Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: A Vast Wasteland

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPDpolic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1
Fifty-six years ago, Newton Minow, then chairman of the F.C.C. uttered the still quotable line describing TV as “a vast wasteland.”

As true now as then, most people gain their perspective of various occupations or professions from TV. Doctors, attorneys and yes, police officers.

TV helps people to understand us–what, with our wild car chases, daily gunfights, magic deductions, the treatment of victims and especially suspects, instant DNA and so on.
I have said it before and now again. Most of the job is non-confrontational and non-criminal. I understand that no one would watch a show of an officer giving directions, helping someone locked out of their house or car, looking for lost kids, etc.

The reality is a wild, crazy, funny wonderful ride with God knows what encountered along the way, from the mundane to “you ain’t gonna believe this.” Police work is the thrill of living by your wits and sometimes flying by the seat of your pants. Just the satisfaction you get from doing the job, especially when there is no one there to say, “Atta boy.”

Two examples:

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

I was a uniformed officer assigned to some event or another at the Memorial Coliseum, that monolithic home to the 1932 Olympics. I was walking a solo beat on one of the concourse levels, the wide cement “roads,” home to food stands, beer sales and massive restrooms that circle the inside of the venue.

I was approached by a man who reported. “There’s trouble in the men’s restroom.” He was gone before I could obtain any details.

Eight to ten feet inside the door, the problem was evident. A well dressed, middle-aged woman had inadvertently entered the men’s room. The urinals, probably twenty plus, are against the far wall. As she entered someone yelled, “Lady in the room,” at which time a good number of the men at the urinals turned as one to see what was happening.
The woman is now face to face, so to speak, with a situation she was unprepared for. She appeared frozen and unable to move. I stepped in front of her, close enough to block her view. Taking her by the shoulders, I attempted to turn and push her out the door.

She was rigid as a board and was not breathing.

Finally, I was able to break her free and start her moving while shaking her and telling her to breathe.

Once outside, she transitioned from not-breathing to hyperventilation. And she started to melt. Now, I was trying to hold her upright for a few seconds when she regained her composure. She straightened her clothing and without ever uttering a word or looking at me—was gone.

graphicstock-illustration-of-a-cartoon-angry-policeman-cop-_rFR6Esf2Kb_thumbYears earlier, I was working patrol. My partner Frank Isbell and I were in the station for some reason. As I passed the watch commanders office the sergeant called, “Meckle, see me.”
Yes, sergeant.
The following is the gist of that conversation:
Sergeant: Did you write a ticket to a [consulting note] Norman Williams earlier?
Me: Yes, Sergeant.
Sergeant: Did you have a problem with him?
Me: No, Sergeant.
Sergeant: He came in to complain that you called him a [consulting note again] “peragidave.”
Me: A what, Sergeant?
Sergeant: [consulting] A “peragidave or peragidive.”
Me: What’s a peragidive, Sergeant?
Sergeant: I was hoping you could tell me.
Me: Honest, Sergeant. I have no idea what he is talking about. My partner was there the whole time.
Frank has now entered the office and is standing just inside the door trying not to laugh out loud.
Sergeant: [to Frank] Well?
Frank: [shrugged] Nothing, Sarge. [smothering a laugh]
Sergeant: What?
Frank: Honest. Nothing, Sarge.
Sergeant: [to me] Did you say or do anything that would make him drive all this way to complain?
Me: All I did was write him a ticket. He wasn’t happy and said, ‘This is going to court.’ And I said, oh—
Sergeant: What, ‘oh’ what?
Me: I said, “That’s your prerogative.” Aw jeez.
Sergeant: I’m betting he didn’t understand what you said, kept repeating it to himself all the way here and it became peragidave. Do us both a favor. No more big words on the street.

Note: you can’t have laughs like that flipping burgers or bagging groceries, boys and girls.

The Call Box

The Call Box: An Adventure in the Rose Garden

polic-call-box-pedestal-lapd-gamewell-DCAL2786_dt1By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

There are some things we do that we can really take pride in. An exceptionally good arrest, for instance, is why we are who we are.

But honestly most of our daily contacts are non-criminal and non-confrontational. From directions to the bus stop to assisting the motorist who locked his keys in the car.

There are those special few though that make us smile when we remember. This is one such encounter.


University Division, where I am working night watch with my partner Frank Isbell, is known for three things—

1) home to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC).

2) the Memorial Coliseum, home to the 1932 Olympics, the Rams, Trojans, Bruins and many major sporting and other events. It will be temporary home to the Dodgers in a few years.

3) high crime.

As we clear the station, there is still some daylight left when we receive a call. “Unknown trouble” at the Coliseum rose garden. This type call can mean anything and usually does.

Los_Angeles_Memorial_Coliseum_(Entrance)The coliseum which is a stadium capable of holding in excess of 100,000 spectators along with parking covers many, many city blocks. The surrounding area is park-like in appearance comprised of grass lawns, numerous trees, benches etc. Also adjacent to the stadium is the Rose Garden, a several hundred-yard square area given over to hundreds and hundreds of roses of all species. There are winding paths and benches to just sit and enjoy. The garden is surrounded by a 31/2 to 4-foot-tall brick wall, covered in what else? Climbing roses. In the evening when there is even the slightest breeze, the fragrance of the roses can be detected blocks away. Entrance to the garden is by one gate on the south wall and one gate only. Affixed to the gate is a small sign, “This gate will be locked at five P.M.”


As we enter, the park has turned quiet and seemingly deserted. It will soon be time for the night people to appear.

Approaching the gate, we see the subject of our call: two majestic appearing “grande dames,” approximate age late 70’s. They were dressed in all their finery tall as wealthy women are required to be, sporting large brimmed sun hats, gloves and carrying hand fans (yes, fans).

Regal in both appearance and manner, they are both corseted and queen-sized in lavender and lace and they are also inside the locked gate.

One has been crying but now has it check, both are trying to maintain control and seem slightly distraught, but still formidable. They had lost track of time while enjoying the flowers and somehow attracted the attention of a passing motorist, hence the call.

We determine they are uninjured and we attempt to calm them and assure them we will get them out as quickly as possible. Now finding the man with the key seems a long shot. Calling the fire department would only embarrass the ladies and show them we couldn’t handle our own problems. No way.

Memorial Rose Garden LAOk, so how do we do this?

Now, Frank and I are both fairly good sized, very good shape, former Marines, able to leap tall buil…well, you get the idea. The fact remains that these are women of ample proportions, both of whom outweigh us. This has to be handled diplomatically.

The only object of any use in sight is a heavy-duty city trash can with lid chained to the wall adjacent to the gate. Looking around we realize just one long block away at the Figueroa Street entrance to the park there is a family style restaurant.


Exposition_Park_Rose_Garden_LA_bannerAfter hearing my tale of woe, the maître de sends me back with a step-stool, a sturdy wooden chair and an even sturdier busboy. By his looks, a student athlete. The maître de thought he might come in handy.

With three of us, it was a no brainer. Frank and busboy on the inside. Matron onto stool then to trash can then wall. Busboy hops fence with step-stool and down she comes. Number two was even easier. Some nervous laughter, some “Oh’s and ah’s” and here we are.

The women forced a “tip” on the reluctant busboy who told me it had been an adventure and a nice break from the kitchen. The matrons dutifully recorded our names and serial numbers in a tiny notebook with a tiny pencil. We escorted them to their vehicles and saw them off.

Frank and I waited, in vain, for many years to see if we had been named in their wills.


WMA on Amazon

Just the Facts, Ma’am readers-

Thonie’s new book is available on Amazon in eBook format. Don’t do digital reading? Don’t worry, With Malice Aforethought will be offered soon in print format, too!



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