Ride Along with the Citizen's Police Academy
Funniest moment as an author so far? That'd be my Night At The Academy.
Blame Janet Evanovich for putting the notion in my head that in order to write suspense reasonably, I should take a Citizen Police Academy Course. A PD accepted me and before I knew it, my class was near graduation, standing outside waiting to execute a flawless run of a Traffic Stop. Our scenarios were all typical day in the life stuff for the officers.
The first pair of students are up, and the cops, role-playing as citizen drivers, pretend to be a bunch of drunks (with great skill. The cops are loving this exercise.) One hollers out the window. They're yelling, and waving "Corona" and hooting out the car, and we observers are accidentally snorting mosquitoes laughing at their display. They swipe white powder under their noses. They get stopped by the first two students and reply. "No habla..."
Our students don't habla, either. A problem they can't solve.
One "civilian" takes off running while another's arguing with the other 'officer' and the third who was in the back seat, gets in the driver's seat. A bag of white powder flies out the window and lands 3 feet from me. It busts open on the grass and sprays out like a really bad football field hash mark. Our "cops" are unaware of all of this. The class is empathetic and trying very hard not to laugh.
(We are injuring vital organs trying not to laugh. Our fingers are convulsing so much none of us can dial 9-1-1 before someone keels over.)
My preferred pick for partner goes next, with someone else. They suffer a similar fate.
I notice a slightly older guy has positioned himself by me, so I figure he's game to partner. (We've been kind of shifting around like that.) Instructor looks me dead in the eye and asks "Who's next?"
(Cops are subtle like that.)
Now, before roll call, I made the mistake of telling him I'm nervous and have been studying for this "exam" over the weekend. He immediately left to confer with several officers in the adjacent kitchen. When I sidled up to the dinner spread, they slammed the shutters between us closed like drug dealers caught mid-exchange. Being the smartypants you are, YOUR Something's Rottten In Denmark Radar is pinging off like mad.
Me? I'm too trusting. (I.e., "clueless".)
"Sure." I nudge the guy next to me. "You game to ride with a girl?"
Laughter all around.
"I'll ride with a girl. You want to drive?"
"Whatever you want."
We're issued our gear, and I fire the air pistol at the ground. (First round of the night, by the way.) People laugh. "She's going to shoot them!"
I got to drive a real patrol car. Like the guns, they are heavy. No light-footed Honda this. Even the steering wheel is heavy. By no means are they slow, however.
No time to admire the car. Instructor shows me the controls for lights, PA, spotlight, etc. I put my flashlight on the central cup holder, 'cause there's no room anywhere else with all the other gear. The air pistol is in my jacket pocket, but the light is big and clunky, the kind you could strike someone with, and it doesn't fit. Instructor tells me they're going to do an illegal U-turn.
We crank up and follow the "traffic", and I've forgotten the headlights and the class is hooting at me to turn them on. I can't find them. Kinda hate to hit the siren by mistake here.... It takes a tenth of a mile or so, but at last they're on. I'm officially ready to get my Learner's Permit, if I can just find a licensed adult who'll ride with me.
Our "citizens" do their illegal U-turn. I am buckled in the patrol car, and I whip that sucker around after them and learn just how responsive and fast it can be if you ask it to giddyup. The car allows the tires to make a soft noise on the pavement, but that's the only indicator that I've asked it do anything special. My partner wasn't buckled in, and starts French kissing the passenger window...
He finishes smooching and shoots me a look that tells me I'm not invited to the post class reunion party.
For better or worse, we are following our illegal U turn. They are not stopping. We convoy behind them, and circle the parking lot. I should be, but am not particularly upset about this, as I am getting to put a lot of mileage on this patrol car. We do continue to run the scenario, though. We hit the siren. Nice siren.
Nothing from U-turn.
We flash the blues again and they finally stop. We use the PA to try to get them to move up, because they've stopped where I can't put the car in the "best", that is, safest for the officer, place.
They don't move, but my partner's out the door and on the go.
I put the car in park and look for my flashlight after struggling to put their vehicle in the spotlight, which can't get around the 90 degree curve. Our score is as low as anyone's... We are definitely entertaining people, and enough have gone already that they're not shy about laughing at us.
It could be worse. What they can't see is that, I have no flashlight.
Partner on the move.
NO basic equipment flashlight.
I'm feeling the cup holders, and the floor board, and I happen to look in partner's seat. BINGO, flashlight. He's taken MINE. Revenge for Frenching the glass.
I get out. They are not raising hands as Instructed by the Investigating "Officer". I start the SOP's we were given in class. (I studied these late at night sitting in the hallway while chaperoning a bazillion Cub Scouts on a trip to Space Camp.) Make sure the trunk's closed, check the backseat, stand where you can communicate and observe, but it's awkward for a driver to attack you.
I am doing much better now and accept a mental pat on the back.
I clear my throat for my Big Line. "Driver's license, please."
Nothin'. U-turn doesn't make a move. U-turn still looks forward.
I am too quiet and ladylike, methinks. I grouch it up a bit. "Driver's license and proof of insurance please."
His window's down, so I tap him on shoulder.
He turns. "I'm deaf", says he. The merry twinkle in his eye suggests being deaf is the greatest thing that could ever happen to a man. (My husband would agree.)
Now, this is a big shot detective guy we'd heard lecture earlier. He's super sharp and had FBI guys crowding around and taking credit for his last bank capture. (He must be a good sport about those things, 'cause somehow he netted an FBI hat out of the deal...)
He is also chief yahoo of the Secret Conversation mentioned earlier.
Cops are hooting on the sidelines. Classmates are too, but not as much. Classmates don't quite get what's so incredibly funny, except for the facial expressions going on between us. The cops are REALLY enjoying this one.
I lower my voice and mouth, "DRIVER'S LICENSE".
"I don't understand you." FBI Guy is busting, trying not to laugh. He's done this many times before, and he knows he has me.
I stop for a second, mostly to figure out what I'm supposed to say. He is smirking like no one's business and I'm entertaining the observers....
I raise my hand near his face. They've been wearing masks during these exercises, to protect themselves from getting hit by overly enthusiastic 'officers', but he's got no protection this time.
His eyes get really big and his face drops, mouth open. The cops on the side are now DYING with laughter. Just DYING. The classmates are quieter. The cops are all but rolling on the ground. Some are on their knees...
I repeat driver's license aloud and slowly, but I am finger spelling it too.
The detective recovers and says, "You really know how to sign?" He cannot believe this. I must be bluffing.
I nod, say, and bobbing a fist forward and back, sign, "YES."
He cannot believe it. Instructor and other cops are just DYING DYING DYING with laughter.
He repeats the question. I repeat the answer, and I'm not sure if he's supposed to deaf, or supposed to be someone PRETENDING to be deaf to get out of the stop, so I say, "You're NOT deaf." I finger spell "move" and make him put hands on the trunk.
He's staring at me. Has no script for this. Doesn't know what to do...
Me either, really. We're both staring, and take pity on each other, and stop the stop.
With the exception of FBI Guy, every single one of the cops is dying of laughter now. They tell me later, (one even starts to hug me), "We've done that one every class and no one ever, EVER knew what to do. That was classic!"
Sometimes the pen, or in case the pinky, is mightier than the sword.