It was 3am on a Tuesday morning and I was struggling to keep focused. I was wishing in my head for anything to happen….hoping the dispatcher would broadcast my number and give me a call. I had the windows rolled down so the cold February air would rush against my face like a splash of water. Four hours of mundane and routine was taking its toll on me, for sure. The old saying about police work is totally true though….hours of boredom could be followed by seconds of sheer chaos and/or terror. Life is funny, you always seem to get what you need…and on that night I needed an influx of adrenalin.
I was traveling eastbound towards Fort Worth on an access road, on the dog shift again, patrolling. Another old police adage came to my mind …there are only two types of people out at 3am….cops and crooks. I was the former in search of the latter…even paperwork would be welcomed on this cold, quiet, winter night….and then he passed me. The drunk was also eastbound, but the problem was he was traveling in the westbound lanes of a four lane divided highway. A wide median of grass separated the eastbound from the westbound…he had entered the highway on the wrong side. The drunk was traveling to his own death. Up ahead was a big curve in the road, a blind curve. Lawful traveling westbound traffic would not see this guy until it was too late. A head-on, fatality accident was not the answer I was looking for that night …I had to take action fast!
I radioed the dispatcher my location and the circumstance. I hit the accelerator as I flipped on my lights and sirens. I had to get in front of the drunk to warn on-coming traffic before it was too late. My speedometer sailed past 90 mph as I pulled even to the drunk…hitting him with my spotlight….doing anything I could to get his attention! I could see there was one occupant of the car, a white male….his head was bobbing up and down.
In the distance I could see several sets of headlights moving westbound in both lanes of the highway. I increased my speed…my only shot at preventing a head-on was to beat the drunk to the highway crossover and prevent him from hitting that blind curve! My Sergeant was about 5 miles away and traveling towards my location, his help would arrive too late…I was definitely on my own.
My speed increased as I passed the drunk….reaching the crossover, I jerked the patrol car across the the intersection. I was now straddled across both westbound lanes with my lights on and the siren blasting. I was sacrificing my own safety, but all I could think of was the brand new patrol car….the Sergeant was going to kill me if I survived. The westbound traffic, if sober, would hopefully see the lights, after they cleared the curve, hear the sirens, and slow to a stop. Operative word being “if” sober…remember…cops and crooks, right? The head-bobbing drunk was going to be stopped….one way or another.
I turned to my right and watched as the drunk approached me at a rapid pace. I braced myself for impact…I was the most alive I have ever felt. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention. I felt good knowing I was going to prevent a head-on fatality accident. All these thoughts were racing through my mind as the drunk was bearing down on the intersection. This was going to hurt, I thought….my only chance was if the drunk was startled to attention by the patrol car and lights. The wait seemed like an eternity….but was, in fact, about 7 seconds.
Then the darndest thing happened. I watched as smoke began to come out of the tire wells of the drunk’s car…..he was braking hard! The drunk had bobbed to consciousness and was trying with all his might to stop his car. He became aware of his situation too late for any evasive measure except to stomp on his brakes. The tires were squealing as the smoke increased….I focused on the Chysler emblem at the front of his car….as it continued towards me! The drunk came to a stop within 6 inches of the passenger door of my patrol car! The westbound traffic stopped in both lanes on my left….safely. It was unbelievable! I exited the car…pulled the drunk out of his, cuffed, and stuffed him.
His only comment to me was, “what the hell are you doing parked on the highway?”
I got a letter of commendation put in my personnel jacket for my actions that night. I tell this story, not for that reason but to make my other point. The next time you see a cop pulled into a Jack in a Box, eating a burger….or sitting on the side of the road running radar….think about what I am blogging about today. Cops go through the day performing mundane tasks….sometimes goofing off….they are people just like everyone else…with one exception. Those boring shifts can be interrupted, at any given moment, by a call for service or an on-view situation…that necessitates that they ACT. Cops have volunteered to act in those situations that most people would run away from…avoid. Those seconds of sheer chaos…terror….excitement…that is where they earn the badge.
The thin blue line separates those 3am people….the cops and the crooks. The distance between the two….it’s in the seconds.