Monday, November 19, 2007

Rural Town Problem-solving.....

I was thinking about how so many things have changed in every segment of our lives. Some changes were blatant and drastic, others more quiet and subtle, but they were changes nonetheless. Sometimes changes are good…..but sometimes the old ways were better.

Before retiring, I worked as a police and fire dispatcher for a small rural town. After many years at the radio, I then worked as a DB secretary, eventually finishing up as Administrative Secretary for the entire department. The radio years were the most stressful but they were also the most interesting.

One of our officers, Big Al, who was as big as his name implied, always carried a .44 magnum on his hip. Big guy, big gun. (picture Jackie Gleason) He smoked big cigars and had a wickedly wonderful sense of humor. I think Big Al had been with the department since its inception. It being a small town, you know most of the residents by first name and it seemed like Big Al knew everyone. Not quite Mayberry, but pretty close. And….yes, we did have an officer that resembled Barney Fife. Those stories will be for another time.

Every weekend, this elderly couple who lived in the south end would hit the sauce and then get into an argument over something stupid, which would escalate to the point of one of them calling the police. Since it was a “family fight” type call, two officers had to be sent. The officers would go in, referee or listen to each of their complaints, and basically act as marriage counselor and then leave with everyone being happy until next weekend when it would start all over again. This one particular weekend, Big Al was running from call to call like mad. It surely must have been a full moon because we were busy. Sure enough, in came the call from the old folks, arguing as usual. As soon as they were available, I sent Big Al and another officer. When they cleared the call in a surprisingly short few minutes, you could hear the chuckle in Big Al’s voice. I got the story when they came in to the station.

Big Al had told his partner as they exited their vehicles outside the old folk’s place that he was going to do something to get these people to stop calling like this and to play along with him. They knocked at the door and were invited in. Right away, as usual, both of the old folks started talking at once, each pointing the finger at the other. Big Al cleared his throat and took out a cigar. He put it in his mouth and lit it, blowing a nice smoke ring into their living room. All the while, the old folks were still talking at the same time, getting louder by the minute. Then Big Al slowly unsnapped his holster and removed his gun, which was impressive, I kid you not. He held the gun, pointed at the ceiling and cleared his throat once again. By this time the old folks had stopped talking and were looking at him with wide eyes. Big Al said, in a very matter of fact way, “you know we’ve been coming here for years every weekend and the chief has decided that you two just are never going to get along, so I’m going to have to shoot one of you. Which one is it going to be?” You could have heard a pin drop as they both instantly sobered up. They then assured Big Al that things were fine and he could leave….really, he could….they were fine….as they quickly ushered him and his partner to the door Big Al slowly returned his gun to his holster and said, “ok, but remember what I just said”.

We never had another complaint call from those people. Maybe some won’t see the humor in this, but I do. It goes to show you that sometimes a little rural, small town justice in the way of a bluff is just the thing to solve a problem.

An officer today could never get away with this. There would be lawsuits and internal affairs investigations and disciplinary action taken. Even in this same small town, which has had its population tripled in the last 25 years, changes have been implemented so that if a police officer just pulls his gun, a full report has to be written. Big Al would be going “humph” over that. I think now he’s basking in the warm sun somewhere, loving his retirement. God Love ya, Big Al, and thank you for finding a way for those old folks to appreciate each other for the remainder of their lives.

6 comments:

mapiprincesa! said...

Oh that is SO funny! Thank you! I needed that today! :)

We had a Big Al in our area where I grew up. He had a diner and a hot air balloon, he'd go around to elementary schools for "hot air balloon" education day, and on Saturday mornings we could see him ballooning all over the Valley. He almost landed on our roof once...not kidding.

Struck me as funny, that's all...a name from the past that I'm sure many others can share and swap a story or two about as well, all referencing different individuals...

witchypoo said...

That was a great story! Thank you for telling it.

fiwa said...

Yes, the world has changed, and not for the better in all ways. I was just reading an article about the first two seasons of Seasame Street coming out on DVD, and how there was a warning label saying not meant for children, because they were too gritty. I think we have politcally corrected ourselves to death. I loved your story, thanks for sharing it. :)

Ordinary Janet said...

Funny! I think that an advantage small town police forces have is they know the citizens and know how to deal with them. I can imagine the hullabaloo that would happen if a big-city cop did that. Of course, it'd be more likely that a big-city cop would Taser one of them and haul the other to jail.

mapiprincesa! said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, Val! Wishing you many rich blessings--

--mp

simonsays said...

Val - I think I love Big AL!