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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Born On the 5th of July- The Sunday Collage

I've always hated the 4th of July.

In small town America- the 4th of July is often the biggest celebration of the year. There are parades, barbeques, carnivals, fairs, rodeos, shows, fireworks, and lots of drinking and drugging. In America, it's hardly a celebration until a lotta folks get half shit-faced and fully baked.

That why I dreaded it. I used to police that whole mess. Year after year.

In the early 1990's after one night time rodeo, I remember two drunken cowboys shooting bottle rockets at me while I tried to direct traffic in the dark for a couple thousand rodeo spectators. I was so mad that if I thought I could have left my post and caught one of those assholes- I might have. Fortunately, for everyone concerned, I did not.

On Jul 3, 2002, two young men, after a three day runner involving booze, drugs, two under-aged girls, and lots of guns- found themselves dead in a murder suicide. I pulled a 32 hour shift, with no sleep, and somehow managed to string together a couple of sentences for the local TV station on the 3rd or 4th. Then we had the parade- drinking, rodeo and drinking, fireworks and drinking, and 200 calls to dispatch from people pissed off about the loud noises fireworks make all night long.

In the old days I would get mad at people and say, "Ya know, the 4th of July happens every year. Next year, the very same thing will happen. Now you can either get used to this or whine about it every year- that's up to you." You can see how I evolved into the the master politician that I eventually became.

One of the very last years that I worked, maybe 2006, night shift arrested a guy for public urination after warning him not to piss on the street- at least once. After his friends bailed him out of jail, they decided to go and kick out every police car windshield and back window of every unoccupied police car parked at the police station. All of those vehicles had to be parade ready and getting replacement glass in one day was sort of a miracle. I cannot recall how many thousands of dollars it cost- but I can still picture those hung over assholes who did that deed. Unfortunately, I could not prove it in part because the truth is, I just wanted to kick the shit out of a couple of those clowns and I think that venom sort of leaked out in the interview process. Call it part of my masterful interview skills.

Allow me a little circuitous rant if you explain some of that old pent up anger which I find quite amusing even as I write now- because emotions are almost always- honest.

Here's a big piece of self disclosure. There are many times in my life that the very best I could do- was manage not to strike anyone. You cannot really explain the emotional deprivation and resolve  you must possess when you've arrested some sick, hostile biker who spends nearly 2 hours calling you a pussy, telling you your mother tastes like bacon, and then threatening to kill members of your family when he gets out. And all of this you see, is supposed to come off in Ward Cleaver's shower at the end of the shift.  

Somehow the world expects God like behavior out of cops. Cops are supposed to put up with the most deviant, nasty, malicious, deceptive, and sometimes life threatening behavior on the planet- day after day- and then somehow be these magical, nice men who do all the right things.

It's incredible how very little our culture really knows about the day to day emotional grind of law enforcement and the toll it takes on you. The only show that ever came close to depicting it on some sort of superficial level might have been "Hill Street Blues." That show sort of depicted cops the way they really are. Faulty human beings just like everyone else. Even the Captain, the star of the show, was a recovering alcoholic- Frank Furillo. A great character.

I know a few cops who survived the emotional tolls of law enforcement quite nicely, but I was not one of them. I will add one other thing here. Tenacious, tough minded cops- the kind of guys and gals that never say quit and care deeply about how things turn out- are the kind of guys and gals that law enforcement emotionally bleeds. That was me. I feel like I've done a great job at sorting all of that out now- now that I am gone. But back then- there was always the 5th of July.

If the 4th of July marked this country's freedom and independence, then most certainly the 5th of July marked mine. Each and every year, I left town for at least two weeks and sometimes longer on the 5th of July. I didn't even think about work, which might be a lie- but that's the way I'm telling it here.

For two or three glorious weeks, I did whatever I wanted to do, sort of. I didn't have to deal with child abusers, drunken assholes, or arrogant lawyers. For two weeks each year, I got to wear normal clothes and laugh like normal people do. People were not lying to me, making stupid quips about donuts or statements like "I didn't do it" and thinking they were funny and unique. People were treating me decently and I liked it that way. Sometimes they would ask, "What do you do for a living?" and I'd look them right in the eye and tell 'em a lie- because I liked feeling a little normal even if it was only for a couple of weeks a year.

And I would speed everywhere on those vacations. I got pulled over so many times, that my ex nearly had an aneurysm. I think now, I just liked cops and maybe I missed them- in some perverse and misdemeanor sort of way. I never got tickets of course and very often I would tease those bastards unmercifully. Cops never get teased on traffic stops and I have to say that my behavior stopped more than one of these poor, unsuspecting cops dead in their tracks They would figure out rather quickly who and what I was. One time in Minnesota after doing 85 in a 70- I sat in a trooper's car and bullshitted with him for 30 minutes. He gave me a warning ticket and he apologized for that. My ex was pissed.

I don't hate the 4th of July anymore. But I still like the 5th a little better.

Maybe on the 5th of July, I'll will take Elvis for a spin. Maybe 45 in a 30 zone. Maybe one of those Boise motorcycle cops will stop me and I will say to him, "Ya know... the French cops, liberal hipsters, and women ride BMW's. Is that your wife's bike?"

Have a happy, safe, and sane 4th of July. And if the cops show up on your driveway amidst the busted cherry bombs, firecracker shards, and illegal and burnt Roman candle tubes-  be sure and lie to them. Tell em the neighbor kids must have done it. They'll understand.