I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never stole anything, I’ve never done drugs and I don’t commit crimes. So, what’s the problem officer? . . . Snowballs, you say?
My first year of college was at Penn State Behrend, the campus in Erie. I didn’t have many friends, so I didn’t go to many parties that first year. One evening in the winter, while others were partying, I hiked out Jordan Road to Interstate 90 where there was a bridge over the interstate highway. I stood on the bridge as I watched the cars and trucks speed under my feet. I was there for about 15 minutes and many of the vehicles flashed their lights at me, honked or swerved as they approached the bridge. It was clear that they thought I was up to no good. With plenty of snow on the bridge, I thought “Okay, I can play this game.”
I started pelting the cars and trucks with snowballs. I was racking them mercilessly. These people did not know that they were dealing with a suitably experienced snow hurler. I was about to claim victory when, in the midst of my madness, I happened to see a car with its lights off on the opposite side of the interstate. It quickly slowed down and then backed under the bridge so that I wouldn’t see them. I realized this was a State Police car. I turned and started walking back to campus.
By the time the police officer climbed to the top of the bridge, I was a short distance away. He kept walking toward me with his flashlight pointing at me. He didn’t tell me to stop, so I ran off the road and into the woods. It was very dark, but my eyes had adjusted to the darkness and there was some moonlight so I could see adequately. I ran without stopping, assuming that the officer was in pursuit. After running for five or ten minutes I plowed full-bore into a fence and was flung back onto my back. That hurt . . . and it knocked the wind out of my lungs. I did not see the thin wire in the darkness. Why would anyone put up a fence there? Getting up, I climbed over the fence and continued running. I knew that between me and the campus there was Wintergreen Gorge, 250 feet deep at its deepest point. I had to cross it or go back to the road to get across. Not knowing if the officer was still following, I chose the gorge, not knowing how deep or sheer it was at the point where I would cross. When I arrived at the gorge, I started down. The deeper I descended, the darker it became. The moonlight didn’t reach far into the gorge. I climbed and slid to the bottom grabbing whatever I could to make my way down. I was confident that the officer would not go to the bottom, so I rested for a minute. Then I climbed out of the gorge grasping rocks, plants and trees to ascend. Once at the top, I continued to run toward campus. At the edge of campus, the forest ended and opened to the upper parking lot. I paused and looked around before I broke into the clear. Seeing no one, I ran toward the spacious parking lot.
After I was about twenty yards into the field before the parking lot, a State Police car came screaming up Jordan Road toward the Interstate. They spotted me running and quickly slammed on the brakes. I was now sprinting full speed toward Niagara Hall (not my dormitory). They had already passed the entrance to the parking lot and Niagara Hall, so they turned around and headed back. It was a race to the finish!!! I knew that if I went to the main entrance, they would catch me, so I headed to the west entrance and hoped the side door would be open. I got there and thankfully, the door was open. I climbed the stairs to the third floor and went into the men’s restroom where I found a stall and sat down. I quickly took off my winter coat and put it on the hook. Then, I took off my shoes, still dripping with snow, tied the laces together and put them on the hook. As I sat there, I continued to wipe up the water from the melting snow, so no one could tell that I had come in from the outside. I sat there for 30 minutes before I felt safe to leave.
Later, I found out that the police entered through the main entrance, then searched the first floor men’s room and lingered before departing. Over the next few days, kids on campus who saw the chase (or heard about it) asked me about it and thought that was really cool. Suddenly, I had some new friends.