The steel door to the locker room needed a coat of paint. All of the doors in the station had a strip of scrapes and chips about 40 inches from the bottom - a sure sign that many police officers had walked in and out over the years.
A Sam Browne belt with a gun and a portable radio on opposing sides was the perfect “third hand” for holding open the door while trying to carry a duty bag, coats, hats, and whatever else needed to be carried in and out of the station.
The locker room door was the color of a battleship - steel - but made from thinner material, of course. If you looked closely, you could see previous coats of paint showing through the worn top layer. There was really no purpose in looking that closely; the other coats were also gray.
The paint was probably purchased in bulk sometime in the 60s when gray steel desks and filing cabinets were the office chic of recycled government-issued furniture from the military base in town. Many of those desks and filing cabinets were being utilized to this day. The filing cabinet drawers still rolled on ball bearings made to last until the gray paint wore off. There was no worry of that as we apparently had plenty.
He pushed the door open with his hip as his uniforms were in his right hand, hung on wire hangers from home. He liked wire hangers even though Joan Crawford did not. They could be used for many purposes if fashioned correctly. He had used a wire coat hanger to pull the keys out of the center of a Tahoe a few weeks ago. The window was left open about a half inch, which is not enough room to pull a set of keys through. It was, however, a large enough crack to push his silver Cross pen through in order to poke the unlock button on the key fob. He asked the woman if she was a school custodian. She didn’t get the joke but brought him oatmeal raisin cookies the next day. A wire coat hanger can make cookies appear. Try that with a wooden coat hanger.
The shower steam carried with it the odor of a body wash with just a hint of coconut, possibly some mango. Must have been one of the rookies, probably using a pouf. He saw the fashionable Nike flip flops below the curtain. Whoever it was had a Daytona Beach terry towel slung over the shower curtain rod. Florida would be nice right now; it was spring in Bangor, but it was 34 degrees. He might take his light jacket tonight.
He headed down the narrow aisle between the lockers. Who designed this locker room? Each time he walked through it felt narrower. Frodo would be happy here. Maybe Frodo was in the shower. He laughed at the vision of Frodo on Daytona Beach wearing Nike flip-flops, smelling of coconut with a hint of Mango. He knew Frodo did not roll like that. He probably smelled more like the Old Forest, which would be a great name for a body wash. Note to self: send that idea to Old Spice for a new deodorant moniker.
He saw his police boots on top of his locker. He never looked at the number on the door and there were times he forgot it altogether. He knew his boots though. He placed them on top of the old green locker before he went home after each shift. He kept them polished within reason. He put his uniforms inside the locker - a locker that did not smell like boots for the obvious reason. Most everyone kept their working boots on top. If you were creative with a little duct tape and a wooden block, you could store your spare boots there as well.
Dress boots for special occasions were kept inside the locker. He didn’t like wearing his dress boots, for wearing them meant that a current officer or retiree had passed away. He could never wear his day to day boots to a funeral. It would show zero respect to those who had gone on before the rest of us. Their family and friends deserved to see gleaming toes and pressed dark blue uniforms. It was the least he could do.
He flicked open the Pandora app on his scratched and gouged iPhone 5c. The cheap white one. It worked well enough. His son had picked up an iPhone 7 or 10 - or whatever - and he now had his son’s old phone. Pandora was already installed and he determined that he liked being able to pick his kind of music. Pablo Cruise came up first, and it made getting dressed seem like a 70’s proposition. It made him smile.
“Well everybody's heart needs a holiday, some time
And everyone of us needs to get away, some how
'Cause laughing light-hearted moods
Oh, sight-seeing afternoons
And telling a joke or two
'Cause everyday invites you to find your place in the sun
It's time to find your place in the sun
Find your place
Find your place in the sun
It’s time to find your place in the sun”
Frodo walked behind him wrapped in his Daytona Beach towel. The song seemed to fit his gait. Frodo didn’t think so. He asked the name of the band. Being bent over to pull on his right boot caused his answer to sound labored: “Pablo Cruise.” “Wasn’t that the name of a drug lord or something?” Frodo inquired. He sat up and said, “No, that was Pablo Escobar. He wasn’t known for singing upbeat 70’s party music. He was murdering people and selling tons of cocaine. He might have listened to Pablo Cruise, but I have my doubts. However, I am listening - and right now you are talking over the best part.” Frodo disappeared behind the next line of lockers, dripping water and humming softly to the music to which he had most recently been introduced.
He picked up his left boot and looked at the cracks in the leather and dried mud in the welt around the worn sole. It came from a mud puddle in a driveway on French Street. He had arrested a man there on his last night on shift two days ago. He tried to avoid the puddle, but the man led him right through it when he tried to break free. He didn’t get far, but you gotta give him credit for trying. He wasn’t fighting - just trying to run. Better muddy boots than a bloody lip or worse.
The boots needed a polish. They would last another six months until the yearly boot allowance was given out. They were good boots. He liked the way they felt on his feet. The boot on his right foot would squeak from time to time. How does that happen? A boot with a squeak? It would come and go intermittently, like the squeak on his Ford pickup. He had learned to press his toes down harder when it happened to make it stop squeaking. Not the truck, the boot.
He threw the phone on top of his gear-bag as he walked toward the gray door. He liked the idea of walking out to his cruiser with a soundtrack. What would Pandora give him tonight? The Doobie Brothers’ “Nobody” came on - one of his favorite songs from one of his favorite bands.
“Evil ways of practice may surround you
Callin' on your inner core of life
But your father was just a complex man of bus'ness
And your mother merely portioned out your fright
But run the risk of a sudden loss
You got no mama to bear your cross beside you
Uh huh, uh huh…”
He squeezed by Frodo, who was now dressed and looking sharp in his Class B. He could still smell the Mango.
Frodo said, “Hey, your boot creaks when you walk.” He walked toward the battleship gray door and mumbled, “So do I, Frodo, so do I.”
Sgt. Tim Cotton is a long-time veteran of the Bangor, Maine Police Department, where he works alongside the Duck of Justice to bring humor, information, advice and general tales of the law enforcement world to the general public via their popular Facebook Page. He is also a blogger for Car Talk, bringing his knack for highlighting the amusing aspects of life in general to the universal world of vehicle ownership and car repairs. He reminds all to keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another. The Bangor PD will be there.