By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
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.”
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.
Years 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.”
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]
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.