Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bring out your dead.

As a cop, I work closely with several types of people that the general population never has the opportunity to meet. Whenever I respond to a crime scene or conduct a substantial investigation, I work alongside a wide array of individuals with very interesting professions. At first glance, they might seem unremarkable, but I've found that they tend to be very interesting once you get to know them.

Night watch doctors are very interesting because they never act how you might expect. On TV, doctors are always good looking, poignant, intelligent, and above all, good at what they do. In real life, the doctors I meet often seem to be only slightly more medicinally qualified than me.

Last week, I was at a small local hospital (which will remain nameless) guarding a gang member who had been shot multiple times and later proved to be mortally wounded from his injuries. The gangster was being attended to by four scared nurses and one crusty old doctor who had apparently just woken up. He had a good three-days beard growth on his face and the hair on the back of his head was matted down, indicating that he had just finished a delightful nap in an unused examination room. Had I been doing a traffic stop on the good doctor, a Breathalyzer test would have been in order.

The doctor spotted me while he was working on the soon-to-be-dead gangster. He suddenly abandoned his post and walked over to inform me of the situation. Removing his bloody gloves, he said in an alarmingly calm voice, "Ya know, it doesn't look very promising." Had I been thinking, I would have asked to see his credentials to make sure he wasn't just some guy who was staying at the local Holiday Inn Express. Minutes later, I saw my partner in the hospital lobby. I told him, "Dude, if I get shot standing right here, I want you to throw me in the black & white and drive me to another hospital."

Of all the people I come into contact with, coroners are by far the most colorful. Not only do they have the best stories, but they also tend to have the best sense of humor. Any coroner will tell you, the worst calls we get are when we have to respond to a senior care facility. Those are the worst because there will usually be a room full of old people lying in beds (think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) but only one of them is dead. Upon arrival, our job is to examine and make sure said dead person is in fact dead and that there is no evidence of foul play.

If I happen to arrive during scheduled nap time it's even more complicated, because everyone in the room is asleep or dead, and I'm supposed to know which is which. There's nothing quite like walking over to what you expect to be a lifeless body when, without warning, said body sits up and asks you to turn up the volume on Matlock. I've decided the best thing to do from now on is to, upon entering the room, hit my baton against the door frame of the room as hard as I can and look to see who flinches and who doesn't.

One day, I responded to the scene of a suicide. The deceased lived in small, multiple level home, not uncommon in the San Fernando Valley. By the time I was done with my investigation, the family of the departed had gathered outside of her home. Part of my job is to assist the coroners with a swift removal of the body before the family gets too grief stricken and needs to be physically restrained. The coroner who responded was so small and weak, I could tell that I would be doing most of the heavy lifting to get the body out of the house and down the stairs.

The coroner and I wrapped the body discretely into a body bag. We put it onto a gurney and made our way out the front door. As we neared the top of the complex flight of stairs in front of the house, the experienced coroner stopped and looked around to assess the situation. She told me: "Listen, the whole family is standing around watching us. I'm not gonna lie, there's a good chance that you and me are going to drop this body." I was shocked at her complete lack of confidence. Then she said, "If it starts to fall, let it fall. Trust me, I've been doing this for years, it's much better to drop the body and pick it back up than to play hot potato with it on the stairs in front of the family." Fortunately, we made it down the stairs and into the County van without incident.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007


pec·ta·tor (pëk’tat'õr) n., pl. pec·ta·tors, pec·ta·tory or pec·ta·noc·ity. 1. One who is a spectator of the Pecadillo. 2. A person who willingly wastes large portions of their life reading mindless drivel (much like a "Trekkie" only without the assumed computer and technological skills). 3. A drain on society, typically regarded as a half step above a hobo.

Since starting my blog over a year and a half ago and subsequently gaining (and losing) steady readership through a perfect combination of luck and nepotism, I've been getting recognised by people from all walks of life. My fans, henceforth known as "Pectators," much like menial street vendors, share a common set of values and interests that can only be truly understood by someone who has spent a lot of time at one of those portable carnivals they set up in vacant lots for three days. Pectators, while frightening and clearly unstable, actually experience and sustain brief moments of normalcy. These rare moments, stretched out over periods of unsupervised time, allow the Pectator to at least appear to function amongst the normal population and thus, exist amid us undetected.

When approached by one of these freaks of nature, it is important to keep in mind a few facts about the Pectator. Like most members of the animal kingdom, Pectators only attack when threatened. The problem is that even the slightest change in wind can cause intense fear and despair for the Pectator. The key to surviving the inevitable Pectator attack is to always keep a supply of Hi-C and Bacon Bits at the ready. Trust me, I've sidestepped countless Pectator assaults by using everyday household items to my advantage. If you're all out of substitute pork products and over priced sugar water, you can always use other everyday items. I've found that car keys or really any shiny metal objects are very effective in stalling the Pectator. Although nothing has proven more effective than the time tested flashlight-on-the-wall trick. Pectators may be unstable, but they're also very easily distracted...

The Pectator is small in stature, typically no more than 4 foot 8. This is just one of many physical disadvantages that the Pectator must endure. But what he lacks in looks, health, social skills, and basic sense of hygiene, the Pectator makes up with thin mustaches and a vast knowledge of obsolete computer technology. Due to his usual diet of nachos, cigarettes and pure caffeine, mixed with his inability to exercise and years spent sequestered from fresh air and sunshine, the Pectators' life expectancy rate rarely exceeds 42 years. They can put a man on the moon but they can't improve basement/boiler room ventilation systems... But don't let those dark rings and Harry Caray glasses fool you, at night, the Pectator can see for miles by using his heightened sense of smell.

It is true that the Pectator suffers from chronic poor eyesight, however they boast an unusual bond and rapport with all members of the animal kingdom. Here, Darren "the kitten wrangler" Montoya demonstrates his comradeship with one of his many, many cats.

This Pectator has had a few run-ins with the law. I'm happy to report that Anton is now reformed and is nearing the end of a five year sentence. He's doing a nickel at San Quentin for undisclosed reasons. Here, he demonstrates how to floss imaginary teeth with imaginary dental floss. That can come in handy... someday... I suppose.

This Pectatorette has found herself in quite a predicament; I hope I never have to make the tough choice between cigarette, Dr Pepper, phone book, or a whole Turkey leg. So many treasures, yet just two arms to carry them. What a dilemma indeed.

Periodically, a Pectator will get separated from the rest of the herd. Alone, and completely lacking any survival skills, it won't be long before this little guy takes his next step in the circle of life.

Such grace, such elegance, such untamed beauty. Yeah, I think I just puked in my mouth.

Catherine, the striking young beauty on the left, is one of my biggest fans. Don't let that bored, near death look on her face fool you; she was very excited to meet me. I bumped into her one afternoon while I was deodorant shopping at the local Rite Aid. She was there to replenish her stock of powdered milk and horse tranquilizers in time for winter. Catherine and I shared a lovely conversation about Geritol side effects and John Tesh's career before he "sold out".

Norabelle, the one on the right - although at the time I was sure her name was "Walter" - is credited with the invention of the nylon tourniquet. I wonder how she got that idea...