Saturday, September 15, 2007

An "Old Guy"

When I was a young police officer we used to call them Old Heads; but it still translates the same. The other day when I went to the Houston Police Department’s pistol range to update my concealed handgun card, located next to the police academy, I showed up a almost an hour early for the next “shoot”. The range officer advised that I could either wait at one of the picnic tables or I could wander over to the academy where there were vending machines and air conditioning.

It was a tough choice, sit around and drip sweat in the heat of the day or spend some time in the air conditioning of the academy. When I walked up to the main entrance to the academy one of the cadet classes was on the move and on the way out the door I was about to enter. I got a very formal, “Good Afternoon, Sir” from each and every cadet, just short of a salute and I wasn’t even in uniform. Just think how that must sound to some poor schnook not familiar with a semi-military environment, almost as stunning as the toilet seats that snapped to attention in the movie, No Time for Sergeants; well maybe not that extreme.

I enjoyed a walk down memory lane as the halls are lined with photographs of all the police academy classes. The changes in uniforms from different times was interesting, the old “suicide straps” that at one time were standard issue so many years ago, the different uniforms and combinations to indicate each bygone era.

I found the photograph of Class 52, my group; noticing that it was much closer to the front of the long hall than to the end; was it that long ago? I studied the faces of my fellow academy members and tried to recall their names without looking down to the listing below the picture. While momentarily distanced from the present I heard a voice from upstairs behind the railing directed towards me.

“Which class were you in? I turned to see who was asking; an instructor, as set apart by the familiar red staff t-shirt. He appeared to be about my age, maybe a little younger as he had a little salt and pepper on each side around the hair line.

“Fifty Two,” pointing to the photograph. “How about the young fellow there on the third row?”, where a fellow resembling my formerly youthful image was captured in time.

“When did you retire?”, an assumption since neither us knew each other.

“A little over fifteen years ago.” I don’t think he would have guessed that much time could have elapsed as I don’t look all that old, at least I don’t think so.

“Wow, you really are an Old Guy. I have fifteen years to go until retirement.” I looked at him again, putting the conversation into context and appreciating the fact that we each travel our paths at our appointed times.

I didn’t have my good digital camera with me; only the one that is included with my cell phone. I took a couple of snap shots and wondered if the quality of the image would justify sending it to the My Album section of my telephone account; I’ve yet to waste any money sending pictures from my phone to that account. I think I’ll return later in the month with my good camera and take a picture worth posting; until then you’ll have to take my word on it, I was young once upon a time.

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