Sunday, September 5, 2010

Come out with your hands up!

Many years ago when I started teaching college, I was working at a place that offered 2 year degrees, which was considered 'occupational education' opportunities. I had worked there for a couple years when there was a shake up in closing the building at night so in an effort to save money, one of the full time faculty members would be in charge each night, taking turns. This would involve making sure the building was empty, classroom door shut and locked, lights off and alarms set.

On very cold and snowy winter night it was my turn to close down the building. This was also about 6 weeks after a student had threatened to kill me. The school had hired a security guard who stood outside my classroom door each night and walked to me my car. This night the security guard was ill and apparently there are no replacements. And due to the supremely cold weather I had to park about a quarter mile away. It was about 10:30 at night. Now the scene is set.

A bunch of students knew I had been threatened and knew the girl who did it could and probably would make good on the threat since she had done some prison time before. Nice, eh? Our school, at the time, has a large population of inner city folks. I'm not being racist or stereotypical here but to be just flat out honest, I had a group of young men in my English class who were former gang members, all with very large physiques and very African American. About 6 or 7 of these guys. They didn't like the fact that my guard was gone and that I was parked so far away. So, they stayed after. They were going to make sure I got the building closed with no trouble and out to my car without incident.

I thought it was very nice of these guys to stay and offer me protection. And in all honesty, it never dawned on me to be scared of them, or be nervous. Furthermore, I wouldn't have wanted to be the girl who threatened me that night. I felt far safer with these 7 guys than I ever did with the security guard.

I'm walking through the building with these guys. There were two at each entrance and one with me. As I passed each door, the door sentries, would join me as I canvassed the building. We all had our stuff and when I came to the last door they guys all went out. I punched in the alarm code, grabbed my stuff and stepped out the door and started to lock it. But I spied my scarf still on the floor and I knew I had 30 seconds from the time I hit the alarm button until I had to have the lock thrown. So I dashed the 5 steps back across the floor, scooped up my scarf, ran back out and threw the lock.

My entourage and I were making our way across the parking lot, all laughing and talking. The guys were watching the dark shadows. They sort of had me surrounded, with me in the middle, very Secret Service POTUS stuff. In the distance I heard sirens but didn't think much about it. But they drew closer and closer and suddenly, the parking lot was filled with city cop cars.

The guys and me all stood frozen as the police yanked doors open, guns DRAWN, screaming to get on the ground. Now, my 7 seven body guards hit the pavement without a blink or a flinch. They are laying on the grown, spread eagle, bags thrown clear, hands completely visible.

Me... there I still stand, in my long read wood coat, brief case and purse dangling, in a pair of charming high heel boots. I'm yelling back that this is stupid, asking what is going on, telling them to let the boys up. While I'm yelling at the cops, the cops are yelling at me to get down on the ground- which was cold, ice and snow covered, and dirty and grimy. The guy on the ground nearest to me is about begging me to get down and do what the cops say.

I screaming I work there, these guys are my students, this is absurd. The cops are screaming to get down. I comply. I laying in the parking lot at freaking 10:45 pm at night with 7 students and about 30 cops. I. am. cold and I. am. PISSED.

The guys are all cuffed and brought to the their feet. A cop was talking to me at this time and I told him if he put cuffs on me, I'd have his badge. I told him who I was and I was in charge, that what they did was wrong, and profiling, and ludicrous and who knows what else.

Come to find out, when I went back in for my scarf I set off the silent alarm. The alarm company called the cops. The cops responded. The cops saw one single white woman and a group of black men and this was the result.

In the meantime, someone, somehow, called the Dean of Students who arrived on the scene. She took charged and said that yes I was closing the building, and yes these were my students. The cops sort of apologized to the students and they were apologetic to me.

I do understand the police were doing their jobs, and I know these were guys who were in gangs, and I know what it looked like: 7 black guys and 1 white woman, in a dark night parking lot.

It's a good story, something to look back at and have a laugh. Really, I mean, can you just picture me standing in the middle of a circle of police cars, being 20 kinds of indignant, with all these cops hidden behind their open car doors, guns drawn, and I'm bitching that my coat will get dirty, and I'm sending the dry cleaning bill to the city police? Can you just see it?

Not one of my best moments.

But while I also think about this and laugh, I also think how sad it was that these guys were treated this way.

And the city never pay to have my coat cleaned.



Curley said...

Ok, I understand where you were coming from. Put the shoe on the other foot. You were accosted just inside the building and being kidnapped and taken acorss the parking lot. Would you want the cops to be polite? On the other hand, I can just see you in the parking lot telling the cops that you're sending them the cleanig bill.

Thirty-Six Ten said...

Wow! You don't lead a boring life, do you?

Maggie said...

Curley- I know.

Thirty-Six Ten: ah those were the days. Now, I'm boring.

Wiley said...

Brilliant story! And you're hardly boring - I make a rule of never hanging out with boring people, for one ;)