Sunday, August 9, 2009

Do What You Do Best

The other evening, I was following a friend on a secondary road along the edge of a lake. Two classics (or so we'd like to think), running two classics---that's two middle aged guys, one in a marginally antique Corvette (he calls it Red), one on a Harley Davidson (which a friend nicknamed Harvey) of similar vintage. It was a perfect mid-summer evening with just a few clouds in an otherwise clear blue sky.

I was on the bike following the 'Vette and was enjoying watching the way the old car held that winding road. Though we were not going fast--pretty much holding to the 45 mph speed limit--it stuck to the road like it was on rails. I was in something of sweet spot behind the car and could hear the well tuned small block's subdued, but mellow tone. My bike was purring like it was designed to, making that distinctive "potato, potato" sound that only the V-twin makes, and was smoothly and powerfully executing the turns, dips and hills as we made our journey--a "real" car and "real" motorcycle running the roads. The sounds, blended together with the evening and the scenery made for a special ride. Along the way it occurred to me that in some ways we were doing what we were designed to do. Machines are meant to serve their masters, and men to control their machines. This was one of those moments that went perfectly for both man and machine.

Further introspection got me thinking deeper into the whole thing. Red and Harvy are both still able to do their jobs--and both are used often as means of regular transportation and pleasure; however a newer model car and a newer model motorcycle will out perform, out ride and generally just give better results. They're more powerful, have better suspensions and are loaded with better technology than either of the machines my friend and I own and enjoy.

I've been in my profession for over thirty years now, and though I like to believe that I'm still able to do my job well, I'm well aware that the newer officers are a different breed. They have better training than my generation had, have more tools at their disposal than I had when I started, and get the benefit of watching actual videos of police officers doing their jobs right--and sadly, doing them wrong also.

I'm also aware that I don't have the endurance I once had. As a matter of fact, this state of semi-retirement I'm in fits my endurance level very well. I just can't do some of the things a younger officer can do, or can't do it well for as long. Twentyfive hour weeks or so are just about what the doctor orders at this point, not the 40, 50, or even 60 hours I once worked. The years have given me expience and wisdom that the younger folks don't have, but maybe that's why this "classic" and a few like me still enjoy working are well received by those younger men and women. We share the war stories and thereby teach some of the things we learned the hard way so their lessons might be easier, their bumps and bruises lessened a bit.

Sometime in the future, the day will come that the old Harley and the old 'Vette will be used less often, and relegated to being ridden in parades and special events, not used for everyday travel. So it will be with us. Though I will always feel like a cop--and I use the term proudly--there will be a time I'll be unable to do the job; I'll either be a danger to myself or to the others I'll be with. I pray that I'll have the wisdom to know when that is. Though there still might be places I can contribute, they'll be fewer and far between.

I hope that day comes a long time from now. Maybe when it does, I'll polish up Harvy and just ride in the parades. Hopefully I can find my friend and Red to go along for the ride. Men and machines, doing what they do best.

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