I was first sworn in, a rookie officer fresh out of the academy (maybe
even a year or two after that), I harbored a secret: I thought it was
cool when someone found out I was a cop–especially when I didn’t
tell them. Almost like a voyeurism of sorts. But more exciting
to me was the thrill of the conversation that followed.
Sounds weird, but bear with me.
night, after I peeled off that uniform, I unpinned my badge and carefully
pinned it inside my wallet, which had a little flap that covered the
badge, so that when you took out the wallet at the grocery store, the
badge wasn’t being flashed to everyone. Even so, if you happened to
be looking at the right angle, you could see the finished edge of the
brass and silver badge, and there was no mistaking what that was, at
least not to me. I loved pulling out that wallet out and seeing the
gleaming metal. But that thrill was nothing in comparison to the conversation
that usually took place when someone else saw it, say the cashier at
the grocery store.
“Oh, you’re a cop?”
don’t look like one.”
that’s where the thrill came. To me, that was the ultimate compliment.
I’m sure there’s some psychoanalytical mumbo jumbo to explain this–something
I’m sure I don’t want to hear. But to me it was like someone
discovering I had superpowers, when in fact I really resembled the mild-mannered
bookkeeper that I was before I changed professions.
a number of years on the job, I stopped carrying the badge in my wallet.
I left it pinned to the shirt in my locker. I no longer wanted anyone
to know what I did for a living, and that special little thrill of seeing
the gleaming metal in the wallet faded. I much preferred my private
life being separate from my professional life. Cleaner that way.
Looking back at most of the officers I’ve known over the years, same
is true for them. The excitement wears off and reality sets in. You
can always tell a rookie because he’s the one wearing his basket weave
belt home on his jeans, because he knows that anyone who is up on their
TV watching will know what he does for a living. The veterans simply
shake their heads, reminisce a bit, knowing they were once there, though
few will admit it.
have since moved on in my life. My honorary framed badge, name plate
and patch given to me when I left my first department after eighteen
years is tucked away in a cupboard, no longer displayed. I have other
mementoes on my shelves now. Awards proudly displayed next to mugs sporting
one of my book covers, each given to me by a local bookseller when I
signed at her store. It’s not a blatant in-your-face display, but
it’s much like the badge in the wallet, where I hope someone will
notice when they walk into my house and pass my office. These days,
the only folks who pass my office on their way down the hall are neighborhood
kids, who would probably be more excited if those mugs sported Gossip
Girl covers, assuming they noticed them in the first place.
admit to getting that same thrill, when someone asks if I write. And,
still being a rookie in the book business, I’ll enjoy it as long as
I can. Though a part of me would like to get so big that hiding my profession
is the next thing, another part of me enjoys the minor celebrity status,
just as I did when someone noticed the gleaming edge of that badge in
‘fess up. What’s your badge-in-the-wallet thrill?