As it has been my habit for the past 20 years, I casually strolled to the downtown post office to check my mail, perhaps a little more slowly today after a strenuous workout at the gym. The day’s catch included a sample ballot for the presidential election. I should have seen this as an omen of misfortune.

Being an optimistic soul, I continued to saunter to the parking structure to deposit the mail in my vehicle so I wouldn’t have to carry it on my half hour-walk before returning home. It is a very short distance. Just 10 yards short of said parking structure, I am “pulled over” by a heavily armed police cruiser that reads, “To Protect and Serve.” I am WALKING. …

“Shocked and Awed” by this show of strength, I freeze in my tracks, speechless. A giant of a man emerges. Was it the “Terminator” himself? Robocop? Not quite, but the bulletproof vest, under the black shirt, gun, bullets, Tazer, mace, cuffs, et al., were enough to confuse me in my euphoric state on a perfect Ventura day.

Was this man lost? Did he need directions? Where was I, and what was going on? I clutched my sample ballot in my hand. Was it suddenly a crime to walk to the post office or to the parking structure? Was this an “extraordinary rendition”?

Fortunately, a city councilman who is an old friend saw my plight as he crossed the street. He kept walking. Another old friend drove by and gave me a nod. He kept driving. What is it about these Black Shirts and men with guns, I ask myself? Flashes of the similar men of WWII and Abu Ghraib go through my head. How did they know I tore the tag off my mattress? Was there a periscope in my commode? A chip in my potatoes, or worse, under my skin? I am stunned.

A wave of relief and disbelief washes over me when I find out all he wants is my phone number. Was this Ventura or San Francisco? He also wants my address, DOB, height, weight, color of eyes and driver’s license. FINALLY he asks, “Did you know you crossed the street against the red light?” I’m thinking, “Is this guy serious? I’m WALKING to my car while reading my presidential ballot.

Isn’t there murder and mayhem going on at this moment? Isn’t $700 billion being stolen from our grandchildren’s future? Go harass a CEO or find Bin Laden or anything but this!” He is unfazed in his “DUTY.” It requires all my strength to remain speechless. His big gun, shotgun, Tazer, phazer, cuffs, mace and black shirt help significantly. The bulletproof vest, I thought, was a bit much for jaywalking. Thank God I did not flash a foil-wrapped burrito, or this would be my obituary. It was not a good day to die in Ventura; after all, I have not voted yet or seen the second debate.

Lest I digress, a citation was issued: Code 21456(b), “Ped against no walk,” $130.00. As he writes, I ask myself, “Does this guy believe in evolution? Is that black shirt from WWII Germany? What happened to such a beautiful day? AND …

He interrupted my peace of mind for THIS!!??” As Rome burns and the fiddlers do their thing, desperation has set in to our once-free country and our once-calm and prospering town. Are the coffers so empty that the Black Shirts must harass seniors for their doughnut money? These desperate measures are the signs of a pathetic and crumbling society indeed. Finally, I was able to speak. My parting words were merely, “This is a sad day for America.”    F

Joe Cardella is the Publisher/Editor of Emeritus, ARTLIFE LIMITED EDITIONS. Cardella is a resident of Ventura.