I recently saw a post about an apocryphal Anchorage police officer who would let drivers off a drunk driving arrest if they could recite the names of Santa’s reindeer. As the potential source of such a libelous contention, I thought I had better set the record straight.
It was the day of Christmas eve 1978 if I recall correctly, and I was defending a DUI in the old Anchorage State Court House (the one that has recently been plucked from existence that used to stand in front of the red brick ‘tower of justice’.) I was pretty harsh on the arresting officer (I had only been practicing law for a year, was full of piss and vinegar, and had the facts at my back) and got an acquittal for my client. I left the Courthouse and went across the street to celebrate. Several rounds later I picked up my girlfriend and we went out on the town. After partying for hours, we walked to the car and I started to drive home. It was dark and the streets were largely empty. I got confused and I turned the wrong way down Fifth Avenue. Before I could pull a U-turn a police office had sighted me. I pulled over, dug out my license and registration, rolled down the window and waited. It was not going to be the night I had planned.
And then, just as I thought things could not get worse, who should approach the car but the officer I had eviscerated just hours earlier. We exchanged polite greetings, and the officer very generously told me that he understood that we both had a job to do, that I had done mine, and that perhaps, had he done his a bit better things would have turned out differently, but that he had no bad feelings over the situation, and it being Christmas eve and all, if I could name 6 of Santa’s reindeer he would consider that an adequate field sobriety test as he had seen no other evidence of intoxication.
I was overwhelmed with this guys spirit, but being very Jewish and not a little under the weather, I realized that my mastery of Clement Clarke Moore was as shady as his claim of authorship — I could not recite the necessary lines! I stumbled over Comet and Dancer, and catching my lady friend’s dirty looks I chirped Vixen and Cupid. Uhhhh, Blintzes (“I mean Blitzen, Officer”). And I was done. I mean I was done, my goose was cooked. I could see the officer getting irritated (he would have to stay long after his shift doing paperwork on an ingrate) and I would be lucky if my girlfriend had two words for me. Stick me with a fork.
Just then I happened to look in my rear view mirror where I saw the traffic light behind me turn red. It came to me (yes, in a flash), and I blurted out (it felt like I screamed it) RUDOLPH!!. No one was going to take issue with that (however off color the response may have been) and heaving huge sighs of relief all the way around, we all took our leave of each (the office vouchsafing my U-turn, lol.)
I tell people this and other tales of Anchorage in the 70s because they convey a sense of who we were, and who we have become. I never heard of any officer doing this as a regular schtick — the officer with whom I spent a few minutes that evening certainly had not offered that to my client, or I would have been a fee poorer, — but it would not be the first time that I heard one of my stories come back to me.
Happy holidays, where ever you find them….
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”