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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HOW DO YOU FEEL?

Jack Benny circa 1959 © 1978 Glenn Embree

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18:  Deepak Chopra attends The Chopra Well Launch Event at Espace on July 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by D Dipasupil/WireImage)

Elizabeth Willis Barrett……………..May 2015

When I was in High School I played the violin in the school orchestra.  I don’t think I was ever first chair but perhaps I had that honor for a week or two.  Back then not many were taking private violin lessons so the competition wasn’t so great.  Our foreign exchange student Rafael from Italy played the violin, too.

One day Jack Benny came to town.  For those of you much younger and unknowledgeable about historic stars, Jack Benny was a comedienne and entertainer.  He died in 1974 so you might have missed him.  In some of his acts, he played the violin, albeit badly, for comedic effect.  For some reason Rafael and I were asked to have our picture taken with him because we, too, played the violin.  Perhaps because we didn’t play so well, either.  I don’t know.

I wish I were a rememberer of details so I could tell a more accurate and spellbinding story.  But I don’t remember where we were for the picture.  I’m sure Jack Benny didn’t come to Westwood High School for this marvelous opportunity.  Unfortunately I don’t remember much about this significant event in my life except that I was having a bad hair day—which is always a thing to remember—and that this picture made it into the Mesa Tribune, the local newspaper.  If I were in total control of my faculties and scrapbooks, I would scan the picture for you.

But most of all—and this is what my point is—I remember how Jack Benny made me feel.  He didn’t smile.  He cared nothing for Raphael or me.  He wasn’t interested in us.  We were the little people and he was the star and he was putting up with this photo shoot because for some reason he had to.  For all the times he had made people laugh and for all of his fame and most likely great wealth—although he always joked about pinching pennies—he didn’t know how to treat the people that didn’t matter to him.

Just last week I had a similar experience.  I was very lucky to be able to attend an event where Deepak Chopra was the keynote speaker.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Deepak Chopra, he is a prolific writer, speaker and New Age guru.  We were also in the pre-luncheon group that met for a question and answer session with him.  His answers were wise and insightful as he stood before us in his loose jeans, red tennis shoes and Indian shirt which may or may not be called a kurta.  Since we were at a ribbon cutting for a wonderful new drug rehab facility, some of the questions were asked by concerned parents of newly reformed drug addicts.  Dr. Chopra knew so much and talked about the importance of ………..of……………  I don’t remember what he said!  And maybe this is why:

That night was a final gathering with wonderful food and company.  I saw Dr. Chopra sitting at a table surrounded by adoring fans.  When some of them left his side and it looked like he might be uncomfortably alone for a moment, I hesitantly approached him to ask my question.

“Dr. Chopra, do one of your books address the problems of addiction?”

He looked at me like I was intruding on his transcendental  meditation.  Without a smile, a greeting, or any gesture of welcome, he simply answered in a very dead pan voice:

Overcoming Addiction.”

There was nothing for me to do but say a meek “thank you” and go stand in the non-alcoholic cocktail line.

Maybe I was asking too much.  Maybe I had looked forward to meeting him for too long and had imagined a much warmer encounter.  Maybe I am just way too sensitive.  But the guy has written approximately eighty-two books with titles that include The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription.  Don’t you think that in all of that research and all of that writing he would have picked up some pointers on how to make others feel accepted and welcomed?  Has he not learned how to treat the little people who have bought his books and attended his seminars and brought him to his great success?

Maybe I caught both Jack and Deepak in the “off” position.  No one can be “on” all the time.  But even the big guys should know that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If I’m ever in a “star” position—and it’s looking a little late for that—I hope I’ll remember how I want to make people—all people—feel.  And truly, at one time or another, we are each a “star” to someone.

Carl W. Buehner has been credited with saying, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

He was right—you never forget.

A LITTLE SAMPLER OF LIFE

 

cross_stitch_samplers

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………October 19, 2014

When I was little, I went to Primary—faithfully.  I usually walked.  Once I called my Aunt Mona and asked her to take me but she said no.  It wasn’t that far and she knew I could easily walk it in about seven minutes.  Mom was at work or I certainly wouldn’t have asked Aunt Mona.  She would have felt really badly if I had been kidnapped on the way.  I think.  I never tried the Aunt Mona avenue of travel again.  I loved Primary.  We’d have opening exercises and then go into classes.

Do you think that in the hereafter we will get our full memories back?  Because right now I can’t remember sitting in class.  I easily remember that one of my Primary teachers was killed in a terrible car accident.  I can still feel a deep sorrow with that memory.  That was the first time I learned that someone in MY church could die unexpectedly.  I was pretty sheltered.  Anyway it was a terrible blow to her family and to all of us who knew her.  It shook my faith.  So God doesn’t always protect you even when you pray every day, “…….and let no harm or accident befall us”?

I just read on the Internet (and how could that ever be wrong?) that nine, ten and eleven year old Primary girls became LiHoMas.  And all this long while, I thought we were called Liahonas, named after the golden instrument of direction found by Lehi in the desert in the Book of Mormon.  But nope!  I guess we were LiHoMas which stood for Little Home Makers.  Whew!  I like Liahonas much better!

To be more specific, the nine year old girls were named Larks, the ten year old girls were named Bluebirds and the eleven year old girls were named Seagulls.  The most significant thing from Primary that I remember is making a sampler.  I really need to find mine so I can scan it and let you see it.  It is a real work of art.  I still remember what was so carefully stitched onto that sampler in cross stitch of various colors:

Greet the Day With a Song

Make Others Happy

Serve Gladly

My friend Louise and I used to work on our samplers together once in awhile.  I was a very tall LiHoMa and she was a small one.  Once she wanted to work on our samplers in a top cupboard in their guest room.  Why?  I don’t know!  But my body didn’t quite fold as well as hers did and that experience might have added to my extreme claustrophobia.

I am proud of myself for getting my sampler completed at all since many craft projects like that never make it to finé. Maybe the finishing of it gave me an extra doodad on my bandlo which I thought was called a bandalo—a felt thing you wore around your neck like a long collar.   Neither of those words is in the dictionary, by the way.  Interesting what you can learn on the internet.  My whole childhood could be changed if I’m not careful of what I look up.

Anyway, aren’t those wonderful words?  The words on my sampler, I mean.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to put them into practice and see what happens.

IN DEFENSE OF SARAH’S MOM

TemplepillsLisa Ling

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………Oct 14, 2014

The other day I watched “This is Life with Lisa Ling: Inside Utah’s Struggle with Drug Abuse.”  She showed that even though Mormons have a strict health guide, they are still falling in high numbers to the addiction of pain pills.  I felt that she was very compassionate in her interviews.  She attended a Mormon Addiction Recovery Program meeting, spoke with a Mormon Bishop and in addition to others, met with a very candid girl named Sarah.

I didn’t learn about the danger of prescription pills until my son was in high school.  He went to a friend of mine who worked in the school’s bookstore and asked her for one of her pain pills.   Very responsibly, this friend called me before giving him one.  She told me that Jeffrey had come to her saying that his back really hurt.  As a football player, Jeffrey had many reasons to have a hurting back.  I told her it was OK to give him one of her pills.  Unbelievable, I know.  Looking back, I am astounded at my naiveté.  I had no idea that I had just given my consent to an addiction that would become so full blown that we wouldn’t see the end of it for fifteen years.  I knew nothing about addictions and, of course, nothing about the role pills play in dependency.

Drugs were so out of my realm of consciousness.  I had five nearly perfect children.  It was very interesting to watch the Ling program because it stressed the obsession we as Mormons tend to have with perfection.  We don’t want anyone to know that our family might be having problems, so disasters like drug addiction can be swept under the rug of denial for years.  Although that’s probably not solely a Mormon dilemma.

Lisa showed how easy it is to get addicted.  Many start innocently with prescription pills given by a well-meaning doctor.  When pills get too scarce or expensive many turn to heroin and other illegal drugs.  Addicts need their next hit just like everyone needs their next breath of oxygen and they’ll do about anything to get it.

When Lisa Ling was interviewing Sarah—a full blown heroin addict—she asked her if she wanted to quit.  “More than you’ll know,” said Sarah.  Lisa also asked Sarah what she wanted.  Sarah’s answer was that she just wanted a hug from her Mom.

Sarah’s Mom, who was never named, might have sounded like an unfeeling woman, one who wouldn’t even hug her daughter.  But not to me.  I have been that mom to some degree and I praise her for her courage.  It takes a lot of courage to divorce your addicted child and let her determine on her own that she is ready to pay the price for sobriety.  I would guess that Sarah’s Mom has already spent years hugging and encouraging and saving Sarah from the consequences of her disastrous choices.  After all, she is raising Sarah’s child which is a difficult thing to do after raising your own children.  I would also assume that Sarah’s Mom has been lied to and stolen from because that is what addicts do—they lie and they steal.  Enough is enough.

Brad and I have had many couples sitting in our living room trying to absorb any advice we can give them about dealing with their own addicted children.  We tell them all the same thing that a recovered addict told us:  “There is nothing you as a parent can do or say that will change your child.  They are the ones who have to decide when they are really ready to walk the difficult path of recovery.”  We also tell them of helps that are available to parents and meetings that would strengthen their resolve.  Most parents don’t like our advice.

I am assuming that Sarah’s Mom finally arrived at the point we all must come to: we are not helping our children by enabling them.  We are not helping our children by giving them a nice place to live and driving them places and paying for their needs.  They will never recover until it is harder to be an addict than it is to be sober.  When we make life easy for them,  addicted children continue farther down that destructive path and there is no retrieving them.  Our son wasn’t willing to get ultimate help until he had been homeless for about a year—living behind dumpsters and on the canal bank in a bush, panhandling for money to get more drugs.  We couldn’t coddle him anymore.  We couldn’t bring him home.  We had to go on with our lives and let him go on with his even though his path might lead to death.

So to Sarah’s Mom I would say that there are many imperfect Mormon Moms who are behind you right now, wishing you the best and saying, “Hang in there, Sarah’s Mom.  You are doing the right thing.  The only right thing!”

I wish I could tell Sarah that although she wants to be clean she didn’t sound like she was quite ready to throw herself into a program where she’d have to give her all into getting well.  With the nation watching, I imagine that many would step up to help her into a rehab if she had said that she was ready and willing to go right now.  But when she is done, truly done with her addiction, there is help for her.

Our son finally got the help he needed in a 24 month program that changed his thinking and his life.  It is called the John Volken Academy . It was started by a wonderful philanthropist and costs next to nothing. Two years seems like a very long time to be in a program, but the many expensive thirty day and three month programs worked only for a little while and then the addiction returned.  When you are deep into addiction, a few months isn’t going to pull you out. Thanks to John Volken we have our son back—our wonderful son.

And one day, Sarah, if you are willing to make recovery your first and only priority, your Mom will get you back .  And, I promise, the hugs won’t stop.

MATCHY, MATCHY

zebras

In breaking my writing hiatus, I should probably think of something positive to write about in order to possibly gain back my following.  This has been a season of distraction wherein I have lost sight of my writing goals and lost sight of my readers.  You can’t retain readers if you don’t give them something to read.

But just to get it out of my head, I have a need to write about something that might be controversial to some.  I hope it won’t be offensive.  It might be.  Sorry.  At least it won’t be as controversial as another subject I have been musing on which is School Boards.  I hope I find enough energy to tackle that topic some day.

For now, I want to talk about stripes.  I hope you are all tough and don’t get offended easily but I have to say it:  Stripes have to match! With all these stripy skirts and shirts walking around, the scene would be so much lovelier if the stripes matched.

I know, I am hardly the one to be talking about a fashion faux pas since I make many myself daily. I am rather fashion un-conscious. But maybe if we each spoke out about one or two things that really bug us, the rest of us could become more aware and make some important changes.

When I was doing my student teaching in Orem, Utah, as a Home Ec Ed student, out of all the things I learned from the very kind Home Ec teacher at Lincoln Junior High, the only thing I remember is this:  “When sewing, make sure you always match your stripes.  And never buy an article of clothing if the stripes don’t match.” (I also learned that I never wanted to teach Home Ec which was a little late since I was in my very last semester of college.)

I was in Kohl’s the other day and should have nonchalantly whipped out my phone and taken a picture to show you what I mean.  There were some potentially cute skirts displayed right at the front door where they couldn’t be missed.  Long.  Knit. White and navy blue.  Wide striped.  You see that style everywhere.  And the stripes didn’t match.  They would have been so much cuter if they had.  They were probably cut from an enormous stack of fabric of all different patterns and then whipped together by seamstresses oblivious to equivalency. Prices have to be kept down, of course.  But I have seen the same shoddiness in skirts sold at boutiques.

Look around you sometime.  Pay attention.  Unmatched stripes down the side of a shirt or skirt look like someone didn’t take extra care in putting the piece together.  And unmatched stripes across a hefty backside looks like someone didn’t own a rear view mirror.

This is my own personal and I know, inconsequential, crusade.  Let’s put some effort into matching stripes.  Maybe if we could match in this minor detail we could work up to matching things that really matter—like minds and hearts.

Don’t Burp With Your Head Down and Other Timely Advice

advice-column-1

by Elizabeth Willis Barrett

If you have ever burped with your head down, you already know that it can be unpleasant and if you haven’t, don’t.  That’s all that needs to be said on that subject.

The other bit of advice is this:  if you are turning on the garbage disposal, don’t put your hand in its vicinity to catch the spray before it gets on your brand new shutters.  For one thing, the rubber stopper should prevent any spraying and for another, there might be a mis-laid knife spinning in the disposal that could do you some considerable bodily harm.

The other day I did and it did.  Before Brad gasped and offered his condolences for my mutilated hand (actually, he never got to the gasp), he said exactly what I was thinking:“That was a really stupid thing to do!”  Then he kept going, “Why would you put your hand down by the disposal?  That’s what the gasket is for, to keep the stuff from spraying out.  How stupid!  Why did you do that?”

I wailed hysterically as I held my left hand motherly with my right hand, waiting for blood to splash on our brand new wood floor.  But even before I looked at my hand to see if I would ever again be able to play superbly mastered accompaniments on the piano, I attempted to set things straight. “Brad,” I howled, “I know it was a stupid thing to do!  You don’t have to tell me!  Do you think I’ll ever put my hand by a running disposal again?  No, of course I won’t!”  Then I looked at my hand.

After the initial shock of pain and betrayal from a once friendly disposal, I guessed what had happened.  I had let a sharp knife fall into the disposal unnoticed and it was tall enough to raise it’s biting teeth above the disposal’s opening.  When I flipped the switch and put my protecting hand down, the knife could only spin and bite.  So it did.  Ouch!

I bravely opened my aching hand to take inventory, and found a bleeding gouge in the center of my palm with four other cuts oozing red. Besides being cut, my hand felt battered and bruised, probably because it had been battered and bruised if only briefly.  It could have been worse.

Brad was very kind after he vented his frustration at my stupidity and after days of bandaids and Neosporin, I think I can play the piano without any problem.  I still feel some pain, however.

So, just a reminder: when turning on a garbage disposal, keep your hands away from the opening.

If I think of any more advice, I’ll pass it on.  No sense in all of us making the same mistakes.