Bring Your Own Meal


In our old Hall of Justice that was demolished years ago, there was a small booking room. Once in awhile, a few of us at BPD have one of those “Remember the old building…” talks and that room often comes up. The space wasn’t very big and at the far wall was a freight elevator with a kinda orange colored caged door that pulled across it. We would often place an arrestee in the elevator while we completed paperwork. The elevator went up a floor and opened into the Hall Of Justice – City of Berkeley Police Department Jail. 

My beat partner and I had brought in a guy with a No Bail felony warrant. When I spotted him on the street, I assumed he was just a drunk. As things go in peace officer work, don’t assume anything. Yes, he was really drunk but he was also wanted for stabbing somebody in another county. 

The guy was Latino and had been telling me in a thick accent that he was Mexicano. “Yo soy Mexicano. Ok?!” He then broke into song. I could ink understand every third word. The ballads seemed sad, not just the tone of his voice, but the way in which he leaned his head against the elevator cage as he sang. Alcohol has that effect on some, I imagined. 

I was standing up behind a wooden podium that we used as a desk. Suddenly, I felt it coming on. Intestinal pain, tightness, gas. The kind of gas that you fight to hold onto but… pfoopppp! I did it. I farted. Arrghhh. Of course, it was between Juan’s stanzas and the sound filled the room. He lifted his forehead off the cage and… glazed eyes full of surprise, he laughed. My beat partner didn’t flinch, but likely knew I was uncomfortable. I continued to write the summary about how I came to detain Juan. 

“What is your first name? ,” Juan asks. “Mary,” I answer without looking up. “Ahhh. Maria. Mary…El pedo. Los pedos..For favor do not eat frijoles. Mary loves beans. She loves beans…” he begins to sing. He starts to belt the words, inserting them into various melodies at the top of his lungs. The other officer is trying not to laugh. I can see in his jaw that he is fighting it. My chin down, eyes on my pen I say, “Yes.”

“Yes, I do love beans. Refried. Black. Whole pintos. Next time, I will have a salad.” 


These Boots…


…were made for everything. 

I got up from my desk in the Patrol Sergeants’ office and walked towards a colleague’s desk. He was asking me to review a draft email and of course I would oblige. 

My foot suddenly felt weird. He looked down and said, “Is that your boot?!!” 

Awww crud. I knew it was a matter of time. I hoped these boots would last until I retired. A wave of sadness and disappointment overcame me. These boots have been with me for over 22 years. “Lady Rockys” that I bought for the police academy. 

These boots have been through so much. The leather is weathered and worn, the toes easy to shine each day. They have been warmed by my body. They have held me up on many hot roadways and sidewalks. They have climbed through windows and over fences, stood on perimeters and searched yards overgrown with weeds and blackberry bushes.  

I have walked in and out of so many lives… These boots have gingerly avoided bodies, blood, oil, shell casings and pieces of cars scattered across streets. I can run in these boots, uninhibited by their softness, their familiarity. 

Now I was out of sorts. I have had many a conversation about uniforms and gear with my colleagues. Most echo similiar sentiments. Having your uniform “just so” – everything in its place – is so essential. I need to be comfortable for safety. Discomfort impacts my focus. 

I pull the other pair of boots I bought years ago from the top of my locker. Dust reigns downs on me. They are stiff. Rigid. They are Rookies. Unpredictable.  Annoying. I don’t trust them. The most these have endured is a training day at the outdoor range. 

I put them on and head back upstairs. I wonder what we will do together today. 

New Boots On Patrol