Maybe it’s an oversimplification, but I’ve come to realize over the years that the life of a cop isn’t normal. Whether we like it or not, we’re pushed and pulled in opposite directions all of the time by competing interests. Life still happens when you wear the uniform, but compromise is the name of the game.
Scheduling doesn’t change out of convenience, we don’t get any extra hours in a day, and the world keeps turning no matter what we accomplish or not. Court appearances, family functions, and other commitments pile up in spite of necessary sleep and personal time, and we figure out how to make it work.
We see the worst our population has to offer and grow accustomed to being functional with adrenaline pumping through our veins. We’re taught to view the world through a skeptical lens, and our wellbeing often depends on keeping that lens focused.
As a result, we most definitely have our own outlook on life. That outlook comes with a vocabulary that isn’t normal. It’s not the shorthand radio codes that we use for brevity and covert communication, those vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It’s a vocabulary that helps us reframe the chaos into a more digestible, bite size dose that can be humorous at times.
You may find some of these in other professions, but by and large these are from our alternate universe. If you’ve uttered any combination of the following nine phrases, chances are good that you’re a cop.
I know it’s Sunday, but it’s my Friday. ..The way we are scheduled creates an otherwise unrecognizable calendar that is foreign to those who work a regular Monday through Friday job. It may be a Monday today, but to a cop with Monday and Tuesday off, it very well could be the weekend-just on a weekday. Much in the same vein, you may be thrilled that it’s Friday, but Friday might be my Monday as I start my work week. And is very possible to have a case of the Mondays on a Friday.
I could really go for a good robbery right now…It may seem odd to know that the people who are responsible for preventing crime sometimes want a crime to be committed, but it happens. We don’t want people to get hurt or anything, but sometimes getting a critical call can break the monotony of the garbage calls that happen on a frequent basis. Plus, we typically function best when the chips are down, as we get reinvigorated by a maintenance dose of adrenaline just like an addict of any variety.
I’m getting tired, I better go drive around…Running on an empty energy tank is pretty normal for cops because life doesn’t stop just because you are scheduled to work. It’s counterintuitive to think that driving while sleepy is a good idea, but we’ve all done it. Cranking the windows down and looking for something to get into can be helpful, or it can have pretty bad consequences since fatigued driving really isn’t a good idea. Either way, firefighters get paid to sleep on the job, and we’d be subjected to unpaid days off if we did the same. So, you get used to saying or hearing odd things like this when you are a cop.
I smelled an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath and person…No one actually speaks this way, but it’s a standard statement in a report that involves an intoxicated person. Whether it’s an operating while intoxicated report, a public intoxication arrest, or otherwise, you’ll never see the words “the driver had been drinking alcohol” plainly written in that manner in a police report. Because OWI arrests get fought tooth and nail, the attorneys involved with these cases over the years have created this oddly formed phrase by deeming it as the appropriate way to say “saw drunk, arrested same”.
Honey, there’s a tornado warning, I’m going to drink a beer real quick…Maybe this is unique to smaller departments, but if there’s an event that is likely to require additional manpower in the Donut, off duty officers get called in to work. The fastest way to skirt these call-ins is to drink alcohol of some variety because the agency has a policy that demands anyone on duty to be stone cold sober. It’s a source of frustration if you are the one needing extra bodies, but it happens. We work more than we want to as it is already, so I totally understand the idea.
I think I can get another shift out of this uniform…I don’t think the public realizes it, but most of us will wear the same uniform for days without washing it. After a shift in the heat, they can get pretty ripe. An internal debate begins, and decisions have to be made. Does it smell too bad? From what distance do you pick up the scent? How bad are the sweat rings in the armpits? Are my spare uniforms clean? Oh, they’re wrinkled? Honey, where’s the Febreeze?
I don’t dare look between the buns of this burger, but a little spit won’t kill me…I’ve heard it more than once, and it makes me cringe every time. There’s a real sinking feeling when you order a meal at a fast food joint only to notice that the cook is the guy you arrested last week. This is a prime example of why I eat my food at home if at all possible, no matter how upset Mrs. Donut gets with me, I highly doubt she’d spit in my food. And if she did, at least it would be from Mrs. Donut, not the hepatitis C carrying IV drug user at the fast food joint. Plus, I can get a liter of cola whenever I want at home.
I feel like shit today boss, but I’m saving my time off for when I’m healthy and can enjoy it…I’ve said it more than once, and I’ve heard it a lot more. No one wants to burn that precious time away just to lay in bed and be sick. So instead, patient zero comes to work, hacking and coughing with a fever to spread the love to everyone else. Within a week the squad room looks like a MASH unit with everyone coming in for roll call with red noses and the screaming eagle shits because time off is meant for vacation, damn it.
I should’ve been a firefighter…In a moment of weakness, it can happen. It’s about the same as it was when I was tired of being subjected to the elements in the field while eating nothing but MRE’s in the Marines. I would talk to someone in the Air Force and find out that it was essentially considered a hardship to exit a temperature controlled building and that Zoomies would nearly riot if the Friday lobster and crab leg day was skipped at the chow hall.
Sure, they have to deal with fires, carry hoses, and polish trucks and stuff, but everyone loves a firefighter. Stop by a fire station and take a look. They have big screen TV’s, gaming systems, weight rooms, pool tables, recliners, beds, Wi-Fi, and a gourmet kitchen at their disposal. We have an unpredictable heating and air conditioning unit, a broken coffee maker, tube TVs with VCRs, and rebuilt computers that still have slots for floppy disks. Same tax base, same government entity in charge, totally different way of life. We’re expected to know everything about everything in a split second and they…well, they put out fires. And polish stuff, because it’s a little known fact that shiny stuff puts out fires better.
Before all of you fire service folks grab the pike poles and light the torches, I know it’s an exaggeration to say that rain could do your job. It’s definitely a dangerous career, too. Jealousy makes us lash out and say things we shouldn’t. That’s why you rarely hear about firefighters who quit to become cops, but it’s not too hard to find firefighters that started out in public service wearing a badge and gun. While I may get jealous at times, I know it’s not for me. There are only two jobs that I am aware of that will pay you for laying on your back-with firefighting being one, and I’m honestly not interested in either.
I’m sure I’ve missed some of the phrases you’d only hear from a cop, so please add them in the comments section or on my Facebook page, I’d love to hear them. If you know someone that would like the Donut, please spread the word by sharing it with friends. If you’ve missed some posts, they’re available in the “Stale Donuts Archive“, and if you have any questions you’d like answered, e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s time to go patrol the Donut…