I am getting cold, and very tired, and Officer Dan is flailing at mosquitoes. East Syracuse mosquitoes are not normal mosquitoes; they are part rabid bat and part Stealth bomber; they fuel up on Jet A at the airport and fly in tight formation. They never come home without blood. East Syracuse mosquitoes are to regular mosquitoes as Arnold Schwarzenegger is to Woody Allen. The Silent Partner stops by to inform us that it will be yet another fifteen minutes before the fire chief arrives. I propose that we get in the official police vehicle.
Officer Dan and the Silent Partner figure out how to hoist me up into the back seat, then we all gather in the cozy warmth of the official police vehicle. I comment lasciviously about their onboard computer; the Silent Partner avows that he is doing PBA paperwork, and Officer Dan tells me about his girlfriend’s pet rabbit. He says she likes to cuddle all those little warm things. “Yeah,” I say, “and if you’d ask her to marry you, she’d like to have a baby, too.”
Officer Dan is thirty years old and used to be a deputy sheriff but transferred to the Town Police Department because it is, in many ways, better. I tell him that I lived in the city for thirty-five years, and I never met a nice police officer there. The victim of multiple muggings, burglaries and harassment, I was always told by the police that they had “more important things to do” than keep me safe. In the year and a half that I have lived in villages, I have been dumbfounded at how nice the police are.
Officer Dan tells me (a) that a passing driver phoned in my predicament, so they came hunting for me; (b) the town is divided into three sectors, with a car patrolling each sector, and (c) since they came on duty at 3:00 p.m., their only action has been to ticket one driver for not having a license, insurance, registration or, apparently, brains.
The fire chief shows up—Officer Dan assures me he is the chief because his red SUV is marked C1—wearing sharply pressed black trousers and a starched white shirt, shiny badge attached. I do not ask him if he could have arrived in less than half an hour if he’d forgone the shower; he probably can dress in less than five minutes. He opens up the firehouse and we plug the scooter into an electrical outlet. I ask to use the bathroom, carefully not mentioning that my kidneys are pretty well shot. The chief heads toward one bathroom, then backtracks to another, presumably more suited to female occupancy. On the inside of the bathroom door there is a large poster of a very sexy, bright red, fire engine.
I am now, officially, feeling somewhere between bad and awful. I am sick and tired, and want desperately to be home in bed, but I am sitting on the bumper of a fire engine, docilely answering all the questions: Yes, the scooter was fully charged before I left home; it has a range of ten miles. No, I haven’t traveled more than five miles tonight. No, this has never happened before. No, I didn’t leave the light on. The men, in proper guy fashion, conclude that the battery either won’t take or won’t hold a charge. Then the fire chief announces, “It’s been fifteen minutes, so you should be all right.”
I doubt it. The scooter company told me to charge it overnight. I doubt that fifteen minutes of recharging is going to do any good, but I am very tired, and want very much to be home in bed. I am way beyond wanting it: I need it desperately. A meltdown is imminent, and I’m not sure that Officer Dan and the Silent Partner are up to coping with that—besides, I can see the lights of home from the parking lot. So close—but not close enough.
I unplug, pull out into the parking lot, make two quick circles, and assure them I’m in the green—well, the scooter is in the green. I’m in someplace very dark. Officer Dan and the Silent Partner plan that I should go to the traffic light, where they will stop traffic and cross me.
We start to do it, then, with Officer Dan walking behind me, the needle drops into the red zone again. I can’t cope anymore. Trying unsuccessfully not to cry, I propose to Officer Dan that he walk the scooter home, and I ride in the back of the official police vehicle. He agrees, calls to the Silent Partner, who backs up, and we load me back into the back again.
We creep down the road on the wrong side—which is what I normally do, but without the red flashing lights—while the Silent Partner watches Officer Dan in the rearview mirror. The Silent Partner starts laughing, tells me that Officer Dan is riding astride the scooter, and he wishes he had a camera! Then the radio crackles and broadcasts the news that there is a suspected burglary in progress. A next-door neighbor has reported lights in a house that should be vacant. I gulp, wondering if I am about to go for a ride.
In less than two minutes, Officer Dan has arrived in front of my building with the scooter, and he and the Silent Partner are about to take off. I thank them for their help, their courtesy, and their kindness, and ask them to tell their mothers that they raised nice boys.
Officer Dan and the Silent Partner depart in a hurry, bound for other bridges that need crossing.