People who've never worked in Public Service (EMS, Rescue, FD, law enforcement, Coast Guard and such-like) get really confused when they ask me what being a Peace Officer is really like, and I tell them stories like the one that follows.
I blame it on Hollywood.
When the SVU officers spend three hours past oh-dark-thirty in 10 degrees below bloody zero weather walking every alley in town because the Alzheimer's has told Grandpa Frickert to slip out the side door of the nursing home and go walkabout, then it'll be true-to-life.
People always think of the dramatic stuff. Nobody on TeeVee ever issues a BOLO for a "Mixed breed dog, mostly white with a black face, answers to 'Fluffy'" and have every officer in ear-shot looking because some 8-year-old kid is crying his eyes out.
Find me a TeeVee officer who's ever answered a 911 call and wound up standing ankle-deep in water with a hand clamped around a ruptured water pipe while the owner goes to turn off the water. Or snaked into the spider-infested crawlspace under a house in order to pull out Suzy's new kitten.
I got a 911 call once because a rattlesnake was slithering up a tree towards a nest full of baby birds. When I am going to get to see that one on 'Law and Order'?
Speaking of, the TeeVee cops take themselves wwwaaaayyyy too seriously.
But that's a rant for another time.
Which brings us to the story ...
One of the nice things about working in small towns is the...unique...problems that you learn to solve. One such problem belonged to a sweet little old lady who lived in big, old mansion over in the old section of town. She had a ...
... ghost infestation.
Now, most of the time this was all right (I think she liked the company), but once in a while the ghosts would get a wee bit rowdy. Thereupon, she'd call the S.O. and one of us would be dispatched to take care of the situation. We'd show up, she'd let us into the huge old house, the officer would go upstairs and read a stern warning to the ghosts.
I found that if you took George C. Scotts' speech from Patton, complete with pacing back-and-forth and gestures, and cleaned up the language a bit, the ghosts would normally be impressed enough to keep quiet for a week or two.
Once you were done, you'd go back downstairs, where the lady would stuff you full of homemade cinnamon rolls and iced tea, and you'd swap gossip for a while.
One day the Sheriff gets A Bright Idea: we'd take care of this situation once-and-for-all. Plans are made. People are notified. We wait for the call.
And one Friday evening, she calls. Not only are the ghosts rowdy, it sounds like they're having a party. And (delivered in whispered tones) she thinks she heard some girl ghosts giggling up there, and this Wasn't Right.
The call goes out. We load up our full-time officers (all four of them), we get our Reserves (mostly Security from a local Federal facility), we don our Ninja gear, we mount our Trusty Steed (re-worked, Korea-era Ambulance) and we sway and sputter and backfire and shudder and creak our way over hill and through dale.
Once on location, a hasty whispered conference takes place. Who looks the least threatening?
That would be Yours Truly having hysterics in the back.
Up I go, I knock on the door, tell the little old lady that we're here to solve her problem and seat her on the porch swing with a blanket.
Twenty SWAT rhinos in full gear hit the door, clear the bottom floor tactically, flow the stairs, and then the shouting starts.
"Hey, you! YES, YOU! OUT, OUT, OUT!!"
"One here! Out, out, out! CLEAR!"
"You! Yes, you! Where do you think you're going? OUT, OUT, OUT!"
Thus were our thoroughly scared and cowed (albeit invisible) subjects herded to the front lawn, where the Sheriff is standing on the roof of the ambulance -- excuse me, SWAT vehicle -- delivering his patented fire-and-brimstone, straight-path/crooked-path speech. Complete with finger-pointing, arm waving and emotional entreaties to what only a absolute cynic would consider an empty lawn.
Watched with great interest by all the neighbors -- heck, most of the town -- who promptly got out the lawn-chairs, the sodas and the snacks and basically started a block party.
Once we were done, and had allowed the thoroughly chastised and completely humbled spirits back upstairs, we sat in her kitchen (in black BDU's, rifles, shotguns, etc.,) eating cinnamon rolls and drinking iced tea.
During this last part, the lady whispered to me that we had "Missed one."
Never said I wasn't fast on my mental feet -- I promptly whispered back that he was too young to be subjected to such a scary action. She examined him closely and declared that I was probably right.
It took the ghosts almost three months to go back to their rowdy ways.