Saturday, July 15, 2006

CHiPs and Salsa

In the summer of ‘96, I accepted a job offer to be a civilian/military police officer at an Air Force base in southern California. Previous military experience provided some comfort for my venture, but I was still nervous because I had never lived out-of-state before without the full protection of Uncle Sam.

On active duty, it’s as though Uncle Sam is cradling you in his arms. In this type of position, it was as though he was only holding your hand. So, I was a little nervous about being so far away from anything familiar. No family nearby, no friends, and no idea of what things would be like out there.

The bed of my blue Toyota truck was loaded down with boxes. A recently purchased used camper shell, bought specifically for the trip, covered everything that I owned, which wasn't much.

Four items provided the ways and means for a safe trip: a baseball bat, a .38 Special, a Rand McNally road atlas, and if all else failed: a bible. All of which rode shotgun with me cross-country readied for any type of encounter.

1,800 miles later, I arrived without anything going wrong. Actually, just as I crossed the state line, "California Girls" was playing on the radio. That was a good omen and marked my official arrival to the Golden State.

Filled with excitement and anxious to get the ball rolling, within a week I found a little, unfurnished apartment and started my new job. I was the first female they'd hired so far, so I had a little proving to do in that all-male world. But I was confident in my abilities and soon everyone else would be, too. Life was going to be great.

Fast-forward 6 months.

I was out on a date seeing the movie, “Scream” at a theater two blocks from my apartment. But I didn’t do any screaming until after the film was over, when we walked out into the parking lot only to find little squares of broken glass on the pavement where my truck used to be.

After the police reports were written and credit cards were cancelled, the moment had come for the real fear to set in. How would I get to work? How would I do anything without a vehicle? As everyone knows, Nobody Walks in L.A, and even though I wasn't exactly in L.A., I still needed transportation.

Why and how could this have happen to me when I’m all the way in California and have nobody around to help? However, the guy who took me to the movies also offered rides to/from work and anytime I needed anything, he was there - that guy also turned out to be my husband years later. But in the meantime, my bible came in pretty handy, too.

I prayed constantly and agonized for about 15 days until, finally, the day arrived. While I was at work, a local police officer called and told me they had recovered my vehicle from an orange grove not far from the town where I lived. Thank God.

I immediately got off of work to go get it out of the impound lot. It was still operational and only had minimal damage - good enough for me, especially when there were a few leftover oranges in the bed as well. I could think of better ways to get my vitamin C, though.

Once I had my truck back, I headed to my apartment, but before I could get one mile down the interstate, a CHP motorcycle cop appeared in my rearview with lights on.

I pulled over wondering what I did wrong and worried that the empty glove compartment showed no proof that the truck was even mine. Much to my dismay, he was no Poncherello. I could tell he meant business when he began giving voice commands over his P.A. system.

Officer: Step out of the vehicle with your hands above your head.
Me, wildly thinking: Oh shit! What the hell is going on?
Officer: Step backward to the rear of your truck.
Me: Oh my God!
Officer: Does this vehicle belong to you?
Me: I tried to turn around and explain, but he immediately cut me off and yelled to turn back around, but in that instant I noticed he had his weapon drawn and pointed at me. I’d seen this type of stuff only on T.V. and feared that I would be shot right there on the spot in broad daylight.
Officer: Do you have any weapons in the vehicle?
Me: No, Sir! - followed by a steady stream of nervous hiccups.
He then approached me and we got it all straightened out. As it turned out, the thieves removed my license plate and replaced it with a boat trailer plate, which led him to believe I was driving a stolen vehicle. Where the hell was he two weeks before?!?

I continued on my trip back to my apartment, except now with tears streaming and a bad case of the hiccups as I released my hysteria. I hated California and wanted to go back home.

Getting everything back to normal came to a whopping total of $700. I couldn't stand the thought of some random joy rider taking so much from me all at once. I questioned the very existence of justice in the world.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks.

I was working in a restricted, aircraft parking area. It was a rectangular-shaped area bordered by a red-painted line. I'd wait - like a trap-door spider - for anyone to cross that line at the wrong point. If they did, they'd soon be well acquainted with concrete and the bid'ness end of an M-16.

Under the midday sun, the bulletin came over the radio that the CHP was in pursuit of a felon who could possibly be headed in our direction. After the description was given everyone was on high alert for this person.

One of the guys spotted someone who matched the description and quickly every available patrol was headed off in that direction, as if Krispy Kreme were giving away free donuts. Meanwhile, I couldn't leave my area, so I patrolled around to make sure my planes were secure.

And then it happened. He ran across my boundary. I radioed in for back-up, but since everyone was still on the other side of the base jacking-up the wrong person, I couldn't wait for them to arrive. I chased and caught the guy, contrary to years of my Mother's advice.

He didn't speak a word of English, however, he was very fluent in automatic rifle. He complied with little resistance and by the time everyone showed up to help me, I already had him cuffed.

Shortly after, a CHP patrol car arrived, after having driven across an active runway since he followed the path of the felon to my location – that was a sight to see. Luckily for everyone there were no planes coming in for a landing.

All of us were standing around recapping the events excitedly when he accepted control over the captured subject. Once he removed the handcuffs to apply his own pair, the officer automatically assumed they belonged to one of the guys.

I proudly stepped up to him, and said, “ahem, no, those would be mine - thankyouverymuch”, cocky grin firmly in place. He handed them over to me with a mixed apologetic and surprised look that out of all the guys standing around, the girl actually made the arrest.

He then began to tell us why they were hunting this guy down in the first place. His crime? Grand. Theft. Auto. What were the odds?

That clown could’ve very well been the one who put me through so much misery and to have him run straight into my territory was unbelievably glorious. Was he the same guy? Who knows - maybe he was, maybe not. But I'd like to believe so.

The day's events made it very hard to question whether or not there was justice was in the world anymore. As a matter of fact, I knew it existed - because it existed in me.


Blogger Rocky said...

Yeah! Way to lay down the law!

7:49 AM, July 16, 2006  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

just doin' my job, sir...sniff, sniff. :)

10:08 AM, July 16, 2006  
Blogger Death Warmed Over said...

What would have been funny would have been to yell at him in fake Chinese (unless you speak it) while waving the gun at him. Then laugh hysterically then yell some more.

4:53 AM, July 17, 2006  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

that would've been funny! I didn't use my minimal spanish in that situation either because I don't think he knew or cared where the library was. :)

5:14 AM, July 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't use my minimal spanish in that situation either because I don't think he knew or cared where the library was


6:09 AM, July 17, 2006  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Great story.

10:37 AM, July 17, 2006  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

Thank you Mark, I'm glad you liked it.

10:45 AM, July 17, 2006  

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