Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Salt Mine

Taking up from where we left off yesterday with my arrival at work...I carry a comb in my murse, which is less of a man purse and more of a back pack actually. It rides in my top case, locked and dry with all the odds and ends of daily living, including the brush aforesaid. A quick pass over the rug to remove lingering signs of helmet hair and in we go. The Police Department has been undergoing some paint and spiffying up which is nice for night shift as the painters are gone, leaving only the noxious fumes of modern paint gassing the building.The front door to the Police Station is locked much to the consternation of people who watch TV and think the city of key West has money to spare to keep a sergeant employed as a front desk clerk. I always tell people who need an officer for a non emergency to call us and we'll send one to your home or hotel where you can wait comfortably. Unless it's a crazy night we respond within 15 minutes for lower priority calls. Losing your ID seems like the end of the world, but compared to people having heart attacks or getting fighting drunk it is considered Lower priority if your life isn't in danger.Inside the corridors are wide and bland. We don't have cells in the police station. Sometimes prisoners are brought here to be questioned and the corridors are wide enough to walk three abreast but most police work boils down to paperwork and report writing after the action is over. You don't see much of that on TV, tediously filling out times, addresses and phone numbers.The smell of fresh paint will linger for a couple of days but the fresh paint itself will look good for several years to come. This is my office with a huge plate window on the corridor so passing dignitaries can look in at the brains of the department, in a manner of speaking. Another reason to work nights: far fewer dignitaries in the building.I like to arrive about ten minutes before six and I like to be relieved around the same time in the morning though technically there is no obligation to be relieved before six o'clock straight up. We each have a locker in the kitchen: In mine I keep some snacks, some magazines and books in case I forget to bring any (most of my colleagues read fashion magazines and gossip rags rather than motorcycle or sailing magazines for light entertainment). I hung up a map of the Dry Tortugas which drifted to my locker in some inexplicable way. It reminds me of happy times camping. In the yellow bag I keep my dress shoes. Our dress code requires a uniform of a polo shirt embroidered with a police badge, dress pants and dress shoes. Only women can wear skirts though none do oddly enough.My Kevlar lined slider pants qualify as dress pants and I suppose no one would notice my motorcycle boots but they get a bit hot after a while.Noel has been relieved already by Jessica and he has changed into civvies for his bicycle ride home.Rachel hands over her position on the main police channel to Nelly......someone has to listen to the channel every second of every day in case an officer calls for help, so the changeover takes a matter of mili-seconds. Night shift settles in and we adjust the chair heights, open the blinds... ...and watch a rain squall wet the parking lot and Garrison Bight Marina across the Boulevard. I am on Channel Two tonight so I have six computer screens to monitor as I run arrest warrant checks on anyone the officers come in contact with. Jessica dispatches Fire and Rescue and shares phone answering with me. Administrative and 9-1-1 calls are all answered here. And so the three of us log in to our various screens as darkness starts to fall outside. It's weird how serene and peaceful this room gets sometimes in contrast to the moments of controlled chaos when we find ourselves asking people the oddest and most intimate questions.I am looking forward to a quiet night so I can get on with To Have And To Have Not, the community book reading project. However the department has my soul until six in the morning and if the night goes sour I could be run ragged for the next twelve hours with non stop warrant checks and phone calls. Keeping my fingers crossed...