Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun with Troopers

One thing I love about my job is when I get to experience other people's lives. Yesterday, I felt what it was like being a Washington State Trooper on I-5, looking for speeders and other dangerous drivers. I think a lot of people have a certain stereotypes about cops, picturing them as masculine and mean, just in the business for the rush of bossing people around. With Trooper Keith Leary, I learned they were anything but.

We started by parking on an onramp above I-5.

"We don't hide or set traps. I'm here, visible to anyone who cares to look." However, people would have to be staring in their rear-view mirrors to see us. He brought out the big guns, well, laser gun that squealed every time he aimed it at a passing car.
"I think we got one here," he said as he trained the Star Trek like device on a license plate. Beeeeep. Beeeeep. Beeeeeep. "Yup! 74, let's go!" He tossed the laser gun beside me and stepped on it, floored it, I'm talking petal to the metal. I could feel the G-forces as the V-8 engines roared and revved. Cars flew by in a blur as we zipped down the carpool lane.

"110 miles per hour," Leary said leisurely as he kept the car in his sights. I, on the other hand, was gripping the door handle as my knuckles turned white. We were flying, and damned if I wasn't holding on.

"Don't worry, I'm a driving instructor." That's not going to stop another car from cutting us off and sending us flipping into oncoming traffic, I thought.

"I trust you completely," I said, not letting go, "I've just never been this fast on a freeway a good thing."

He sped right behind the blue Prius, flashed his lights, and blipped the siren with a flick of his fingers. The car pulled over. Trooper Leary put on his hat. By the way, Washington State Troopers have been voted best dressed in the country. Their hats rock. I thought it would be weird if I asked for a picture.

"This is our radio that goes directly to dispatch," he showed me, "If anything happens, push that button."
He went and talked to the Beverly Hills, California driver, who admitted he knew he was speeding, but was doing it anyway. Leary told me the driver wasn't very receptive, and he wrote him a ticket well over $150. My thought was, the dude can probably afford it.

We pulled over several more cars, including a SUV towing a trailer that was wobbling like crazy. It looked like it could split off at any second, so Trooper Leary talked to the man, gave him a warning, and told him to pull off the freeway. With every person we stopped, I could tell the Trooper really cared about safety, and wanted people to think before they act.

"79 miles per hour," he said, pointing at a minivan we promptly sped after. "She's going that fast, and I can see children in the car. What are people thinking when they drive like that!"

He talked to everyone with a smile and a relaxed demeanor, and tried his hardest to get his point across that it's dangerous to speed. He told me that over the 4th of July weekend there will be 30 troopers on the road, so they can pull over DUI's and try to prevent fatalities. These guys are doing their jobs, and they are doing it to save lives.

Later, as I was interviewing the Trooper about another topic, he did something that saved my life, or better, my sanity. A gigantic daddy longlegs spider suddenly appeared at the dashboard in front of me, and speechless, I pointed as it crawled across the buttons.

"What is it?" he said.

"A spider. Please. Put it outside. Now."

I almost didn't want to tell him for fear he'd kill the little bugger, but I couldn't pretend to stay calm any more. He grabbed the dangly thing by one leg, and threw it out the window. I relaxed, and we continued the interview.

"If you get startled by a spider that can also cause you to drive aggressively and swerve in and out of traffic." He said this with a completely straight face, as I chuckled in the background.

It's just another reason why Trooper Leary rocks. Next time we're taking the airplane.


Anonymous said...

So nice to have so many varied adventures at work.

Anonymous said...

front row seat to life!