Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sometimes the Things We Do Speak so Loudly, You Can't Hear What We're Saying

Have you seen a police officer speaking on a cellphone in a marked police car while in traffic and wondered what the heck was going on? Yeah, me too. Should I feel chagrined that there's never going to be a moment when a policeman asks, 'have you ever seen a rebel without a clue talking on a cellphone, blah, blah, blah?' And that answer will be 'no.' Not really, but it's an idea.

I grabbed ten minutes of some most excellent outdoors weather yesterday at mid-morning and walked around the block of the building in which I work. Back in the days when I smoked (and boy did I, about three and half packs a day. I stopped, suddenly, on 30 September 1996 and never took it up again), it was customary to have a break for a cigarette in mid-morning and then again in the middle of the afternoon.

In a way, becoming a non-smoker, I screwed myself out of those pauses, though whenever I try to organize a pity-party about that I have to remember 'by quitting cigarettes, I lowered my chances of ever having lung cancer, emphysema or any other respiratory illness by a huge percentage.' Unless, of course, I get hit by a cigarette truck, in which case the whole thing's a wash, I guess. I'm lucky in that the people I work for will allow me to walk away from the desk (and regroup) though sometimes it looks more like disappointment than relief when I come back.

Anyway, out yesterday morning I noticed on the corner a pick-up truck in a no-parking zone, the engine running, blocking a fire hydrant. On the door, the lettering indicated the truck was part of the fire department's fleet. There was no one in the truck and there were no emergency lights flashing or sirens howling (or even a small fire burning; I always have marshmallows and a stick. Just in case.). I half-smile at the deliciousness of this kind of stuff, be it thoughtlessness or hypocrisy or just simple absence of concern for others, because I know if that were my vehicle, the windscreen would be covered with tickets for a variety of violations, all deserved.

Continuing down the street, maybe four additional car-lengths and at the curb in a real parking space, was one of those police ticket patrol cars (you know the kind; they're electric and look like they're on loan from the Lego-land Police Department) that resemble a moon buggy. I think in theory, they're a great idea in an urban environment for a city-in much the same way as I like the concept of a Segway for patrols. In real life, the cars look silly and police on Segways crack me up, and when they have the helmets on, as well they should, I almost pee myself laughing (I never claimed to be a nice person).

I'm always surprised when the ticket person, or meter reader as I call them, is a full-sized human being, though I'm not sure what they should be, and my surprise discomfits me. I couldn't resist-I mentioned the illegally parked fire pick-up truck to Officer Krupke. Perhaps, he offered, without bothering to make eye contact with me, the guy went inside the building a minute ago and will be right back.

Yeah. Welcome to Benefit of the Doubt, population: you, Officer. I told the police person there wasn't any part of that I was buying and, truth to tell, neither was he. And it was now two minutes since 'the guy' went into 'the building' perhaps like the bear, to see what he could see. Speaking of which, I offered, why not mosey on down to the truck and the fire hydrant and time just how long 'the guy' is absent?

That suggestion got me eye contact and a heaping side order of a 'what are you, a wise guy?' look that I took to mean now was a good time to tuck and roll in the dismount and disengage portion of today's lesson on Inter-Personal Communications with Public Safety Officials. As Bob Dylan once offered, 'wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin', but don't wait too long. And I figured it really wasn't warm enough for my tambourine to spontaneously combust so I called myself the breeze and desired 'back to the office' was as fine a destination as I could think of on too-short a notice.
-bill kenny

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