You have to be prepared to come across stuff that you might not expect – and deal with the unexpected with quiet resilience – when you become a sideline member of law enforcement.
It could be an abundance of manuals. Or you might open your photo editor only to see carnage and destruction because they had to download and burn the photos to CD. The accouterments of the job are everywhere. Bullets, rigs, cleaning tool cases, and rather more knives than you might expect.
Of course, there are the dinners out with the trainees and the occasional 10pm coffee thermos drive-by. That’s usually during the first few night shifts after rotation when the body simply objects.
But I suppose the loss of holidays is one of my worst peeves. It is rare to get any of them off. So when people ask what we did over the long weekend I have to force myself to not raise that single eyebrow and roll my eyes. He gets one weekend off a month. Buttressed with a day prior and after, one of which is usually spent on that part-time that so many of them have in order to add just that little extra to the bank account.
You’ll mow a lawn if they’re on days. You’ll have your own gun handy more often than not because, like it or not, you are an attractive target, too.
And heavens forfend that you get the phone call with hospital names and cautions given.
It’s a different life. And I imagine it is far different if you’ve bound yourself to someone without…integrity. Or to a force without…virtue. Because there are one hell of a lot of each. But it has its benefits, too.
There is a sureness inside as you watch them perform the routine – knife in boot, keepers just so, flashlight checked and seated, and the gun emptied and reloaded with a sharp smack to the magazine to seat the death therein. The vest is in place, the backup tucked in last – a kind of Get Out of Hell Free card just in case things go, as they say, pear shaped.
I can still recall when I first met Trooper. He was a motorcycle officer in Atlanta’s environs. Damn, but it was a sharp uniform. Those boots… I was new to the whole uniform routine but happy in the viewing of the process. How could anyone tire of it, that sequenced, sure series of steps? Followed by the deep bellowing of the engine in the garage…and curses if the usual rain of winter greeted him.
So much time and change has passed us. A different uniform and a different manner of duty. We spoke the other day of how good it is, now, and how unhappy he’d have been if he hadn’t left. Sure, probably a Sergeant by now but…of what? And whom?
And perhaps in a few years his uniform will be that legendary button down shirt, blue jeans and the star – the peso pressed and carved into a new talisman. With any luck, we will avoid the widely mocked, “I’maRangerI’maRangerI’maRangerI’maRanger” look with a star on anything slow enough to get one smacked on it.
Yeah, he has the BBQ gun already. Perhaps someday…