Howdy-Ho Neighbor

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I was sitting in my patrol car in a shopping center parking lot when security man drove up in his golf cart and pointed as he said, “Officer, that RV can’t be parked there.” I turned my head and saw what he was talking about. He then added, “It’s been there an hour.”

It was 2:30AM and I was down five crashes. All I wanted to do was catch up on my work.  I drove to the RV, which looked like it belonged in a museum. It’s dented and rusted body was begging to be sent to the scrap yard. Security man told me he knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He was sure someone was inside and they were ignoring him.

He really wanted the RV to leave and asked that I make contact with the occupant. I grabbed my baton from the car and knocked on the door like someone owed me money. Of course, this “Where’s my money” sound caused movement inside.

A hand reached up and slid open a window as a woman lifted her head up to look at me. I only saw the left half of her face as we talked.  I told the woman about the security guard and she said she couldn’t leave until a friend helped her repair the engine.

She kept talking and never showed her entire face. It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

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That’s when it hit me and I asked, “Have you ever seen the show Home Improvement?”

The woman, who was in her late 50s, gave me a weird look as her left eye squinted at my random question. After the randomness faded she replied, “Yeah.”

“This is like talking to Tim Allen’s neighbor.”

The joke floated in the air like a hanging curve ball waiting to be hit out of the ballpark. Then her face (half of it) smiled and she laughed.

At least she got my Tim Allen joke. There’s nothing like a little randomness to keep people on their toes and to make the job entertaining. It’s not every day you can work in Tim Allen and his neighbor Wilson into a conversation while out on patrol.

“Howdy-ho neighbor.”

Spring cleaning

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A few weeks ago, I was driving down the street when I saw an SUV parked on the side of the road with a bunch of clothes piled on the hood. This wasn’t something you see every day and I had to stop to see what the story was.

There was a woman in the passenger seat who got out and said hi as I walked up. I asked her, “What’s up with the clothes?”

“This isn’t my car,” she said. “It’s my friend’s car and she’s been doing some organizing.”

“She’s organizing on the hood of the car?” I asked.  I took a quick look inside the vehicle and noticed the backseat was also piled high with clothes.

“Yeah. She’ll be right back. She just went down the street.”

I engaged the woman in small talk as she told me about being homeless for the last five years. She was 25 years old, blonde, thin and had major acne. She was quite entertaining and was more than happy to talk about life on the street.

“I used to live in my car in San Francisco. It was so stuffed with clothes I had to sleep like a “human Tetris.”

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Not human Tetris. The real deal.

That was downright funny and I burst out with laughter because I played Tetris back in the day and knew exactly what she was talking about.

That’s when a woman and a man walked up. She had bright red hair and was about 45 years old. She was smoking a cigarette and was the vehicle’s owner.

“I just stopped by to take a picture of all the clothes,” I said as I pulled out my iPad. “Do you want to be in the picture too?”

The woman laughed as she said, “Oh God, no!” She then retreated behind the SUV because she was camera shy.

After I took the picture, the woman with red hair started folding clothes as she said, “I’m doing some organizing.”

“I heard,” I replied.

She went on to tell me how she had been giving clothes away as she tried to make room in her car. She held up clothes and looked at them like she was in a department store. Once she was satisfied, she folded them and made piles on the hood. It was actually funny to watch.

I finally had to say goodbye because I had another call to go to. They seemed happy I had stopped by to talk and waved as I drove away. The first woman even told me to have a safe night.

It’s always fun to stop and talk with people. Everyone one has a story. They just need the right person to tell it to.  Plus, I would’ve never heard the phrase “human Tetris” unless I stopped.

You just never know what you’re going to see out on patrol.

Talking with a drug addict

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A few weeks ago I was driving through an intersection when I noticed a transient standing on the median with a sign asking for money. On my second pass around the area I saw the same guy step into the street against the “Don’t Walk” symbol as he walked in front of a car. That’s when I decided I was going to stop and talk with him.

I parked my car in the driveway of a gas station and waited for him to come over to the corner. I told him hi and asked to speak with him. He waved both hands in the air as he said, “Come on man. I’m starving. I’m just trying to make some money.”

I told him I wanted talk for two reasons. The first was about walking in front of the car. The second was because someone had just taken money from the tip jar at my favorite chicken restaurant 100 yards down the street. I gave him the description of the suspect and asked if he had seen that guy walking around here.

He calmed down after hearing that and told me he liked the food at that restaurant too. He also said he hadn’t seen anyone that fit the description.

I then decided to ask him questions about how long he’d been on the street, where he grew up and where his family was. For the next 15 to 20 minutes he talked about being addicted to heroin, being homeless and not being able to walk away from living on the street. He told me where he grew up and said his mother sometimes visited him out here.

I felt bad for his mother and wondered what she had gone through over the years, yet she still drove out to visit him on the street. Based on where she lived, she had to take two different freeways to get here.

I asked him about being able to go back home for help. The man, who was in his early 30s, said he could, but he always ended up back on the street because of his addiction.

I asked how him much he spent a day on heroin. He said, “I spent $45 today and I didn’t even get high. I’m pissed.” He then said, “I spent enough to stay well.”

We talked for a little while longer about what it’s like to have withdrawal symptoms and how he started using drugs, along with his time in jail. He had been nice to me and spoke freely about his problems so I asked, “Do you want a sandwich?”

His eyes lit up as he said, “Yes.”

“It’s salami.”

“I love salami.”

I walked over to my car and got the sandwich out of my cooler. I went back to where he was and handed it to him.

He smiled as he said, “Thanks officer. What’s your name?” I told him and we said goodbye.

I drove away still thinking about his mother coming out to visit him. That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about a parent coming out to see their homeless adult child on the street. We never wonder about the families and what they sometimes go through. It’s something to think about.

You can sleep in my car tonight

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The other night we responded to a traffic collision call in which a man was threatening another man with a knife.

When I got there, I saw two cars in a Jack in the Box parking lot. One car had a bent right front wheel. The other car had minor damage to the front bumper. Both were parked in their own spaces.

One of the cars was stuffed full of items that would make a hoarder jealous. Then there was this suitcase, along with other miscellaneous things all over the place in the parking lot. There was basically crap everywhere. It was a like transient yard sale.

I pulled one of the guys aside and asked him what happened. The driver, who we’ll call Frank, said he and the other vehicle had crashed in the parking lot. After the collision, they moved their cars because they were blocking the driveway.

Frank then said, “We already exchanged information.”

“Wait time did the crash happen?” I asked.

“About 9:30?”

“That was ninety minutes ago. What have you been doing this whole time?”

Frank pointed to the other car and driver as he said, “My car isn’t drivable and his is. He lives in his car, so we decided to switch cars so I could go to work tomorrow.”

“You were going to let the homeless guy move into your car and sleep in it tonight?” I asked.

“Yes. I have to go to work tomorrow.”

I took a closer look at Frank’s car and it was stuffed with the homeless guy’s belongings. The homeless guy literally moved out of one car and into another. Well, he was almost moved in. The suitcase was still in the parking lot.

Most people call their insurance companies after a collision. These guys were taking traffic accident negotiations to an entirely new level. I bet Geico would love to help them save 15% on their car insurance.

We then found out Frank had taken the homeless guy’s car on a test drive to see how it ran. To top it off,Frank even had a suspended license.  The entire call was just bizarre.

In the end, the homeless guy moved out of Frank’s car and back into his vehicle again. He drove off to find another place to sleep for tonight. Frank got to make arrangements for transportation on his own. It was the shortest rental agreement ever.

Officers never found the knife Frank called 911 about. Kind of makes you think he made the whole thing up.

The entire story was crazy. Who agrees to swap cars with a complete stranger?

You never know what’s going to happen at work. And of course, you just can’t make this stuff up.

There’s still good in people

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What do you see when you turn on the TV? You see conflict, chaos and people who just can’t get along. You see people who would cross a busy street just to kick a person while they’re down and then celebrate about it.

We, as officers, see firsthand what mean, crazy and violent things people do to each other.

Today I witnessed something rare. I actually saw the opposite of all the craziness and nonsense in the world.

I responded to a “person down” call at one of our parks. The call said a male was inside a woman’s bathroom and not breathing. When I arrived, the paramedics were already there and treating a male, who overdosed on heroin.

A homeless woman told us she was in the bathroom at time taking a “birdbath” as she tried to wash herself. While she was in the restroom she could hear a man and woman cutting an aluminum can open to make a “cooker” so they could inject heroin.

She knew what this sounded like because she was also a heroin user.

At one point the man went down and stopped breathing. The woman who was with him, took off and left the male on the floor in the bathroom.

The homeless woman saw this and knew he wasn’t breathing. She took action and started doing CPR on him, even though he was a complete stranger to her.

She said, “I just couldn’t leave him there.”

“Did you give him mouth to mouth?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’ve done CPR before.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes. To my mom. I was 12 years old at the time.” She made it sound like her mom passed away that day so I didn’t ask her any more questions.

The paramedics were able to revive the male and transported him to the hospital. We told the woman it looked like she had saved his life and told her she did a good job.

When we were done, she walked off into the park holding a bag with all of her belongings. She went back into her little world that most people will never be able to understand.

This is because the world has forgotten her and most people wouldn’t give her the time of day because of the way she looks.

Despite this, she saw that a complete stranger needed help and she jumped in with both feet and did what she could for him.

I’m not saying it’s safe to give a heroin addict mouth to mouth, but we can all learn a little something from the spirit of this woman, who helped another human being who was in need.

The spirit she displayed wasn’t much different from cops and firefighters, who are out there every day doing things for people they don’t know. They also don’t ask for anything in return.

Just something to think about.