Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

Protect and Serve

January 2, 2015

Cranston cops

On New Year’s Eve, we had dinner at our house with a couple of friends, and then the four of us piled into our friends’ car and headed out for our neighborhood bowling alley. A few minutes into the drive, we noticed  a weird rattling. Our friend pulled over and climbed out to investigate. Flat tire. So we all climbed out and set about changing the tire.

Easier said than done. First we had to pry the spare out of the trunk, and then we had to find the special tools, and then we had to figure out how to use them. It didn’t help that we were standing in the dark on a relatively high-speed through-street. Plus, it was cold.

We were huddled around the trunk, trying to read the instructions on the tool bag by the light of the tail lights and our phones’ flashlight settings, when a police car cruised by. Oh good, we thought. Help has arrived. And it had.

The cop angled his car protectively behind ours and trained his headlights on our work area.  We would have been grateful enough just for the light and the protection. But the officer – a slight, young white guy with a band-aid on his finger – didn’t stop there. When he realized that we hadn’t called a road service and that we were having trouble changing the tire, he pulled out his flashlight, studied the instructions, and went to work.

It didn’t take him long to get the car jacked up and remove the first couple of lug nuts. But neither he nor any of the rest of us had the strength to loosen the last lug nuts and get the flat off the car.

As luck would have it, a second police car came by. It parked up behind the first one, and the cop strolled over to see what was up. This second officer was taller and beefier than the first one. By jumping on the lug wrench a couple of times, he was able to free the flat tire.

What would we have done if the cops hadn’t come? What would we done if they hadn’t been so helpful? How could we thank them? We asked for their names so we could write a letter to their chief. But they waved the question aside.

“That’s not necessary,” the first cop said.  “Next time you get in trouble like this, you should call us.”

The second cop took a picture for the department’s Facebook page. “This will be great for community outreach,” he said.

We agreed. Those cops were good guys who do a difficult, dangerous and necessary job, and they went above and beyond what that job requires.

We all shook hands, wished each other a happy New Year, and went our separate ways. The first cop’s shift was almost over. The second one would be working until 8 the next morning. And we had a date with our local bowling alley.


We live in the Edgewood section of Cranston, Rhode Island, a relatively prosperous neighborhood of large, well-kept, owner-occupied homes between Narragansett Bay and Roger Williams Park. Like most of our neighbors, we and our friends are white, conservatively dressed English speakers. Our car was clean and – except for the tire – in good shape. And the four of us were old enough to be the police officers’ parents.

The bowling alley is less than two miles from our home. But to reach it from the block where we pulled over, we had to cross the railroad tracks and Route 95.  The bowling alley is on a busy street across from a discount grocery store, in a neighborhood where most residents rent. The other bowlers were all younger than us by at least two decades. They included people who had prominent tattoos, who weren’t white, and who weren’t speaking English.

Looking around, as we bowled through the last hour of 2014, I couldn’t help but wonder. What would the experience have been like if the flat tire hadn’t happened to us, in our neighborhood? What if it had happened to one of the other bowling parties at the alley? Would the cops have gone that extra mile? And how would we have felt, when that first cruiser pulled up, if we were younger, or less white, or if English wasn’t our first language? Would our first thought have been, Help has arrived?


In My Dreams

January 2, 2012

I’m in a huge hotel complex with confusing corridors linked by stairways and escalators. The place is packed, so as I navigate the architectural maze, I also have to maneuver the crowd as I hurry to my meeting, which of course I’m already late for. Luckily, I make it to the designated meeting place before the man I’m scheduled to meet with arrives. At first I’m relieved, but as time passes and he still doesn’t show up, my worry about being late turns to anger at his rudeness. Is he just making me wait, or actually standing me up? How long should I give him? I practice saying, “Tell him I said fuck you,” and start looking around for someone to trust with my message. That’s when I begin to have second thoughts about my decision to show up for this meeting stark naked.

But the dream doesn’t end there. Naked, I hastily retrace my route, pushing past people and jogging breathlessly up steep stairways. When I arrive at my room, it’s being cleaned. There’s an awkward encounter with the chamber maid, whom I surprise in the process of zipping up her skirt. Waving aside her embarrassed apologizes, I grab a filmy, lime-green camisole and a silky lilac skirt, and struggle into them.

I wake up kicking myself for wearing a black bra under such a pale blouse, and laughing at myself for having such a ridiculous, clichéd dream.

It’s been a while since I had my last anxiety dream. When I was little, I had a lot of anxiety dreams, mostly involving fire. Later, fire was replaced by impossible architecture. When I was an editor at Seven Days, I dreamed regularly about losing my desk. Either the streets or the building had mysteriously changed or someone had moved my work station without telling me. The naked theme is hardly new, but it’s gotten more frequent lately – although, as I said, recently my anxiety dreams have been markedly infrequent.

So why last night’s dream? The crowded hotel is clearly borrowed from David, who spent part of last week at a philosophy convention, interviewing job candidates. He came home talking about the applicants’ justified anxiety. As for the meeting in my dream, it was explicitly an actual meeting I’m having later this week. I guess I’m more worried about it than I’d realized.

But even if David’s convention and my upcoming appointment hadn’t lent my dream its details, I probably would have had some kind of anxiety dream. I blame New Year’s. Although nothing other than an artificial number on a calendar actually changed this past weekend, the turning of a year naturally encourages reflection. For me, this scrutiny has been focused on the professional. What have I accomplished with my writing in the last 12 months? Not what I had hoped. What are my goals for next year? I’m not really sure. And that troubles me.

On the other hand, I really can’t complain. Each night, as I’m falling asleep, I run through a mental check-list of my day. When I have come up with three good things, I can empty my mind and drift off. The good things can be significant events, but they’re usually pretty subtle: how pretty the water looked, a conversation with one of my kids, something good I read or heard or ate. Going through this process is about as close as I ever come to personal prayer. Like traditional bedtime liturgies, the ritual helps me feel safe to sleep.

If I were to apply my three-good-things ritual to last night’s dream, this is what I would list:

1. I did not get lost in the corridors.

2. I was not late for my meeting.

3. I not only figured out on time that I shouldn’t be naked, but also managed to get dressed.

Take that, dream.

Sure, I’m anxious about 2012.  But hopeless? Far from it. And no matter what else happens at my meeting this week, I’m pretty sure I’ll remember to get dressed.