In the movies, when police come calling, the ordinary citizen has two options: quake or pull out a gun.
In recent time, however, people have realized that they have a third, quite potent option: the cell phone.
They know that if they can film the experience, disbelief will have to be suspended, because the evidence is all too clear.
The latest example of a seemingly innocent man encountering a peculiar visit from a policeman comes from Long Island.
What the filmed evidence seems to show is a policeman wandering onto the man's private driveway and suggesting that it's illegal to wash his car there.
This seems a curious development.
Once upon a time, it was almost compulsory to wash your car in your driveway, a rite of community passage.
"This is a private residential home," one of the car washers explains.
In a classic line that's been heard many times on television and in real life over the years, the policeman replies: "Well, that's what you say."
As CBS New York reports, a ticket wasn't ultimately issued and the local Garden City police department hasn't commented on the events.
More Technically Incorrect
But this is only the latest example of people posting footage of the police behaving in a peculiar manner.
Earlier this year, a San Diego police officer became more than a touch touchy when his arrest of a pedestrian was filmed on a Samsung Galaxy. This officer had the ill humor to call the phone a "weapon."
In another incident in May -- this time in Bakersfield, Calif. -- police were accused of erasing cell phone footage taken by a bystander. This recorded an incident between sheriff's deputies and a man who died after an alleged altercation with them.
The very same logic that authorities use for the need to film ordinary citizens -- that of ensuring justice is done -- makes some police officers uncomfortable when it is turned upon them.
Sometimes, life is so absurd that your cell phone is the only way to make what occurs believable.
It is, as the San Diego police officer suggested, a weapon. Not deadly, but often deadly accurate.