One night, I was riding on patrol with one of the regulars I hardly knew, and we got a call to back up another unit on an armed robbery in progress, with a silent alarm. The adrenaline is pumping before you even step on the gas in a situation like that, and by the time we arrived at the scene, a Chinese restaurant, the first unit had already arrived, and had gone in the front door. We went to the back door, with all senses on alert, and as we emerged from the car, my partner asked, “You okay?”
“You bet,” I responded. Since I had the shotgun, I told him, “You get the door – I’ll sweep the room.” He opened the door; I checked the kitchen and saw nothing but cooks and helpers, performing normal tasks. Since they might easily be unaware of happenings at the register, I gave the go ahead, and we went in.
Halfway across the gap between the back door and the nearest counter, I heard the swinging door from the restaurant open. I rolled out and came up with my shotgun pointed at an old Chinese cook who was chopping vegetables on the counter as a leisurely rate. He saw me land, glanced up briefly, and only missed one stroke. He then increased his pace ten-fold, determined not to acknowledge the 12 gauge pointed at his head. I popped up with my shotgun leveled at the swing door, at the same time my partner glanced my way, and reached out and shoved the entering waiter toward me. He then rolled through the open door. I signed the waiter to the floor, and he obeyed immediately. I heard nothing out front, so I assumed my partner had been undetected, and that perhaps the hold-up wasn’t taking place at the cash register, but in the office. A fleeting image of Pete, with his fingers in his mouth, ran through my mind, but I was damned if I planned on checking out, with that kind of expression on my face. I rolled the waiter’s cart out the door, and followed right behind it, with my shotgun up.
My partner and three other officers, one of them Pete, were standing six feet inside, talking to each other, with the manager. As Pete spun around to face the rolling cart, I realized that it was either over, or had been a false alarm. I looked at Pete, who was in the open, with his side to me, and said, “Bang!”
A half second later, one of the others, who turned out to be Pete’s partner, said, “Bang!” too. Then I felt a finger behind my left ear, as another officer said, “Bang, bang!”
I did the one thing that could have made Pete laugh in a situation like that. I fell to the floor.
What turned out to have happened, was that the Maitre D’s podium had two buttons concealed beneath the ledge – one to summon a busboy from the kitchen in case of a spill or breakage, and the other for the silent alarm. A new hostess had inadvertently hit the wrong button.
Outside, enjoying a smoke, while the adrenaline ran out, Pete asked me if I knew what I had done wrong. I thought about it a minute, then said, “Nope. I’d do it the same way the next time.”
Pete shook his head and turned toward his car. I thought surely my answer must have seemed stupid to him, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything I had done wrong.
Pete reached his cruiser, and halfway in, he called out, “Good!” Then he drove off.
My partner clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Thanks!”
“For what?” I asked
“There you go!” he answered. “You drive.”
Obviously, all of a cop’s job isn’t funny. Some is sad, some is scary as hell. Most is boring and uneventful. You’re called on to arrest dangerous felons and perform dangerous high-speed chases. From time to time, you may have to enter a dark, deserted warehouse, hoping some junky doesn’t panic and blow a hole in you or your partner.
Most often you’ll find yourself calming an irate wife, whose drunken husband just smashed the family car. Or maybe you’ll be asked to help unlock a car, with the keys hanging in the ignition. You’ll occasionally have to write that first ticket to some 16 year old, out on a date in dad’s car. All of these, of course, involve paperwork, the most time-consuming part of the job.
Sometimes you’ll pull parade duty, where you’ll stand and direct traffic ‘til you think you arm is going to fall off. Or you may find yourself addressing an auditorium full of high school kids, with contemptuous looks on their faces.
For me the worst details were finding an injured child at the scene of an accident, and attending the funeral of a fellow officer. They both bring reality crashing down on you.
But it was one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever held, and I’d do it again in a minute!