“Jesus, Gary, what were you thinking? We’ve got, like, an hour left on shift,” I said as we cruised up Brainerd Road past what used to be a mall and is now a … well, hell, I don’t know. A big office building with chain restaurants inside?
“We couldn’t leave him there, man,” my partner said. “He was going to get his ass kicked or run over, and that would take a lot longer than a public intox booking.”
“Well, how the hell do you ever expect a drunk to learn to fend for himself if we keep holding their dirty-ass hands like this? Children have to stop crawling someday,” I replied.
He was right of course, but I still had every right to be annoyed. I was off starting the next day and had a free breakfast at Wally’s on McCallie waiting on me, and that was shot to shit thanks to what’s-his-name back there.
“Hey, sir,” said an unsteady voice from the back seat. “Can you turn the A/C on back here?”
I raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement even though I wasn’t facing him. I didn’t have to talk; I was working, and he was my job. I reached down absently to turn the fan up a few notches since the A/C was already on, but then again, it always is in a police car.
“Thanks,” our customer said, which went ignored as words from the back seat often do. Who listens, unless the words are, “You missed my gun” or “I think I need to go to the hospital?”
“Too, shy shy,” my partner whispered randomly. “Hush hush, eye to eye…” His head bobbed as he recited this, but I didn’t even hear goofy shit like this anymore, it was so common. Our guy in the back seat looked on confusedly, but…who cares?
“They better not be backed up,” I interrupted. “Hanlon’s working intake tonight and I swear to God, I can’t take another second of his mouth.”
“He’s a nice guy, man, just be patient with him.” He’d stopped humming ’80s lyrics.
“He thinks the moon is following him, Gary. That’s not ‘nice.’ That’s goddamn crazy. He means that shit, and it creeps me out.”
My partner paused, because this was all true. In-shape smartass or not, that was undeniable and it was late in the shift for an arrest. We turned a curve too sharply, and our customer in the back fell over to his right and decided to stay there for a moment.
“Hey!” said the louder but still shaky voice from the back seat. “How weird. You’re just like everybody else! Wow, I thought you’d be all serious and this would be like TV. You’re just … regular people though.”
He paused, and apparently then looked inward. “Am I going to make bond? I think I’ll get fired over this.” Another pause. “Jesus. I’m screwed.”
My partner glanced back briefly without ever moving his eyes, and said “Yeah. Yep.”
This poor guy was in the back seat, headed to jail. The proverbial big house, the “klink,” and in all this is something that being chained up and having your freedoms removed rates as a “Pretty Big Deal” to most folks. But despite the emotional charge, his hosts were rocky islands well acquainted with travelers such as he. And, accordingly, apathetic as hell towards his plight. He was just another docket number.
What is a big deal to you, is a big deal to you. But bear in mind—no matter how big an issue it may be, there are going to be many people who do not give one shit, and odds are they’ll be the ones in the seat ahead of you, sweating in polyester.
Farewell, traveler. Pack your bags if you wish, but leave room for empathy. Call your mom, your wife and your girlfriend from jail if you need any, for it does not live here in the Police Crown Victoria.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.