Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Simple Cup of Coffee

I'm not a coffee drinker. Never have been, never will be. I can count the cups of coffee I've drunk in my lifetime in one hand. Strange, I know, with the stereotype of cops, coffee and dounuts.

It was a cold night in March of '97. My partner and I had a footpost on Fulton Street and it was cold and we were underdressed.

The Job, in it's infinite wisdom, had changed the approved uniformed winter jacket. They went from a longer, heavier jacket to what was referred to as an RMP jacket, that had elastic at the waist. If you came on before my academy class, you were grandfathered in for the old jacket, but for new jacks like us, this POS didn't keep us very warm, so we improvised.

Temperatures were in the low teens, and we both were wearing thermals, a turtleneck, a commando sweater and a neck warmer. We had the rain cover for our hats inside the uniform cap to keep some semblance of warmth on our heads, small ear muffs so our ears wouldn't drop off and we wore our white dress gloves inside our black leather gloves. We were still fucking cold.

Our beat was about 5 blocks long, running North to South along Fulton. To break up the monotony, we would go a block East or West of our post. There is only so much to see in a 5 block stretch.

By the time it hit 1130 at nite, the temperature was down to the single digits, and the thin snot from my runny nose was freezing at the tip. We stood in doorways where we could, but there wasn't a single store front on the stretch of our post.

Then we met out angel. Looking like a church lady taken from any movie's stereotypical Black Southern Baptist Church, she came out of one of the private houses from one of the side streets we were patrolling for the umpteenth time that night. If she was a day under 80 I'd be very surprised.

"Officers, that's my house over there. I seen you walking and I'm so happy to see you. The neighborhood needs folks like you."

My partner grunted something in embarrassment, and I said something to the effect of "that's why we are here", but to tell the truth, all I could think of was the bitter cold and how much worse it felt when we were standing still talking when we should have been walking.

"I'm up late every night. When you are out here, ring my doorbell and I'll buzz you in. I'll have a pot of coffee and some cups for you in the hallway. Warm yourselves. Don't worry about locking the door, it closes and locks on its own."

I must have given her a queer look, as she called me on it real quick.

"Don't look like that. It's the least I can do. We're happy your here. We need you here."

With that, she said her goodnites and walked back to her home across the street.

"Don't be expecting me to serve you. Now help yourselves to coffee."

So we did. It was good and hot. I put way too much sugar in it, but that helped me forget it was coffee. The woman, our angel, said goodnite again and walked upstairs, locking a door behind her.

There are good people everywhere, and if I ever doubted why I did the work I did, faced the dangers and dealt with angry members of the community, I remembered this woman. This angel.

With a cup of coffee she opened my eyes, and allowed me to see. The cold never seemed so bad after that.


  1. A lovely positive story to return with.

    Showing my ignorance of police matters - but is five blocks normal for a beat? It doesn't seem like much. Were there then other officers on the next five, and the next five?

  2. Tim, there were 30 of us rookies. So any given night, there were 7 to 15 2 man foot posts walking. These weren't normal beats, we were actually supposed to refer to ourselves on the radio as Training Posts.

    We had 5 blocks, and often walked a block over to the east or west for a change of scenery ;)

    1. Thanks for that, Erik. Your stories are an education for me.

  3. Nothing makes me work harder than to have someone I serve make their appreciation known. I don't like coffee myself, preferring diet cola's and Earl Grey Tea, depending on the time of day and year.