NOTE: Bummer took a sabbatical in December and in doing so submitted this piece from twenty years ago (February, 1998) for this month’s magazine. In truth, he just partied too much during the Christmas/New year’s holidays and realized he was gonna miss his deadline because he goofed off too much. So... let’s see what he was blabbin’ about twenty years ago........
Ya know, things are getting weird out there.
I was just sitting at the counter of the local truck stop about 3:00 a.m. pigging out on some biscuits and sausage gravy when an old buddy of mine, Deputy Dave, plopped down beside me with his usual greeting of “Got a designated driver Bummer?”
I just smiled, held up my coffee and said, “Just headin’ home after putting in some overtime at work Dave. Thought some of Maggie’s home cookin’ would hit the spot. Hamburger Helper ain’t gettin’ it.”
After ordering coffee and thoughtfully stirring it for a few moments, Dave looked over to me and said with a sigh, “Things are getting’ weird out there Bum.”
Now, knowing Dave to be a man who doesn’t make small talk, I just kept quiet and listened.
“Earlier tonight we took a three year old girl to the hospital. Her mother is only 17 and abandoned her two days ago. The child has been alone in a cruddy little apartment for two whole days crying and eating anything she could find.
“After that, we got a call to a disturbance in the projects. Seems someone was wearing the wrong color bandana or something and that was the reason a teenage girl got stabbed. Then we had to deal with a drive by shooting where a little boy was watching cartoons and bullets slammed through the wall. He’s not expected to make it.
“It didn’t used to be this bad! People were, well... better! You had your good guys--that was us... then you had your bad guys... that was people like you.”
With that he smiled and took a sip of coffee. I didn’t say anything ‘cause he was just kidding... I think.
“I mean people used to know the difference between what’s right and what isn’t. Sure, you had people that got too rowdy now and then. I’ve escorted you downtown a few times. But now there ain’t no rules on how to act anymore.
“Take the bikers for instance. You guys used to be our bread and butter. Other than traffic tickets and an occasional domestic call, policing this town was actually boring most of the time. All we had to do for busts was follow you guys around all summer. And then all you really did wrong was ride too fast, make too much noise, get caught smokin’ weed, go skinny dippin’, or something like that. Even when you tore apart a bar, nobody really got hurt... usually!”
All of a sudden I started feelin’ foolish, like a bad actor in one of those stupid old beach movies. You know: The ones where the bikers all ride dirt bikes and can’t seem to do anything right.
“Now just wait a minute!”
But before I could go on, Dave said, “What I mean is bikers have never been the evil, mindless thugs people used to make them out to be. As a matter of fact, nowadays people tend to respect you guys. It’s kinda like you people are the last ones to hold onto a sense of old fashioned honor and self respect. Think about it... in the old days when you guys rode together through town, people would shake their heads and scowl. Now they smile, point at you, and wave! Sure, in some backward communities the police still hassle bikers... but do we?
“Take that ABATE thing you belong to. You guys have raised more money for charity than any other single organization in this county. And you keep doing it year after year. I’ve seen you guys at children’s hospitals, ringing bells at Christmastime in front of stores, being politically active locally and nationally. Hell, I’ve even seen a few of you dressed up like clowns at MDA functions.
“If the young people of this country could learn from you guys what it is to be cool and still be righteous, our kids might have a chance at turning into proper citizens.
“Well, I gotta go. You take it easy.” And with that he paid his bill, walked out the door, got into his cruiser and split, leaving me sitting there with my mouth hanging open, not believing what I just heard.
I could just puke. Think I’ll go out tonight and raise some seriously illegal hell.
Ya know... things ARE getting weird out there.
(NOTE: And remember that was twenty years ago!)