Was it a squirrel?

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I always find it interesting at car accident scenes when someone says, “An animal ran out in front of me.”

I know it can happen, but I’m always skeptical when it’s a single vehicle crash into a parked car or an object like a pole.

The other night I responded to a traffic collision where a parked car was sideswiped. The witness saw the driver texting as he drifted onto the wrong side of the road and crash.

The driver, who was 20 years old, was nervous and fumbling with his phone while he tried calling his mother. He was stressed and having a hard time focusing when I asked him what happened.

He said, “An animal ran out in front of me.”

Ah, the phantom animal. They, like the phantom car, have caused many collisions in my career.

“What kind of animal was it?” I asked.

That question always confuses people and it’s funny to watch them figure out the randomness.

Random is the name of the game to having fun on this job. That’s when I asked, “Was it a squirrel?”

The look on his face was priceless. With raised eyebrows, I could tell the driver was wondering why I asked about a squirrel in a suburban neighborhood. “No, it was small,” he replied.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a squirrel?” I asked again.

“No, it was a rodent.”

“Is it possible it was a squirrel?”

After each squirrel question he got more confused by the minute. I finally stopped and told him what the witness saw. With a deep breath of defeat, the driver confessed there wasn’t an animal. Not even a squirrel.

“If there was an animal, what would it be?” I asked.

With an unsure tone he said, “A stray cat?”

“A shaved cat?”

“No, a stray cat.”

The randomness of night shift……

We need to stop meeting by accident

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It was a late Friday afternoon when I was sent to a hit and run crash. When I arrived, I saw both drivers sitting in their cars. Two other officers were already on scene.

After I interviewed both drivers, the suspect was detained for the DUI investigation. While we waited the suspect said, “I called my boss and told him I was going to get booked.”

“You called your boss already?” I asked.

“Yeah. I told him I wasn’t going to be there on Monday.”

That was pretty funny because he made that call before I got there. I guess that pitcher of beer and the shot of whiskey he drank told him which way this was going to go.

I made small talk with him and learned he was arrested for DUI about five years ago. I asked, “Did you crash or were you stopped?”

“I crashed.”

I asked him where and when. It just happened to be on a Friday night , which was my normal work day so I asked, “Was I there?”

I asked this because every so often I run into past crash cusomters. Well, actually they run into someone else and then I show up.

He starting giving me details about the collision and asked me, “Do you remember?”

“No. I take a lot of crashes, so it has to be different for it to stick out.”

He squinted as he looked at my name bar and said, “You were there.” He kept looking at my name and said, “I have a report at home with your name on it.”

“We need to stop meeting by accident,” I replied. At least he laughed because saying that never gets old.

A little while later I found his name in our records. He was in two different crashes in my city. One was the DUI crash he was talking about, but it was handled by someone else. The second crash was last summer. He was a passenger in that one and guess who wrote it?

Yes, Badge415’s name was at the bottom of that report. What a small world.

With a population of 350,000 people, I still find it amazing how I run into past crash customers.

I should start handling out Badge415 frequent customer loyalty punch cards with the words, “After 3 crashes you buy me Starbucks.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Better than cow shit

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The other day I was driving my daughter to practice when we passed a strawberry field. She pointed it out and said something about getting some. I glanced over and it reminded me of a crash I took years ago. I looked at my daughter and said, “I had a car crash at a strawberry field once.”

She relied, “You did?”

Some crashes are easily forgotten, while others stand out. Some stand out because of what I saw or heard, while this particular one stood out because of what I smelled.

One night, I was dispatched to a roll-over crash in the eastern part of the city. I pulled up to the scene and expected to see the car either in the street or on the sidewalk. I scanned the area, but there was nothing. Then I looked at the northeast corner and saw a car deep into the strawberry field.

There aren”t a lot of fields for agriculture where I work so, having a crash at one was really unusual.

I parked and started walking toward the car. I stepped into the field and tried to walk between the rows to avoid stepping on the strawberries. There were crushed strawberries everywhere with an incredible smell was in the air.

I ended up having strawberries in the groves of my boots and some on my pants. You name it and there were bits of strawberry everywhere on the crashed car.

After I left my patrol car smelled like a bottle of strawberry soap exploded inside.

For some strange reason I felt like having a strawberry margarita after that. At least the guy didn’t crash into a dairy farm full of cow shit. I’ll take a strawberry field any day.

Do you have insurance?

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On Sunday night, I went to an injury crash where a truck turned out of a gas station driveway and hit a passing car. I pulled up and was met my a hysterical woman, who told me she was injured.

She was stressed and was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. A few minutes later she was on a gurney and placed into the ambulance. After she was inside the ambulance, I climbed in so I could speak with her.

I asked her what happened and she explained how the collision occurred. During the interview she kept saying, “He doesn’t have insurance.”

I hadn’t spoken to the other driver yet, so I asked, “How do you know?”

“He told me.”

“Do you have insurance?” I asked.

“No,” she said as she got quiet.

The insurance question now became the elephant in the room. Well, in the ambulance.

I said, “Oh,” as the word hung in the air a little too long. “Sooooo, you don’t have insurance and he doesn’t have insurance?”

That’s when the realization hit her that she wasn’t in good hands with Allstate and Nationwide wasn’t going to be on her side. Geico wasn’t even going to save her 15% on her car insurance.

It was almost like the Price is Right loser theme song was playing in the background at that moment.

Talk about a bad day. 

Could it be any closer?

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Starbucks and Subway in the background

On Friday night, I drove to my favorite Starbucks to type reports and grab a drink. I was even feeling adventurous and got a chicken and artichoke panini.

I ate my sandwich and had my drink as I typed at the same time. My fingers were hitting the laptop keys with the effortlessness of a pianist playing Rhapsody in Blue.

Thats when it all came to an end when another injury crash went out down the street. The location of the call was maybe 150 yards away. At least it was close. It’s the little things, right?

I gathered all of my paperwork, got my drink and walked out to my car. I pulled out of the parking lot and saw that the crash was much closer than 150 yards. It was more like 100 feet away. It actually took me longer to get my stuff and walk out to my car than it did to drive there.

I parked my car in the middle of the street with my overhead lights on and called for a tow truck. I interviewed the drivers and wrapped it up pretty fast. After the tow truck was done cleaning up I went back to my Starbucks staging area. The Barista said, “You’re back already?”

“Yes, and I’ll take another black tea.”

What kind of animal was it?

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A few weeks ago I was sent to a call where a car crashed into a tree on the east end of our city. When I arrived, I saw the car in the middle of the street with major damage and fluid running downhill.

There was a pine tree on the side of the road with a large battle scar from the impact. The tree stood upright and strong as if to say, “Is that all you got?”

The officers on scene told me the driver crashed because of an animal.  I had heard that one before. Which animal was going to be blamed tonight? I was guessing a dog or a cat.

The woman, who was in her 30s, told me, “An animal ran in front of my car.?

I couldn’t resist as I asked, “Was it a squirrel?”

The woman gave me a confused look as she shook her head. She said, “I think it was a coyote. I have a picture.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. She looked at her phone for a few seconds and then showed me a picture of a coyote in her backyard.

“Is that the coyote that ran in front of your car?” I asked.

“No!” She replied with a hard shake of the head.

“Which way was the animal running? Was it going that way or that way?” As I pointed to each side of the road.

“It was in the middle of the street.”

“Was it a squirrel?”

“No,” she said again with a strange look.

“What did you do?”

“I closed my eyes and the airbag went off.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a squirrel?”

“Why do you keep asking if it was a squirrel?”

“Because its funny,” I replied with a big smile.

She heard that and burst out laughing. I was glad she laughed because I wasn’t sure how she was going to take my joke.

There’s one thing for sure about police work. Sometimes you just have to have fun out here.

“I have a clean record”

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“234, we just got rear ended,” said an officer on the radio.

He gave his location and advised there were no injuries. I grabbed the microphone and said, “729 en route.”

When I arrived, I saw both vehicles in the southbound #2 lane at the intersection. The officer told me they were stopped for a red light when they were hit from behind.

He also told me the SUV’s driver was unlicensed. I shook my head as I thought about the two times my patrol cars were hit by unlicensed drivers.

I walked up to the woman, who was still in the driver seat, and asked her to step out of the car so we could talk on the sidewalk.

“You want me to drive over there?” She asked.

“No, you don’t have a license. Come out and we’ll talk on the sidewalk.”

“I can drive over there,” she said as she pointed to the right.

I was pretty sure she’d already done enough driving for tonight. After she exited the car we walked to the sidewalk. Once we were safe on the sidewalk the woman said, “I have a clean record.”

Well, that made me feel better…..

During the interview I learned she applied for a driver’s license and failed the written test. When I heard that, I almost pointed to the cars and said, “You failed the driving test too,” but I held my tongue.

When the interview was over, I gave the driver a card with the report number on it and said her car was getting impounded. She responded by asking if she could keep the car.

Keep the car? Really?

Let me get this straight. She was unlicensed, failed her test, crashed into a police car and now she wanted to keep the car???

Hum, let me think about it…… No.

The candle call

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You just never know when something new or different is going to happen at work.

A few weeks ago, I responded to a major injury collision on the west end of the city. After the crash, one of the drivers was transported to the hospital and later died. The other driver and passenger remained at the scene and stood at the northwest corner.

A group of their friends showed up and stood by with them. Before I knew it, one of the friends was sitting on the sidewalk playing a guitar. There was a hippie like feel in the air as other people sat down next him. The only thing missing were candles.

A little bit later I saw a guy holding a Jesus candle walk into the street from the opposite corner. When he was told to stay out of the street he said, “I want to put the candle out for the guy.”

“Put it on the corner,” someone told him.

“But he died over there,” he replied.

The man figured out he needed to stay out of the street and put the candle down at the southwest corner. He lit it and a short time later the flame went out.

About an hour later I heard arguing at the same corner where the candle was. I looked and saw a two guys yelling at each other as they prepared to fight.

Didn’t they see the police cars and the cops standing in the middle of the street? First the guitar, then the candle and now a fight? Was it a full moon?

We walked over and separated everyone. It was just bizarre and we shook our heads at the madness.

When it was time to leave, we called for tow trucks and took down the crime scene tape. As the tow truck drivers cleaned up, something caught my eye. The was a candle with its flame shining brightly in the night at the northeast corner. I didn’t see who left it, but it was a symbol of just how different this call was.

Now there were two candles on opposite corners. This was the first fatal crash where candles were dropped off while I was still there. Even after all these years, there’s still room for plenty of “firsts.”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Do you pay for parking?

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On Monday I had to go to a deposition in Los Angeles County for a car accident that occurred 3 years ago. When I arrived, I couldn’t find parking and realized I had to park across the street in a private structure. I took my ticket stub with me in case the law firm validated parking.

I went inside and sat down in the conference room with the two attorneys and the stenographer. She swore me in and the plaintiff’s attorney said, “First of all, I’d like to thank you for your service.”

Wow. I had never had an attorney tell me that before. I told him, “Thank you” and we started the deposition. About an hour later we were done and it was time for me to leave.

As I stood up, the plaintiff’s attorney said, “Thank you for coming.”

I shook hands with both attorneys and the stenographer. I was about to leave when I realized I had the parking stub in my pocket. I looked at the plaintiff’s attorney and asked, “Do you guys pay for parking across the street?”

The attorney replied, “We don’t validate.”

It was okay because it didn’t hurt to ask. The attorney then surprised me as he pulled his wallet out. A few seconds he handed me money as he said, “It should be $6.”

Wow.

I thanked him and left thinking how much I appreciated his kind gesture. What a nice guy.

You  just never know what’s going to happen at work next.

She said turn left!

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The other night I responded to a single vehicle traffic collision where a car struck a fire hydrant. The driver, who was in his early 20s, told me he was driving down the street when his navigation told him to turn left.

“Siri told you to turn left?” I asked.

“No, Google maps.”

I noticed he had made a sharp left turn where the collision occurred and asked, “Was she yelling at you to turn?”

He let out a laugh and an embarrassed look as he said, “No.”

I imagined Siri yelling at him saying, “Turn left! Turn left now. Turn left or I’m going to kill you!” That would be the only reason why he turned the way he did. After my silly thought I said,  “At least no one was hurt. Do you know who Larry H. Parker is?”

“No.”

“Pull your phone out and Google him,” I said.

The driver pulled his phone out with a weird look on his face. One of the officers said, “He’ll fight for you.”

I laughed because I knew that was their motto for the commercials. They had been on TV since I was a kid and I had heard it a million times. The driver looked at us like he had no idea what we were talking about.

He typed in “Larry H. Parker” and hit send. I stood next to him as he clicked on the website. He started scrolling through the site and pointed like he found a prize as he said, “We’ll fight for you.”

“See I told you. They’ll fight for you.”

That’s just one of a long list of TV mottos that I bring up on calls all the time to get people to laugh.

I probably  watched too much TV as a kid…..