It was a Sunday morning. Typical Sunday morning. That means that I had all the streets to myself... except for the regular Grandpa walking his way to the coffee shop. Probably like he had every morning for the last 30 years or so.
I was bored. I was tired. I was a little depressed.
You see, this was at the start of my law enforcement career and I was a reserve officer, volunteering two shifts a week in order to gain a sponsorship to the police academy where I hoped to gain a full time accreditation.
I had forsaken a career that I studied four years of college for. Now I spent my nights wearing a minimum wage loss prevention uniform for a local Big Box electronics retailer and hustling wedding reception security jobs for our local church hall.
I was just sort of wallowing in my doldrums when my mood went right to pissed off. In the weeds, right next to the residential area of our town was a shiny, brand new looking BMX bike.
"GHEEZE!" I thought. "Some irresponsible kid went off to explore the trails and left his bike right here where anyone can just take it. Serves him right if it disappears..."
Yeah, that was my official, pissy attitude of the day. I just drove on by.
Couple hours later, I had completely forgotten about the bike until I drove by it again.
"Stupid kid..." but I also started to think about doing my duty and collecting the bike as found property.
Nah. If I did that, then I'd have to write it down in the big property log book, put a tag on it, then hump it down to the basement storage room of our PD. Wall-to-wall crap packed into an old coal room tighter than sardines in a can. That place was a dusty, musty death trap in my eyes. Sort of a scene out of the Hoarders TV show... that's what you get when you 'work' at a small town PD.
I sulked about that damn bike all afternoon, driving by on occasion, hoping it would be gone.
Then finally, at a quarter till three I bit the bullet and threw it in the trunk of my squad. I grumbled when I dragged that thing up the stairs to the squad room. I whined the entire time I filled out all the paperwork then finally I just tossed the bike onto the load of crap in the basement storage room.
I went home still bitching about irresponsible kids and didn't really care if that bike was still in that storage room covered in cobwebs when I decided to retire someday.
Two days later I came to work and was greeted by a little boy, Danny, and his mother waiting in the lobby with a plate of brownies and a 'Thank You' card. The little guy was excited as all hell. I had actually forgotten all about my attitude from before and took in their story. She was a very young single mom, busted her butt saving tips and working extra shifts in order to buy her son that bicycle for his birthday. They had a party with the neighborhood kids. The kids had taken turns riding Danny's new bike up and down the street. They didn't realize the bike was gone until the party was just about over. They assumed one of the boys took it home but could not figure out which one. The party was on Saturday and when she exhausted all of her resources in finding the bike herself on Sunday afternoon she called the PD where she found the bike had been discovered by me.
Little Danny became one of my biggest fans. I saw him riding that damned bike all the time and he always waved or stopped to talk. He always proudly proclaimed I was the cop who found his bike whenever there were others around and said that he wanted to be a police officer when he grew up so that he could help other people just as I had helped him.
I was such a hero in his eyes I never really had the guts to tell him how I almost let his bike lay on the side of the road.
I was too ashamed.
They say that the only wasted experience is one that you don't learn from. I've used the 'Little Danny Bicycle' experience to kick my butt back into line on quite a few occasions over the years.
Every time they 'defer' our raises.
Every time the jack up our insurance premiums.
Every time I go home with bumps, bruises or scratches.
I think of all the other Danny's out there that honestly do appreciate the work police officers do.
Side Note: Why think of Danny today? Well, I keep the Thank You card framed and mounted in my locker as a daily reminder of why I really do what I do. I forgot the actual date of Danny's b-day, but I remember that it was right at the start of the school year. I first met Danny 16 years ago, he had just turned 6. That means he'd be 22 this year. I always wonder if he did keep the path and if I'll see his name on the police academy roster someday. THAT would just be cool... and probably put enough gas in my tank to finish out this entire career on a happy note no matter what.