explained to me that his superiors wanted him investigate the matter fully before putting it to rest.
I don’t blame them. When it comes to selling a baby, I should expect the police to show a little more than a passing interest, but one investigation was enough and Mead and I agreed that Mr. Brown and Mr. White (I didn’t use those titles, I referred to them as the VicPD officers) could have just done the correct paper work and we wouldn’t have to mess about wasting time on a Friday afternoon. So he came over earlier today and I gave him a tour of my apartment to entertain the formality of a search. During the search, the good spirited officer Mead even swiftly opened the medicine cabinet in the bathroom with a distinct note of melodrama and once in the living room, bent down and lifted the couch to better see underneath, “no baby” he concluded. He and I laughed about the situation and I, once again, apologized for wasting taxpayers money. He agreed that jokes shouldn’t have a dollar sign on them and then he noticed my turntable and we go to talking about records and equipment. Officer Mead was very pleasant. He was the polar opposite of Mr. Brown, the talker, and Mr. White, the silent enforcer.
Once he was satisfied, and I think he had run out the clock on his work day, he thanked me for my cooperation and headed for the door. On his way he stopped himself and turned around walked back to me and shook my hand. I had never ever had a police officer elect to shake my hand before and I have extended mine to them in the past only to be politely declined, as was the case with Mr. Brown and Mr. White. It’s difficult not to be at least a little bit offended when someone outright refuses to shake your hand. Above all else, I’m glad I wasn’t arrested for some catchall mischeif charge borne from the spite of a couple disappointed officers.