This was originally written in November 2017. I hadn’t finished the book yet. It shows the mindset that the job put me in. From what I have learned, it’s something that many of us experience.
Sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts on this cold November day, I’m between the first and second stop on a three store shopping trip. I like to pace myself with breathers like this one. I was thinking about nothing in particular, when a Mt. Prospect Police Officer walked in to use the restroom and grab a cup of coffee. Memories came flooding back, and I thought about how it was for me when I was on the other side of the uniform.
He looked older than I felt – most people my age do these days, at least to my eyes. Heavy-set, balding, and worn down by the responsibility he carries and the things he’s seen. I’m sure he no longer resembles the young kid who took the oath many years ago. His appearance in my day made me recall my state of mind when I did what he is doing now.
After years of constant vigilance, always listening to the police radio and studying my surroundings, the only radio I hear now is the one playing over the restaurant speakers. It’s soothing, and I know it won’t call out to me and demand my attention.
My awareness of my surroundings hasn’t settled back to the level it was before I took that job. I am reasonably certain it never will. Still, I’m relieved by the departure of the stressors I experienced every workday.
I watch traffic cruise by and sip my coffee leisurely. There are no time limits now, there’s no need to ask permission to eat lunch, and no mandated need to watch for wrongdoing. There are no more politics and no shady bosses.
It’s just me and my life—what I’m able to reclaim of it.
I regret my choice of careers in many ways. I loathe some of the changes it made in me.
I’m thankful for my choice of careers in many ways. I’m grateful for some of the changes it made in me. How aware of my surroundings I am, my will to survive in a crisis, and my desire to be prepared for any circumstances I might find myself in is rooted in that choice.
Years of having to listen to the police radio now has me driving eight-hour road trips in glorious silence. Years of working squarely in the public eye has me relishing the solitude I have at home – probably a little too much.
Through it all, my desire to root for the underdog, my inherent need to protect, my ingrained need to be prepared—they all dominate me. Today, I’m ready for just about anything. Anything but writing, that is, the thing I do most often now.
I don’t have any paper, but at least I’m packing a pen. I’m the old guy sitting quietly, writing on napkins at the doughnut shop, lost in my own thoughts, but knowing that things can turn to shit in a heartbeat, that evil exists, and that it can rear its head anywhere without warning.
I’m free of my job, but not of who it made me. The fact that I constantly observe my surroundings, the razor sharp tactical knife I carry with me everywhere, and the compact 9mm pistol pressing against my thigh in a pocket holster all remind me of that.
I’m the old guy sitting quietly, writing on napkins at the doughnut shop and lost in my own thoughts. The guy I might have seen when I was new on the job and noted that “he seems a little strange.”