Thursday, March 15, 2007

early morning roll call

I stopped by the shelter on the way to my office yesterday. As I am walking towards the entrance I notice a police car parked in the red zone, a cop inside. I stop on my way in.

What's up? I say.
We got a call, but I'm not going in that hellhole without backup, he says.
Backup? Isn't that what the gun is for? Hey, want me to be your backup? (I am almost always overcome with cheekiness in the presence of cops. I'm not entirely proud of it, but it's true).
You do what you want - you choose to work there, I don't, he replied.
And unarmed at that. I say with a grin.

Alrighty then, friend. I'll be inside when you are ready.

A few staff are crowded around the front desk. It's obvious a fight has recently ended. Two guys, one pissed, one hurt. I avoid the pissed one (there are bigger guys around for that) and walk up to the hurt one.

Hey there. Are you ok? Shakes head no. Want to come with me, we can clean up your face. He looks around and nods. We head over to the bathroom. Sit down, I say, and gesture towards the toilet. I grab some paper towels and wet them, a lot of them, and hand them to him to put on the wound on his head. It's a bit early for all of this, yes?

Thanks, he says. You know, I was just minding my own business.

I wasn't here for the fight. But the cops are outside (ahem, waiting for backup) and they'll come sort it out - for what it's worth.

Not much, he says. I nod in agreement. I am so sick of staying here, he says. I am so sick and tired of staying here.

Someone pokes their head in to let us know the cops are inside and want to talk to the guy. Alright, I say. We should go. Just be cool with the cops, if it wasn't your fault, they'll sort it out. Plus the other guy seems pretty pissed, so just stay cool.

I'm cool, he says. Thank you.

I decided to hang around and watch how it unfolded. I feel for the hurt guy. He's a lot smaller than the other guy, and the other guy is still really pissed. He's yelling, swearing, threatening. The hurt guy stays quiet. He's being cool.

I ask one of the guys what happened. He said It's the pissed guy. He's always starting shit.
Did you tell the cops that? I ask, Yes. Good.

Cops like to do cop things alone so they head out with both guys in cuffs and start phoning things in from the car. Without any sound it's still obvious that pissed guy is not making life any easier, so it's fairly easy to assume who's not getting back out of cuffs. After a few moments everyone gets back to whatever there were doing before this happened.

I wrap up the reasons I had stopped in and head back to my car. Pissed guy is sitting in the back of one of the police cars, and hurt guy is nowhere to be seen. I don't stop. As I am driving away I see hurt guy walking down the street away from the shelter. I slow down and roll down my window. Hey, you ok?

I am so sick and tired of this shit, he says. I can't take it anymore. But I'll be ok. I'll see you around.

I hope so. Take care, brother.

And I've wondered how his day has gone ever since.

32 comments:

Thailand Gal said...

Who can blame the guy? It must be wretched to stay in one of those places. I hope he found a place to hang out for the day where he can find some peace.


Peace,

~Chani

metro mama said...

Yes, the boys in blue often aren't about either serving or protecting, are they.

Lucia said...

You are a saint. Really. The cops scare me more than anyone living on the street, and I, too, would likely say, "I am so sick and tired of staying here."

Kyla said...

So sad for him. I hope his day improved somehow.

ECR said...

Sounds like that cop missed the sensitivity training workshop. Coming from a law enforcement family, it often seems to me that there are good cops and bad cops and not a whole lot in between. Then again, that can't really be true, can it? There are always shades of gray in between.

mamatulip said...

If you ever talk to him again, and find out how he's doing, I'd really like to know.

Lynanne said...

I can bet his day went a whole lot better than it could have because someone (you) actually gave a damn.

Blog Antagonist said...

I feel a little ashamed of myself. I get really bent about peedle puddles in the boys' bathroom. Sometimes I forget that there are people that have real problems.

That guys day was better for having someone give a shit. I'm thankful people like you are in the trenches, so people like me have the luxury of being pissed about peedle puddles.

Momish said...

These are the little things that break my heart. That poor man is at his breaking point. I am sure your kindness held it off for the time being. I hope he gets a lot more kindness and a lot less hassle. My heart goes out to him.

Oh, The Joys said...

The wondering is hard.

deb said...

I think my heart would break everyday if I did your job.

QT said...

Ugh - bad sitch, that's for sure. I used to work with cops everyday, and trust me, they go through their own PTSD.

Not excusing bad behavior, just sayin....there are two sides.

meno said...

You ARE cheeky. I love that the cop waited outside for backup while you went on in.

That poor guy. :(

Tabba said...

I hope the road he was walking took him somewhere safe...
If we only could save them all.
And I agree with Jess - the wondering...has to be the hardest part.

Em said...

Wow... how do you cope with all of this? I find it so distressing to read about... I can't imagine having to SEE it, day in day out. I'm totally in awe of you...

J Fife said...

You write this all so beautifully, calmly. I'm left aching to know where hurt guy has gone.

KC said...

I like it when you get cheeky.

That poor man. But I agree with the others- the fact that you treated him like a human probably meant so much to him.

jen said...

Thanks everyone. I DO get cheeky w/ cops...way too many difficult interactions (for them and for me)...

the sad thing is that this guy is just like all the other guys. all of it sucks, the way folks have to live. and these are such lovely people so much of the time.

Emily said...

What I love about this post is that it's such a picture of caring for someone where they are. In my experience with the classroom, situations when people are angry can so easily get flare up...I'm glad you were able to be a soothing presence. ( I sometimes get a little cheeky with the police too)

kgirl said...

i'm sure his day got better - you were in it.

much love.

s@bd said...

i'm so glad you do what you do, woman.

so glad.

keep it up, okay?

crazymumma said...

What a start to your day. You must have felt blessed to walk in your front door.

Poor guy, I hope he does not do anything rash.

Deezee said...

I know it's not the point of this post, but I am constantly amazed at your ability to maintain optimism when faced with such sadness. Such encounters infuse my soul and make me ache.

The world is lucky to have those like you who are wired as you are.

Thomas said...

Wanted to say hi from Seattle via a vacation to Houston.

flutter said...

You are so beautiful. Hopefully he gets to take a piece of that with him through his day

Laurie said...

You are such a kind compassionate person. The world is better because you exist.

carrie said...

I hope you were able to put your mind to rest after a day like that, and I hope that he was able to also.

Carrie

kristen said...

I don't know whether to cry for the poor man or scream in rage at the asshat cop who felt he needed back-up at a shelter.

NotSoSage said...

This is why I get angry when I hear people say, "Why do they sleep outside when there are shelters around?" I know what it's like for people in those shelters and I can't say that I wouldn't make the same decision.

Jen, you rock. Really...I know it comes with experience, but to be so calm in the face of all of that. I would be raging at all the injustice. And I'm glad you got cheeky with that cop. What a dolt.

Julie Pippert said...

Damn. Just damn. That's all I can think of to say right now.

Juliness said...

What a heartbreaking story, Jen. I am sorry for everyone in it.

For the hurt guy, that he has to deal with this maddening frustration; for the pissed off guy because he probably doesn't know any better way to handle his feelings; for the cop in the car probably 'handcuffed' by the bureaucracy inherent in the system which precludes logical thought; and finally you, for having to deal with all of it.

My thoughts are with you.

Lillithmother said...

Jen, this was so hard to read...my heart goes out to him, and I can't help but wonder if he'll survive more crap...

And you my darling are an extrordinary woman...you got a big heart that matches those big balls!

Lil