Friday, April 15, 2005
When I was a police officer, we didn't relieve at the precinct, with a roll call and lockers like you see on TV. In my department, we relieved on the street. Basically, you drove in your privately owned vehicle (POV) to the designated relief point for the sector car that you were driving, where you met the officer who was on-duty in your sector and 'flipped the car over' which simply means that the cop that was going home took all of his or her shit out of the 'PD' (P-olice D-epartment vehicle), and put it into his POV and went home, and you took all of your stuff (your shit is stuff, his shit is shit) and put it into the PD, you filled out your memo book page for the tour, checked all the stuff that you had to check (oil pressure, whether the PD had any damage, the Oxygen pressure on your medical oxygen, whether you had all of the forms that you needed, etc., etc.) and went on patrol. At the end of the shift, you did the same thing in reverse, because you were going off-duty, and that's how it worked.
On one particular night in July of 1992 or so, (at the time, I was assigned as a precinct relief driver, which meant that instead of having a steady sector car that I drove every day, I would call the precinct before work to find out where I would be working, and then I would drive to that sector's relief point to relieve the outgoing sector operator) I called the precinct and was told that I was assigned to work in 618 sector.
The relief point for that car was the parking lot of the local town government offices. My tour started at 11PM, and I showed up at around 10:30 or so, and sat in my vehicle waiting for the outgoing sector car operator to arrive with the police car so that I could go to work. I waited for about 45 minutes (this often happened, depending upon what was going on at the time. Once I showed up at a relief point, and sat there all night long, and then went home! The sector operator was stuck on an arrest and they couldn't spare anyone to come and pick me up.) Anyway, I sat and waited, listening to the radio and the night sounds while I waited. I had a huge jar of ice-cold sun tea to drink, the night was warm, I had gotten plenty of sleep, and I was happy!
The parking lot was bordered on the south side by a wooded area, and I could hear insects chirping, night birds singing, and the occasional sound of some nocturnal animal. In the distance, I could hear traffic driving by on one of the major roadway, and somewhere a woman was laughing, and “I’d Really Like to See You Tonight” was playing on a cheap radio. The sound was being carried in my direction by the summer night breezes. The singer was saying that there was a warm wind stirring the stars around, and surely, on this night, it was so.
I had gotten out of my vehicle to stretch my legs, and I was leaning on the fender of my vehicle, sipping my sun tea and listening to the night sounds when the PD raced up, screeched to a stop right alongside the woodline on the south end of the parking lot, and the cop who was on-duty yelled, "Get moving! You have a 10-9 at [ADDRESS]!!", (a 10-9 is an 'inhaltor' call, meaning that someone has stopped breathing for some reason... heart attack, shot, electrocuted, something... you have to get their quickly, because someone's life is hanging in the balance). He (the cop on-duty) started ripping his shit out of the PD and throwing it into his own vehicle, and I grabbed my memo book, my flashlight, and my street map, locked up my POV, and jumped into the PD, taking only enough time to jot down the starting mileage before taking off to get to the 10-9.
After handling the call, I returned to the relief point to get the rest of the stuff out my own vehicle and put it into the PD. I started my car and turned the radio on so that I could listen to some music while I was getting everything situated.
I quickly put my gear into the police car and got everything stowed, and decided to just hang out for a few minutes and finish my sun tea. Well, a few minutes ended up being about a half an hour, and finally, I decided I had best get my ass in gear and go do some police work. I locked up my personal vehicle, and headed over to the police car, which was parked on the south edge of the parking lot, again, along the woodline. I had left it running so that the portable radio could charge, and so that I could hear any radio calls that came over for me.
As I started to get into the police car, something moved slightly on the roof and caused me to glance to my right. As I turned my head to look, I found myself face to face with a possum! Our noses were separated by perhaps 16 inches...
I just about shit my pants and jumped back about 4 feet. The possum was unimpressed.
I stood there, more or less at a loss on how to proceed. I couldn't stay there all night, I knew that, but the possum didn't seem in any great hurry to go anywhere. I stood there, looking at the possum, and the possum basically ignored me completely.
It occurred to me that should I get an emergency call I would be fucked royally, because I didn't really want the fucking thing leaping on to my head when I attempted to get into the vehicle. Truth be told, I was fucked if I got any call at all, because both radios were in the vehicle!
As I was looking at this thing, (I had seen them from a distance, but never from up close before this....), I realized that it looked pretty primitive. I wondered if they carried diseases... it looked as though it might, but I couldn't be quite sure. What sorts of friggin' diseases would it carry if it did in fact have something, I wondered.... I looked closely to see if I could spot any tell tale signs... but I couldn't really tell in the dark. There were some streetlights (parking lot lights?), but they were a weird color, and made things worse than better. Luckily, I had my flashlight, a trusty little Streamlight Stinger, right there on my gunbelt. I shined the flashlight at the wee critter, and it immediately faced me, opened its mouth, exposing quite a few more teeth than I was comfortable with, and hissed at me!
Now... at this point, the little guy who lives in my head - the file clerk, with the armbands and green eyeshade, who files away all of the interesting as well as the less-interesting tidbits of information that I come across as I cruise through life made himself known, and informed me that he had no idea how far those creatures could jump....
JUMP!!, they can jump??
"Well, sir... yes, I suppose so... they are arboreal creatures, after all... they should be able to climb, and jump. But there are no records here that indicate how far they are capable of jumping, I'm sorry, sir, but you never learned that, apparently, or it would all be here."
I took a few steps back, hoping that it was far enough, and re-considered the little bugger who was now nosing around the light bar on top of the police car. It also crossed my mind that if one of my fellow police officers happened to cruise by my relief point and get a load of this situation, I would be sunk! What the hell was I going to do??
I decided to try yelling. Figuring that it may scare the bloody thing away. All it really did was make me start to have doubts regarding my own mental stability.
I thought that a couple of well-aimed rocks might do the trick, but I just couldn't bring myself to hurt the damned critter. After all, it hadn't actually done anything...
I settled on a compromise, and went in search of a handfull of very small pieces of gravel, in hopes that I could annoy it away... This was a failure on two accounts; one, I had shit for aim, and most of the wee stones went god knows where. The second reason was, of the small rocks that did hit the intended target, not a single one was taken any notice of at all. I realized that I was getting nowhere with this plan, and tossed it into the bin.
By now, the possum seemed to have grown. I was sure that it looked quite a bit more formidable than it had earlier. And now it was giving me dirty looks. I was sure it was up to something, and thought that perhaps it was somehow communicating with other possums, and that I was soon to be the unfortunate cop victim in a Willard-esque marsupial attack... swarmed by nasty little furry bodies... naked rat tails snaking about, until all you see is my clutching hand groping for some never-to-arrive last minute help... the next morning they would find my gnawed gunbelt and theorize on the size of the 'thing that got'em"
"Went down fightin'... ya can tell by the bloodstains, there..."
I looked around, but couldn't see any signs of possum reinforcements, so I figured I was safe for a few more minutes. They were probably congregating just out of sight in the woods waiting for proper moment to rush me.....
I cast around for more ideas, and discovered that I had a small can of chemical mace on my belt. I took it out and shook it, and thought about how I could use this to my best advantage. I knew that I no more wanted to squirt this stuff on the possum than I had wanted to throw stones at it. But I had to get it off my vehicle so that I could get on the road and get to work!! I decided to squirt the roof of the vehicle, in hopes of repelling the creature so that it would at least move away from where I had to put my face. It worked a lot better in my mind than how it actually turned out. In my head, I would surgically create a sort of chemical force field, walking the front edge of the field closer and closer towards the now cowering animal until it finally gave up and turned tail.
What actually happened is that I squirted three-quarters of a can of mace into the police vehicle, saturating the crushed velour seats with it in the process since the windows were open. I managed to squirt a bit of the stuff on the roof of the vehicle, but it only stayed there until the possum licked it up, showing, much to my dismay and disappointment, no ill-effects whatsoever. The mace affected it not. one. whit.. Great plan, jackass!! NOW WHAT??
By this time, I was starting to get seriously concerned that I was either going to be missed, and looked for. Called on the radio. Or attacked by a horde of demented, rabies-infected, bloodthirsty possums. Great. Isn't that just my friggin' luck?! How come no other cops ever get attacked by possums??!! How come it always has to be ME??? Damn!!
After wandering about aimlessly for awhile and getting increasingly vexed at the possums seemingly unperterbed demeanor during this whole bloody incident, I finally came across a branch that was about eight feet long. It had a nice thick brambly end, and was relatively straight. I snuck up on the possum, and using the branch, pushed it across the roof of the vehicle and off the other side, praying that it wouldn't fall into the open passenger side window, because then I would really be in a world of shit!!
I suddenly realized, once I had succeeded in pushing the darned thing off of my police car, that we were now standing on the same piece of ground. In my mind's eye, I could see it rushing towards me under the vehicle, just like that freaky little voodoo doll in "Trilogy of Terror" that attacked Karen Black with a butcher knife. I immediately began freaking out and hurled myself into the vehicle, almost killing myself on the steering wheel and then fumbling to simultaneously get the door closed, fend off attacking possums, and quickly close all of the windows (presumably to prevent them from leaping in the windows at me...).
I succeeded in getting all of the windows and doors closed without causing any significant bloodshed, and immediately began gagging and choking and tearing....
I was sitting in a veritable puddle of chemical mace.
The last clear sight that I had as my eyes clamped shut was that of the possum waddling calmly away towards a choice tree.
Now I had another problem to cope with. In about seven hours, I would be turning the vehicle over to the day shift, and the car sucked because it was reeking of mace. You couldn't breathe, you couldn't see, and you damned sure couldn't drive!!
I needed another plan!!
I stuck my head out of the window, and slowly cruised down to the Long Island Expressway. I was going to air the vehicle out!
I got onto the expressway going westboound and kicked it up to about 140mph with all of the windows open. I couldn't see, but I figured that was okay since I knew there were no turns or anything. I drove about six exits, and figured I would have to turn around and try it going the other direction, since I didn't want to get too far away from my assigned sector and the mace hadn't actually aired out all that much. So I flipped around and headed back the other direction. 140mph. All the windows open.
After about the fourth time back and forth, enough of the mace had cleared out so that I could just see the Highway Patrol vehicle sitting in the center median. I knew the operator of that vehicle on this shift, and I didn't particularly want to have to explain exactly what the hell I was trying to do, or why. So of course, that meant....
(This meant that he wanted me to switch to channel 8, our car-to-car frequency, because he undoubtedly wanted to ask me what the fuck I was doing. Great.)
I switched channels, but decided not to answer him...
"-18, you on??"
". . . . . . ."
"618! Do you read??"
"618. Are you in pursuit of a vehicle???"
"Unab..... ..... you."
(I fervently hoped that I didn't sound like someone pretending to be unreadable and unintelligable, which would only make him even more curious).
I switched back to the main precinct channel.
After three more unsuccessful attempts to switch me down to car to car, the bastard finally called up my dispatcher and asked if I would meet him, naming the location.
I drove over there, and he asked me whether I had been chasing someone, and said that he had been looking for a dark colored cadillac or lincoln that had eluded him earlier on in the evening. I said, "Yeah! It could have been a cadillac, I guess... I finally broke off the chase... he turned his lights off, and I lost him."
That seemed to satisfy him, and he finally went away.
I got to drive around in mace-stank all night, and got bitched at for shitting up the car with mace by the day shift sector car operator. I had to write an internal correspondence to the precinct commanding officer explaining why I needed a new can of mace. And I got to have sore eyes and a burning nose for a few days.
The possum got to play on my police car and go home.
Doesn't seem fair....