Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Officer Alex gets a new beat and experiences culture shock. Clients, take heed.
“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…”
— “Downtown”, by Petula Clark
“Vood it be okeh if I took my pic’cha vit you?” said the comely young German woman as she approached me with her husband from across the street. I was still adapting to this kind of behavior, but I complied and even ensured we had the marked car in the backdrop.
“To be honest,” she said afterward, “in Germany ve ah afraid of ze’ police. Ven you deal vit dem it is all business and usually trouble. You ah so approachable he’ah und kind, ve haf’ nevah seen zis. Sank you.”
What the hell? Was she crazy? Was I just complimented? I only acceded to the picture because her accent and appearance with her husband gave me a sudden flashback to a scene from the movie “Super Troopers”. The statistical likelihood of this was too much to pass up (and yes—EVERY cop watches “Super Troopers” in its entirety every time they see it on television just as you do with “Shawshank Redemption”, despite both of us probably having the DVD next to the TV), but this had never happened before. Literally.
“Distressed areas,” they were called. They had been the only environment I had worked in since Clinton was president so I was completely out of my element here.
Not only were there street lights everywhere, they actually worked. Crime scene tape did not linger on the street signs on the corners. People were running, running everywhere! Yet they weren’t running from me or because they did something; they were just running for no reason. To stay healthy? I just assumed it was something I would never know.
Young children were not playing in the road alone or unsupervised: They were holding the hands of an adult, and in many cases the adult appeared to be their father. Kids with fathers?
For the first few days, or perhaps weeks, I performed various experiments to ensure this wasn’t the Wachowski brothers’ “Matrix.” And why wouldn’t I?
People in restaurants ate “vegetarian wraps”, and the one gas station in the area didn’t have the first deep fryer. You read this right: A gas station that did NOT produce metric tons of tater logs or chicken or jalapeno poppers that required a roll of paper towels per serving.
When I got out of my car to walk, I still locked it, but I did not do so with my pistol in my hand with the barrel pointed down and its left side held against my chest so that I could secure it but keep it rapidly deployable at the first sign of trouble. It stayed in its holster.
And instead of people asking me for my badge number? They were asking me for directions. (The first one that did so, I maced out of sheer panic—I admit it. I was still woozy from having passed out at seeing a young woman in yoga pants working a hula hoop in an open park area…like I could be BLAMED for any of this.)
Where am I going with all this? I have no idea. And it’s not that I’ve been wrong about anything, I mean, of course, but there is a definite possibility that the phrase “becoming institutionalized” applies to more than just prison inmates. I suppose it’s closer to home than I ever realized about my prior assignments. In the meantime, I think I’m going to ponder this a bit more at a place called “a restaurant.”
The kind where there is a lectern up front from which someone politely seats you and appoints a waiter or waitress who more likely than not doesn’t have a knife behind their apron for security. Where menus have heart healthy options, and...(Your Author Pauses). It’s all too much.
But I’m still going to take another anti-“Matrix” pill when I get home, just in case. Or perhaps splash some malt liquor on my shoes for comfort, while I figure out why there are not stray dogs walking around aimlessly, and why there are shops that sell coffee, and coffee only...
Thank God I am able to drive through East Chattanooga on the way home after work. Baby steps, ladies and gentlemen. Baby steps. But trust me on the folks asking directions. Trickery, trickery, trickery.