When you feel a little like Batman

Stacey Gross Times Observer Reporter

Okay, look.

We need to talk.

I spent last Friday night riding with the police. Up front. New achievement unlocked. No big deal.

I was there for some Lisa Ling, first person, documentary style action, observing officers as they enforced DUI laws. I left work at 10:30 p.m., and stopped at the Kwik Fill on Hickory Street for gas before heading to Youngsville, and you guys? What even is going on?

I get pretty pumped about getting to bed at 9 p.m. I’m all about that good night’s rest. I like to put my kids to bed, feed the cats, get a little grown folks juice in a mom sippy, and crawl into bed for my programs.

I did. I said programs.

It’s like that.

“Forensic Files.” “The First 48.” A little “Snapped,” maybe. If it’s been that kind of a week.

See? Old lady, in the house.

Literally. In the house. I stay in my house at night because I tend to rest at a baseline of general gnarliness. The last time I went to a bar just to socialize and drink was well before I got engaged. Like, a thousand years ago, basically. So I’ll fully admit that I’m coming at you right now from a physical age of 35 but a psychosocial age of, like, 83 and three-eighths.

It’s fine.

But can someone please tell me what is going on at 10:30 at night downtown? Just in the five minutes it took me to get gas I saw someone get broken up with. I saw buzzed folks over here making plans to get more buzzed with buzzed folks across the street. Loudly. With their mouths, boys and girls. Not their phones.

It was bananas.

I witnessed a man, with no shoes, wearing a Kurt Cobain sweater, smoking a metal cigarette beside a parking meter. A Kurt Cobain sweater, guys. I was thrilled about the sweater. I was concerned about basically everything else this boy had going on in his general aura.

I wanted to offer him a sandwich.

I wanted to ask him if he maybe just wanted me to throw some socks in the washer for him.

No judgment.

Just fabric softener.

I got old, somewhere between my final graduate class and last Friday night, friends.

At some point in those seven years I became an elderly 35-year-old.

I was yawning (and yell-singing the Pixar “Lava” song, if you must know, like a lunatic) when I touched down in Youngsville. Officer Ben Leach shined his flashlight in my car window, WTF face on full display, like I might be a crazy person as I gathered my things and hopped out of my car.

I mean, I get that a lot, so. No biggie.

Whatever. It’s fine. Everything is fine.

Look, I was pretty jazzed to be out past my bedtime. I felt a little bit like Batman. But I can tell you one thing for sure since having this experience: I hope there’s never a police officer in my family. Because I’d basically become just, like, the family dog, who wants to go in the car. Every day.

Every single stupid day.

So I was cool with pretty much whatever happened, but I’m not gonna lie. I was hoping something big and explosive might go down. I’m not saying I was, like, hoping to see some poor fool get tased or anything.

Necessarily.

But I also, I mean, I wasn’t not hoping for it either. Like, I would not have been bummed out or anything. If it had happened. For the record.

Straight talk.

All day long.

What happened instead was a lot of riding, a lot of talking, and a lot of watching and listening on my part. Which was also fine. I was there to collect the experience. The subjective, emotional content of a typical night of DUI patrols. As much of it as I could, anyhow. And I gotta tell you something. I experienced one epiphany that I did not expect at all. Not one little bit.

I was capital-S (that’s “s” like in “sierra,” you guys, because I’m basically an expert at police lingo now, just so you’re aware) shocked, at the amount of people in Youngsville just roaming around after midnight.

It was like an episode of “The Walking Dead.” I mean, no one had any rotting flesh or apparent powerful lusts to eat living brain tissue or anything. That I could see. But there were just so many people out. And walking. At night. In the dark.

When “Homicide Hunter” is on, y’all!

Bananas. I am telling you.

It was beyond bananas. It was Bananas Foster. That’s bananas, with ice cream, on fire.

That’s how crazy this set of circumstances felt to me.

I’m not used to being out at night. I’m old.

We’ve established these things.

So at 1 a.m. on the streets of Pittsfield, everything just looks kinda shady to me. Just, by default, sketchy as heck. Like, I could watch you buy a Pepsi from a vending machine, but if it’s happening on the street at 12:32 a.m. I’m gonna have to assume that you’re just taking a break from peddling crack, or murdering people or what have you, to slake your thirst with a mighty mighty cola.

You can’t be buying a Pepsi at 12:32 a.m. and not be knuckle-deep in some shenanigans.

I said shenanigans, sir.

I was sitting with Todd Mineweaser in this one spot, and some dude just materialized. Out of the mist. Like some kind of freaking Nosferatu. Crap you not. And it was unsettling, at best, to be confronted with the fact that the police officer next to me was no more aware of him before his appearance than I was. That the police officer I next to me was…gasp…human!

Human, you guys.

I try really hard to examine my own thoughts and beliefs all of the time. I subject them to regular, brutal tests of logic and reason. But I realized, in that moment when Todd said, “I wonder where that guy came from,” that even after having engaged in some epic metacognition regarding my law enforcement schemas leading up to Friday, I still retained some spurious beliefs about the men and women who do this job.

“What in the H-E double hockey sticks do you mean you’re not psychic, Todd,” I screamed at him, terrified, from the passenger seat. In my head.

Not out loud.

My filter strengthens daily, you guys, and it’s amazing.

I can’t believe that the police aren’t consistently terrified every single day. Luckily for me, my designation as “reporter/just some weird chick” – no uniform, no weapons, just my camera and my notebook and a willingness to forego my programs of an evening – makes me a less than lucrative target. But to a certain demographic of the population, police officers are strapped with a target on their backs, in the worst case scenario, every day.

Todd explained to me that the one part of the experience I wasn’t going to get was shakedowns. That’s my word, to be clear. Todd did not say “shakedowns.” Todd does not talk like a mafioso. I do. For no good reason at all. Todd told me I would not be seeing him stop a suspicious person, should one meander by, because what if something bad happened? What if he was stopping a suspicious person and that suspicious person whipped out a suspicious gun and shot him?

Suspiciously?

These are the kinds of things that police officers plan for the possibility of experiencing every single day. And the scenario had never even crossed my mind.

And for everyone who thinks that the cops are just out there pulling people over willy-nilly? Dude. If you were partying in, or driving through, Youngsville last Friday night then you are one lucky son of a gun that Todd Mineweaser was there to keep me in check.

People of Youngsville.

Hear me now.

Had it been up to me, every last one of you maniacs would’ve been getting a shakedown. And not in a good way. I see you, making that face. That is not what I mean. Calm yourself.

Man with hoodie hood up in the absence of inclement weather, walking around the corner toward the bridge at 2:30 a.m.?

I’m on to you. You are now on my radar. And I’m a divorced woman over 30. I am a collector of wrongs, and I forget nothing. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But I’m gonna find out what you’re up to, old sport. Be aware.

Fella at the ATM way too late/early for it to be an appropriate time to be ATMing?

Not today, Satan. I see you. You’re…getting money. Out of the bank. With a debit card that’s almost certainly yours, which you are going to probably spend on completely legal things like gasoline, and milk, and cranberry oatmeal, and toilet paper, and Bengay, in all likelihood.

But I’m watching you anyhow. And I will haunt your nightmares.

Know that.

Because I’ve got nothing else to do but watch my programs.

Dude headed out of town into the black recesses of Matthews Run Road on foot at 1:57 in the morning? What are you even doing, guy? Go home! Get a glass of wine! Watch some “Swamp Murders,” and for the love of all that’s holy get a good night’s rest, son!

Do you want me to wash your socks?

Are you in need of a sandwich?

What kind of a life are you even living, child?

For the love!

Todd assures me that not everyone who is outside their home after 9 p.m. is a felon, but I remain skeptical. Y’all are lucky I’m not in charge, is all I can tell you. I’d have stopped every single person I encountered, on general principle.

I’m not sure why.

But I would’ve anyhow.

You can never be too careful.

Even when you feel a little bit like Batman.

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