Dreaming about the Police
She dreamed this but remembered it later. A knock on the door. She opened it. A tall slender quiet voiced gentleman in police uniform asked, “Were you at X intersection at 5 o’clock?”
“Yes, about then.” “Do you realize you went around a blockade when you went through the driveway at the corner?” “No, the way looked clear to me.” “I’ll have to give you a ticket.” he said. Blushing and embarrassed at her error, she accepted the ticket and paid it without protest.
She was visiting an ill friend. At the corner after leaving and feeling good about the visit, she heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights a few blocks away. Her inner voice warned, “Don’t go that way.” A tinge of bladder pressure, but her natural curiosity, her skills as a nurse, and her interest in EMT efficiency, led her in that direction in spite of her warnings. She came to a stop near a police car parked diagonally across the lane. While she assessed the situation through the windshield, a tall thin quiet policeman approached a few feet away. She grappled with the buttons to lower the window. He waited patiently, leaned down toward her and said, “You can turn around here. It will be quite a while before the intersection is clear.”
“That’s O.K. I can wait here out of the way.” Before she could think to offer her services, he turned to the car pulling in behind her and helped them turn around in the oncoming lane, and the next and the next. Then he walked calmly back to the scene of the accident. She noticed the police car did not have its flashers on and turned on hers. Other cars came up behind her and turned around. She was contemplating walking up to the accident and offering her services, when the EMT vehicle arrived and she breathed a sigh of relief. In the next 15 minutes, approximately, she noticed how efficiently the tangle of vehicles came and went, two ambulances, two wreckers, a strange boxlike vehicle occluded the righthand lane going south. A police car stopped in the left-hand lane facing south. Shortly afterward a short, stubby, stolid, severe looking woman nearly bursting a police uniform with shiny buttons and badge strode toward her in the oncoming lane. Watching the policewoman, she fumbled ineffectively with the window buttons. Before she could get the window down, the woman pounded on her window. “Why are you pounding on my window?” she thought. Window down, she said questioningly, “Yes, ma’am?” “You have to turn around and go back, the intersection is blocked.” “Oh, no, ma’am.” (big mistake) “I’m O.K. here. I can wait.” The policewoman stood stiff a moment, turned and stalked off toward the accident.
Cars began coming through the oncoming lane. Now, the bladder’s pressure was beginning to be noticed, “Maybe I should turn around,” she thought. But, there was no one to stop the cars while turning. She backed up. “Ah, Ha.” an open driveway to the business on the corner. She pulled in. “Oh, no. I can’t see around the police car to know if traffic is coming or not. Argh.” Bladder pressure again. “Hmm, the driveway is completely clear now, perhaps I can go out and make a right turn onto the street.” She eased the car in that direction…slowly, slowly. The thin policeman turned toward her and looked long at her, she stopped, fumbled for the window to ask if it was O.K. while giving him an innocent questioning look. He turned back and walked away. She inched onward, uncertain but hopeful. Just as she was ready to accelerate, she heard a horrific banging in the back of her car. “What in the world? Did I run over something?” she wondered. Stopping, suddenly the pounding was on her window again, hard, HARDER. Embarrassed and a little angry, she tried to get the window down while the pounding went on. (Is she trying to break my window?!) Window down. “Yes?” she said evenly, “I’m going to give you a ticket for going around a blockade!” “I’m not going around the east blockade, I just want to turn right and go south.” The ticketbook and pen were already in use. Ticket handed over and taken. Pounding on car again. (Good riddance!) she let up the brake and eased toward the southbound traffic having earned her exit with the ticket. The southbound lane still blocked by the clean up crew’s box type van, nothing coming, she accelerated, turned right and sped up to the speed limit. A long block away she saw a street entrance on her right, with nothing coming in either direction, she braked hard, did a fuming U-turn, went back to the intersection now open to all traffic, turned east and went home still fuming, believing she didn’t go around a blockade. She discussed the event with her husband who was calm about it all, “A mistake in understanding,” he said. She paid the ticket next day including a note of protest and a drawing of the intersection and driveway.
A week later, she drove east through the intersection again and was surprised at how little space there was between the driveway and the intersection compared to her drawing and earlier perception under stress. “No wonder she thought I was driving around the blockade!” To quell her lingering anger, she decided to pray for the officious little lady that she would become a better cop by learning to handle her emotions.
My introduction to policemen, was as a young child, before going to school, before grandmother said my parents should leave me home with her on their Saturday nights to town because of all the communicable childhood diseases floating around. My Dad’s bachelor friend had finally found a woman to marry him. The practice was to party, not giving gifts, but as a group to “chiveree” the couple…usually an uncomfortable wheelbarrow ride given the bride by the reluctant husband followed by refreshments and jovial talk for an hour or so. On this night they decided that the newlyweds were to accompany them to town for the wheelbarrow trip around the courthouse square. On the way around, my Dad stopped at a hardware store to acquire a set of handcuffs and key. At the end of the ride, he along with the other men asked the husband if he had his scivvies on, yes. O.K. take off your pants. Then they locked his arms around a lamppost with the handcuffs and left the key hanging out of reach. During this, the big bellied foot policeman huffed up demanding to know what they were doing. “Just funnin’, not hurtin’ anything, this is a chiveree,” they retorted, “so leave us be.” He ambled off.
A week later, my folks went to see how the newlyweds were doing. On the way, I asked why the policeman didn’t stop them from cuffing the man to the pole and why they left him there. “He was outnumbered, it wasn’t a crime, he couldn’t use his gun. We knew he would be back soon to unlock him.” “Why don’t you like the policeman?” “He’s a big fat bully hiding behind a badge. I’ve known him a long time before he got on the force.”
The husband said, the wheelbarrow ride was O.K., but why did they have to handcuff him to the pole. The key got lost and it took a couple of hours for the policeman to get a boltcutter and free him. He got pretty cold waiting.
Next time Dad answered the phone to an invite to a chiveree, he declined saying, “It’s too easy to get out of hand.” But the policeman seemed to butt heads with Dad whenever we were in town, even when we were just walking on the sidewalk to the picture show. It scared me every time.
I was surprised, doubtful when our Second Grade Reader said the policeman is our friend. The teacher said when we are in trouble we could call the policeman for help. I guess he did help the man at the pole.
In the 1970ies or 80ies, convinced in my daily devotions of my responsibility to people in jail, I gathered my courage to interview the local sheriff and offer myself as a volunteer counselor for women in the local jail. During the conversation, the humble man impressed me with his genuine concern for the community and those for whom he was responsible. Several years and frequent calls for counseling passed, then my contact said the sheriff would like to see me. He asked me to provide a seminar for the policemen on “Authority.” I didn’t have any material on that topic, but promised to look for something. I found only one source. It identified at least three types of authority with an easy to use chart for illustration including the importance of trust and respect which had to be earned.
After the sheriff’s introduction and leave-taking, I thanked them for attending and noticed some tension in the group. Men, some had to get up from their sleep to attend. All the women police were tending the jail and not required to attend. When I got to the part on respect being earned, there were audible mumbles, growing into grumbles. This, they did not believe–
except for one gentleman sitting in the back row, the smallest of all, who spoke up quietly, “I’ve never had trouble with anyone when speaking man to man.”
Soon after, as a send off, I was given a nice plaque thanking me for my volunteer services to the department.
Little did we all know these would become examples of community policing and attitudes.