On Being Called a “Crazy Bitch”

Have you ever had a moment of clarity? A defining moment that changes your perspective irrevocably?

In the summer of 1981, I was a 22 year-old rookie police officer, working the 4pm-12pm shift. I had become a Danbury cop the previous August, and spent that fall attending the municipal police academy. A few weeks riding with several veteran officers (receiving practical advice like how to make a safe motor vehicle stop, and what not to broadcast over the police radio, like my home address when signaling out for lunch), and I was sent out on my own to protect and serve.  For the next 6 months, I kept my head down, did as I was told, worked traffic posts, walked foot beats downtown, and otherwise (so I thought), learned how to do my job.

But I have to admit now, these many years later, that I was putting up something of a false front. To myself I thought, who was I to be mediating marital disputes, rousting teenagers, summonsing motorists, and otherwise telling complete strangers what to do?  I was a young person, and a woman, who had never been in a fight in my life, presuming an authority I wasn’t  sure I possessed, or was even entitled to possess. And what would happen if I were to be found out?  Would someone, finally, just point at me and say, “Poser! Give back the badge!”

On this particular summer evening, things in Danbury had been relatively quiet for most of the night. Then, about 10pm, our sergeant, a tall gentleman named Jonas, was flagged down by a man claiming that he had just seen someone breaking into his car, parked on Ives St., near the rear of the downtown post office.  A physical description (race, build, clothing) was broadcast over the radio, and another officer, patrolling past a nearby bar/pool hall called the Uptowners, spotted a man in a small group out front matching  it. Jonas drove by with his witness and confirmed the identification.

Several of us had already driven to the area, knowing the rough & tumble reputation of the bar, and anticipating the possibility of things not going well.  Jonas & another officer, Paul, went in first to make the arrest. They escorted the man off to the side, into a narrow space between the building & a car parked next to it.

(Note: This car, a late 70’s vintage, fully accessorized, two-tone (royal blue & gold), Lincoln-Continental, belonging to a local “businessman” named Neet, had its’ own backstory: it was rumored to have been stolen three separate times one very slow evening and parked at different spots downtown by several officers screwing with both Neet & each other. But this may be just rumor.)

Unsurprisingly, Jonas’ suspect was uninterested in being taken into custody. As Jonas and Paul began to wrestle with him, patrons started pouring out of the bar to protest the arrest and another officer, John, and I came running from across the street to assist.  Paul, John, and I positioned ourselves in a line between Neet’s Lincoln and the building, with Jonas behind us,  trying to handcuff his uncooperative suspect. Using horizontally held Kel-Lites (heavy-duty aluminum flashlights), we pushed back at the increasing crowd of screaming people.  Then we heard Jonas’ voice, yelling over the noise, “Oh, Paul, have you got a minute?”  Paul turned and saw that Jonas needed another pair of hands to secure his still struggling arrestee.  Paul turned to John and said “Do you guys have this?” John turned to me, I shrugged my shoulders, and Paul went behind us to help Jonas.

For the first few minutes, John and I were doing ok, just pushing the people back, telling them to back off.  Then, a fist came out of the crowd and punched me hard in the throat, knocking me back over the hood of Neet’s car, stunned, and in a quite a bit of pain. I managed to retain a tight grip on my flashlight, which the hand that had struck me was now trying to take from me. Time seemed to stop for a second, the crowd noise disappeared, and I thought to myself, “Well, now what are you going to do?”  And I realized, I was outraged, angry, thinking, “How dare you hit me?”  Apparently, pain pisses me off.  I heard John ask me, “Are you ok?” I caught my breath, swallowed (most unpleasant), and said, “Yeah”.

As I straightened up, John and I both looked down and saw the hand trying to take my flashlight, so we reached into the crowd, and pulled out the body that was attached to the hand, the man who had hit me for doing my job. We threw him roughly over the hood of Neet’s car and fought to cuff him up. Neet’s previously pristine hood may have been (badly) dented during the process. Jonas and Paul had secured their suspect, so John and I began to head for our patrol cars with ours. We were closely followed by people yelling at us about the injustice of it all, and as John moved forward, half walking, half dragging our handcuffed suspect by the back of his shirt, I covered his back, fending off the crowd with my light, while occasionally turning to scream down at our suspect, “You hit me!!”  Finally, John found his car, stuffed our man in the back, and we left the area. Other officers remained on the scene, dispersing the remaining group.

My sergeant had ordered me to go to the ER, to have my throat checked, so it was some time before I returned to the police station to do my paperwork. A fairly sizable group of unhappy citizens had gathered in the lobby of the station after the arrests, mostly to protest the situation, although one enterprising gentleman also tried to file a theft report, claiming one of the officers on the scene had stolen his ‘Rolex’. Both the claim and the ‘Rolex’ were found to be bogus.

When I came back from the ER, John had processed our prisoner and was in the hallway with him, prepping him to be placed in a holding cell. As I walked by on my way to the report room, he looked up and saw me. We stared at each other for a moment, then he turned to John and in a high-pitched, genuinely frantic voice, said, “Keep her away from me. That bitch is crazy.”

And I thought that was a fine thing to be. At that moment, I knew I was going to be all right. No one was going to take back my badge. I was learning to be a cop.

 

 

 

My Machines Work By Magic

 

My own little corner
My own little corner

I have never before made friends with technology.  I accept its’ necessity, but I resolutely refuse to pay any more than the most basic attention to how any of it works. As far as I am concerned, it all operates via magic, from my computer to my car, and must be tended regularly by wizards, cleverly disguised as either tech support or my mechanic.

I have also actively tried to avoid using machines. I own one power tool, a palm sander, which as it’s electrified sandpaper hardly qualifies.  I’ve had the same food processor & electric mixer since my wedding, almost 25 years ago, because I prefer knives & graters, my juicer of glass, in a lovely shade of green, my mortar & pestle, in smooth white porcelain. A Dexter chef’s knife with a wooden handle & a 10″ blade I use daily, even though it’s better suited to carving a roast than mincing parsley. It belonged to my dad, & I like to think he’d appreciate that it’s still in use, although I’m sure he’d want to correct my hand position.

However, two weeks ago, when our home pc began to deny me access to virtually everything on it, & the nice Roger determined that a virus had done very bad things inside it,  we decided to replace it. But this time, thanks to my newfound enthusiasm for doing more things online, like blogging, I would involve myself in what I recall was the tedious process of choosing a new computer. Imagine my surprise, after a pleasant 1/2 hour with a polite (& frighteningly young) man named Taylor, we carried out of the store a perfectly lovely piece of equipment.

2016-02-22 16.05.15
Rather nice looking, don’t you think?

First of all, no more black box-o-techno-stuff on the floor. The computer & monitor are, finally, one. Secondly, it’s white. Yes, there’s still a black border around the actual screen, but the rest of it is sleekly, elegantly white. And thirdly, & perhaps most importantly, it’s much friendlier than any computer I’ve ever used. Once Roger connected it (I know my limitations, but at least this time I stayed in the room while he did it.), a tranquil blue screen appeared, and periodically displayed friendly, soothing messages about how things were being done, & none of these things would take too long, & it hoped we would remain patient. So, we waited a little while, & we were soothed, & we remained patient. And lo, internet connectivity, & access to the world was granted.

Who doesn't yearn for this?
Who doesn’t yearn for this?

There are still wires to deal with, though. I corral them as best I can.

The Octopus.
The Octopus.

I am still in the process of discovering what my new machine will do. It has a camera, so I can either make videos or be spied upon. I believe I can talk to it (voice-activated search). So far, it has not initiated conversation. I believe I am relieved about that. Finally, I believe I’m going to have fun with it. And that’s a bit of modern magic.

 

 

But What if I’m Too Old To Get Pregnant?

I was watching last night’s “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert. I am a longtime fan, and last night’s monologue was a little bit of wonderful. He had one of his writers, Ariel Dumont, an actual woman, appear on stage with him, to skewer the CDC’s warning for women against EVER consuming alchohol, due to the risk of pregnancy or contracting an STD. I had no idea that the lifestyle I’ve enjoyed for so many years was so dangerous. Why isn’t this on a warning label, like with cigarettes? I could get preggo from pinot? Chlamydia from cabernet? Syphilis from sauvignon? Given my age, & monogamy, this is indeed distressing news.

Enjoy.

My Family’s Ass

2016-02-08 13.01.12
Figaro, in the early 1970’s

 

His name was Figaro. He was a donkey belonging to my father’s parents, whose names to me were Marga & Grandpa (aka Evelyn & Bob Allen). They lived on the outskirts of Bethel, in a red saltbox-style house, its’ kitchen window overlooking the front yard to the road, & a red, 2-story barn adjacent. They also owned pastureland across the street where Figaro would graze, and from which he would escape regularly, traveling thru the woods as the crow flies to other outskirts of Bethel. This would prompt phone conversations such as this: “Hello?” “Hello, Mr. Allen?” “Yes, speaking.” “Sir, this is so-&-so, your ass is in my back yard, again.” “I’ll be there directly.”

My grandmother’s sister, May, owned the house next door to my grandparents’ house and summered there for many years. It was a small, white house, with a lovely patio ringed by a garden, perfect for the tiny, white-haired, old lady that May was in those years. You could walk up the hill & come to it via the road, or take the lilac path thru the woods, from my grandparents’ front yard, near the house. In the spring, when the lilac bushes lining both sides of the path would bloom the air smelled heavenly.

In the mid 1960’s, my dad, also named Bob, was staying in Aunt May’s house while between marriages. He long told a tale of being at home one evening with his closest friend, Terry, playing chess. Now, this was probably true, as far as it went, but there was also likely an excess of scotch involved. In any event, whilst playing chess, (& drinking scotch) both men heard a noise, outside on the patio. They were manly men, so they went to investigate. They were sensible, manly men, so they armed themselves. But because they were sensible, manly, & very drunk men, they armed themselves with…spatulas.

They stepped out onto the patio, gripping their spatulas, & crept cautiously thru the darkness. There, amidst the shrubbery, having escaped confinement yet again, was…Figaro. Considerably relieved, my dad put down his spatula, & approached Figaro, thinking to lead him down the hill to the barn. But Figaro had other plans, & bolted away, with my dad in hot pursuit, lit cigarette clutched firmly in his teeth. Down the driveway to the road, down the road to the barn, across in front of my grandparents’ house, up the lilac path & around they went. I estimate the distance on this to be about a quarter mile per lap. My grandmother happened to be at her kitchen window, & what she first saw was the odd sight of a single, tiny, orange light, bobbing in the darkness out by the road. The end of my dad’s cigarette, as he did the first of what he swore was 3 full circuits round until Figaro finally tired of his game, & allowed himself to be captured & led off to the barn for the night. My dad wheezed for 2 days.

I remember this story well, because it was one of my dad’s favorite stories to tell. I can see him across the dining table, & hear his voice as he spun it out. I hope I did it justice. I think he’d enjoy it.

The Loudmouth in the Room

A good friend posted on Facebook today, justifiably ranting about a loudmouth in a restaurant, subjecting the unwitting patrons around him to his ill-informed opinions. If one goes out in public, this is always a risk. They are everywhere. And while we all yearn on occasion to be the one to shut the loudmouth up, we seldom do. This is probably wise, since most of us are busy people, & were we to confront every asshole about their conduct, we would have little time for anything else. I had an opportunity once, & I took it. It was wonderful.

I walked into the diner with a colleague to have dinner. We were both in uniform. The diner was crowded & we seated ourselves in a booth opposite the counter, whose seats were all occupied. Now, every diner has its’ regulars. Once you become a regular, you can find yourself on at least a nodding acquaintance, & occasionally a first name basis, with some unique people. I nodded at a couple of these people, & we ordered our dinners. One of the regulars, whom I shall call Buddy, was sitting with a companion at the counter, a good 20 feet away from our booth. Buddy was regaling his friend with a tale of some social event. He went on & on. Loudly. Buddy’s voice floated above the hum of conversation like an increasingly foul cloud. But it wasn’t until Buddy started to describe the physical attributes of a woman in his story, that I felt a line was about to be crossed. As Buddy started to say, “Let me tell you, she had some bazoombas on her like…” I stood up in the middle of the diner, looked straight at him and in my very best, booming police voice said, “Hey Buddy, we’re eating here. DO YOU MIND?”

It may be the only time in my career I received a round of applause.

I Don’t Hate Housework (no, really)

When I retired, almost 9 years ago, I had no plan other than to not leave my house for a couple of weeks. I had no job prospects, nor was I looking for any gainful employment. The only thing I was very sure of was that I was more than a little crisp around the edges from 27 years of police work. I was not then, & am not now, at all regretful of those 27 years, but I was most emphatically DONE. And while I will always value the skills I acquired in law enforcement, many are not transferable to civilian life, such as my ability to hold my own in a bar fight. But what do I do NOW? Just housework?

Actually, yes. While I was hibernating in it, I looked around our house. I looked in closets & containers. I inspected walls & cabinetry & floors. And I expanded my definition of housework to include work that if I hired someone to do it, would have cost us a fortune. Never mind that I did not know HOW to re-finish wood floors, hand-trowel plaster, or repair sheetrock. Nor had I even painted anything in some years. I viewed these as unimportant details. After all, I was reasonably smart, not unfamiliar with hard work (although I was thankfully distant from a time when I had to do it frequently), & perhaps most importantly, I had the time to learn both how to do these things & to actually do them. I was, without question, woefully naive.

And so it began. I de-cluttered the attic, closets, drawers, & had a tag sale with my neighbors (I believe that for all the work I did, I averaged about 75 cents an hour.) Working on a room-by-room basis, I repainted the walls & ceilings, acquiring decent skills in repairing holes & re-taping corners. I stripped & refinished the oak floors, using a palm sander (I once asked the nice Roger how other people accomplished this task, & he told me that other people HIRED other people. I found this unhelpful.). I refinished the kitchen cabinets. And finally, in searching for an eco-conscious wall finish that was not paint, I fell in love with hand-plastered walls. If only I knew how to do this. Well, I know now. It’s a pain in the ass. That must be why plasterers are expensive. They know to charge for their respective asses being in pain.

During most of this process, the nice Roger appeared to be content to stay out of the way, & dealt fairly well with whatever the inconvenience of the day happened to be, whether is was furniture constantly being re-arranged to facilitate painting/plastering/floor sanding, household traffic patterns disrupted, or just my occasional exhaustion-induced crankiness. He erred only once.

One fine late spring morning, I was getting ready to continue working on the painting of our bedroom, as Rog was getting ready to go to work SOMEWHERE ELSE. This was not the first room to be worked on. It was the fourth. This fact may account for my reaction to his decision that morning to give me some advice. Rog apparently felt that I was not working in a particularly organized fashion, so he took it upon himself to say to me, “I think you should BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH”, detailing the specifics of how he felt I should proceed with my work. Unsurprisingly, I was spectacularly uninterested in his advice. The conversation did not end well. Frankly, I was quite rude. On the upside, it never happened again. And, he left for work forthwith. There was no downside.

Nowadays, the vast majority of the work is behind us. The nice Roger actually did do many helpful things involving carpentry (moldings & entry surrounds), electrical (new outlets, switches, light fixtures installed), & even a little painting (I don’t like heights, & our living room ceiling is 15′ up). One fun-filled (HA!) weekend recently, we successfully worked side by side to re-surface our kitchen counters in copper sheeting.

Our house is hand-made, & I find that makes me happy. I’ve acquired mad repair skills, & extensive knowledge about how my house is built. It’s easier to maintain. I look around at what I’ve done with the nice Roger & I am deeply satisfied. This is probably why I don’t hate housework. It’s actually lifework. And life is good.

You Have No One to Blame But Yourselves

So, this is blogging. I type my words into my computer, press publish, and away they go, into cyberspace, for all the world to see. What would possess me to do such a thing?

I joined Facebook years ago, somewhat reluctantly. I wasn’t sure it was for me. Social media seems antithetical to someone who is, at heart, a solitary person, perfectly content with my own company. My hobbies (gardening, furniture re-finishing, reading, cooking, watching movies) are done mostly alone (although company for movie watching is acceptable). Professionally, I spent most of my time either driving alone in a patrol car, or sitting alone in the dispatcher’s booth (this being a polite euphemism for the squalid, minuscule room that was the center of Danbury Police communications during my career). I wasn’t even sure I cared for the language of Facebook. Sharing? What is this nonsense about?

But I discovered I liked sharing. Not just re-posting funny or interesting things from the web, but using my own words to tell little stories & make observations about the world, my life, & the people in it. And my FB friends seemed to enjoy them as well. So, who are these FB friends of mine? They are not a large group. I just checked. By the numbers, they are composed of 110 women & 129 men. These people are all still currently living (It would appear that the deceased live on in our Friends lists. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I do assume for the purposes of this blog, that my deceased friends will NOT be following it). 34 of my FB friends are family members, 8-10 people are former school friends, 89 are former colleagues (both sworn & civilian personnel from both police & fire departments), & the rest, well, they are from the rest of my life.

Now, of these 239 living people, I probably communicate thru my posts most often with just a couple of dozen or so. These conversations are great fun, & frequently get carried on thru multiple posts. But I’ve also found that many more people are READING the posts, & regularly. I know this to be true, because my husband, the nice Roger, is still gainfully employed, & comes home telling me tales of the harassment he has had to endure because of something I’ve posted. How he suffers for my art. Or something. So, with the ongoing encouragement of a relatively small group of people, a blog is launched.

     What you may find here, on any given day, I can’t say at this point. It may be a story (funny or not), it may be an opinion about current events, or a commentary about something I found interesting. I may delve into the past on occasion (all cops have stories, I am no exception). What I can promise is that what you read has been filtered thru my own, ever-so-slightly absurdist perspective. It is my fond hope that whatever you may find, you enjoy. I welcome comments but be nice, both to me & each other. The world is a tough place. It doesn’t need to be made tougher by unkindness.