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2005.09.05 The Bastard Officer From Hell Walks Again

posted Oct 25, 2009, 1:31 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 25, 2009, 1:34 PM ]

The only thing worse than driving that stupid patrol car is not being able to drive it...

I once worked a security job with a guy who claimed to have no mechanical skills whatsoever. Not only that, this guy actively and strenuously fought to keep from acquiring any. To keep from having to invent a name, I'll just call him "that guy," or "Guy" for short.

Guy had a long career in the US government before entering the field of private security. To hear him talk, he was one of those people with the ultra high super secret security ratings who are privy to everything going on in the world. Not that he actually learned anything sensitive, mind you, as he had no need to know. The guys manning the gate at the edge of the property seldom did. But, rest assured, he had a security clearance high enough that he could have picked up and returned any dropped document without causing an international incident.

If I had a security clearance that high, I'd not only find out where the government is hiding the alien spacecraft, I'd be renting it out for weekend trips to Alpha Centauri.

Which is probably why I don't have that kind of security clearance.

Not that I would anyway, seeing as any acquaintances they interviewed would tell all those horrible truths about me.

Irregardless, Guy was mechanically declined and had no wish to change.

For example, one morning I came in and noticed that the patrol car was parked at the top of the parking lot. This wasn't too unusual as that was a good place to watch the entire parking lot from. What was unusual was that a) nobody was in it and b) it was blocking the drive.

I went to the office and found Guy. "What's up with the patrol car?"

"It quit on me, so I shut it off."

"Did it quit, or did you shut it off?"


"Guy, if it quit, then it wasn't running, so you couldn't have shut it off. If you shut it off, then it was running when you did so, so it didn't quit. So did it quit, or did you shut it off."

"You're confusing me again."

Sigh. "Okay, Guy, just tell me what happened."

"I was patrolling the parking lots like you told me to do, and the car quit. It started right up again, but I noticed that fuel hand said empty, so I drove up to the top of the lot where the gas can is kept. While I was out checking to see if there was any gas in the can, the car quit again. There wasn't any gas, and I couldn't get the car started again, so I shut off the switch and locked it up."

"Why didn't you go fill up before you ran out?"

"I didn't notice it was that low. We had nearly a quarter tank when I started the shift."

"You're supposed to check it occasionally all throughout the shift."

"I thought you told me to check it only at the start of the shift."

"No, it's the oil, water, and other fluids you're supposed to check at the start of every shift."

"Oh, in that case, I must have forgotten to check those."

Sigh. "And you left it in the middle of the road why...?"

"Troy, you can't expect me to push it. Remember my bad back."

"Yes, Guy, I remember your bad back. You threw it out while getting behind the wheel of the patrol car your first night here and have been using it as an excuse not to do any real work ever since."

"Hey, it's not my fault the tilt-wheel steering was so low."

"Those things adjust, you know. That little lever on the side."

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

"I remember. But tell me again why you left the car blocking traffic."

"I can't push it. Bad shoulder."

Sigh. "Guy, you're at the top of the hill. Why couldn't you put it in neutral and let it cost down to one of the parking spaces below it?"

I swear, he looked at me like I'd just corrected the rounding errors in Einstein's Theory of Relativity. "I would have never thought of that. Wow, I can't believe how smart you are. I've worked with some pretty sharp guys in Intelligence, but you leave them all in the dust..."

And he kept on for another twenty minutes, which just happened to be all the time left in his shift, which meant he was off the clock and couldn't help me fix the car. No problem. I hoofed it up to the car and tried to start it. No gas. When my partner came in, I gave him a few dollars and sent him off to the local Stop-N-Rob for gas. We sloshed a gallon on the ground for every quart we got into the tank.

The car still wouldn't start. Hmm. Battery was still charged. We appear to be getting a spark. Hmm.

My partner asked "How much did you crank on it?"

"Hardly any. About 10 seconds before I gave up. I didn't want to run down the battery."

He looked thoughtful. "You don't suppose that Guy cranked on it so much without any fuel that he messed up the fuel pump, do you?"

"Anything's possible." I had him put it out of gear and, just to show off, I pushed it up the hill into the parking space behind him. Mumbling something about crazy rednecks, he went off to find the boss and get permission to have the car towed to the shop. While he was gone, I commenced to thinking.

I remembered reading the owner's manual of the patrol car back before said manual disappeared. It said something about a fuel pump reset switch that you had to hit to reset the fuel pump (duh!) after any minor accident. I checked the trunk and found one. I hit it and wham! the car started right up. I guess all that cranking and no fuel caused something to overload and trip the switch. I radioed my partner and went for gas.

A week or two later, I notice the car parked again. This time, it was at least in a parking spot. "Guy, what's wrong with the car."

"It's broke."

"I can see that. Otherwise, I'm sure you wouldn't have left it at the extreme South end of the property. How is it broken?"

"I couldn't push it back. I have a bad hip."

"Never mind that. How is it broken?"

"Well, it's running rough, and when you hit the gas, you can hear this clackety noise."

"Clackety" is Guy's all-purpose descriptive sound. A bad radio makes a clackety noise. A bad door makes a clackety noise. A nurse complaining about Security's job performance makes clackety noises.

Since this was the patrol car, I could guess what he meant. "That would be the lifters rattling. It does that when we run cheap gas, which we do all the time, or when the oil gets low. How much oil did it have?"


"Guy, when you checked the oil, how much was on the stick?"


"Guy, you did check the oil, right?"

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

I shuddered and sent him on home. Then I went out, checked the oil, and added two quarts. No more clackety noise.

A few weeks later, the patrol car was down in the extreme lowest part of the property. "Guy, what's wrong with the car this time?"

"You can't expect me to push it back here. I have this bad knee."

"All I'm asking is what's wrong with the car."

"The air conditioning was blowing hot air and a red light was flashing."

"Well, it's the middle of summer and you tend to run max A/C wide open all the time. It probably just overheated. Did it have plenty of coolant?"


"I said, did it have-"

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

Coolant level was fine. I checked with some of the other officers, who said they'd noticed it running a little hot from time to time. They'd been just turning it off and letting it cool down any time the A/C started blowing hot air.

I had to get the boss to write an official memo to Guy to get him to start doing that.