Yes, there… I said it. Not against a race, ethnicity, sexual preference or gender. I love all races, ethnicity, and love my gay friends. I’ve discovered after many years that I am mean to people who drink excessive alcohol. Without going into detail WHY I’m writing this, I just want to give some people an insight as to why I am the way I am. I’m not saying that it’s right, or a good thing to feel this way. In a perfect world I’d treat sober people and drunk people the same, but I don’t.
It started when I began my police work with the Amarillo PD on the midnight shift. It would usually start around midnight, and not let up until around 5AM. Every. Single. Night. We would deal with intoxicated people. Aww, to hell with political correct speech. I’d have to deal with drunks. “I just had two drinks officer” Every night. Some would cry. Some couldn’t stop laughing. Most would be angry drunks, and yell a lot. Lots of profanity, mostly directed at the guys in the blue suits. I can handle the yelling and the profanity. It gets better.
They bleed on you. One drunk had been stabbed, and he wanted to put his arm around me because he was having trouble standing up. I got his nasty blood all over me. That freaks me out too, but that’s a blog for another day. They throw up on you. You haven’t lived until someone who has been consuming LARGE amounts of tequila and some sort of mexican hot sauce with chips suddenly leans forward and vomits a peculiar red substance all over you. And the vomit happened all the time. Gross? Wait, there’s more. Imagine that you’re a young officer, and you arrest a drunk, and get the handcuffs on, and begin patting them down for weapons (per department policy) and then you realize they’ve urinated in their pants. Yes, we have gloves, but it’s not always possible to get your gloves on before you have to touch someone. Oh, and the drunk-that-peed-their-pants happened a lot. Wait, there’s MORE: You get a drunk cuffed and stuffed in your car, and while you’re making the short trip to the jail, you hear a familiar sound, and then the smell. Your drunk prisoner has just shit in his/her pants, and it seems like often it was the type that resembles pudding. No, the officers don’t have to clean up the back seat, there are trustees at the jail to do that, but I’ve learned that there is no chemical product or bleach available that removes the smell. It seemed like it would always happen at the beginning of a shift. Only six more hours in the car that now smells like a porta-potty.
Now, my favorite part. The above descriptions were the drunks that were nice. Then you get the drunks who feel that after six vodka drinks, they can kick everyone’s ass. They want to kick the officer’s ass, and then they tell you that they will find you, and hurt your family. “I’m gonna frind you when you not wearingg tthatt gunn an badge, and I gon kill you family.”
The things I mentioned above are annoying, but not quite enough to make a person be mean toward drunks. Now the ugly part. Around Christmas 1985 I was the responding officer to a wreck on an interstate highway running through Amarillo. There was some snow, but no ice. When I arrived on scene, it was gruesome. It was a head-on wreck. A pickup had been going southbound on the northbound side of the highway. The northbound vehicle was a small Nissan 4 door. I think it was gray. The Nissan got the worst of it… the front of the car was obliterated. The driver was deceased, but I won’t go into the horrific details about her. I heard crying from the back seat, but I couldn’t get into the rear of the car, but there was a child in the back seat, still alive. Another officer arrived on the scene and went to the pickup. The officer said the pickup had one occupant, alive and conscious. When fire/rescue arrived, the quickly cut open the Nissan, and there in the back seat, was a beautiful baby girl, about a year old, still buckled in her car seat. I remember she had shards of glass embedded in her face, and was bleeding, but very much alive. When the firefighter cut her out of the seat, I carried her to the ambulance. She was holding my finger with her little hand. I handed her off to the paramedics, and went back to the pickup. The driver of the truck had compound fractures just below the knees, but not feeling any pain. He was drunk. He was arguing with me when I asked why he was driving in the wrong lane. He said the car backed into him. Then he told me he wasn’t driving. He wasn’t sure where he was. The alcoholic smell on his breath was overpowering.
When the vehicles were cleared from the highway, I went to the hospital, which was also the morgue. We needed to identify the deceased female and the baby. I also wanted to make sure they drew blood on the drunk and ran a alcohol test on it. The laws were different back then, we didn’t get blood warrants, we would just get the hospital lab records. I went to the trauma room and they were removing the glass from the little girl’s face and forehead. She screamed each time they pulled a shard out. It’s been over 30 years, and I can still hear that child scream. I was on the phone with dispatch. They weren’t having much luck running the plate of the Nissan. It was registered to a previous owner. For two hours we didn’t know the identity of the deceased mom or her precious little girl. Finally, dispatch received a call from a woman who had been expecting her daughter and granddaughter and hadn’t heard from them. I remember when the grandmother came into Northwest Hospital ER, screaming and crying. I took her into the trauma room where they were treating the baby, and gave her the bad news about her daughter. She was crying, and I was crying. Her deceased daughter was 23 years old. That precious baby would grow up without really knowing her mother. The little girl would be in her 30’s now. There’s a part of me that wishes I’d kept up with them. It would be too painful. I wouldn’t want to be a reminder of that night. I’ve hardly ever worked a shift on patrol without thinking about that night. I testified in the trial. The drunk driver was never charged with intoxication manslaughter like we would today. He was charged with just DWI. He was convicted, but he only received probation because he was a helpless victim of his “disease”, alcoholism.
So here I am today. I’ve never talked much about that wreck, or the other DWI fatal wrecks that I’ve worked. They all took a toll, but especially that first one. I went home that night and hugged my son Rick who was about the same age as the baby girl. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who are against alcohol or want to bring back prohibition. Hell, I like to have a beer occasionally, or maybe a fine bourbon over ice. I stop myself at two. I don’t want to embarrass myself or lose control. I take pictures at weddings sometimes on weekends, and every now and then some drunk will stagger up to me, slurring his words, and tell me how to take better pictures. I can almost feel my blood boiling when I’m around a drunk person. I take a deep breath, and try not to say what I’m thinking. I hate seeing people spiral out of control into an alcoholic fog. I guess my ability to keep my mouth closed is wearing thin. Like the comedian Ron White used to say “I knew I had the right to remain silent….. but I didn’t have the ability….” So I’m mean. I’m a mean guy who sometimes makes rude comments to people about their drinking. I’m not making an excuse. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I just felt the need to share and make this confession about me so that perhaps a few people would understand why I sometimes act the way I do. For those of you who read this whole novel, thank you, and I’m sorry I’m long winded.