Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

The call that makes it worthwhile.

Almost twelve years ago, I wrote this, and it still rings true

I'm just looking for that right stop. The guy burgling cars. The drunk side-swiping parked vehicles, while trying to get home. The runaway 14 year old sneaking out to meet her new Internet boyfriend (" dreamy. He's 29!") at the street corner. Something to give tonight's patrol some meaning.

This last shift, it was the end of 2021, and the beginning of 2022. New Year's Eve, on the end of a pretty bad year. I have a habit of almost always volunteering to work on New Year's Eve, because I like to take drunks off of the road. I also will admit to a minor thrill at "winning the toaster," or finding the first case report of the new year, preferably by arrest. I've gotten it many times. DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), DUI By Minor, Assault Causes Bodily Injury Family Violence, Public Intoxication, DWI 2nd, Possession...

So this year, I've got a rookie to train, and sergeant's stripes, and another unit out (we would have had other units out, but for COVID). We've been stopping everything. Inoperative headlamp? Stop and issue a warning. Rolling stop sign? Stop and cite. But so far, no drunks. No fights. No arrests. 

Toward the very end of the shift, we roll up on a fairly new passenger car, parked at the pumps of a closed gas station. My rookie checks out on a suspicious vehicle after seeing the driver fail to move. He walks up and speaks with the driver, and it turns out to be an elderly man. My rookie invites him out of the car, and the old man has a moment of trouble. Too much to drink? No, he has a bad hip. The old man is a charming fellow (a retired engineer), and he explains that he got lost after delivering a package to a family friend, and after his phone died. He lives about 20 miles away. I ask him about medical problems, and he mentions diabetes... and Alzheimer's. 

When we run his name through dispatch, bells and flashers go off. His wife is worried sick, and has put out a missing person report. I call her, and explain that her husband is good, and inquire if he is a good driver. "He's an EXCELLENT driver," she assures me. "He just gets lost."

So, with her assurances and his, we slowly lead out, with an amber flasher atop our vehicle, and drive to his house. He does a beautiful job of driving in following us there, just as promised. My rookie and I briefly meet his lovely wife and their terrific dog ("he's never met a stranger, yet"), and I suggest to her that it's past time to have the talk with her husband about giving up the keys. I suggest that she bring the kids in on the discussion. She agrees. 

We shake the old gentleman's hand, and leave. 

"This was the call," I tell my rookie. "This is the one that we've been looking for all night. This is the call that gave the whole shift meaning. We've had a good night. Let's go home." 

We didn't burn a case report number. Nobody went to jail. I don't care. 

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At Sunday, January 02, 2022 10:55:00 AM, Blogger ScribblersDad said...

And that's why you remain one of my very favorite LEOs! Hope to run into you in meatspace sooner rather than later.

At Monday, January 03, 2022 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Will said...

His problem sounds like what my father had: senile dementia. MUCH better diagnosis than Alzheimers. With Alzheimers, judgement goes away pretty much across the board, to where you can't trust them to be competent on anything. After my dad was diagnosed, his best buddy estimated that the problem had actually begun about 3 years earlier, which put his death about 10 years after onset.

He began having trouble with business deals, it seems. Money/time management I think was a problem. He was an autobody man, who would buy a wreck, fix it and then sell it. He actually ran his buddy's body shop for years, but he had retired from full time by then.

My sisters had asked me to go out to his place and evaluate his driving, as he was driving across country at the drop of a hat. Still better than 99.9% of the other drivers on the road, at age 79. (died at 82, in '07) He used to win racing stockcars circa 1950 era, and his business involved driving anything with wheels or a hull, so he had a pretty high level of skill.

He would suddenly get lost driving roads he had been navigating for 40-60 years. My oldest sister got him a phone she could track on the web. He would call her and ask where he was, she would look on the web, tell him where he was, and how to get where he had been heading, and away he would go, no drama. It was disorienting for him at first when he would have one of these memory glitches, but having a familiar contact that could get him going again seemed to be all he needed. He lived alone until a few months before his death, when she had him committed to a locked ward, as he had begun to get physical with people when he got frustrated, and would knock them down. He LOVED to drive, but a few months before being committed, he had stopped driving on his own decision. Still driving well, but I think he reached a point that he was starting to feel uncomfortable dealing with traffic. He was driving down the East coast to see his girlfriend in FL when this occurred.

Anyway, I suspect your lost driver might have been misdiagnosed, which I hear is not uncommon for this problem.


At Thursday, January 06, 2022 3:37:00 PM, Anonymous DLW said...

Those were the types of calls that made it all worthwhile. 4 years retired after 28 on the job. Stay safe, Brother.

At Sunday, February 06, 2022 2:01:00 AM, Anonymous Cop Car said...

Thank you for your intelligent approach to the situation. That man could have been my husband. Husband's mother was verified by autopsy to have had Alzheimer's, so he has been sensitive to his chances of having it for some years. He became seriously concerned 6 years ago when he, whose memory was always excellent, could not recall where he had put something that was important. Now, he has terrible bouts with his short-term memory, but like the man in your story, he loves to drive and can still do it safely. He can go by himself to the barber shop, credit union, lawn service office, or drug store or pharmacy. Anything more than that, I gently insist upon going with him. Only a couple of times has he had to call me - to remind him where he was going. We do have his phone tracked by one of our daughters' phones - just in case.

Fortunately, Husband's logic machine works much better than his memory, and he gets frustrated but not physical. If/when the time comes for him to hang up his keys, I'm hoping he will initiate it as did Will's b-i-l.

I had prior experience with all this since my closest friend of 60+ years' standing has much the same symptoms. She would call me to tell her how to get to her apartment (about 20 miles from me) - so that her son wouldn't know she had gotten lost, again. Since she had no one living close enough to go with her, she was forced to give up driving.


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