Have you really opened your eyes? I mean really opened them. I guess I haven't until yesterday on my first police ride along. In order to do this, you have to fill out a lot of paperwork. A lot. Then, a background check is done. All of this is escalated up the hierarchy chain and the chief of police has to sign off to let you do this. Damn. Lots of signatures to approve this. Luckily, they didn't do a background check on my mouth, and I passed all of that and was given the green light to go on this adventure. Yes, an adventure. My first ride along with two of Dallas' finest police officers who happen to be women was an adventure for me. But, for them? It was just another exhausting day on the job. Or should I say a war zone.
Is there a war going on in Dallas? Just three exits north of my house in my very safe bubble of a neighborhood? Indeed, there is. Oh...what a lesson I learned yesterday.
I'm not a police officer. I'm just a mom raising four kids. In a very comfortable and, at times, entitled world.
It's our job as parents to protect (or is it shelter?) our children from all the horrifying hell (I mean life) out there.
What I experienced should be on everyone's must do list. Or perhaps bucket list. Well...maybe not bucket list...eating my way through Italy is probably a more common item on a bucket list.
Without a doubt, the police get a bad rap. They are micro watched. One tiny fuck up, and it's all over the news. No thanks. I couldn't handle the scrutiny.
As I'm sitting in the back of the squad car (a Dodge something or another with some sort of pleather seats with a 2' wide streak on the ceiling that is best described as some sort of bodily excretion. I didn't touch it so I'll have to let my imagination run wild for the rest of my life.) I move on. No other choice.
First stop...Dunkin Donuts...ok... Not really. We head to the station to upload all the data as the recorder is full. As the female police officers give me a tour, I am not impressed at all by the blandness of the facilities. The building couldn't be more vanilla. Except the locker rooms. Picture after picture of the women and their babies. Their children. Their very real lives. You can't get more personal than this. I am in awe. These women are mothers. Like me. They have children to raise. I'd love to say our lives are very similar but they aren't.
What I did yesterday in no way compares to any of my days. My life is monotonous. Bordering on boring sometimes when my kids are at school.
After leaving the station, we head to a third world country. Yep. Just a few exits north of my home. Since this is a blog and not a book, I'll keep it short.
How the hell do people live like this? Not sure about you, but no way in hell would I live like this. This door has clearly been beaten. And don't get me started on the mattress. Not the first thing I want to see when I walk out the door everyday. The building is dilapidated. The walkways are filled in with rotted wood. Trash is everywhere.
The two police officers I'm with are on a special unit that is covering an area of Dallas that is heavily into drugs. Selling. Buying. Using. I'm quite sure it isn't a little pot smoking. It's the heavy stuff. Heroin. Crack. Meth. None of which I've ever tried. (Pot, yes.) I've seen what meth does to your face. And, let's face it, I'm too vain to mess with my face like that so I abstain from any drugs that would eat my face. Have you seen those time lapse videos of people on meth? Liquid Drano belongs in your toilet. Not your body.
As they pat down the known criminals, they can feel a wad of cash in one of the pockets. They cannot legally go in the pocket without a warrant. I'm guessing the cash is not his pension he just cashed in. But, what do I know? I'm just observing all of this. It's nearly 100 degrees and I'm wearing a black jacket that has Police written all over it. Just in case something happens, they will know I'm with the police. My heart is racing. And, I'm sweating profusely. This was not a good day to wear open toed shoes. Clearly, I'm unprepared. I'm standing there wondering if one of them has a gun and will pull it out. One of the officers, points to the wall I'm leaning against (trying to find shade in this hell), and says to me, "Stay right there where I can see you." Last time anyone said that to me was my mother when I was 5 years old. I happily oblige. For obvious reasons. She is not fucking around. And I am forever grateful for her stern words.
Is it lunchtime yet? Worrying about my life has somehow made me hungry. They all drink tea. I'm having a Bloody Mary. The pressure of this day has caused me to drink.
After lunch, we are off to arrest a rather large man (400 lbs) for some warrant. Backup is needed. Ummm...is he going to sit in the back with me? Not sure I'm comfortable with that strategy...
As we head to yet another sad and in much need of a bulldozer apartment complex, we are rerouted. "Put your seatbelt on Wanda." Huh? We are just going a few blocks, no? Sirens go on. Guess, we aren't. "There's a cutting." A cutting? You mean a stabbing? "Yes. Hold on."
We head to a Motel 6 in East Dallas. My first trip there. As we walk into the lobby, there is a guy in a pool of blood who was just stabbed by his girlfriends ex boyfriend (or lover or pimp...who the hell knows?). This is now a crime scene. Don't touch anything. Especially, the drops of blood everywhere. More crack and heroin addicts. As they haul him off to the hospital, he keeps saying, "Am I going to die?" I won't forget his face nor his eyes with dark circles around his eyes. Tats and blood all over him. Not sure if he made it after his surgery. Surviving multiple stab wounds would be a miracle.
The emaciated girlfriend. The long haired Hispanic alleged assailant. The black witness who couldn't form a proper sentence if he tried. He kept saying he had to get to work so he could pay for his room. The victim who was stabbed. All too much for me.
Since this is now a crime scene, I'm hauled off in a police car to my home. My very safe home. No rotted wood. No mattresses by the door. No holes in my front door. No needles anywhere near my home.
I sit on my couch unable to move. I'm exhausted from this day. But for my police friends? They must get up each day and do this again. And again. They choose courage over comfort each day.
Next time you see a police officer, buy them lunch. Or simply thank them. They shield us from an everyday life that we never have to see.
Thank you, J and T. An adventure I will never forget. A day we should all experience and then give thanks for the safe lives we live.