Listening to Gina as she navigated through her, um, adventure this week with the Italian Police (and now reading about it over on her side of the blog) got me thinking about all the different stories I could tell you about my own run-ins with the law here in America. Not that there have been many. (Hi, mom!) A speeding ticket in college, a busted-up keg party and a small fine (in college), the time a parade of New York City’s finest came streaming through Noah’s bedroom in Brooklyn when he was three. They ran past him, asleep in his toddler bed, and then climbed out of his window and onto the fire escape where a fugitive of one kind of another (probably a small time pot dealer who had wandered across the street from Prospect Park looking to unload) had climbed up and into the apartment above us.
I considered recounting the tale of the loathsome police officer who walks the beat here in Cold Spring–she’s a small town cop with a big-city ego who gives out scores of tickets every weekend (to the tourists who come to Main Street to eat and shop, and to the kids who ride their scooters down by the river without helmets). She’s reputed to hand over the penalties with a sassy and sinister sneer, “I guess I just ruined your day, huh?”
I also thought about the time a thunderous, gigantic and probably deranged German Shepard had been left by his owners for three days inside the downstairs apartment of the house I was living in and how the kind, gentle and very handsome sheriff I called to report the abandonment waited with me (and the wild dog who was careening against the window screens at us and bearing his teeth) until Animal Control came and took the wild beast away.
We Americans have wildly divergent opinions about authority figures and our judgements of law enforcement officers are probably the most inconsistent of all. We revere them (after tragedies) or vilify them (during protests) depending, of course, on our perspective of the matter at hand. There is usually little room for middle ground. To an extent, I have a similar maladjustment to the police’s omniscience in our world. I like to have cops around when I’m walking alone at night or when there’s a madman roaming the woods in the forest down the road (true story). But I want them to leave me alone when one of the brake lights in my car is out or I’m driving too fast on the highway upstate. It’s an unfair attitude, to be sure.
I will say that the scariest part of Gina’s story–for me–is the part about how she was alone with these guys at her house for two hours. For those of you who know Gina, she’s a woman of diminutive stature. Also, beautiful. And while I’m not suggesting she can’t kick some ass when she needs to (because she can kick some ass), it’s exactly these precarious situations that authority figures–like police officers with a van and guns–can put a person in that makes it so hard for me to completely buy in to their good intentions.
I think this doubt is what fuels one of my most often imbibed-in vices: binge watching Law & Order: SVU.
You know…the crime drama that touts the practice of highlighting sexually based offenses? I can consume a half dozen episodes of the show without pause. One after another, like a macabre freight train, they pass by me; car after car filled with gore and blood and bad news. Netflix has seasons 1-12 available with one touch to my iPad screen. On Tuesdays, TBS runs the show from dawn until midnight. It’s like a heroin delivery. Typically I choose Tuesdays to clean the house or do laundry so I can feed my habit, unchecked (I’ve found that cleaning toilets and folding clothes goes well with the story lines). It occurs to me as I write this that I root for Benson & Stabler to collar rapists with the same fervor that my mother rooted for Luke & Laura to fall in love. Interesting.
I’m curious about what it is about the series that makes it nearly impossible for me to turn away from it–even from episodes I’ve already seen four times. It could be unchecked consumption, after all this is America, but I think my devotion is more primal than that. Bearing witness to my nightmare Hollywood-created as it is, again and again and AGAIN dulls the edges of its terror somehow. And that leaves me feeling safe, until my next fix anyway. It doesn’t make sense, really, but I know that watching the show lulls me into a sense of security and, I guess, the belief that because Olivia is out there kicking ass, all police officers are good.
Sometimes I need to believe that.
I seem to have wandered off the point a little bit here–SVU? Really? While Gina is dealing with a very real horror & hardship that could, itself, be an episode of some kind of show? (I’m hoping, perhaps, that this whole thing will end up being sitcom-funny for all involved in a few months.)
Nonetheless, it seems obvious that the universality of our reactions and fears remain consistent no matter the language we’re speaking. And so does the impulse to help. It’s difficult for me to sit here and not be able to drive Zo & Leeloo to school (like I did when they had car issues here) or deliver a few bags of groceries. Or soup. Or offer to take Gina to the DMV (and lunch afterwards). I imagine, for her, it’s even more difficult to not be able to ask.
Here and There. Sometimes it seems so very, very close and yet other times…