Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Officer Alex ponders a new generation of non-Joe-loving police
I CRUISED ALONG BELOW THE SPEED LIMIT ON an empty road, window partially down to take in the chill night air. It was a wonderful contrast to the hot cup of coffee in my left hand, my right barely gripping the steering wheel as I scanned the side streets for people determined to plow into me.
Streetlights cast repetitive shadows, and my cruiser’s tires hummed a monotone pace for them. I realized I hadn’t seen another patrol car in hours. It was barely 4 a.m….where the hell were they? I took a scalding sip without notice, and reflected a bit.
The cops they hire today shave their heads instead of combing their hair, and prefer protein supplements and water to overcooked hot dogs and a good cup of Joe. They obsess over hand sanitizer and rarely shake hands, then spend $130 dollars on a flashlight and complain about their pay. They speed past citizens observing the speed limit and stranded motorists alike because they’re preoccupied on their cell phones, ironically talking to people about a lack of respect.
These are the ones who scour labels for percentages of trans-fats instead of alcohol content, and wear a job requiring body armor while living in stark fear of secondhand smoke. I ponder these things while wondering how to reach out to them, then nearly spill my coffee while taking a curve as if I, too, had just started The Job. Embarrassing.
I took a moment to glance at the cup, a monument of brushed stainless steel with a hooked handle that, if you were good, you could hang over your gun belt or even clip it over the grip of the pistol itself when need be.
I took coffee black, not because I enjoyed it so much that way, but rather because that was the only way I would consistently find it in a world where your desk was a dashboard and your office a five-by-six room with a great stereo and horrible ceiling clearance.
I mapped out my nights by the quality of the brew. Iit was kept fresh by some of the only people that really, truly appreciated cops, because convenience store clerks were more frequently killed on the job than we were. We were conversation and protection all in one, and many became friends. That’s not to say the coffee was perfect. Oh, no. But a pot on a burner for ten hours straight is better than none at all.
As far as I was concerned, coffee was like royalty, a visitor that warmed your hands and your chest when you were cold and gently or jarringly woke you up. I didn’t understand these kids’ fear of such a fundamental part of the cop diet. I’ve forgiven it the second-degree burns it left on my thighs when I took it (and physics) for granted in sharp curves, and while the smell of it takes me back to a hundred homicide scenes and fatal crashes, I don’t look at it as an unwanted reminder, but rather as a friend who stood by me when words wouldn’t do.
Like a liberal talk show, it made you bead with sweat and pound desks and cry out in rage over things that should have been ignored outright in the first place—until the bitter java parted the clouds on the subject, not to mention your impulse control. So, yes, it complicated some things, but at the end of the day? Coffee was an old friend who, like silence and cynicism, rarely betrayed you.
I was pleasantly surprised to see blue strobes up ahead and swapped my headlights for rear flashers so as to not silhouette my boys while parking a few yards behind them. I sat back and observed, blowing on the surface of my mug before taking another sip, steam gently rising from its surface. When I ambled over eventually, they would frown upon my non-tactical accoutrement, but that’s OK.
I was patient with them, and God knows, wide awake. Neither were coincidence.