Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where's a Cop When You Need One?

I picked up two Samoans and took them to the outer mission. One of them, a huge man of about 6'8" and 325 pounds with enormous hands sat in front with me while the smaller man sat in back. They were a little high but personable and friendly, especially "Big Man" as his buddy called him.

Big man offered me a line, which I politely refused, then talked about how he used to be a cop in Samoa where he couldn't carry a gun. All he was a allowed to use was a baton which he became pretty good at.

"How do stop a drunk?" he asked me.

"I don't know," I pondered, "I guess ... hit 'em in the face."

"Naw," he said, "doesn't work."

"You're right," I replied, "it doesn't. I thought I just had a weak punch."

"Naw - if they're drunk they can't feel it. Hit 'em in the skin or the knee. They go right down. The knee's best 'cause they don't get up again."

"I'll remember that."

"Never know when you're gonna need it."

We drove down Mission Street almost to Daly City where we dropped off Little Man. Big Man then told me that he needed to go down near the Geneva Towers, which were the toughest housing projects in the city. He said he lived across the street.

I don't like going down there but, as I've always said, it's not where you are it's who you're with, so I turned on Geneva to take Big Man home.

As I drove on, however, he stated to change. He lost his friendliness and became morose. He talked about how he'd had nothing but bad luck since he moved to the mainland. He's lost his wife. He'd lost his job. He couldn't see his kids.

"Of course I've got enough to pay you," he reassured me.

Big Man asked me turn left off Geneva with headed toward the Towers. I turned, drove half a block and stopped. The area was deserted.

"How's this?" I asked.

"Actually - if you could keep going for a little bit," he said.

"I thought you weren't going to the Towers," I said.

"Oh - I'm not," he said leaning slightly toward me, "I know this sounds strange but it you could pull down that alley behind the sign. That's where I live."

It was a huge tennis shoe advertisement. If I drove behind it, I couldn't be seen from the street.

"You can probably walk it from here," I told him looking at the ball point pen I'd attached to the sunshade with a rubber band.

I'd fantasized about using it as a knife in just such a situation as this. What I hadn't fantasized about was Big Man's girth. If I did manage to stab him, I didn't think the pen would penetrate his flesh deeply enough to stop him. It'd probably just piss him off. I looked at his shins and his knees wishing I'd taken that self-defense course instead of putting it off.

My mind was reeling. The only prayer I had of stopping him if he attacked was grabbing his juggler veins and rendering him unconscious before he broke my grip with his huge hands. It wasn't much of a prayer.

"Is there a problem?" I heard a man ask from outside the car.

I looked out and saw that a squad car had pulled up across the street from me. A big, blond cop had asked the question.

"No officer," I said with relief, "this gentleman was just leaving ..." I turned to Big Man, "weren't you?"

Big Man didn't say a thing. He nervously dug into his pocket. The meter read $10.75. He finally came up with a roll of crumpled one dollar bills. He only had nine of them.

"That's good enough," I told him.

Without looking at me, he pushed the roll of bills into my hand and climbed out of the car. I watched him stagger off for about 100 feet, then turned to the cop and said,

"Thanks. I think you saved my butt."

"He was going rob you?" the cop asked angrily.

"I can't say for sure because it didn't happen but I think you stopped it."

Without a word he spun his car around and drove over to Big Man.

When I drove off, Big Man had his hands in the air and the cop was making him try to walk a straight line. If nothing else he'd get Big Man on a possession charge. Six months in the box.

Tough luck, buddy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another Cop Story

It was a slow, rainy night with very little business and hardly anybody on the streets. I was in the Sunset and decided to stop by a local store for a juice drink. I drove around a corner and saw about eight police cars double-parked at various angles turning the road in front of the store into a one-lane thruway.

I parked my cab a block away and walked toward the scene. Whatever incident had occurred was clearly already over because the cops were standing around telling each other jokes. Back then I assumed that so many cops descended on a call in order to back each other up in potentially dangerous situations. It was only latter that I leaned that the real reason they showed up en masse was to file for overtime.

I started to walk around the crowd to get into the store when I spotted a man laying face down on the street with his hands cuffed behind his back. He was chubby, in his mid-fifties and needed to turn his head to one side or the other to keep his mouth out of the puddle that the rain was forming around him.

He looked up at me with a dazed, distraught expression and said, "Madness ... Madness ... Madness."

I went into the store and bought my juice from the distracted store owner who kept looking out at the scene outside.

I stepped outside.  The situation remained the same: the cops swapping jokes while the stunned man stared after me, twisting his head from side to side to keep from drowning.

The next day, the store owner told me what had happened.

The man in the street had been mugged by two guys who stole his wallet. He chased them, kicked their asses and took his wallet back.

Just as he grabbed his wallet the police came up, arrested him, cuffed him and threw down on the street into the position he was in when I spotted him.

Okay, anybody can make a mistake. It must have looked like the victim was the thief when the cops showed up. That I can understand. What they did next, however, blows my mind: without bothering to look at the picture on the victim's license, they gave the wallet back to the thieves who walked merrily away - no doubt to burst out laughing as soon as they went beyond the reach of sound.

"Madness .... Madness ... Madness ... Sloth ... Sloth ... Sloth."