So i’m hanging out with this priest and we’re both getting pretty buzzed, and I’m thinking, “This is pretty cool.” But not for the usual reasons, of course. Though I’d met a fair amount of clergymen along the path (being in neighboring professions and all), I’d actually not met him on the job; I met him via this column. (Which reminds me: Thank you, Gary.)
He’d written me regarding an article I’d done a few years ago in which I mentioned the irony of how St. Patrick had never actually been canonized by a Pope (meaning he was never an actual “Saint,” despite pretty much all the calendars in the world but the Mayans), and while he said he knew this he’d never actually seen it addressed and felt professionally obligated to give me the priests equivalent of “props.” He’d been a fan for a while despite my vulgar language, and added a “hah hah” to this.
I, in turn, felt professionally obligated to doubt the authenticity of his identity and suggested we hang out sometime and have a milk or something. To my surprise, he agreed.
We met at a local eatery called the Yellow Deli. It was a joint built by what some referred to as a “Christian cult” and I wanted to see what the priest thought of this, or if he’d flinch at the prospect of meeting there. (That, and the fact that it serves possibly the finest sammich ever created, known as the Deli Rose, making the meeting a success even if he chose not to show up.) But show up he did, God Suit and all.
He was delightful. Long gray hair that was not so neatly combed with a full beard that also barely qualified as groomed, and just enough dandruff to confirm that he was either a lifelong bachelor or a local Democratic Party representative. His smile was the smile of one much-practiced at doing so, but who never needed anything in return, and I knew then he wasn’t an imposter. We talked carefully at first and in the end we agreed on two things: that we’d just had a sammich that was clearly a result of divine intervention, and that we should hang out again.
We’d corresponded through writing, but after the second lunch he invited me to share in a gift brought to him by a co-worker from Scotland, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Glenrothes, a bottle of Speyside single-malt whiskey, which happens to be my favorite style. “We don’t get a lot of baggage checked,” he explained with a wink. I really liked him.
As happens with cops, I’d pre-judged him. He’s a priest, so that means he can’t curse, drink, fart, womanize, vandalize or “have fun” in general. I quickly found that I was wrong about four out of six of these things.
These guys aren’t babes in the woods, ignorant of impure thoughts and the evil that men and women can do; they are repositories for pain and have had every horror story in the world confessed to them in detail at one time or another. And what can they do with this information? Give a bit of advice—then never speak to another soul about it for as long as they live. We could be cousins, professionally speaking, just with very different rules of engagement.
He knows I am a more primitive person, but he “gets it,” too—and does what I initially failed to in not judging me too harshly. I watch my language (somewhat) and he doesn’t push for attendance, and we refer customers to one another as well as advice, though never directly. We cannot speak of politics, but otherwise we’re the most bizarre sounding boards in the world, yet the best fitting.
The point? Cop, priest or janitor—don’t underestimate people. You may not only be at a disadvantage, but you may also be missing out on a damn good friend. (And trust us on the Speyside’s.)
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.