I wrote a "Sunday Collage." I didn't like it so I sent it to the anti matter place where all deleted things must go. About 20% of the things I write wind up in that place. In the old days...
People would often tell me that you just have to get over "things." Usually these "things" were things that happened in the workplace. This apparently is where we go to accumulate things that in turn we have to learn to get over. Unfortunately, I just don't know what any of that means. Perhaps it means forgetting. I will tell you that there are some things in life that I might never "get over." Maybe I just have a slow forgetter.
So it was I landed on this story- which really had a lot to do with shaping my career.
In the mid 1990's, I was a patrol sergeant working in a very small town of about 4000 people. It was a very cold winter night, mid December, about 5 below zero. Earlier that evening, our local Sheriff's Office had embarked on and completely screwed up a very large drug deal in a remote part of our county. They had used two confidential informants who had arranged the delivery of a large amount of cocaine, heroin, and pot. This was a big deal- it involved pounds of drugs. They had selected a "radio dead zone" as the meet point- a rest area at the junction of two highways where it was impossible to get out on a high band frequency radio. In other words, if something went bad- no cop in radio land would have been able to hear a call for help. The selection of that site had one other tremendous drawback. It was next to a river. In sub zero weather, that area habitually fogs over as the warmer, flowing water of the river causes ground fog which is quite dense. That was the situation that night. The Sheriff's Office had a team of men, concealed in cars and underneath the snow, waiting to spring into action just as soon as the drug deal was complete. So it was, the dealers arrived, the deal went down, the money was not exchanged because Sheriff's Office personnel sprang into action. One of them took a shot at the dealers and the dealers got away in the fog before any of the deputies could identify the vehicle they were driving or the direction it went. They could not even broadcast any information because they didn't have any information to broadcast and couldn't have anyway- because they were in that radio dead zone.
None of this of course- was ever disclosed to local media.
We call that kind of operation a cluster fuck because that is what it truly was. I am in awe that 8 grown men with over a 100 years worth of experience, collectively landed on that plan. At no time that evening did any of those deputies inform any of the other cops working in our valley what they were doing or what ultimately happened. They didn't seem the least concerned about our safety.
A few hours later, around midnight, I was following a large, yellow, Mercury Marquis (do you remember those?) southbound on the highway that led out of town.
The entire back window was completely frozen over as were the exterior mirrors. The occupants could not see me. They had crossed the center line a couple of times but I couldn't tell if they were drunk or just trying to pass the vehicle in front of them. I decided to stop them. I was in a neighboring city which our city had a mutual aid agreement with. I asked permission from the officer on duty and made a traffic stop on the car.
The car took almost a mile to pull over which I attributed to the frozen windows and mirrors. As I stepped out of the patrol car, I could actually see the car "rocking" side to side. I believe now they were repositioning themselves in the car. What happened next covered no more than 15 seconds. As I arrived at the driver's door, I saw 4 men in the car. All of them were staring straight ahead. None of them looked at me. They were all illegal aliens- Mexican nationals. All four of them had their hands in their coat pockets. At that moment, I knew I was in deep shit. I asked the driver for his driver's license and registration as I prepared my emergency exit strategy back to my car for cover. The driver handed me the items without looking at me and dropped them both on the ground.
I did not look down. I did not pick up those items. The driver looked at me for the first time, looked at the ground and back at me as though he were asking me to pick those things up. I was staring straight at him and his passengers. We had arrived at that moment in time where those men were deciding whether or not this was where they were going to try and make their stand.
I have often thought that had I bent over to pick up those documents- I was going to get a .357 round through the back of my head. I think that was their plan. Instead I walked backwards, watching them and knowing they couldn't see me. I called the cavalry. Actually the dispatcher that night recognized the driver's name as I ran a driver's license check. The Sheriff's Office then rolled out to the scene, performed a questionable search, and then arrested all four of them for delivery of a controlled substance. Thankfully, only one of them had a gun. We found the .357 on the front seat passenger.
Had I bent over to pick up those things, I don't think I would be here.
After we arrived back at the Sheriff's Office, I let their entire staff- which included the Sheriff himself- know how angry I was and that they nearly got me killed. One of their crew looked at me, chuckled and said "Pard, if we thought it was any of your business we would have told you." That moment- was the closest that I ever came in my professional life as a cop- to actually striking another cop. I considered it briefly and wondered whether they would arrest me or not, decided against it and plunged my hands in my pockets, wheeled and left the room. I vowed then and there that I would never take any orders from that Sheriff or his men ever again- and I never did.
That decision of course, would have consequences.
A few weeks after this event, I had a confidential informant- who was unprompted and who did not otherwise know this story- tell me that he had heard those men discussing in Spanish at the jail that they they should have killed me like they had planned. I have always wondered why they didn't try. He had figured out later they were talking about me. Eventually they were all set free. I know that at least two of them re-offended and that at least one of them was killed.
Several years later, I became the Chief and the Sheriff- well he stayed the Sheriff. People began to realize that the two of us did not like each other very much. The Sheriff taught me a lot of things. But mostly, he taught me how not to be.
Over the years, I learned that to emotionally and financially survive in any career- most people must be willing to compromise their integrity. They have to or they risk career suicide. I am thankful and grateful to say that I did not have to do that. Did I commit career suicide? Yes, probably. I doubt very much that I ever would have been able to leave and get a job so long as the Sheriff and his men were around handing out recommendations to any would be employer doing a background check.
In America, employers like to hire sheep. In fact, if you come with a lot of credentials and a willingness to turn a blind eye toward every immoral facet of any job or career including the conduct of your bosses- you become a perfect candidate. That's how it is in America. Become an ass kissing good boy or suffer the consequences. This is beyond an epidemic. This is how we live and how we work- we agree to this nonsense. This then is how it is out there in working class America- and anyone with a lick of common sense will tell you so. So I think people must live with that. And in a very simplistic way- I believe that the current working environment in America has led to the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse. I mean after all, you have to find a way to live with your compromised principles and get some sleep, don't you?
Many years later, I had a Catholic Priest tell me that people don't always get over the things that happen to them. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a few odd shaped stones that were worn smooth. He said that he had always hated his alcoholic father- even after his father became sober. Eight sober years later, Desmond Crotty still hated his father- when his father died. After the funeral and burial, Des collected a few stones from that Irish grave and carried them with him every day for 31 years. For the rest of his life. All 61 years of it. The stones were polished and smooth. I remember them well.
Des died without ever "getting over his father" in Feb. of 2008. That's a long time to carry a grudge. In a weird way, for oddly selfish reasons, I'm glad that Des didn't get over his father and all of those drunken beatings he received as a child. It makes me feel a little better when packing all of my own baggage around. There are some things that stay with you and they're hard to get over. I understand that now. There are probably a few of us with very slow forgetters.