You Have to Tell Me if You’re a Cop.

Are you a cop? If you’re a cop, you have to tell me.

No? You don’t? I heard yes.

Sure, I’ve heard of undercover cops. No, I guess they don’t advertise the fact that they’re cops. Sting operations? Yeah, I’ve heard of those, too. And I can see how they would be jeopardized and the lives of officers of the law put in immediate danger. So it’s just a myth? Man, someone should tell, like, every sitcom writer.

Maybe I’m thinking of something else. If you’re a cop posing as a prostitute, and I ask you to kiss me before I give you any money, do you have to tell me if you’re a cop then? Or do you have to kiss me? I used to work with a guy who had been a prosecutor, briefly, and I think I remember him telling me something like that, about cops posing as prostitutes and what you could—should, really—ask a prostitute to find out if she’s a cop. What? Well, I suppose it’s possible that he hadn’t been a very good prosecutor. We were working at an Internet company. Selling pet products. No, not that company. A different one. But also not still in business.

Let’s flip the script for a second. If you’re a cop, and you tell me you’re a cop, and I’m, let’s say, just minding my own business on the street, or in a park, and you ask me to come over and speak with you, I can say no, right? I can? I knew it. I can just walk away. But if I just walk away you’ll have probable cause to arrest me? Because refusing to talk to a cop is suspicious? Damned if I do and damned if I don’t, huh?

What if I’m an undercover cop, posing as a prostitute, and you’re a cop, in uniform, and you ask me to come over and speak with you for a minute, not knowing that I’m a cop... but maybe you think I might be a cop, so you ask me if I am, but I don’t tell you because I don’t have to... and I don’t want to talk to you, because it might look suspicious to the other, real prostitutes, but I don’t want you to arrest me, because that would also interfere with my operation infiltrating a prostitution ring... what do I do? Do I kiss you? Do I ask you to kiss me? No kissing?

What if—same hypothetical as above—I suspect that you’re a corrupt cop, and I ask you if you are. Do you have to tell me? I mean, I know that you’re a cop already. No, you don’t think I’m a real prostitute. You actually know I’m a cop. You ask me if I’m a cop and I tell you that I am—by choice—and then I ask you if you’re a corrupt cop. No? You don’t have to tell me that? Okay.

Hey, isn’t it a crime to impersonate a police officer? If you’re a cop, and you wear your uniform to a costume party, are you impersonating a police officer, if you’re just wearing it as your costume? No? Because you are a cop? But you’re off duty, presumably. You’re still a cop, sure... but then you’re not wearing a costume!

It’s not a crime to impersonate a prostitute, I take it. Just to be one? What’s the difference, though, if you’re just standing on the street, not actually... prostituting at the moment? Like, if you’re a cop and I’m a prostitute, and you come up to me on the street and question me about what I’m doing, suspecting that I’m a prostitute, and I tell you that I’m not a prostitute, I’m just dressed like one, you can’t take me downtown, right? Good to know....

If I look like a prostitute, whether I am or I’m not, and I know you’re a cop, whether you’re in uniform or undercover, and you ask me my sign, do I have to tell you? I do? Libra.

So, listen... are you a cop? I’m just curious, really. I’m not a cop, in case you were wondering about me. You weren’t? Oh, well, that’s cool too.

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.