Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I was a cop once - Yup, for real, they gave me a gun and a badge and everything!

Anyway, I left that biz, but some things don't ever leave you, (I think, I hope). I don't like crowds, because it sets off my 'Proximity Sense' - That's basically defined as a 'Wingspan and lunge' circle around me that I really don't care for anybody I don't know or trust to be within. You also develop the 'Rapid Response Yeah or Nay Determination', which means the first glance read on the character and intent of any given person you focus on - That comes from having, in a lot of situations, about 5 seconds to determine the motive and mood of a person, in order to stay alive and healthy. I don't like people I don't know coming up to me when I'm in a car, because 'A Car Is A Coffin' in police work... You see differently too; you tend not to do tunnel vision, rather to be always scanning, checking out things, people, cars, based on whether or not they're moving, (Toward or away from you), what they're doing, how they feel, etc, etc - I used to tell Rookies I was training that it's like the threat radar on a fighter jet, always evaluating, categorizing and prioritizing targets... And you 'hear' people real well, because a lot of people think loud: No, I'm not nuts, think about it - Ever try to shoot a crow? You can look at 'em, walk toward 'em, whatever; they don't move. But do that with a gun and malice in mind and they're gone before you can blink. Humans used to be the top of the heap of the hunter/gatherer crowd - Go into a survival business like police work and that sense will come back to you, (Hopefully).

I was in Narcs for a few years, and while there, we did a lot of 'entries', AKA busting into a house to find various things or people. During that time, I was assigned to DEA, so I worked with a bunch of Feds, and we did entries for them, too. Did quite a few, in fact. I was the person who's official title was, 'First Idiot Through The Door'. Now, you might tend to think that's the most dangerous position, but I'm not sure I'd agree - It's kinda like a line of hikers walking down a trail, when the first one steps on a yellow jacket nest: fact is, he or she might get stung once or twice, but hikers 2 and 3 are screwed - get the picture? A lot of cops, back even 10 or 15 years ago, would tell you things like, "I never pulled my gun in anger throughout a whole career". When I started in law enforcement, that was true - Incidents involving serious weapons in our town, heck, in the whole county, happened a few times a year at most - They were unusual enough that everybody heard about 'em and everybody remembered 'em. By the time I was done in '97, we were taking 45s off 12 year olds on the public buses, and weapon involved incidents happened all the time. I pulled my gun a lot, fully intending to use it, in fact. When you do that, when you have a gun out, and are ready to use it, it's a strange thing to do. You're pointing a gun at another person and thinking, 'If you make decision A, I kill you; decision B, you live.' Not a ton of fun, really... Unless you've been in the military or law enforcement, you have no idea what it means to point a weapon at somebody and be fully ready to kill them. I hope you never do, frankly...

Anyway, what got me thinking about this is how much road rage and such have increased in the last few years, and how many idiots there are with guns out there; and how many of them have proven that they're crazy enough to kill over nothing...

I thought about this because I ran into one on Sunday.

I had an early music gig Sunday, before church and about 45 minutes out of town. It's a cancer retreat I play twice a year. I left the house at 6:30 and headed for Starbucks. As I pull into line, I see a truck about half way across the parking lot accelerate toward me, then jam on the brakes with his nose about a foot from my door, and lay on his horn...

Now, one of the reasons I got chosen for the First Idiot Through The Door position is because I tend to be very lucid and relaxed in nasty situations. Don't get me wrong, I most certainly do get scared, I just do it later - While the shit is hitting the fan, I'm calm, cool, and collected.

So I looked at this guy, wondering what his trip was. He honked again, and then flipped me off. I thought, 'Great, I got no weapon, I can't get out of the car, and this guy's an asshole for sure...' I moved just enough to be able to open the door, and unrolled my window, and asked him if he had a problem. He was about 50, fat, out of shape, and had the wife, young son, and dog in the truck with him. He said, "Yeah, I got a problem you prick, you fuckin' cut me off!" I had a feel of the guy by this point, and I had decided he wasn't nuts, wasn't really dangerous, but was certainly off balance - that was the quick take anyway... I pointed out that he was wrong, that I actually got there first, and that they would certainly be right with him when I was done and gone. He flipped me off again, honked again, and actually tried to spit at me, but didn't quite have the oomph; he ended up spitting on his own rearview mirror. I looked at him and said, "Sir, you really need to grow up - This is one of the most juvenile and pathetic displays I've seen in a long time," (Yes, that is what I actually said...) He told me he had grown up, told me to fuck off again, and then ordered me to move now. I considered this for a moment, and decided not to, and told him that whereas I could move, I wasn't going to, because he was being such an amazing shitbird. I put it back in forward and moved up a bit more. I watched him in my side mirror as he unbuckled his seatbelt and opened his door. The ol' Ready For Battle calm came over me. I put it park, stepped out, and told him, quietly, "Do not get out of the truck, Sir - If you get out of the truck, I am going to trash you all over this parking lot - Get back in the truck right now." His wife was telling him the same thing, and he looked at her and slipped back in.

That was it. I moved forward with him still frothing at the mouth behind me, but he'd 'Lost' and we both knew it. I started to feel bad and stupid, all at the same time and right then and there. First off, I don't do stuff like this. I got in fights and such when I was paid to - I neither like it nor put myself in situations where it's even remotely likely to happen. I call myself a Christian, and my responding to him, and genuinely being ready to waste the poor slob, could not be even remotely construed as Christian thoughts or actions. And what if I'd been wrong? The best bad guys, (Or the most psychotic), will not always give you a bad sixth sense - they want to lure you in, where they can do the most damage, after your guard is down. They're good at it, often better than we are at perceiving the situation. What if I'd been wrong?

I thought about this as I went through the line. When I got to the window, I gave the gal a $20 and told her that I was paying for me and whatever they had in the truck behind me. When she gave me my change, she asked, "Do they know you're paying for them?" I said no. She asked, "Do you know them, Sir?" I said, "Nope, but I just pissed the guy off: He thinks I cut him off, so I'm trying to make a Christian gesture..." She smiled, gave me the price of my coffee back, and said "Have a great day." I left the lot as fast as I could.

It bothers me, a lot, to have responded so easily; to have been so ready to smear that dude, right there in front of his wife and kid. To have gotten in an argument over position in line at freaking Starbucks, for crying out loud. What if I'd been wrong? I don't like to fight, but I'm good at it. I studied Tiger Crane Kung Fu for a long time, I was a superbly trained working cop, with plenty of battle experience. I don't fight fair. Fighting scares me. I fight dirty. I fight to win. I fight to disable, to stop whoever is scaring and hurting me from scaring and hurting me any more. I fight to be able to get away and make sure they can't follow me. That's how I was trained, that's my practical experience, and that's how my instinct kicks in. Over a freaking cup of coffee. Unbelievable. I was shaking in the car as I went to the gig. Screwed up two intro's 'cause I wasn't concentrating. What an idiot I was...

What if I'd been wrong?

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