|LIFE AS A LOSER #17: "BAD COP... GOOD COP... WHERE?"|
|By Will Leitch|
Does it ever bother you that the only people separating our entire culture from absolute chaos and anarchy are cops? We have a choice between rampant, insane lawlessness and power-starved, overgrown adolescents who get to carry guns. Iím sure there are cops out there who genuinely care about the public good and want to keep the streets safe from miscreants; I just havenít met any of them yet.
Think back to high school about your classmates who eventually became policemen. Were any of them not the burnouts, the kids who drank every weekend and always knew where to find pot? The ones who always looked angry, ready to snap at whatever was keeping them from meeting girls? They hated the jocks, they hated the smart kids, they hated the cheerleaders. And now theyíre getting their revenge.
Forgive me for making blanket statements, but seriously, what would possibly possess a person to become a cop? Nobody likes you, people get nervous when you walk into a room, they do everything in their power to avoid you at all costs (come to think of it, maybe Iíd make a good cop). Youíre the scourge of society, unless of course, we actually need you for something, in which case weíre annoyed that you didnít show up fast enough. Itís an utterly thankless job, and the only two possible benefits I can think of would be that you have a chance to make the world a better place - and Iím sure our streets are patrolled by the worldís do-gooders - and that you have absolute power over your fellow man. I think thatís it. Youíre despised, youíre feared, youíre looked down upon. But at the end of the day, youíre the guy with the gun, youíre the guy who can pull someone over just because you feel like exerting some authority. Didnít have the chance to do that in high school, did you?
I know some cops actually go out there and study criminology and how the criminal mind works. Thereís a certain science to it, I guess, but, unfortunately, it seems like these guys always end up in the higher-paying segments of the police world we donít come into contact with that often, like homicide or, in what Iím sure is the busiest police job, internal affairs.
Forgive my skewed - yet, I believe, pretty darned true - view of police officers. My first girlfriend Myra was five years older than me. We dated on and off for about two years, still seeing other people, until she met Jason, a cop in Mattoon, Illinois. Almost immediately, I was forbidden to see Myra, and after a couple stealth lunch meetings, in which Myra looked nervously around in case Jason drove by, we lost contact altogether. Eventually they got married, and they still live in Mattoon. Iím told Jason still doesnít like me - though I canít for the likes of me remember ever meeting him - and every time I go home, my father warns me to drive very carefully, because Jason is just waiting for an excuse to bust me. My friend Andy knows Jason and says heís actually a pretty nice guy, but if thatís true, why in the world did he become a cop?
My friend Matt met a girl a few months ago, but because he made the fatal mistake of being a really nice, sincere guy, they of course became merely friends. She began dating a policeman, and Matt actually met him once, when the two of them ran into him while he was on duty. He gave Matt a huge grin and boasted, ďYeah, I saw some people illegally parked over there. Canít wait to nail Ďem! Well, gotta go; got a bunch of tickets to write, heh-heh.Ē A couple of months later, Matt received a phone call from the girl, who asked if she could come over because her cop companion ďjust grabbed my wrist and twisted it, and Iím scared.Ē Hereís a guy who of course simply cares about the public good. By the way, this guy carries a gun. All the time.
I wonít lie to you; another of the main reasons I loathe policemen is that they donít seem to like me too much. I donít think I look dangerous to policemen - come on, guys, Iím not even black; everybody else I see you pull over appears to be - but for some reason, they always seem to find me whether Iím doing anything wrong or not. I just want to peaceably coexist with my fellow man, but you just wonít leave me alone.
My mother likes to boast that sheís been pulled over seven or eight times in her life, and sheís never once received a ticket (Reason No. 5,643 it sucks having an attractive mom). No such luck for me; I lost count at about nine, but I canít ever catch a break. Every time, I get that disapproving, condescending ďSon, do you know how fast you were going?Ē nod, as if I had just been caught trying to smuggle crack in the bodies of dead babies. I know there are plenty of snappy answers to this question, but I try to put aside my smart-ass instincts long enough to act like the deviant I am. When I was pulled over recently, Sgt. Superior - I always think of cops as being like those overly strict nuns in Catholic school, except not as free-spirited - actually asked me if he needed to call my parents. Dude, you saw my license; just because I canít grow facial hair doesnít mean I need a parental permission slip to drive.
Thatís not to mention the time my stereo was too loud late one night, and rather than knock on my door and tell me Iím a shitty neighbor, the guy who lived downstairs called the police. I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it, a cop promptly entered my apartment and started looking around. Thankfully, Iíd already put away the 40 kilos of heroin, but I still didnít think they could do that. Are they like vampires? If you open the door to them, all your usual weapons against them are powerless?
A couple of months ago, I was pulled over after leaving a happy hour with a friend. Iíd had a margarita and a beer, hardly enough to leave a dent even in someone who doesnít eat. Nevertheless, rather than writing me my speeding ticket and leaving me alone, Dudley Do-Right decided to give me a sobriety test. Thereís something most degrading about a sobriety test, especially when youíve got an old friend from college in the car with you that youíre trying to impress with your standing in the grownup world. I had to do the Follow-the-Pen thing, then the Hop-on-One-Foot-and-Say-the-Alphabet-to-J thing. Then he asked me to raise the other foot and ďcount to 21,000.Ē Not to be unreasonable here, but thatís going to take me a while, sir. ďOh, wait, I mean 21-one thousand, like youíre waiting to sack the quarterback in sandlot football.Ē Sir, have you done this before?
I passed the test and went home, embarrassed and feeling, truth be told, somewhat violated. Still, I guess I can forgive him because he was just doing his job, if not particularly well. Itís when cops just make things worse that gets on my nerves.
A friend called me at 2:30 in the morning the other night. Sheíd been finishing up some work at home and was ready to settle in bed for the evening. She shut off the light and then heard a knock at her living room window. Opening the blinds, she saw a man, standing alone, doing something you really, really donít want to see when youíre an attractive single woman living alone. The amount of horror in this situation is difficult, no, impossible, for me to fathom.
She called 911, and the operator tried to calm her when the man attempted to crawl through the screen to get into the apartment. Now, Iím trying to think of a situation where our need for police officers is more evident than this one. After about 10 minutes, the perpetrator gave up and ran off. A half hour later, the police showed up. A half hour.
Now, this friend lives very close to a bar I frequent, one that has an armed policeman always patrolling the parking lot. It would have taken him about, oh, 30 seconds to get to her apartment. But he was too busy checking IDs and smooth-talking the waitresses, I guess. When the officers finally arrived, they reassuringly told my friend, ďYeah, we figure heís probably been staking this place out for a while. We wouldnít be surprised to see him come back sometime. Be on the lookout, and call us if you see him again.Ē Then they left her, alone. She was petrified, she called me, and I came over to provide the illusion of a strong, manly, protective presence. However, Iím not always going to be there even though I can get there faster than the police.
Itís probably not a wise thing to write a column intricately describing how much I hate police officers, considering Iím in the phone book and could have an undercover guy outside my door in, well, however long it takes a cop to actually show up somewhere. Iím not paranoid, but just in case, I feel like I should tell you, Will Leitch is simply my pen name. My real name is Andy Wang, and Iím the editor of a Web magazine and live in Columbia, Missouri. I drive a Chevy Malibu, not a Toyota Camry, and I always go the speed limit. Always.