Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Big Bike Bag of Happy

The rain came and went. It began just as we entered the underground parking - on bicycles. By the time dinner was over, breaks in the clouds signaled dry weather. We set off for our night ride, the last block of instruction.

Bike Patrol Class, May 2017.

The realization would hit me the next day, hit like a throat punch. After nearly 20 years of bicycle patrol, a decade coordinating our program, countless classes taught and many hours patrolling in the company of my friends... I might have rung down the curtain on my career as a bike cop with that last night field exercise.

I decided, as the emotions ebbed and flowed, I did not know how to feel about that. My current assignment is rewarding (training recruits), the enticing prospect of retiring looming on the horizon. Yet, many of my favorite moments came on two wheels.

Nights, in the bitter cold. My friend of many years, a fellow sergeant, would arrive at my calls bearing a thermos of hot coffee. Up along Colfax on graveyard shift, my riding partner and I rolling up unseen on fleeing suspects. Hours and hours patrolling the Farmer's Market with a close friend. Working a beat along side an especially talented cop on her last night with our department.

Several of us created the bike patrol class - polished, honed and polished some more. We rode the obstacle courses a hundred times, proving their utility. We went over the curriculum. We delivered the class over and over, welcoming instructors from another agency - something that made us all that much better.

I was riding the Light Rail, headed home from lunch with a close riding friend. One of the RTD security officers approached during a fare check. I produced my law enforcement ID card and offered it to him.

"Sergeant, I know who you are," the young man said. "You taught our bike class."

The bikes were away, the 2017 class in the books. I was happy to ride - happier, really, that I could still ride well enough to teach. I was happy to have handed the class over to the two talented young men who had taken the lead. My legs were sore, I had several technicolor bruises from falling.

But, I am no longer...

"Two-fifty, I'm clear on the bike."

I don't think I'm happy about that.

A Fool for Marketing

Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay. Donald Francis "Don" Draper (Jon Hamm), Mad Men (2007).

It is a yearly right of passage - what are the Super Bowl commercials going to be? Some are amazingly clever (Doctors surrounding a patient on the operating table "He's got money coming out the wazoo!!"). Some are stupid (choose your "favorite"). There is one goal each company has for the $5 Million they spend just for the thirty second slot. They want to make money by influencing a viewer to purchase something.

The same is true with political intercourse (pun very much intended). Unless the writer/speaker is warbling on merely to hear themselves speak (a charge often leveled at Bikecopblog), the diatribes of pundits, politicians and the true believers is directed at influencing someone to do something. Sometimes, it is to open a checkbook, brandish a credit card or otherwise enable the transfer of funds from them to the chosen end user. Political figure A appears at a podium, reads a speech in high dudgeon written for him by a graduate student beginning a climb within their party and, within moments, out go the emails to the faithful asking for money to address the ill. Or, defeat the awful, evil demagogues in the other party. Etc.

We've all gotten used to it. When Nixon's Committee to Reelect the President turned out to be more insightful than intended, the jokes ran hot and heavy, even as he was forced out of office. Gerald Ford, a gifted athlete, falls once ("Drive one truck and now I'm a truck driver?") and Chevy Chase turns pratfalls into comedic gold. Carter is an out of his league peanut farmer with an alcoholic brother. Reagan a doddering old fool. All meant to influence.

We live now in an overheated maelstrom of vitriol, with apparently no self-imposed limitations as to subject matter. A woman holds the simulated severed head of the current president and important, influential people come to her defense. Formerly respected media outlets first patronize sleazy inside operators peddling damaging information, publish it on the front page as fact only to find out it is lies...and the correction is buried. People with whom one disagrees are not just wrong, they are the lowest of the lowly dogs, barely human. They have no redeeming traits - they should be jailed, banished or... No one would be surprised if someone shot them, or stabbed them to death. "Which, of course, we hope doesn't happen."

Careers are built not on sober, factual analysis but on raised voices and a barrage of baseless charges. It isn't enough to win an argument, one must humiliate their opponent, for that is what they deserve. An election takes place, the results are in and the other side refuses to respect the outcome.

So when a deranged, self-righteous, politically-obsessed asshole brings a rifle to a baseball game intent on killing Republicans, the calm and self-aware of us quietly opine that it is the lunatic at fault. Surely, it could not be the cesspool of irresponsible personal attacks that call, in all seriousness, for violence. "Shut it down, shut them up. Disrupt, destroy..."

Bullshit. An unspeakably brave Capitol police officer drew fire. It's what we are trained to do when the shooting starts and citizens are the targets. "Here I am. Engage me." It provides the civilians time to take cover, beat feet or otherwise save themselves. Armed with a pistol, she and her colleagues took on a guy with a rifle and won the running gun battle. She was shot - while at the hospital, President Trump and the First Lady visited, bringing the officer and her wife flowers. What did someone say in print?

Basically, that the critically wounded congressman's past views and votes rendered him unfit to be protected by her.

I know... How about we say "Isn't it awesome that courageous, well-trained people find themselves in the right place at the right time? Isn't it nice of the President to show respect? Isn't it great that America in 2017 this amazing officer's wife doesn't have to hide?