The following story is dedicated to Senator Boxer and Condoleezza Rice as the confirmation hearings take on the appearance of a hockey game. Just in case, the point of this story is, "Lighten up", its only a game.
Roll Call Inspection
Night shift for the police department was more relaxed than any other shift. That included mandatory inspections, a formality that was nearly non-existent on nights. I can remember officers borrowing hats or nightsticks from officers getting off of evening shift out in the hall just so they’d have the proper equipment for a few minutes. At least it was that way until Sgt. Kennedy transferred in.
Sgt. Kennedy came to us from the other side of the city where it was even more relaxed. His hair was much longer than Department guidelines would allow, even for night shift. It might not have been an issue except that we’d also gotten a new shift commander, Lt. Crawford, who was in every way a product of the “spit and polish” generation.
I was sitting in my regular seat, the center of the back row, while Sgt. Kennedy was reading the nightly bulletins from the podium. Lt. Crawford sauntered into the room and placed himself directly behind Sgt. Kennedy. After all the bulletins had been read and signed Lt. Crawford announced that he’d noticed how SOME officers had strayed from Departmental guidelines in grooming habits and there would be a formal inspection in two days. Lt. Crawford made his announcement, all the while looking at the back of Sgt. Kennedy’s head; not specifically mentioning anyone by name and yet making his point quite clear. It made for a rather awkward moment that would have to be addressed.
My personal grooming habits had not changed much from the days when I was in the academy. I considered my overall appearance satisfactory; possibly exemplary. While preparing the night of the intended inspection I took a good look in the mirror after putting on my uniform. I thought a little mustache wax might add to the general effect. I looked around but could not find any. I rummaged through a drawer and could only find some Halloween make up that had been saved in a zip lock baggie. There was a container of black mustache “enhancement” base that I concluded would have to suffice. I stroked it liberally into my mustache. I noticed immediately that the black contrasted with my own natural brown pigment; however, it would not wash out and tended to smear rather than come off. Time was running short and rather than panic I decided to have some fun. I was two weeks from retirement, a little mischief might be just the ticket. I dipped the brush into the enhancement base and formed an exquisite “Jerry Colona” style handlebar mustache; painting areas of my face that had never had hair with the thick medium.
“Dad, you’re not going to work with that, are you?”, my son asked as he got a good look..
I made it a point to enter the station via the back door, not wishing any supervisors to see me, at least not until inspection time. If I was going to have some fun, let it run its full course. I motioned for the desk officer to hold his tongue as he gasped.
I found my regular seat as my fellow officers entered the roll call room. I made sure that they would play along. The K-9 unit officer next to me was busy removing dog hair from his trousers until he happened to get a look at my “creation”.
“Hey man, I got nothing to worry about now!”, he blurted out and left the matted dog hair on the other half of his trousers. At ten o’clock Sgt. Kennedy walked in, sporting his new haircut, well within policy. He never looked at anyone while going over the bulletins. He then began assigning each officer to his respective beat, whereupon he had to look at each officer for acknowledgement. “Stern, Five Frank Twenty Six.”, he glanced in my direction reflexively since I normally sat in the same place.
“Oh, shi…..”, was all he could say. He quickly looked down at his clip board; praying that something there would help him. Lt. Crawford had been sitting in the very last chair on the back row, waiting to have formal inspection. Several officers had blocked his line of sight from me; at least until that moment. Lt. Crawford, sensing something amiss, leaned forward and turned in my direction. I was all smiles, silly mustache and all. The entire roll call room exploded in laughter.
“I guess that about takes care of the inspection.”, Lt. Crawford breathed out in a sigh. “Stern, I’d like to see you in my office after roll call.” Sgt. Kennedy swallowed hard as the rumble of laughs settled out. I swallowed to clear my own worries about what I had done, still mildly confident that my two weeks until retirement would count for something.
“Promise me you won’t do this again?”, there was a pleading in Lt. Crawford’s demeanor. He hoped the prank was a one time ordeal.
“You have my word on it, Sir.” It may have been the best thing that could have happened around our station. Lt. Crawford had made his point about following policy without having to be too hard nosed, Sgt. Kennedy was out of the spotlight and able to retain a semblance of dignity and the troops had a good laugh. My only regret; I wish someone had taken a picture.