I’m pleased that you all were wise enough to heed my warning and that I didn’t encounter any of you on my ride along Saturday night. Officer Ron and I did our level best to keep the streets of America safe, though there actually wasn’t that much policing necessary, at least not for us. As Saturday nights go, it was untypically quiet. No DUI’s, no chatty drunks, and, best of all, no women’s underwear in a man’s fanny pack. Just a couple routine traffice stops and a fairly benign domestic disturbance (all yelling, no hitting). We did get to crank up the siren once, but just like last time we arrived at the scene after the situation was well in hand. It was a good thing, I suppose, to ride along on a night like that, just to get a more complete view of day-in-day-out life of the beat cop.
There was one unusual incident, and not the kind they put on the recruiting poster. There was a report of a suspicious vehicle parked behind a business in an empty parking lot. The decription was of a green SUV with no plates and a canoe strapped to the top. We were in the vicinity and, since there was nothing more interesting going on, decided to check it out. We spotted the offending vehicle and as the headlights hit it we saw a guy in the driver’s seat, his head back and his mouth open, apparently asleep. He was wearing a camoflague jacket and had one of those miner’s style flashlights on his forehead. My first thought was that this was some camper on a long trip and he had stopped in this secluded stop to grab a few winks. I was partially right.
I stayed in the car as Ron got out and walked up to the vehicle, shining his flashlight inside to investigate. He walked around to the driver side and looked around inside through the windows before knocking on the window and startling our tired traveler awake. I couldn’t hear the conversation, but saw them go through what looked like the standard drill–license, registration, what are you doing here–where at one point the camper grabbed what looked like a torn out coupon off his dashboard and handed it to Ron. He looked at it then gave it back. They talked for another minute or two, Ron checked out the back of the SUV and then sent the guy on his way.
As Ron climbed back into the patrol car he said, “Guys a wacko.”
“What was his deal?” I asked.
“Do you really want to know?”, Ron replied, grinning in that “I can’t believe what that just was” kind of way.
“Uh, I don’t know, do I?”
**Warning: If you are easily grossed out by weirdos doing weird things in dark parking lots, turn back now or at least skip the next paragraph. There, you have been warned.**
When Ron had gone up to the vehicle and shined his flashlight in to have a look inside, he was startled to find our groggy friend with his fly open and a gentleman’s magazine close at hand. He had been camping at a park in town but just wanted a little “privacy” before heading back. He apparently got really indignant with Ron and couldn’t understand what the big deal was, he “was only sleeping.” Only sleeping in a darkened car, in a dark parking lot of a closed business, late at night. He couldn’t understand why this was a problem, to say nothing of any activity he may have been participating in before he dozed off. The “coupon” he had handed Ron was his permit to camp in the park which, surprisingly, did not give him permission to be where he was at the moment.
**OK, should be all clear now**
I told Ron that maybe my coming out with him was bad luck. Last time it was the underwear and now this. Things seem to be getting progressively worse, so maybe I’ll find someone else to ride along with next time. For our own sakes if nothing else.
Despite that unpleasentness and the slow evening overall, my desire to pursue this remains strong. The city’s budget concerns may cause a speed bump in the process as financial difficulties may put a halt on hirings for a while. But my inside sources assure me that even if that is the case, it won’t last for too long. People retire or leave for other reasons and there will always be a need for officers. In the meantime, I’ll continue going on as many ride alongs as I can, if for no other reason than its good, cheap entertainment for a Saturday night.