If I had to rank painful events in my lifetime (and I’m not sure why I’d ever have to do that), I’d have to put a tar burn near the top. At least as far as physical pain. Of course, it could never surpass the emotional pain of seeing Helen, as played by Crystal Bernard, leave for Vienna on the last episode of Wings on May 21, 1997. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years and no reunion show. But I’ve already digressed. Tar burns… they suck. I got a super tiny one on the side of my finger while working as a roofer a long time ago. It doesn’t sound too bad, but if I remember correctly the tar comes out of the kettle at about 400 degrees F and when you work with a couple of guys named Fatboy and Hillbilly that commute each day in a Dodge Aspen station wagon filled with pot smoke it’s probably not wise to forego the recommended safety gloves when one of them is wielding the hot mop. It’s especially not wise since hot tar sticks to everything, like, let’s say exposed skin, and if a hot mop hits you in the finger you can’t wipe it off but instead just have to hop around and curse until it cools. And unless you want to keep it on there permanently, you’ll have to sacrifice the skin with it. Unfortunately I worked for a company at which the only safety lecture on day one consisted of “Don’t step off the edge of the roof.” However, since I had no other marketable skills other than hopping/cursing and cutting grass, that summer was incentive to stay in school to avoid a lifetime of tar burns. As if cheap beer weren’t enough incentive to stay in school. I later realized that an Econ degree really doesn’t increase marketability much, but at least I could explain the correlation between interest rates and inflation while bartending after graduation. Wow, I really got off track here. Imagine that. If I had to make that long story short, I would have just said that even though I had a killer tan by mid-May, roofing was not my first career choice. Other nightmare jobs for me would include daycare (kids either frighten or annoy me), soldier (I don’t like being told what to do and I’m allergic to IED’s), and police officer. I would honestly rather run into a burning building than have to respond to a domestic dispute or purposefully drive through gang territory.
However, I recently attended a graduation for 42 people that decided that law enforcement is their calling. One of them being my cousin. All graduates of the most recent Policy Academy class. Yep, we started this blog as cool rock n’ roll writers and now I’m reviewing graduation ceremonies.
Even though it said Police Academy, I didn’t find any intimidating black men named Hightower, no wacky cadets named Zed, or any zany impressionists making hilarious sound effects during the ceremony (impressionists get no respect, except in the art world). Instead the director of the academy gave a brief welcome and then introduced the bagpiper for the march of the recruits. It wasn’t as cute as the March of the Penguins and the director was no Morgan Freeman, but at least I didn’t have to pay $5 for a pair of headphones to watch the graduation on an airplane. Although some peanuts would have been nice. But again I digress. Next the color guard was introduced and, in an unnecessarily long and overly formal process, they spent about five minutes getting a couple flags planted at the front of the stage. I’m all for the good ol’ USA, but I’d had been just as happy if the flags were already there when I arrived. Then as if there were a hockey game about to break out, a woman knocked out an acapella version of the national anthem that probably would not have gotten her past the auditions on American Idol. Not that I would know.
The academy (and graduation) is held at a local community college for recruits from the surrounding suburbs, so a woman from the college Board also welcomed us and thanked them for spackling the stray bullet holes when they were finished.
Next, the VP of Academic Affairs came out and welcomed us again and reminisced about sitting there years ago at his own graduation about to enter into a career of public service. Uh, sorry, dude, but although a career as an educator is indeed respectable I wouldn’t compare yourself to a law enforcement officer. Telling some butt munch student to pull up his pants on campus doesn’t seem quite the same.
Next the keynote speaker, a local country sheriff, was introduced with a list of accomplishments including a 1250 pound drug bust (so that’s what happened to it). Some of his advice… remember that the person you’re arresting is likely at the lowest point of their life so treat them with respect. However, the humanitarian aspect of the message was lost a bit when he said it was the best way to turn them into an informant. He also took them briefly down Debbie Downer Avenue and reminded them that they just chose a career that will not make them rich, so they had better invest early and wisely or else risk eating cat food in their golden years. And finally, he advised the You Tube generation that everyone has cameras these days, so don’t do anything stupid unless you’re absolutely positive nobody is looking. Because somebody probably is.
Finally, the graduates were announced (please hold all applause ‘til the end or we’ll shoot) and received their certificates. Some other dignitary presented most certificates, but those grads with another law officer in the family (brothers, dads, sisters) got them to make the presentation. There was one recruit that had his sister in US Customs, Department of Homeland Security present the certificate, and I thought that was stretching it. After that I was hoping for someone from the TSA or some tattooed biker bounty hunter type dude to do one. I was a little hurt he didn’t ask me in my capacity as forensic accounting consultant. Then I pictured someone’s relative from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dressed as Dudley Do-Right riding up on his trusty steed Nell to present a certificate. I was now cracking myself up and stifling my laughs like a deranged mental patient.
After all the names were read, they presented some awards. One for academics for the recruit that had a 98.4% average on his tests, meaning you have only a 1% chance of getting off on a technicality if you run into this guy. An award for marksmanship, as I noted not to make a run for it in that guy’s jurisdiction. Two awards for physical fitness, including one for most improved, which must mean you were a gravy-bellied couch potato that showed up the first day in an oxygen tent. The leadership award, which in my book probably means you’re a dick since I associate all “leaders” with Neidermeyer in Animal House (“You're all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty!”). Finally a distinguished cadet award, which I think he got for finishing his classes with a sprained ankle or something. It’s a little unclear, but he got a nice plaque for it.
After that the class president made a speech about all the bonding and best friends forever and blah blah blah.
Next the instruction supervisors had to make their speeches. The first guy reminded them that their primary goal is to come home safely at the end of their shift. However, if that was their primary career goal, I’d probably recommend a job at the ice cream parlor where you might risk frostbite at worst. The second instructor said something inspiring about being all you can be or something… at this point everything starts to sound the same and you’re wondering if you remembered to tape Rachel Ray before you left.
Finally, in closing, they showed a video montage of the 11-week course featuring the cadets as they learned how to shoot guns without killing defenseless babies, disable a manic crackheads, handcuff pedophiles to the rear bumper of their car for transport, and running mile after mile at dawn since many veteran officers that I see don’t appear capable of running across the street.
Then we all had cookies and punch. I know I joke, but we’re all pretty proud of him and have no doubt he’ll be great. And if you ever run into him, just tell him you know Cousin Sid and maybe he won’t hit you so hard with his flashlight if you do something stupid on his watch.