When you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing, they’re the last people you want to see.
When you’re in trouble and afraid for your life, they’re the first people you want to see.
Twice in my childhood I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to, and got caught. Both on the same day. The day that my friend and I – both around twelve years old – had decided to take a long hike.
On that sunny warm day, the first thing we did was walk down the railroad tracks, as far as we could go. Then we got off of the tracks and started walking down the road when we felt the dust of the road reach up and wrap around us as a police car drove past us and parked in front of us. The cop got out and asked us to step into his parlour.
My buddy and I looked at each other. We complied.
“Do you boys know why I stopped you?”
Neither of us said anything. We just looked at him.
“Well you’re not supposed to be on those train tracks.”
We just looked at him. As adolescents do.
He wasn’t getting through to us. He knew it.
“You know you broke the law here, right?”
I spoke up. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“Did you see the sign that said ‘no trespassing’?”
Mike, my buddy, said “no”.
“Well it’s there. And it’s there for a reason. You can get killed by walking on the tracks.”
Mike said “no way. We would have heard the train coming.”
The cop looked at him. “That’s what everyone says, son. And yet every year, lots of people get killed on train tracks.”
He could tell we weren’t buying it.
“There’s another reason you’re not allowed on the tracks. There’s lots of vandalism on the train cars.”
We sat there, as the warm sunlight burned the backs of our necks.
“In fact,” he continued. “I found some damage to one of the train cars just a while ago. Did you do that? Did you break anything? Steal anything? Should I check your pockets?”
He could tell looking at us we weren’t the type. Still, he got our attention with that one. Ever see innocent youngsters look guilty for no reason? That was us. We were in trouble. We couldn’t prove we hadn’t done anything wrong. But his gruff voice told us he thought we were criminals.
“Honest! We didn’t do anything officer!”
He stared at us sternly. “Why should I believe you?”
Now we were silent. But the tension was terrific.
“You see why it’s a bad idea to go on the train tracks?”
“Are you going to go there ever again?”
Mike and I both shook our heads.
“Good. Now get out of the car and stay from the tracks. You hear me?”
And that was that.
Well, except that the next thing we did was hitchhike down the provincial highway.
This time another cop picked us up.
Once again, Mike and I were invited for a little talk. After we were done, he advised us to hop the fence at the side of the busy highway, which we did.
At that point, we cut our adventure short.
There have been at least two times when I’ve called the police because I was sure my family and I were in physical danger from The Beast. Both times, officers showed up, not having any idea of what they were getting into, but coming anyway. Both times they manage to defuse my angry drunk father.
Some may stop and count and think “well that makes you even, right? Getting picked up twice, and twice calling them for help”
Not quite. That makes four times that I owe them. Every interaction with them was about keeping me safe.
I’m amazed at the work they do. I have cop friends who’ve related some pretty hairy stories. Though I once considered going into police work, I’m grateful now that I didn’t. My friends talk about only having to deal so much with the criminals and dregs in our society. Doesn’t sound like much of a picnic to me. And instead of society thanking them for the dangerous work they do, cops find themselves on the business end of uninformed opinion instead. It’s got to be frustrating, being told by armchair critics about how they should take down a criminal. (Gently and with many apologies about hurt feelings, of course)
Check out the blog at the right side in my blogroll entitled “The Boogie Man Is My Friend” for yet more funny and hairy stories from a police woman.