A COP CAPER

Gilbert police

A COP CAPER

Elizabeth Willis Barett…………..January 2016

I’ve always liked the Gilbert police.  Not that I’ve had lots of run-ins with policemen, but when you’re working with a drug addict or have a minor traffic infraction, you have to speak to them once in a while.   On the whole, I have found them to be incredibly sensitive, friendly and helpful.  Until yesterday.  I now have something to recount to a judge and maybe he will require some changes in the force.

I was on my way to pick up my little three year old grandson from his pre-school class at Gilbert Elementary School.  He is a little doll baby and I love to see his face light up when he sees that it is me picking him up.  I don’t get to do it very often.  I was looking forward to the experience, but because of one very callous police officer, I don’t think I’ll have enough courage to pick him up from school ever again as long as I live—which might not be long.

I was almost to the school when I saw a police car on the other side of Elliot road just waiting for me.  And of course I was rushing a bit since I didn’t want to be late and have poor Maddix just stand there wondering who would be picking him up.  Sure enough, the policeman—whose name I should really say here just to keep you from thinking badly of any other well mannered and helpful Gilbert Policeman, but I won’t since he already is mad at me—was totally aware of my infraction.  And he was not going to let me get away with it.

He whipped his car down and around and behind me in seconds.  Those lights went whirring around and I pulled over immediately like you’re supposed to do.  Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw that the man was pointing for me to go forward and pull into the school.  So I did.  If you’ve ever been to Greenfield Elementary, you know that it is pretty crowded in there.  It didn’t occur to me to pull forward in front of the school which has never had any space when I’ve been there before, so I turned to the right and drove up and around the round-a-bout so Maddix’s teacher would see me and bring me the child before he felt abandoned.  The whirring red lights followed me around the round-a-about.  He didn’t feel the need to turn them off to keep my embarrassment from bursting from every one of my sorry pores.

Mr. Policeman came up to my window just as I was going to get out so Maddix could see that I was there.

“Stay in your car!” he demanded.  He must have thought I was trying for a quick get-a-way.

“I’ve got to get my grandson,” I countered.

It was raining, by the way.   This melancholy happening matched the weather.

“You don’t get to do what you want.” My public service officer threw that at me like I was always used to getting my way.

“I was just going to get my boy so he wouldn’t be afraid.”

“You are being stopped by a policeman and you don’t get to do what you want. You shouldn’t have driven in here.  You should have stopped in front of the school.”

I didn’t holler back that there was no room in front of the school and I needed to pick up my grandson.  I was very calm and even though tears were very close to slipping, I kept them in check and kept calm.

“You can’t just do things so that you aren’t inconvenienced,” he continued.  I think if he had had a paddle, he would have used it on me.

“I was just trying to get my grandson.”

“He could wait.  You can’t just do what you want when you’re being stopped by a policeman.”

Whew.  He said that about three times.  I like to think of myself as a very intelligent person.  I usually get things on the first go round.  Maybe he felt humiliated that I made him go in the parent pick-up circle.  Maybe he thought that I thought it would be funny to be followed around by a police car flashing its spectacular red light.  He didn’t know that this woman was lacking in humor at the moment.  And there was no where else to go.  He’s the one who told me to turn into the school.  Where did he want me to stop?  There wasn’t room anywhere.  And besides, I repeat, I needed to pick up Maddix.

“Give me your registration and insurance card.”

I’m not a swearer.  I’ve never sworn out loud unless it was by mere accident due to a mouth mal-function.  My older grandkids can hold that one over me.  But I will admit that as I leaned across to reach the glove compartment in an attempt to retrieve the latest registration and insurance info, an unattractive word came out in a whisper.  I think the situation called for it.

I grabbed all the papers that looked promising as the right ones and handed them to him.

“These have expired,”  he said.  Then he told me to sit still while he checked on something.  Probably to see if I was on the wanted list.

While he went back to his car, I was able to wave down Maddix’s teacher whose one hand held Maddix and the other held an umbrella. She looked as disgusted as the police officer.  Maddix wasn’t looking too happy either.

“Maddix’s mom didn’t say you were coming today.”  Her voice was as deadpan as her face.  I was needing a sympathetic smile from her.  Some commiseration.  An “I’ve been in your shoes before” kind of look.  But no.  She said nothing more as she put Maddix in the back seat.  Finally realizing that I wasn’t allowed to get out of the car and therefore couldn’t buckle him in, she reluctantly did the job for me.  No “goodbye.”  No “good luck.” No “I’m so sorry for your plight.”

When Officer He Who Cannot Be Named came back with my license and my expired insurance paper, he told me he was giving me a ticket.  (No, duh!) And that I had three choices:  pay it, go to traffic school (yet again??), or meet with the judge.  I think this time I will meet with the judge.  I just want to tell him that this man was very inconsiderate of a little boy that needed me and was extremely condescending to a grandmother who was trying her best to be compliant.

I really think that if I had opened my door once more or gotten a tiny bit irate as some would have done, the officer would have whipped out his gun and ordered me face down on the wet sidewalk.  I don’t think I would have ever recovered from that.  Neither would he.

Just so he knows what he could do better the next time he finds himself in a like circumstance, here are some suggestions:

 

1.  Smile

2.  Laughingly say, “Wow, I didn’t know I’d have to follow you into the parent pickup circle!  You’re a hard one to catch.”

3.  Allow the person to retrieve her grandson before the child gets scared that he will be left there all night with a teacher who is obviously in a bad mood.  (who wouldn’t be after a few hours with a class of preschoolers on a rainy day.)

4.  Then, with some regret, issue the ticket, making sure the person knows that you would rather not give the ticket, but after all, they were speeding in a school zone which you are sure they feel very badly about.

5.  Leave the criminal with some dignity.

All the way home, Maddix was silent, except to answer my questions with “Don’t talk to me!”  He didn’t want to be friendly with a criminal either.  No telling where that would get him.

Thank goodness for another grandchild.  When my ten year old granddaughter texted me about my day, I told her it was a sad day because I had gotten pulled over by a policeman.

“Well, at least you didn’t go to jail,” was her optimistic reply.  She finished with, “I wish I could come over and give you a big hug!”

Thank you, Claire.  That is exactly what I needed!

 

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ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE–AND AN IPHONE!

 

iphone2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I put my headset in my ears and begin listening to The Hamlet by William Faulkner.  He isn’t the most easily understood of writers, but his dialogue and mastery of the English language is thrilling, especially for an author wannabe.  Then one of my daughters calls and I touch the switch near my ear and answer.  When the call is finished, my book starts up again, right where it left off.  I am in even greater awe of this marvelous invention than I am of Mr. Faulkner.  And have been for a long time now.  If that is all that my iPhone could do—answer calls and read books to me—I would gladly pay top dollar for it.  But that is only the beginning of its vast capabilities.

I can use my iPhone as a flashlight, an alarm clock, a projector remote and a great entertainer of grandkids.  It has taken the place of a heavy set of 4-in-1 scriptures, lesson manuals and the hymn book.  On it I can check my blog, my Facebook page,my calendar (and Brad’s), the news and the weather.  I can ask my phone nearly any question through Google and have the answer in seconds.  If I have to wait in a waiting room, I can use my phone to play 4 Pics/1 Word or Boggle or text any friend or family member whose number is solidly planted on my phone’s memory without having to tax my own.  On my phone, I can book a room or a flight and can even watch a movie while waiting for one.  I can make notes, To Do lists, menus and, of course,  phone calls.  With my phone I can sign up for classes, pay bills, sing to my voice teacher’s accompaniment and find my way to a baby shower.  And along with all of that, my phone takes pictures and videos, too.  Isn’t that incredible?  Has there ever been anything in all the eons of time that could do so much with such a negligible imprint of only 2 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches (case included)?

When I was a teenager back in the dark ages of technology barrenness, I could never in my most extreme imaginings have come up with an object as astounding as my iPhone.  Maybe someone else imagined something so remarkable back then and wrote about it in a famous science fiction book, but if they did, I missed it.  I think I was busy reading Gone With the Wind.

What will my Grandkids be in awe of in 50 years?  What remarkable object will be commonplace to them?  I can’t imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORCHESTRATING CHRISTMAS

conductor 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………January 2014

Enjoying Christmas with twenty-one family members takes a bit of orchestration.  And that means that someone has to be the conductor.  I look around for volunteers but there are none.  So, I stand upon the podium, baton in hand and raise my arms for the down beat.  Ah, I see that not everyone is ready.  I tap the music stand to get their attention.  I tap again.

“Ready?” I ask.  There are no dissenters.  Down come my arms and from the first notes, I realize with dismay that we are not all playing the same song.  Some are attempting a waltz, others a dirge and still others are tooting away at what must be a new Miley Cyrus original.

“Wait, wait, wait.” I whack the baton and take precious time to see that we are all playing the same piece–a happy, march-like tune that if Sousa didn’t write, he should have.

Another down beat and the improvement is palpable.  It helps to be on the same song on the same page.  Hope glimmers.   Several measures have promise.  Then….

“Cellos, [the young fathers of our family who seem to be constantly riveted on football] I think I’m only hearing one note from you.  Could you look a little more closely?  I think you have other notes besides B [which stands for ball, which usually means football] in your score.”

And…

“Flutes, [the little girls] I really appreciate your ability to dance all over the music, but we have to make everything fit together.  Keep with the rhythm, OK?”

And…

“Trombones, [the teenage boys] this is a happy part.”  I whack the baton against the stand a few times until the trombones look at me with a “What?” lurking in their faces.  It’s a good thing I like myself well enough or I just might crumble under one or two of these looks.  “Play it with joy,”  I say.  “Yes.  Yes you can,” I add to their objections.   This job is exhausting.

“Come on, you guys.  Now we have to start all over.  OK, once again.  All eyes on me.  Good.”

I hear a slight improvement.  Things are looking up.

“Oh, oh.  Everyone pause for just a minute.  Piccolo [the baby] is screeching.  Now, now.  It’s going to be all right, little Piccolo.  No one lose your place.  Hang on.  We just need to guide Piccolo over a few rough measures.”

“Violins, [the young moms] I know you have more notes to negotiate than anyone else, but you’re so capable, so dependable, so lovely.”

“Bass, [my other half, the Grandfather] we haven’t heard from you in awhile.  Oh, I see why.  Wake up!  Wake up, Bass!  We need you.  Your deep tones are our foundation.  I heard that, Bass.  Absolutely no grumbling.”

“Ok, once more from the top.  A one, a two a…….”

“No, Snares, not yet.  Bells, hold it.  Cymbal…..The whole percussion section [the little boys] is trying to race us through to the next century.  Patience.  Read your notes.  You don’t come in yet.”

“A little loud there, Trumpets [the middle boys].  I know you have lots to say.  Blend, just blend.  This is not a trumpet solo.  Every part is as important as the next.”

“I think we’re all a little keyed up at the moment.  Let’s just pause,  slow down,  catch our breaths.  Let’s work on this march, but if it ain’t “baroque” we won’t need to fix it.  Ha, Ha.  Just a little humor.  Thought we could use it.  Never mind.  You will all have a chance for solos, but right now we are trying to create a masterpiece together.  A musical harmonious masterpiece.”

We play and we play.  Intermittently the baton comes down–whack, whack, whack.   They’ve heard that sound so often that they don’t pay attention anymore and I let them continue–stray notes intersecting at the corner of Common Time and 3/4, pianissimo always succumbing to forte.  We are into the music.  And though we miss some notes and sour others, there are times, many times, when the music we create is superb.  Soul reaching.  Beautiful.

After we have performed and regrouped and performed again–made mistakes and repented of sorts–we look back on our orchestration of Christmas.  There are no words but “Bravo! Bravo!” and “Encore! Encore!”  With all our imperfections we have outdone ourselves.

I reverently put down the baton, wipe away a joyful tear and vow to make someone else do at least some of the conducting in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIME OUT

 

Time Out 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

The other day our namesake grandson pushed his sister making her cry.  I’m afraid Bapa’s and my voices were a little harsh because Barrett ran off and we couldn’t find him for a while.  After a bit of searching in back bedrooms and closets, we found him sitting dejectedly on the stair.  He had put himself in “Time Out.”

A few days later, Barrett threw a football in the family room which his Bapa didn’t catch.  He’d been told not to throw the ball in the house (it definitely wasn’t Bapa who gave the command since, as always, Bapa was very much in the game) but Barrett threw it anyway, knocking down a lamp with the in-completed pass.  “I’m going to Time Out,” he said and promptly put himself back on the stairs.  This action sounded very much like, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

We all sometimes need a Time Out and it’s better if we recognize and acknowledge it ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to suggest it.   Time Out allows us time to think things over, reevaluate what it is we want to do, make plans for a new direction, breathe.

One of our daughters puts herself in Time Out often.  Her kids think she’s punishing herself but Jana is delighted to go to her room, shut the door and be alone for a while.

When all my kids were little, I used to dream of a long Time Out, preferably at my Aunt Blanche’s in Rexburg, Idaho.  I could’t think of a better place to catch my breath and be well cared for at the same time.  It never happened, of course.  Getting to Rexburg from Gilbert, Arizona, isn’t a very convenient trip.  But I thought about it and what it might feel like to get away from constant requests and unlimited deadlines.

Some of my best Time Outs were Time Ins.  I’d stay home and catch up while Brad took the kids away.  When they returned, I was ready to resume our game plan.

Now that the kids are grown, I still have to put myself in Time Out.  Getting on my bike and driving around the canal while I listen to a good book, working through a Cryptogram puzzle, going to lunch with friends, singing with my daughters–those work.  A favorite Time Out is to get in the car with Brad and drive to the cabin. That makes a good get-away from decision making and demands since there isn’t a whole lot you can do while riding in a car except sip on a 44 ouncer, eat pepper chips and keep the driver awake.

And if family meets us at the cabin, it is the best Time Out of all!

 

 

 

LIZ’S LAWS

IMG_5338 - Version 2 - 2011-07-04 at 11-18-53

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

The other day I gave a suggestion to one of my sons-in-law as he was wiping up a kid’s spill.  I wasn’t trying to be bossy, but maybe it came out that way.  We don’t always see our own faults as well as we see the faults of others.  You know, the “mote and the beam.” (Luke 6:42)

His exasperated response was, “Liz, why don’t you just write up a list of Liz’s Laws, so we’ll know what you want.

Whoa!  What a proposal! What an opportunity!  Why hadn’t I thought of it myself and a long time ago?

So here it is——-Liz’s Laws.  The listings are in random order and not prioritized.  They are not meant to be pointed at anyone in particular.  They apply to everyone generally.  This list is not intended to be all inclusive because I’m sure I’ve forgotten some very major points and I leave myself room to add an addendum at any time.

1.  If you are going to change a diaper, especially on the new carpet in the family room, please put a towel under the baby.

2.  If the diaper is a very smelly one as many are, please change him on a towel on the washer in the laundry room.  That way the smell doesn’t have to linger forever where everyone’s noses are.  But to be truthful, I am so impressed with the men in our family who are willing to be real fathers and change their delightful children, that if this law is overlooked once in a while, I will avert my eyes and nose.

3.  Please do not put cups or glasses or anything containing liquid on a wood surface.  The container will often sweat and leave an unredeemable ring on the wood.  That is what coasters are for–to place those cups on.   Unfortunately, I don’t have any coasters, but you can make do with a magazine or a piece of mail that is sitting around or……….  Never mind–I’ll buy some coasters, if you’ll promise to use them.

4.  Don’t wipe up the floor with a dishtowel.  I know it’s hard to tell the dishtowels from the rags, sometimes, since I use old dishtowels as rags.  But if a cloth is just sitting on the counter it most likely is a dishtowel.  The rags are above the dryer in the laundry room which is in proximity to the kitchen.  And I would rather you use those rags instead of paper towels, too, since they are washable and I don’t have to go out and replace them.

5.  Please don’t scrunch up the couch show pillows and put your head–however clean–on them.  All heads are oily and the scrunch won’t recover if the pillows are used in this manner too often.  These pillows are not replaceable until I buy new couches that come with new pillows.  That will not happen for years.  There are many old pillows in the cupboards in my bathroom and I will be happy to get you one or two upon request.

6.  Please put down the toilet seats–both lids.  This is good Feng Shui.  Also, probably next to impossible.

7.  Don’t put wet towels on beds or hang them over furniture.  They will get everything they touch wet.

8.  If you’re going to wipe off the wood table, which is very much appreciated, by the way, please then wipe it down with a dry cloth.

9.  Do not eat straight out of a pan or bowl that others will be serving themselves from.  I haven’t seen this happen in our family, but it doesn’t hurt to list it just in case someone is tempted to do so.

10.  I know we all wipe our hands on the hanging around dishtowel.  It would be better to use paper towels for that purpose but sometimes the dishtowel is more convenient although much less sanitary. But do you have to wipe your face with it?  Come on!  (And if you are being very good and using paper towels to dry your hands, it only takes one, not five!)

(Oh, oh, I’m feeling myself get a little too paranoid and anxious about these laws.  Maybe I shouldn’t have started.  But there’s more!)

11.  Do not let the kids eat on the carpet or couches.

12.  Do not let the kids touch the pianos, computers, Ipads, or phones.

13.  When wiping off a counter, don’t let the dishcloth drip across the floor.

14.  If kids are going to drink pop, don’t leave 1/2 drunk cans all over.

15.  If you know that your child just might wet the bed, please protect the beds.  I didn’t obey this rule when I was in your position, so I probably don’t have the right to impose this law, but it would save a lot of grief.

16.  When dishing up your kids food, don’t give them more than you know they can eat.  My rule is eat a little, then eat a little, then eat a little.  Wasting food doesn’t go over very well at my house.  See my essay Waste Not Want Not.

17.  Don’t wash kids off with a dishcloth.  Yuck.  Poor kid!  I have lots of clean cloths that would be more appropriate to use.  See #4.

18.  Before laying a sleeping child on the couch, put down a quilt first.  Who doesn’t slobber when they sleep?

So there you have it–Liz’s Laws.  In reading back over them, I see that many have something to do with moisture.  Interesting.

Mostly, however, I realize that they sound very petty and unimportant when what really matters is that you come.  My family is everything to me–all 28 members.  My joy is full when my home is full of you!

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No, No, Not a Squatty Potty!

chinesetoilet

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

“No, No,” Claire almost shouted.  “I hate squatty potties.  No.  I just won’t go.”  And she sat with defiance in the airport as we waited for our flight from Xian to Beijing.  My sentiments were most assuredly with Claire’s.  No squatty potties for me either, but I couldn’t yell my disapprobation as appropriately as seven year old Claire could.

China has the greatest of walls, the most forbidden of cities, and their terra cotta warriors are incredible, but China does not know how to do bathrooms.   The Chinese have an aversion to sit down toilets which they think are very unsanitary.  Well, when you use the squat method with a sit down toilet, they are very unsanitary and you never want to be the one to have to follow a squatter.   But when one is considerate and careful and uses the provided butt gaskets (as Brad calls them), a sit down toilet beats a squatty potty all to porcelain smithereens.

Both Claire and I were in crisis as we sat waiting to board with her family and my beloved Brad because we each were in positive need of a bathroom.  The airplane bathroom was an option but it didn’t sound much better than a squatty potty since most of the people around us were definitely squatters and I’ve had to wipe down an airplane bathroom or two before I’ve been willing to use them.  Besides, it would take too long to board and get situated.

“Come on, Claire,” I cajoled.  “Let’s just see what the bathrooms are like here.  Maybe they aren’t all squatty ones.”

So Claire and I went on a quest which seemed a little fruitless.  Yep, every closed door was hiding a porcelain hole in the ground that one was supposed to squat over. I don’t know how anyone does it gracefully without splashing all over feet, walls and clothes.  Actually, I don’t think it can be done.  The Chinese have much stronger squatting muscles, I know, since they have been squatting for a very long time.

After we passed door after door of the squatters, we came to the end–and there in all its relieving glory was a sit down toilet!  They called it a handicapped toilet and it was set in the far corner of the very long bathroom.  It didn’t even have a privacy door.  I think the handicapped should have something to say about that.  At this point, neither Claire nor I was as finicky about privacy as we would have been with empty bladders.

“OK, Claire, you go first.  I’ll guard the way so no one will see, then you can do the same for me.”

We first had to run to the front of the bathroom to grab toilet paper from a general dispenser.  Thank goodness, it wasn’t empty since it was the only source for the precious commodity.  Claire took care of her business and then just as I was going to run for more toilet paper, two little girls came up.  They, too, were looking for anything but a squatty potty.  I had to beg for their patience.

“Our plane is going to leave in just a minute,” I explained with a whine.  The girls were very kind and waited till I could replenish my toilet paper supply as they charitably kept their eyes averted.  Claire wasn’t nearly as faithful a guard as I had been for her.  She was going to leave me there in the open till I shamed her into turning her back and standing as a sentinel.  I should have asked her to be a Terra Cotta Warrior for me since we had just “oohed” and “awed” over thousands of them.

Modesty had to be flushed, so to speak, for a few moments, but I was speedy.

Enormously relieved, Claire and I washed our hands and shook them dry as we ran to the line that was beginning to board.

 

Mother, Daughter as in “grand”

Share many moments hand in hand

But none shines more on memory’s stone

Than when we paid homage to the throne!

 

 

 

 

 

Gliding On

rocking chair

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I watched it go gliding in its blue refinery in the back of the trailer and something happened to me.  Tears welled and my heart swelled.  That was the rocking chair Brad got me for Mothers Day in 1999–the year I became a Grandmother.  It was a gift to rock my babies in and it was used and used until the cushions were as depleted as an airless balloon, but its gentle gliding motion never gave up on me.  It was a piece of my life moving on to make room for new and more serviceable things–like two heavy duty leather swivel rockers that also recline.

I’m not sure why I got so sentimental in that moment but I just stood watching as the trailer pulled away and the feeling overwhelmed me.  I have often been attacked by that nostalgic poignant feeling that is indescribable and, thankfully, usually fleeting.

That wasn’t the only treasure being pulled away from my life.  My mom’s folding wood table that had seen dinners and lunches for decades was keeping company with the chair.  It was too rickety for daily wear and would need more TLC than I have in me.  But to see it, too, riding down the street like a sovereign going to a guillotine was a little disheartening.

Bits and pieces of our lives are represented by things–just ordinary things, but they hold such meaning and memory.  Do you think when we get to heaven and review our life’s work, that we could enjoy some of those things again?–those things that meant so much in their short allotted time? The ballerina doll that could bend at the ankles so she could dance on her toes?  The yellow metal box that I used to keep crayons (pronounced “crens”) in?  The bracelet that Mom bought me for no reason at all?

Some things seem to have spirits.  They reach out and prompt us of times long past. They pull at our heartstrings and remind us that life has had many moments of joy and glory.

When I get very, very old, please don’t take all my possessions away.  Let me hold on to them and savor their memories until I, too, glide on to other things.