I grew up in two small towns, and the one I grew up in more was bigger than the one I'd grew up in before I'd arrived. So it was that my experience both as a teen and as an aspiring police officer occurred in a mid-sized city in a decent county that gave me both the connections of the small town along with the mysteriousness of a larger city.
You see...my family was small, followed the law, so didn't get into trouble. On the other hand, we weren't exactly celebrities or politicians and therefore, we, the average taxpayer-type of family, did everything every other family did. That meant that my best friend from my local Catholic Church babysat for a county Deputy and I was, as her best friend and trusted by her family and a parishioner at their parish also...a substitute babysitter.
So it was that, through my church and social life, while growing up I came to know not just one Sheriff's Deputy, but a lot of them, and when I was old enough, (high school), was able to ride along with them on a shift or so and learn about becoming a cop...city or county. Cops are very supportive to those aspiring in their own footsteps.
Because I babysat for one Deputy's family, I was called upon, as a trusted ride-along and friend, to babysit for others, and their kids were kind when I was as terrified as spiders as they were. But that's a different story. (I think those kid's father is now the Sheriff, but I digress.)
We were plotting. That's what 18 year old teens do: they plot. So we did.
You see, our favorite Deputy, a very reserved gentleman and great Deputy in line for great things was about to have his birthday. Because my best friend and I, both trusted babysitters, could not let this date go by unnoticed in our own advanced ages of 18 and 19, we got in touch with his wife with a completely brilliant plan. We knew that we could engage her own mischievous nature, too.
We had decided that our dear friend, Deputy Tim, needed to smile a bit. We knew him to be a wonderful human being, but he didn't smile a lot so we decided that it was necessary to do something for his birthday that would bring a smile to his face and a bit of ribbing from his co-workers, who hopefully loved and respected him as much as we did.
In a bit of trepidation, his wife gave us the key to the van he was driving on that fateful day, admonishing us with the dark directive, "Don't do anything to embarrass Tim or damage the van!".
"No problem!" We took the key, grinning at each other, knowing what was to come.
And, actually to be totally honest...as we were 18 and 19 respectively, of COURSE there would be an "embarrassment" aspect to our hi-jinks! Duh!
Tim's wife knew that, but of course she was just asking for some of it to be moderated a bit because anything we did to him would overflow onto her and she'd have to do the damage control. We knew this, too, and respected this limit. We had no desire to undermine the trust and respect we had for her and her for us.
On the day it was to happen, when we picked up the key, Deputy Tim's wife gave it to us in an envelope along with his tentative schedule. Armed with foreknowledge, it fell to me as the most credible and criminal-record-free of the two of us, to contact the Law Enforcement Center with our plan so that we would be allowed into the restricted area where the County and City cops parked their personal vehicles.
Having often been there, I knew who worked the day shift, which dispatchers, and of course, the gossip tree that would send every "free" employee of the LEC to the windows overlooking the parking lot while we did our dirty little deed!
So it was that we drove around the block a few times to scope things out and saw, much to our joy, that Deputy Tim had parked the family van at the edge of the lot in full visibility of the main drag in town. SCORE!
We immediately knew where to hang our carefully crafted banner, precisely composed in the alternate colors of our respective vehicles; one of which Deputy Tim would not recognize as I had purchased it only a few days prior.
Finally it was time. I picked up the phone and called the non-emergency number for Dispatch, identified myself, informed the Dispatcher that it was Deputy Tim's birthday and explained our plan. I asked permission for us to enter the premises to decorate his vehicle inside and out and invited her to contact his wife to verify our...veracity.
There was no need. She knew who I was, told me exactly where Deputy Tim would be and when so that we would have a perfect hour-and-a-half opening to enter the parking lot to complete our business.
I thanked her very much, hung up, and my best friend and I set to work blowing up balloons and stuffing them into our vehicles so that they would be ready for transfer at the proper time.
A few hours later, we entered the lot which was strangely abandoned, found Deputy Tim's van, and set to work. Very conscious of the fact that any available personnel of the City and County Law Enforcement Departments was watching us both out of mirth and protection of their friend/co-worker, we moved carefully to ensure we would not end up face-down on the pavement with guns pointed at us. Fine if the Investigative Division was taking notes, not fine if it went sour!
As I lifted up the hatch on the van, I whacked myself a good one, quite likely witnessed by the mirthful peanut gallery overlooking the lot from the LEC, and even as I wiped the blood away, I pretended nothing had happened. The LAST thing we needed was an ambulance to respond to Deputy Tim's van!
Not-quite-as-deftly-as-we'd-hoped, we stowed the inflated balloons into his van, hung our sign, and a special message on his rear view mirror, in case he happened to miss the fact that there were 80 or so balloons filling his vehicle.
We fled, returned to my friend's house and spent the rest of the day cruising around in my car since it was the one he didn't know.
Well, Deputy Jim was no dummy.
He returned to work and was directed by his co-workers to get something from his PV (personal vehicle). Upon returning, he demanded information which was also provided as the dispatchers had my full vehicle information. At some point, my friend and I switched cars and drove hers, so it was that, as we drove through town, we caught the good Deputy's eye and he followed us, everywhere we went, but didn't stop us.
Finally, as we drove out of town and in between the lakes, he turned on the lights and my friend pulled over. It was a warm summer day, our windows were open, and because this was not a formal stop, we got out of the car, too.
Deputy Tim, smiling broadly, cheeks reddened, boomed at us, "How did you get into the van?"
We yelled back to him, laughing, "Ask your wife!"
To me he asked, "When did you get the car?"
Still smiling, maybe with his trademark smirk, an expression rarely seen, he tipped his hat at us, got back into the squad, and drove away.
Yup. We made his day!
To this day, it's one of my favorite memories of growing up. Even though I haven't seen him or his family in years, I hope "Deputy Tim" also remember it fondly. Now having been a cop, even for a very short time, I know why so many never smile, I know why he was always so serious, and pray that our teen hi-jinks of that day spread encouragement not just to him, but to his colleagues as well. After all, without them as accomplices, we would have been criminals!
In all seriousness, please pray for all who work in Law Enforcement; the Police Officers, Deputies, Dispatchers, Marshalls, Constables, Community Service Officers...and Rookies.
Pray especially for my friend "Deputy Tim" and his family and friends, most of whom are probably retired now, one of whom might actually be the current Sheriff.