When I was still in law enforcement, the most asked question I got was: “How come you belly hangs so far over your belt?” (“It’s where I store my spare ammunition.” Stupid kids.) The most asked question I got from real adult persons was: “How do you like being a cop?” Usually I’d say: “There are things I like and things I don’t like.” Which was true. What I didn’t say was, the thing I disliked the most was always having to be a cop and never really being able to take off the uniform. It wasn’t that I wanted to break laws of rob a bank—unless I was absolutely sure I could get away with it—but it would have been nice to have been just one of the guys.
Most people thought of me as a cop first and a person second. If they saw someone go through a stop sign without stopping, I’d always get the obligatory: “You better go write them a ticket.” (Sorry, I left my squad car in my other pants.) Or if I was riding in a car with several people, and the driver went a couple of miles over the speed limit, I was sure to hear. “He’ll be sending you a speeding ticket tomorrow.” (Sorry, it isn’t a calibrated speedometer, so I have no evidence they were speeding, even if I wanted to give them a citation, which I don’t.) I always heard about a wife, sister, brother, mother, father, cat, parakeet… that got a ticket for speeding and wasn’t speeding. (It didn’t happen. In twenty-six years of law enforcement and tons of speeding tickets, I never had one person tell me they weren’t speeding. Often they said they weren’t going as fast as my radar said, but they still admitted to speeding—so why would I make up a higher speed when they were already speeding?)
My wife and I once went out to eat with some other couples. Another couple rode with us and two other couples followed in a separate car. As soon as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot and stopped, the driver of the car behind us came running up to my car.
“If I was a cop I’d be writing you a speeding ticket,” he said. “Because I had you going fifty-six miles an hour!”
“I had the cruise control set for fifty-five all the way,” I said.
“That’s true,” the guy who was riding in my car said. “I watched the speedometer all the way, because if he went over fifty-five, I was going to say something.”
I wonder how they would feel if the police started writing people citations for going one mile an hour over the speed limit?
There are other occupations where you can’t take off your uniform even if you don’t have a uniform. I imagine people are always coming up to doctors, even away from the office, asking about an ache, pain or funny looking lump. If I was a doctor I could fix that rather easily.
Guy walking up to me if I was smart enough to graduate from medical school: Hey Doc, I keep coughing up this funny looking purple stuff. What is it?
Me, pulling out a rubber glove out of my pocket and snapping it on my hand: Turnaround, drop your pants and grab your ankles.
I think after a couple of times, the word would get around and people would leave me alone when I’m not in the office, but I’m pretty sure I’d get kicked out of Wal-Mart for life.
A minister is another line of work where you can’t take off the uniform. You can’t wake up in the morning and say, “Hey, it’s my day off. I think I’ll go do a little sinning today. Nothing big. None of the seven deadly ones. Just a couple little thou-shall-nots.”
Okay maybe that’s not how it would go. But I think they get tired of being at a ball game and someone blurts out the f-word, and then seeing the minister they say, “Sorry Reverend.” The minister probably thinks: Why are you apologizing to me? I’m off duty, and I didn’t make the rules. I just follow them like you’re supposed to.
To update you on my writing, I put aside the novel that I posted the opening for a few weeks ago. I still don’t like the voice, and until I get it right, I’m going to work on a different one. It’s darker than anything I’ve done before. Yesterday I drowned a guy. Or maybe not.