The Weirdness of A Slow Night: Even When Nothing Happens, Something Does

ven on nights when nothing much happens police-wise, a lot usually does, and it gives you a funny perspective on human nature. Let me run through a recent night’s worth, or as much as will fit. Starting with the guy trying to pull up the “No Parking” sign at Taco Bell in Rosslyn.

It was after dark when the call came, and I was riding with Officer Chris Dengeles. The description was of a scruffy white guy in a green knit hat, and when we found him he was some distance away, walking with his girlfriend. Drunk? Whoo. It seems his car had been towed earlier, so he was mad a tow trucks, and he saw a truck about to tow a stranger, and in solidarity with the towed everywhere he was going to pull up the “No Parking” sign.

Next was the assault call at one of those yup coffee outlets. Two young white women who worked there, barely more than girls, had gotten into some kind of shoving match. So for half an hour we listened to gradually escalating tales from a chunky blonde about how the other one, who wasn’t there, had been stealing from the coffee place. An old story. She embellished more and more, trying to get her adversary in trouble. People who tell stories to cops don’t realize how many dozens of times the cop has heard them.

Then we went to a traffic stop: An extremely drunk Hispanic guy who, the arresting officer said, had been bouncing off the curb while trying to drive. A volunteer interpreter was trying to talk to him, but he could barely remember Spanish, much less English. He was crying. Life was so unfair. Then he got combative. The cops were picking on him because he was Hispanic. On his drunk test he blew a .18, enough to qualify as a pickle at any Safeway.

Next, a pizza operation had tossed a bloody man out because, I guess, pizza shops don’t do bloody guys. Very scruffy white guy, middle-aged, homeless variety. For maybe fifteen minutes at least two cop cars and two ambulances drove around looking for him.

We found him. He had a really deep nasty looking gash on the bridge of his nose, an arm soaked with blood, and seemed either slightly soused or slightly brain-damaged from years of pouring it down. Date of birth: 1937.

Dengeles knew him: one of the regular drunks who eventually die of liver failure. Night after night they nurse heavily on whatever rotgut they can find, often having spent the day begging to get enough for the nightly bottle. Every system in their bodies deteriorates, they don’t eat, and the brain gets fuzzy, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do for them.

He wouldn’t say who hit him, or more likely kicked him in the face, and didn’t want to go get stitched up. How did the bad guy do it? “He was younger than me,” was all he would say. I think the med guys talked him into getting put back together, took him to the ER, and then he went back on the street. You can’t stop them.

Next, a bunch of young black males fighting near a park, or at least a flat grassy place, in a white neighborhood. We got there. Sure enough, there was a bunch of young black males, but they weren’t fighting. As nearly as we could tell, they were just kids horsing around. Dengeles checked them out and said OK, guys, shoo, or words to that effect. Whites are afraid of blacks and call the cops when nothing is going on.

Finally the very old Asian guy, Chinese I’d guess, who also was bumping into curbs in his car. We found him at a gas station. Nice little fellow, well-dressed, obviously an immigrant from long ago, polite and helpful, and utterly confused. The latter point wasn’t clear at first, because his English was shaky enough that it could have been a matter of miscommunication. He was lost and trying to get back home to his wife in Washington, he said.

How long had he been lost, Dengeles asked. “About five hours.” Oh. Not good. Dengeles phoned the guy’s wife, who said thank heavens he’s OK, but don’t let him drive. So the trick became talking him into leaving his car at the gas station to go home in a cab without humiliating him.

It worked. Par for Arlington. The streets are a strange place, even when they’re mostly behaving.

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