Down through the years I have found out that there are some things that money can’t buy. Someone does something out of their heart, money is not in the question. But there are two words that go a long way: Thank you.
People use those words over and over. There are some incidents I remember where they should have been used but were not.
I received a call from the Police Department to assist a man on the railroad tracks at Twelfth Street. I pulled in and motioned for him to come to me. He stood and looked at me. I again called to him, asking what he needed. He never said anything, just pointed to his foot. I walked up to see what his trouble was. This was one of our people who slept under the bridges. He was filthy and you could smell him when you got close. I could see that he was getting over a drunk. I asked, “What’s the matter?” He pointed to his foot again. I looked down at a pair of dirty, wore out tennis shoes and saw that somehow he had got his foot hung between the rails.
Where his foot was stuck was where the rail moved to let the train shift to a side track. Much to my better judgment I tried to pull his foot free. I called and told Headquarters what I had. Dispatch called the railroad, then called me back and said to get him off the tracks as fast as possible. A train was due to come through and they were unable to get anyone there in time to throw the switch. I reached in my pocket, took out my knife and began to split open the back of the shoe. Then a cut across the top. I pulled and his foot came loose. I picked up what was left of the shoe and handed it to him. I could hear the train coming in the distance.
I walked back to the patrol car and took out some hand cleaner to wash my hands. With red eyes and a blurred speech, he spoke. I could not believe my ears. He was telling me that I was going to have to buy him a new pair of shoes. The train was bearing down on us and I couldn’t hear what he was saying. When the train passed, I asked him what he had said. He had put the cut shoe back on his foot and tied it with a string. He looked at me and in a very hard voice said, “I am going to sue you for everything you have. I will see you in court.”
I watched as he hobbled off down 12th Street. I got back in the patrol car and drove off. I remember thinking what would have happened if I had not had a knife to cut his shoe.
I remember another incident where I was sent a bill for breaking out a glass in a door. One of my cars had called for a supervisor. They had been sent to check on a lady who had not been seen for a while. I walked up on the porch where the officer stood. “What’s the problem,” I asked. I was shown, though the door, the feet of someone lying in a hallway. All the doors and windows were closed and locked. The door had a small glass in it. I took a billy stick and broke out the glass, reached though and unlocked the door. The officer with me had EMT training. He checked her and said she was still alive. We called the ambulance service and sent her to the hospital. Her son was notified and told to come and secure the door.
The woman got OK and I thought no more of the incident. Then the chief met me at the back door a few days later and told me to come to his office. He picked up a letter from his desk and handed it to me. I began to read but could not believe it. The son of the lady had sent me a bill. He said since I had broke the glass he felt that I had ought to pay to have it fixed. I could not believe it. The doctor at the hospital had said if we had not got the lady there when we did she would not have made it.
I remember taking out my money but the chief shook his head. “Don’t you worry about it,” he said. “I will take care of it.” I started to leave and he said, “If you need to break another one today, do it. If someone had to tear a door down to save my mother’s life, I would have gladly said thanks and paid for the door.”
The life of a policeman is often thankless. They deal with all kind of people every day. As the saying goes, they deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly. The next time you get the chance, shake hands with your policeman and say, “Thank you.”