Officer Alex finds perspective in a younger version of him
I was sitting at a desk because it had a stable internet connection so I could complete a report before my shift was over. (OK…reports, plural.)
Paper had long since given way to wireless internet air cards and that made everything better, but when a pen ran out of ink, you pulled another from your pocket. When your USB port got bent because your knee bumped up against the side of your 2002 laptop, you had to go through a requisition process through three middlemen via another city department to get a replacement (depending on the current vendor contract and current inventory, of course), and that made the daily requirement to get those reports completed a bitch, but the level to which you care about knowing this bit of bureaucracy is likely inversely proportional to how much it pissed off the average beat cop just trying to knock out a day’s reports to avoid another write up.
So where was I? Ah, yes. The advancement of modern technology. (I’m being a smart ass, but since the transition from paper to wireless computers, we went from writing reports and having them available to our customers in five-to-seven business days, to having them available to our customers in…well, five-to-seven business days.)
The report I was (not) writing was one of thousands I’d added into our history. This one was the common theft of lawn equipment in an otherwise quiet neighborhood; random, but ballsy. The other was about a spouse that hadn’t come home from work yet. (“Is it true we should wait 24 hours to report something like this?”) Her concern was real, but all else? I was polite. I’ll leave it at that.
We had come so far as a profession, yet here I was, in a 50-year-old building writing the same kind of report we wrote with about the same efficiency as we had 50 years ago. The state of politics wasn’t much different, and were it not for the personal cell phone camera to finally arbitrate our side of the story, too, what had really changed?
It was the futility of it all I think I was lamenting for no reason in particular, when out of the corner of my eye I realized that this whole time, there was a young cop I didn’t recognize sitting at a fold-up table outside my converted office (it had most recently served as a storage room) who was diligently poring over a small, laminated textbook, with a rectangular nylon tote bag at his booted feet. It clicked—I didn’t recognize him because he was out of this last academy and in field training.
I’d had a rectangular bag once...because I didn’t have a trunk to keep my stuff in. I’d pored over laminated books once…because I didn’t have a brain to keep street smarts in. Otherwise, it was just a newer polyester and leather version of me. For all intents and purposes, a replacement.
The cycle continued.
Had there been a veteran sitting inside some cubbyhole nearby while I waited on my ride because I was 30 minutes early to my shift? Statistically speaking: Yup. Had they probably been just as frustrated with the seeming lack of progress in their profession? Yup. Had I ultimately replaced that slightly angry, bitter person? Silently doing the math in my head: Yup.
I’m not sure where we began (outside of the era of Sir Robert Peel), but I now at least realized we never truly “end.” I had a few more years to go but my replacement was already just outside the door.
That’s what I’d let go, I think, and while my problems were still just as real to me, at least my place in this blue world was suddenly redefined. The kid outside was an unfurling leaf on a large tree, one of many but ultimately replaceable; the spring to my autumn.
I went back to my report(s). I was almost done, after all.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.