Baiting the Bear

I sit in my car as I leave the Town of Pearth (names and locations have been cunningly disguised to conceal the identities of the not-so innocent). It’s a hot summer’s day, and the sun is bright enough to make me squint. I’m waiting for the traffic signals at the four-way intersection to change; these ones always take a while. I strum my fingers against the steering wheel, somewhat out of time to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy. Texas blues, a beautiful day, I’ve finished work, and I’m looking forward to a swim in the pool with my wife and youngest daughter when I get home. I take a sip of the ice-cold water I picked up at the gas station, and crank the volume a little higher. Life is good, eh?

Tim Horton’s Meets Rosco P. Coltrane

Although my air-conditioning is at full blast, I have my window down as I enjoy the music, the breeze and the sense of release on my way home from a challenging day. Across the road I see one of the township police lift his head and stare in my direction. He ambles across the street—all swagger and John Wayne—to stand by my open window. His left hand is on his hip, and the fingertips of his right are lightly touching the grip of his standard issue SIG Sauer P226 sidearm. I wonder idly if that’s supposed to intimidate me. He doesn’t know me, he’s seen me around, but despite working on the town computer systems for a while, nobody really knows me here. If he did, he’d know that firearms and—as I might say back in England—wankers with a badge, don’t intimidate me. I have experience of them both, and avoid them if I can.

It’s fair to say that I’ve never trusted the police, across the Atlantic or here in rural Canada. I’ve never met a police officer that has ever convinced me that they’ve had my best interests at heart. Although he doesn’t know me, I do know this guy, I’ve listened to him around the police headquarters, when I’ve been working quietly, and nobody knew I was within earshot. I’ve heard him refer to some of the local highschool kids—friends of my son and daughter—as little sh*ts, and I know about a few of the web sites he visits when he thinks he won’t get caught. And I’m convinced that in any other walk of life, we’d still thoroughly dislike each other.

And there you have it, in the space of a few seconds, we’ve both made our decisions… I’m an easy target, he’s a rather pathetic excuse for an authority figure, and we’re both going to have a playground shoving match. I look at his fingers grazing the pistol grip once again, maybe it’s a subconscious boost to his own self-confidence? Or does he really expect the fat, fifty-ish, technology consultant, who administers the Pearth Police Service computer network, to produce a weapon?

I have an almost instant dislike for uniforms anyway. I don’t like bullies, and uniforms, in my experience, have a tendency to make weak people behave like bullies. A uniform is no substitute for strength of character, and this guy—like so many of his township colleagues—is one of those egos, that takes Hamlet a little too literally when Polonius says:

For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
William Shakespeare,
Hamlet, Act I, Scene III

I on the other hand, have always believed that you should be someone deserving of respect, before you ever get to put on the uniform. It’s a subtle difference, but I’m sticking with it. Constable Nazi looks down at me from behind his genuine Ray Ban shades ($5.99 from e-Bay), and does his best Clint Eastwood, “Don’t you think you should turn that down?” His fingers are still stroking his semi-automatic SIG, and I’m sure I can hear him say, “Go ahead punk… make my day.”

I smile my broadest, most sincere smile, and look up at my reflection in the cheap, curved plastic. There’s sweat around his hairline, and moist skin under the day-old stubble at his throat, and… yes! True to the stereotype, the sticky remains of a Tim Horton’s jam donut, or three, on his uniform shirt. “Nope officer, I’m good. And if I listen real hard I can just hear my mobile phone if it rings.” Ah, saved by the lights: green and go. Constable Eastwood is still standing in the middle of the road as I cross the intersection. I shall probably pay for that I think, as I look in my rear-view mirror. If he really wants to be a pain in my backside, he could radio ahead and I’ll be stopped before I leave town. The township cop-shop is at the end of the road, just as I turn right to head on home.

Fortunately, my concerns are unfounded, and I make the rest of the journey without further incident. But I’ll just bet I haven’t seen the last of Constable Donut.

The Return of Constable Donut

The next day, I am struggling to troubleshoot the serpentine insanity of the hundreds of multi-coloured cables, that comprise the computer network and sound system for the Town of Pearth’s main courtroom. It’s another hot day, and I’m doing my best to trace years of undocumented patch-up repairs. I stare fixedly at the nightmare in a multi-colored spaghetti factory, waiting for my telekinesis to kick in and magically put everything right.

Slowly, very slowly, absolutely nothing continues to happen. Over my shoulder, Constable Fascist appears, still wearing his lucky-bag shades in the subdued lighting of the courtroom. “You were quite the smart-mouth at the lights yesterday.” He drawls, somewhere between Eastwood and a pre-pubescent Batman.

I try not to turn into his coffee and diner-breakfast breath as I reply, “Case of mistaken identity officer. I’m a smart mouth everywhere.” I continue to stare at the mass of cabling. The cabling stares back, but I think it might have blinked.

Constable Batman cracks a thin smile. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t touch his eyes, “They told me you thought you were f***ing funny.”

“You should catch my stand-up.”

“Be careful someone don’t knock you down.”

“Really? B-movie threats? I’m worth that? I’m flattered.” I’m laughing openly now, and Constable Halitosis is clearly annoyed. “Listen, I’m busy here. You & your boys won’t put away any innocent civilians this afternoon, if I don’t get the court system back up and running.” I’ve sunk to my knees now, and running my hands along network cables that run under a floor panel, and up behind a podium at the front of the courtroom. I follow the cables out from behind the polished timber, and am grunting with the effort of lifting the corner of the judge’s bench. I am also rapidly losing patience. “Why don’t you p*** off and tell the rest of your sewing circle I’m out of here in three weeks, so they’ll have to find someone else to gossip about. Have a nice day.”

There’s a long pause before he just can’t stop himself from asking, “And where the hell are you going?”

“I’m going to learn things officer. You know, try and better myself. Of course, some of us have further to go than others.”

“Pr!ck.”

Aha! I think, got him! Constable Batboy turns on his heel, cape swirling dramatically in his little tantrum, and stalks away. “I won’t be putting you down as a referee then?” I call to his retreating back. I’m baiting the bear, and I know it, but sometimes these things just have to be done.

I don’t drive through Pearth any more… I get too many traffic stops.

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