Gilbert police


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!




737-700 K62601

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I think that for every flight taken throughout the whole world there is someone who makes a solemn commitment to never fly again.  This last trip did it for me.  The going and coming were both filled with frustration.  I possibly walk through the door marked “Frustration” more than is needed due to my easily frustrate-ability, but this trip made me walk in and out of it like it was a swinging restaurant door.

The frustration began when we tramped up to the Southwest Airline ticket counter last Thursday morning. We needed to get our boarding passes and check our burgeoning luggage–always with an eye on that fifty-pound-limit scale.  As Brad remembered to retrieve his boarding pass, which he doesn’t always do, he held it up and with dismay in his voice groaned, “C45?!”  I had forgotten to enter the frantic online race to get an “A” position. I groaned, too.  I hate to be one of the last ones on the plane, scrambling for a seat and having to crawl over legs to sit between two unsmiling humans who are obviously upset that their space has been invaded.

Then as we wound and wound and wound our way through the banded barriers and up to the dreaded conveyor belt, I dared to walk past two men who were kneeling, getting stuff out of their carryons.  One of the guys said in a very stern, overweight voice, “Lady, we’re all waiting in line!”  I mewed a pitiful “Sorry,” as I got back behind them.  That reprimand from an unpleasant ugly stranger stayed with me for hours.  No, for days.  I still feel it.

We had the perfect trip once we got in our rental car.  We visited the Seattle Welcome Home facility, watched them throw fish at the Pike’s Place Fish Market, rode the ferry to Vancouver Island, and delighted in the Butchart Gardens.  Half of us delighted in the Butchart Gardens.  The most important part of the trip was spending a whole day with our son at the Welcome Home facility in Vancouver.  Thorough transformation happens there! If you know of a drug addict that needs some changing, we are always eager to talk about Welcome Home.

Back at the airport, the swinging door labeled “Frustration” got back into action.  The lines were abominable.  They wove in and out without sense.  When I finally got close to the human X-ray machine, the lady ahead of me stalled and I was redirected to a pat down employee–female, thank goodness.  Did you know that you have to be patted down if you’re wearing a long dress?  What is that all about?  I had to put one foot forward while said employee annoyingly patted, then the other foot forward while she did the same.  I was then told to pivot.  Pivot?  I obviously pivoted wrong because I had to reposition my feet until she was totally finished with my complete humiliation which was done in front of the world. The world was well represented anyway.

“I’m never flying again,” I said to Brad who waited patiently while I put on my shoes, my necklace, my watch and my sweatshirt and put my “liquid” pouch back in my bag along with my iPad and boarding pass.

We were a little late getting to the gate, but nature was calling.  Unfortunately, Seattle has sorely underestimated the number of women who might need to use the bathroom while in its airport and those lines were backed up, too.  I waited and hurried and got to the gate to find that the hurry wasn’t necessary.  The flight was delayed.  Then it was delayed a little longer.

An hour past departure time we were finally on our way to Phoenix.  Ah.  I even got an aisle seat even though our boarding passes were way into the “B”s.  That was thanks to Brad who ended up sitting in the middle of two very kind women.  They chatted together the whole time.  Brad is an excellent conversationalist.  I’m sure the women were much happier with him in their midst than they would have been with me.

I was so glad I had determined to use the bathroom in the airport and was very sorry I didn’t also take the opportunity to use the bathroom in the plane because just before we were to arrive in Phoenix, the pilot made a depressing announcement.  A storm was blowing hard in Phoenix and we were being rerouted to Las Vegas.  I heard “Las Vegas” past my headset that was playing Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got. I thought I had heard wrong or that the pilot was having a little fun with his already anxious passengers.  But nope.  It was Las Vegas.  My eyes glazed over as I saw everyone rush to line up for the plane’s two tiny bathrooms.  I didn’t join them but should have.

We were supposed to land in Phoenix at 6:00 p.m.  Friends were going to pick us up and take us to an important dinner that started at 7:00.  We missed it.  Thankfully our friends were made aware of the plane’s delay and they were able to attend the dinner.  I was happy for that.

We didn’t get home till 10:45, tired and ruffled.  But we did get home.  That is always a blessing.  I’m glad the pilot didn’t attempt to land the plane in bad weather.  I’m glad that the crew was cheerful and helpful.  I’m glad that when I finally made it to the plane’s bathroom that it was surprisingly clean and equipped with necessities.  I’m glad that our luggage made the flight with us even though we had to wait a very long time for it to appear on the carousel. I’m glad it only took us about eight hours to get from Seattle to Phoenix instead of a driver’s twenty-two hours.

OK, maybe I’ll fly again.












Buddy and Livvi

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I do not like dogs.  The only thing they have going for them is that they are 50 times better than cats.  For some reason the word “cat” puts a shiver down my bones.  I don’t know why I wasn’t blessed with an animal loving gene.  I think when the lines were queuing in Heaven for various attributes, I stood far too long in the Music lines, constantly looking over at the Photography and Writing and Speaking lines to make sure I could eventually get into them.  There was no time to wait in the Animal Loving line before I was whisked to earth and set down in Rexburg, Idaho, during a blinding snow storm.

But Brad loves dogs and has to have one.  We’ve been through many as a family: Chisum, Beau, Alamo, Chorizo, Mariah, Ike, Jeremiah, Sammi and Bailey to name a few.  We’ve had Golden Retrievers, Australian Shepherds, Mutts, Irish Setters, Samoyeds, Dachshunds, and Brad’s current breed: St. Bernards.

Brad’s favorite dog of all time has the distinction of having his ashes, housed in a beautiful southwestern urn, grace our mantel at the cabin.  Brad still sobs as he remembers Bailey and his last day with him.  Brad helped Bailey into the back of the Sequoia to take him to his final Vet appointment and together they visited their favorite mountain haunts. I was invited to join them on this journey of nostalgia, but thankfully I was wise enough to know when three’s a crowd.   Brad even shared a Navajo Taco with Bailey in the quaint town of McNary.  It was to be Bailey’s last meal on this planet.  Most likely on any planet.  I don’t have a complete handle on what happens to dogs after they die and I’m not sure I believe that movie title of “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”


Bailey, of course, was a St. Bernard–a hairy, slobbery St. Bernard who would sprawl across our kitchen floor since it was way too hot to be outside.  Everyone knows that St. Bernards have no business living in the Arizona desert.  Bailey developed bone cancer and the inevitable was soon approaching.  Brad couldn’t possibly put the dog down himself even though he thought he might try.  I’m glad he let the professionals do it because Bailey’s death is already emotional enough for Brad.  He doesn’t need the memory of his own hand doing the deed.

Bailey was a nice dog as dogs go.  The grandkids loved him and he even put himself between me and a vicious neighbor dog once.  But stepping in slobber gets a little annoying and sweeping up dustpans full of hair isn’t a picnic either.  And the smell!  Every dog I have ever known has DO…dog odor.  When the animal is as big as a bear, the smell is magnified considerably.  For some reason, Brad’s nose doesn’t register the disgust of DO.  Even after a thorough $80 grooming, that dog smell comes through, but Brad thinks it smells wonderful. Hmmmm.  Feeding a St. Bernard is a little taxing, too.  And tripping over it…well, that gets a little old.

Knowing that Bailey wasn’t long for this world, I put in my sincere recommendation that the next Barrett dog not be a St. Bernard.  It was too much to ask that there not be a next Barrett dog at all.

My opinion isn’t taken into account on very many occasions, however, and in a couple of weeks after Bailey’s demise, another huge St. Bernard was lolling across our kitchen floor.   This one’s name is Buddy.  Not very original, but that’s the name he came with from the St. Bernard rescue team.  Buddy, too, is loved by Brad and the grandkids and barely tolerated by me.

I don’t know how a dog of any kind got past the barriers of the outside doors.  I must have put down my guard for a moment because my absolute rule of no dogs in the house has been unobserved for a long time now.  My next adamant proclamation was, “OK, then.  Absolutely no dogs in the living room!”  But both Bailey and Buddy have been know to plop their beastly bodies on the living room couches looking as comfortable as basking sunbathers.  I feel like I have a cooked lasagne noodle for a backbone.

Today I am reminded of my animosity for dogs because Buddy just ate the cinnamon rolls I had on the counter!  When I complained to Brad, Brad said it was my fault.  I should never have left them there.  Really!

Our marriage of 42 years is founded on profound admiration, love and put-up-with-ness.  Brad puts up with my needs and I put up with his.  But as I trip over Buddy for the 17th time this afternoon, attempt to brush his prolific hair off my black pants and take a slide in his spit, I would like it to go on record that, although Buddy is the St. Bernard, I am the Saint!


A Slow Quote to China

China 1 036


 Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I accomplished something so great today that I think I ought to receive an award.  After around two weeks of searching, pondering, calling, disputing, figuring and befuddling, I purchased two round trip tickets to Beijing, China, on the Internet.

It would have been easier if computer program people didn’t delight in tripping you up on the very last step.  I couldn’t figure out how to purchase the ticket that I had finally chosen from a long list of options.

It didn’t help either that I had to keep asking my daughter who lives in China what she thought about the choice of airline, the choice of day, the choice of time and the fairness of the price.  When I most needed to talk to her,  she was most asleep.  Beijing time is 15 hours ahead of ours which I am getting pretty good at computing.

Computing the airline time was much harder.  I didn’t know that 12:00 PM means noon.  Did you?  Why doesn’t it mean midnight?  For the correctness of the return trip, I had to calculate backwards from when the plane lands in Phoenix after first landing in San Francisco– which is in a different time zone from us–and then add how many hours the flight from China to San Francisco is to finally figure out if 12:00 PM meant noon or midnight.   That makes a difference when you’re asking someone to take you to an airport.  My head was spinning.  It was too much math for me.

Finally I could choose the best outgoing and incoming flights but, as I said, I couldn’t find the button that would make that happen.  After some work, I found the phone number for United Airlines, thinking that a real person could book the flight for me.  The answerer informed me that that would add $25 to the price, so instead I let her pass me over to the tech center.

Anyone at a tech center that I have ever called in my hour of desperation hasn’t spoken the same English that I speak and this was no exception. It took several clarification exchanges before I finally understood that in order to “select” a certain flight, I had to hit the “select” button.  Oh!   I had seen that button but it looked like a style of flight not a button of selection.    United, you can do better than that!  It makes me really love Southwest Airlines because it is straight forward and understandable and when you call them to help you, they don’t charge another $25.  Unfortunately, Southwest  doesn’t fly to Beijing.

I think every company who writes computer programs for services used by ordinary people like me should allow some of us to try out their programs while the writers are watching from behind two-way mirrors.  I believe that is what they do at Fischer Price Toys.  They bring in real children to play with their new products while innovators watch to see where they are lacking.  As a “real person” I could show various computer programs where they are lacking in clarity and understanding.  If they could get me to understand them, most of the world could understand them.

Anyway, I was giddy after my success.  We have been to China before but not with the added joy of spending our time with beloved family members.  That is the best way to travel. So China, set out some extra chopsticks ‘cause here we come!