Alex Teach on the beatalex teach on the beat
Officer Alex reminisces about the good old nights
LIKE MOST COPS, I WORK A SIDE JOB TO MAKE up for the salary I don’t make as a reasonably intelligent person or a remarkably dumb one with excellent reflexes.
I’m the one directing traffic for churches, or walking the mall keeping the peace in between handling shoplifters. I have guarded bar parking lots against after-hours brawls and vehicle break-ins until they were disallowed, and I have escorted diamond shipments from the comfort of my own vehicle.
I’ve watched the parking lots of restaurants and bowling alleys, and I’ve even hidden in a few errant kitchens with a shotgun in my hands in expectance of a predicted break-in and more…but nothing and I mean NOTHING has ever been so fulfilling as the times spent in a Section 8-area convenience store.
That these stores are operated largely by first-generation East Indians is not just incidental, it is crucial to my enjoyment. They are an economically fierce people, and these are the businessmen and women that take advantage of the loans presented to them and go with it where the market is most demanding, and usually most dangerous.
Chain stores cannot operate effectively amidst chaos; they require order for fluid operations, and ‘The Hood’ does not permit the flow of reality that is required by them for this. That leaves a niche to be filled by the daring and the hungry, and in my experience the East Indian immigrant is that hungry operator. Where they falter in their mastery of the English language, they revel in their business acumen and their dedication to the dollar, and most importantly, their willingness to adapt to the most culturally diverse environment possible.
Although such a store is not dictated by its relative filth, it is a definite indicator. These stores are signaled by not only their apparent lack of concern for sanitation, but also by the order of their displays in nonaccordance to any flow chart concerning demographics or even relative common sense.
Newspapers are located between ice cream and sealed pickles. Hair weaves and hair beads are displayed next to the case of deep-fried wings and potato logs concocted in deep friars behind closed doors, immune to the regulations of known health codes and decency afforded to the most congenial vats of grease and fat. If you were still in doubt, you could use the contagion-slicked public restroom, containing a weed-eater to the right of the toilet tank and spare copper pipes to the left. But the real signal to me was always the type of ‘singles’ that were sold over the counter. Single cigarettes, single 12-oz. beers, single Starburst and single Nerds were sold in record numbers and under close scrutiny by clerk and customer alike.
Then there was the highlight of most evenings: A dispute with the clerk. “No! It is not two dollar, it is two tirty-nine! It has never been two dollar! It has always been two tirty-nine, de price has never change, yet every night you come in and say dis!” and “No! No, I will not ‘hit you back, dog’! You will pay me now or you will get nutting!” And the all-time best? “Vuck me? No, I don’t tink so. Vuck YOU!”, but even those end well with only minimal intervention, so in all I knew I had a good thing going.
Normality doesn’t exist there so the conditions were tolerable, as they always are when you work where some are afraid to frequent but still consider you an equal. The bonds of friendship become twice as strong twice as quickly with the staff and other people, because they are actually forced to get to know cops as regular folks and occasionally find they like them. I even found myself sad to leave (because no store in the Hood stays open 24 hours, after all), but like all aspects of said Hood, with the exception of the fryer grease, it never truly ends or stops changing, so I always had something to look forward to the next time.
Come in and make a purchase, but be quick, and remember: They may not hit you back (dog), but the pickles can’t expire, and the chicken? Well, the chicken is deep-fried and that should be good enough…then be about your way. If loitering were allowed, the cop on the parking lot wouldn’t be there in the first place.