Guest Blogger Robin Burcell

    by Robin Burcell

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
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
my wallet.

‘fess up.  What’s your badge-in-the-wallet thrill?

12 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Robin Burcell

  1. John Purcell

    Hi Sis!

    I don’t have a badge-in-wallet story, not being a cop an all, but I can imagine that people with specialized jobs, or with specialized knowledge, interesting to the public, might get similar thrills.

    As a lawyer, I know I get a little buzz when people discover my occupation, and immediately have questions for me that I can answer, that no one else has been able to answer for them. I think helping other people is the greatest reward of my job, especially when they are are effusively grateful, or the results are better than expected. I would bet that there is a lot of that behind your badge, the altruistic sense of doing something good for a fellow human. When you pull out your wallet and they see the badge, you know that they know that you are one of the good guys.

    So when I get to give a small bit of free advice, I still get the thrill you mention, even 28 years later.

    I won’t see you in Anchorage, but definitely in Baltimore, if you’re going!

  2. pari

    I have two, Robin.

    Like you, the writer loves to be discovered; it’s such a high.

    The other one is my familiarity with a bunch of other languages (and having lived in France and Hong Kong) . . . beneath this housewifey exterior lurks a polyglot.

  3. Maryann

    My badge-in-the-wallet is more like the lanyard-around-my neck that IDs me as a bookseller. I’ve been part time on the book floor for six years and still love that fact that I can point people to great books, and thye come back and thank me :o) Haven’t had any moments in the writing world yet, but I’m working on it.

  4. Louise Ure

    Great post, Robin.

    I guess my badge-in-the-wallet thrill comes from my Shamus Award. Like your coffee mugs, awards and the badge itself, it says to the world: Somebody thinks I can do this job. It’s validation, even if you’re the only one who sees that badge or plaque.

  5. Kathryn Lilley

    I used to work as a contract writer for a well-known YA mystery series under a pseudonym (can’t name the series in public, but it rhymes with “Fancy Brew”). When people find out I once wrote for that particular series, their eyes light up. That makes me feel good!

  6. a Paperback Writer

    Mine’s not a thrill so much as it is a source of amusement. When Americans (this doesn’t work in other countries; I’ve tried it.) ask me what I do for a living and I reply, “I teach junior high,” their reaction is nearly always either “Oh! You must be a saint!” or “That’s awful. How do you stand it?” It’s quite funny, really, to see the strong reaction it provokes from nearly everyone.

  7. Robin Burcell

    I’m very glad to be back for another guest spot. I’ve been gone all day, but here I am, finally!

    Brother John! I can’t believe you decided to visit! Thanks! And you’re right. Being able to help every now and then always makes it worth it.

    Pari! Now I’m going to have to look at you in a whole new light. It must be fascinating being able to understand multiple foreign languages (never mind having lived in foreign countries for a time.) I’m envious on both counts.

    Maryann, your lanyard-round-the-neck is a true badge of honor in my book. Not near enough knowledgeable booksellers around these days. And when you find one, they are worth their weight in gold. (Ask for a raise, now!)

    And Louise, having read Forcing Amaryllis, there is no doubt that the Shamus is the first of many in what promises to be a very nice and award-filled career.

    Kathryn! Oh m’gosh! I don’t know if you can see it, but my eyes certainly lit up, even though you can’t name the series. Can’t tell you the nights I spent up too late with the flashlight beneath the covers, trying to finish the books on a school night!

    And last but not least, Paperback Writer. My husband also teaches junior high. I can so relate. He loves his job, BTW.

  8. B.G. Ritts

    Some thirty plus years ago, while in an airport restroom, another woman came in who had broken the zipper on her dress. She was a bit frantic about what to do. I introduced myself and told her I worked for a zipper company. She couldn’t believe her good luck. Yes, I was able to repair it.


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