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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Real Women Wear Kevlar

I don't know what made me think of this stuff, but this blog is in need of humor so here it is. Maybe I'm the only one to think it funny, but let me assure you, at the time it was just plain weird and unexpected. And I STILL think it's funny, even as I'm grateful for the seriousness of it.

Back in 1996 around this time, the dog days of summer, I was preparing to enter into what I thought was to be my career in Law Enforcement. I'd completed my background investigation, during which the investigators officially determined I was a REALLY boring person after verifying it with almost ALL the people who knew me. So I'd been called to the location of my future employer several times in order to complete paperwork, was sent to a couple uniform specialty stores to order my uniforms and patches, and went to the gun range to practice and hopefully "qualify" with the .45 Smith & Wesson I'd be required to carry on duty.

Well, I went about these trips to the Twin Cities from two hours away as required. It was interesting; I found it ironic that the uniform shops were found in the most urban areas, one of which was located on the infamous Hennepin Avenue (Uptown area), and the other on the ghetto street, Broadway Ave N. of Minneapolis, home, even to this day, of frequent street shootings and murders.

(Actually, in my last job, only blocks from the uniform shop, I witnessed a drug deal taking place before my very eyes, right there in the open air in broad daylight of...noon.)

But I digress. I remember finding the store, parking in the lot in back, and thinking of how embarrassing it would be for the future rookie to be mugged between the car and the store at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

It was weird being there. I was surrounded by Police and Fire uniforms, and others of these professions were consulting with various store employees, who were obviously very knowledgeable about what each needed specific to their departments. I was only 22, and felt like a stranger in this store; I didn't belong there. 

I felt like a little kid in a grown-up shop waiting for my Dad to come in to make his purchase.

I remember standing up very straight and trying to look official and professional, knowing I looked like a rookie, knowing that THEY knew that I knew I looked like a rookie. Because I was, in fact, a rookie. And, in fact, I wasn't even a rookie yet!

To be sure, I didn't even know what I was there for until they told me: my Department had sent an order and they were making a bullet-proof vest for me. Yup. I was there to be fitted for a bullet-proof vest.

I was SO glad Mom wasn't there with me. She might have fainted.

The reason I was there to be fitted for a bullet-proof vest was because, on the Job, someone might decide it would be a good idea to shoot me. And for some reason I didn't really have a problem with that idea. Because I would be wearing said vest. Knowing lots o'cops die each year anyway because vests aren't made for head shots.

Don't tell Mom, OK?

Anyway, I was measured, the vest and its Kevlar layers were explained to me, and I saw the trauma plate that goes over the chest up close and personal. They wanted to make sure I knew what I'd be wearing, maybe to give me a chance to turn the job down.

I left the store to head to my car, wishing I was already wearing the Vest in case I walked through one of the daily neighborhood shootings they use to welcome new guests to their area in that part of Minneapolis.

 It's a custom there, you see. If you're not bleeding...you're not family.

From there, my official Department business done for the day, I returned to my home in small-town Minnesota and went about my life in which the idea of being killed on the job was an unlikely event.

Then , a couple days later, I got a phone call from a woman working in personnel for the Department hiring me. She apologized for the call, but no need; I'd met her and she was a gem of a person. Then I realized why SHE was calling and not my future supervisor, who was male.

"I'm so sorry to call and have to ask you this..." her voice trailed off.  She was clearly embarrassed, and I waited patiently, having already had my life gone through to the extreme by perfect strangers who were looking for all sorts of junk. As it was, I THOUGHT I had nothing left to hide.

"Well, we got a call from the Uniform Company today, and they forgot to ask...um..." She paused again. "What is your bra size? I'm SO SORRY!"

I laughed, completely appreciating her embarrassment...I wouldn't want to call a near stranger and ask them that, either! Poor lady got conscripted, because apparently the woman who worked for the place making the vest destined to save my life at some point wasn't working that day. And it simply wouldn't DO for a man to call me and ask me for such an intimate detail! Can you IMAGINE how THAT would have gone?

I gave her the info (no, I won't share it), but it wasn't until I actually GOT the vest, two weeks after I'd already been on the Job, that I truly understood the importance of the question.

This is inside info, y'all. No pun intended.

I'd "worn" a bullet-proof vest before, one belonging to my (male) cousin who taught me how to shoot. He'd been afraid of ricochets in the gravel pit we used in target practice, so I wore his vest when shooting. And the thing was HUGE on me. It is a vest with a big metal "trauma plate" in the center to cover the major organs. The vest itself is made of layers of fabric, including Kevlar, which goes over the shoulders and around the torso, attached by Velcro straps on the sides. It's the kind of thing that, if you wear it properly, will not allow you to bend over and tie your shoes. So you make sure your shoes are well-tied BEFORE you don the vest.

Wearing one is like walking around in a modified body cast. New cops are discernible from veterans because the new cops look like robots in their new vests. Call them "Bender".

And just so you know...uniforms themselves are not made for women. We all wore stuff in men's sizes but tailored at the waist and hips as needed...the shirts...all men's stuff. And the end result is NOT flattering. Thank God working as a cop is not a fashion show...we'd all be condemned.

Anyway, bullet-proof vests are the exception and are worn UNDER the uniform shirts, over the required t-shirt. And the vests are tailored to accommodate...ahem...certain...womanly features...in accordance with her proportions. That requires certain intimate measurements. Which were (thankfully!) sufficient over the phone. The woman I spoke with explained that specific measurements were better, but they could go with something general and be fine. I was happy for that!

And to those who need to know...if we give the right info, the fit is right, too. In other words...don't lie about size. It doesn't work for men, and for them lying decimates only their pride. Women..if you lie about THIS size, you might be risking your LIFE. Besides...it's darned uncomfortable to wear something like this day after day in the wrong size!

For you see...Madonna wasn't the first woman to use armor as underwear. She just wanted to emulate REAL women who wear armored underwear.

I'm just sayin'....
*

7 comments:

Lillian Marie said...

Awww..no gold cones??? LOL
I was laughing all the way through this... and I WORK with Police Officers, although all of them are men. I see them all wearing their vests, and YES! they DO look like robots on roids!
(double pun included).

Thanks for the laugh!

Anonymous said...

LOL! Whoa it hurts just thinking of that vest. Especially if you got the wrong size ( too small)!!!
Thanks for sharing.

MJ

Tony said...

This was a really interesting post.

Knowing lots o'cops die each year anyway because vests aren't made for head shots.

I won't be shooting at any cops, but at the range I try and practice two COM, pause and one to the head. The pause is to verify if the two COM were effective.

Anonymous said...

Tony - 'COM'??

knuckledragger said...

COM = Center Of Mass.

Adoro te Devote said...

LM ~ You know the posture, then! It's just a lot more magnified when it's new. The day I walked in wearing my new vest, EVERYONE knew it and commented, but the ribbing was short-lived...because they all did it.

MJ ~ Happy to report my vest was very comfortable. So to speak. LOL!

Tony ~ Yup, I know the drill, and the signals. "Two to the chest...one to the head."

Thanks, Knuckledragger, for coming in and defining "COM".

Aussie Therese said...

lol. I couldn't imagine getting a call like that. I would also feel embarrassed and even more so for the person that had to ask.

I never knew they were tailor made.

Therese