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Friday, May 04, 2007

The Worst Day at Work

One of the questions in my interview had to do with my worst day at work. I remember thinking to myself, "But there have been so MANY!" I don't remember actually praying, maybe just a desperate "Help Holy Spirit!", but not even in words. But the answer came, and I think I had blocked it out of my memory for awhile. It was truly a bad day, but a perfect bad day for an interview question to take place 11 years later.

I was a fledgling cop, less than a month on the job. There was a lot to get used to; the squad cars were equipped with computers, there was the radar, the lights and siren, the radio, the FTO (Field Training Officer), and all that stuff to pay attention to while driving. That's when it happened. What with all the paying attention, I didn't pay attention and while looking at a yellow light a half block ahead, I missed the light turning red right as we passed through it...and I came to a screeching halt in the middle of the busiest intersection in the south metro area.

I sat there a moment, frozen. My FTO had put his hand over his eyes, head ducked. I was cringing, both hands on the wheel. There was a moment of silence.

"Is anyone looking at you?" he queried, hand still covering his face from his ducked position.

My head was ducked also, eyes squinted shut. "I don't know, I'm afraid to look."

"When that happens to me, I usually just hit the lights and siren and take the nearest exit..." (Here he took his hand away from his face long enough to point to the freeway exit a hundred feet away) "....and pretend I actually have somewhere to go."

I did as...uh..."instructed", hit the lights and sirens, hit the gas, and we headed off into the wild gray yonder of the freeway. As I escaped down the exit, I commented, "So...you've never done this before..."

(Think Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor) "Noooooo! Never!"

So we passed through that crisis.

Later we got a call for a missing child. This suburb was designed by properties with roads placed haphazardly like typical urban unplanning, so I had to look up the address on the map. I somehow "lost" the map in my mind en route to the call and my FTO had to direct me. When we arrived, another officer was already speaking with the distraught mother. We pulled into the steeply inclined blacktop driveway and got out...and that's when I found I had not placed the car in "Park". Both my FTO and I had not choice but to dive back into the car so I could hit the brake and put it in park.

Unfortunately, neither one of us had the ability to put our hands in front of our faces this time, considering we were using our hands to both stop the runaway squad car and hold on for dear life.

The distraught mother looked even more distraught thanks to the "Keystone cops" who showed up in her driveway and had a circus, and the officer who was there was visibly trying to figure out how to do "damage control" and instill in this woman an understanding of the actual competence of the men and women in blue who were there to serve her.

All turned out well, the child was found at a neighbor's home and the entire fiasco was the result of miscommunication between parents and children.

My lesson was to, in the future, not miscommunicate with the car.

We were immediately called to an armed robbery in progress. Thankfully, I knew where this place was and how to get there, and cued dispatch that we were responding Code 3. (lights and sirens).

We arrived, the robber was of course gone, and the cashier that had been held up was shaking and crying. Because I'd had extensive experience in crisis management from my years working in an adolescent psych hospital, talking to her was the easiest thing I'd done in a long time. She calmed down, asked if I minded if she smoked, and I told her to go ahead. Can't say I approved but considering she'd just had a gun put in her face, it was not the time to discuss the damage to her health caused by inhaling harsh chemicals. We got down to business when she had ahold of herself and because she was calm, she gave me a wonderful description of the suspect, what he was wearing, what he did before, during, and after the robbery.

Then the Captain came in. I'd been warned about him. He was the type to come into a situation and rather than ask the person in charge or anyone else what was going on and what had been done, he tends to start barking orders that make no sense. He of course approached the poor cashier and started barking things at her, asking her the questions I'd already asked. She started shaking again, answered his questions but kept glancing at me. I could only shrug. What to do? He was my superior, and he was making all of us look like idiots.

Like I needed any help with that.

It was the end of our day, and my FTO and I headed back to the station to write our reports and leave for the day. As I was backing the squad car into our assigned spot, I backed into the pole.

My FTO just looked at me, and this time, I put my hand over my eyes.

"Why don't you just SHOOT me!?"

He silently got out of the car and looked at the rear bumper. I waited quietly, not even breathing at this point. I was ready to burst into tears.

He came back, sat down, and told me there was no damage, so he wasn't even going to put it in the report of our activities for the day. Unfortunately the other misfortunes WERE in writing.

And they go down in infamy.

I don't honestly remember if I went home that night and laughed or cried. Maybe both.

The silver lining is this; during the interview, the panel was ROLLING with laughter. So you see, what is misfortune for one is mirth for another.

13 comments:

Ray from MN said...

LJ

You can ask Cathy what that means; she'll know.

Fortunately they don't shoot horses (or new cops) any more.

You wrote that well. Must have had the interview committee rotfltao!

The best part is, you lived to tell it.

Brad Haas said...

I was thoroughly entertained too. Thanks for posting.

angelmeg said...

That was great. Thanks for sharing what had to be a hard day to have to live through.

UltraCrepidarian said...

If we shot you, the world would loose a funny, self-aware, gifted catholic woman with an informed conscience, a good heart, and a minor penchant for self deprecation. You're one of the good ones, so we'll keep you, okay?

Warren

Terry Nelson said...

That is a fun story - thanks!

uncle jim said...

for real?????

Adoro te Devote said...

Hee hee! Glad you were all entertained by my misfortune. :-)

And uncle jim, yes, for real. It all really happened...and more!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Laughing Jerry here too, Ray!

Well, you weren't Adam-12, you were more like Car 54!

Let's hope this job does not involve driving or they may have been laughing with hysteria while they checked their insurance policy. Hey, maybe _____(insert company here!) is their carrier? Tee-hee.

Angela Messenger said...

Adoro - it wasn't so much the story but the way you told it! I laughed and laughed - WITH you, not AT you!!!

Prayers continue for a fruitful job search!

Eliyahu said...

Great story. You made me laugh again. It was a bright spot in my day. Thank you! My prayers remain with you as always.
+ God bless!

Adoro te Devote said...

Cathy ~ Let me just point out that during the interview they did in fact look at each other and suggest that I will not be drivign any children around, which promted me to remind them that they asked for my WORST day. :-)

Angela ~ It's completely appropriate for you to laugh AT me. Yes, I'm laughing NOW, but really, this is more of a "laugh-at" type of scenario. It would be funny if it were an average person to have these types of things happen during the course of only one day. It is HILARIOUS for someone in a police uniform who is there to actually prevent such things and cite people for such things to committ them haphazardly throughout the day. :-)

By that definition, I SHOULD be laughed AT! ROFL!

uncle jim said...

reads like the script for the pilot of another 'cops' show ... something named "Armed and Dangerous" - like that one that ran a short time first of year and got cancelled after 6 weeks, called "Armed and Famous"

Adoro te Devote said...

uncle jim ~ Never heard of it. All I can say is that truth is often stranger than fiction, and if I dig through my paperwork, I may be able to find the written observations from that day to prove what happened. Although to be honest, I might have burned it so as to avoid looking at it.

There's a reason I'm not a cop anymore. That day wasn't it...but it was a part of the larger picture.