Monday, July 24, 1995
We were talking of Bronx cops, a whole bunch of us, ex-Bronxites.
I brought up the subject. Some weeks ago , while returning from upstate on a Sunday afternoon, our progress was stopped. Listening to WINS 1010 - a necessary precaution whenever entering or leaving our fair city - we found out of a discovery of a bombs cache on Bruckner Boulevard, a police activity that brought the forward progress to a standstill.
I decided to find an alternate route, and my poor wife, believing all those stories about my early years in the Bronx, trusted me.
Unfortunately, The Bronx is a big Borough, and I never relly drove the length and the width of it. In those days I could not afford a car, and particularly, the parking. When I had my 1932 Buick coupe, built like a tank and bought for $25 from a colleague, I had to give it up - the parking cost $15 a month, and I was earning $32 a week. So the coupe went to my uncle in White Plains North, and rested at his Dew Drop Inn breakfast nook, for use when he needed a second car.
All this was to tell you that I did not know my way around the borough, and when we finally surfaced somewhere near the Courthouse area and saw a big coffee shop, with a patrol car outside, I pulled right up.
Two young Irish cops were sitting inside, a pair of heavy-duty frankfurters in front of each. To my sad story of inability to find a bridge leading into Manhattan the older of the two responded: "Go to the bar, order a coffee for yourself and for your wife, and in wait for us. We will be out in a minute and a half."
"Don't destroy your stomachs, we can wait," was the best I could do, sincerely and appreciative, to which he: " Look, that is the way we have to live, it is a busy precinct."
And indeed, they were out in two minutes, just as I brought my wife the coffee. Without a word, they started and turned on the siren and the flashers. I almost lost them at the onset, as they barrelled off, but then I got in the act. We raced through intersections, ignored lights and cut off traffic, you might think we were on the way to a hospital. I have no idea of the streets and how to repeat the trip, but all of a sudden we were at a bridge, they stopped, turned off the lights and waved us on. Breathless with excitement, we shouted our thanks and, very slowly, drove into Manhattan.
A colleague, Tony, who had listened to my tale, had his own. "My wife was pregnant, and we were upstate. It turned out that the baby had to be delivered at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, at 168th Street, where they had the right equipment. I was driving her in, and at the Cross Bronx Bridge where we were coming in it is impossible to make a left turn. I had to make a decision, whether to stop or to try a roundabout route in a strange country, and I decided to hold up the traffic. It was my son, against some inconvenience for the public. It was not long before a cop car came, lights and sirens blazing. When I pointed to my wife and shouted Columbia-Presbyterian, it was enough. They broke through the line and ran interference all te way to the clinic. My wife threw kisses to them, they waved and raced off, probably glad that they did not have to assist a roadside delivery."
John had another story. "We were playing ball at the Macomb Dam Park, and I was late. So I raced a little bit, and all of a sudden a cop car started flashing and running the siren befind me. I had a quick decision to make. Either I stop and get a tongue lashing and a ticket and be late for the game, or I run , and get to the park, where we have cops on the team, who will straighten things out. I decided to run, and led the cop car clear to Macombs, where I jumped out of the car at the curb and raced to the ballfield, praying that no one would pull the gun and shoot me. I was screaming for Eric and Sid to come and get me out of the mess, and they came off the field and talked to the blue uniforsm who had followed me. I got some smart tongue-lashing, but my guys saved the day for me. No report. I wonder how they explained it to the precinct and the other cars who had joined the race, but they did. Of course, that was when I was just drafted and scheduled to go into basic training for Vietnam, and everyone was sorry for me. Now, I shudder, thinking that they could have shot me for running away. But those were the days when a cop would not pull a gun on a kid. Quelle difference!"