The other day I was driving to pick up my daughter from school. She is a freshman at the Frank Sinatra School of Performing Arts. It is a wonderful school, but its’ located in Astoria Queens, and we live in Flushing. Logistically, the school is only 6.8 miles away from our home, but realistically it’s a 20 to 40 minute drive depending on traffic.
I was making good time. There was no traffic on the Grand Central Parkway and I caught every green light on Northern Boulevard. I started thinking, ‘this may be my lucky day — I should play the Lotto,’ until I was about three blocks away from the school and hit a wall of traffic. Nothing was moving. I sat on the corner of 35th Avenue and Steinway Street for three traffic light sequences.
I rubbernecked to see what was up; there were no Police torrent lights, no constructions rigs, no signs of an accident…so WTF was going on, I wondered as I leaned on my horn. As the traffic crawl continued, I discovered why: a Grey minivan — double-parked on the westbound side of the street parallel to the school buses — was causing a bottleneck.
Is this person a moron??? Who leaves their car double-parked like that???
As I inched closer, I saw something that just blew my mind: there was actually someone sitting in the driver’s seat. My blood pressure skyrocketed, as car after car blew their horn and yelled out their window at the driver. But to no avail. I couldn’t wait for my turn. When I was finally able to pull up alongside, I yelled, “Move your car asshole!!!”
The driver was a middle-aged woman with a mop of dirty blonde hair. She never acknowledged my rant. She just stared straight ahead and gave me the finger!!! I wanted to yell at her some more, but there was a long line aggravated drivers waiting impatiently behind me, so I kept it moving.
When I finally pulled up to my daughter’s school, I had a chance to calm down. And for the first time in almost two years of a being retired Cop, I wished I was still on the job so I could have buried ‘Ms. Mop Top’ in summonses.
Writing summonses was never my thing. It was my least favorite part of Police work, and often a stressful experience. The recipient is usually angry and argumentative. Pedestrians and passing motorist tend to side with the offender and have no problem putting their unsolicited two cents in. You can feel everyone’s eyes on you and hatred from all angles.
One time I pulled over a lady for a busted headlight, and she freaked out on me. She must have been insane, because as soon as I approached her vehicle, she started screaming bloody murder, like I was assaulting her or something. The more questions I asked, the louder she screamed. She even banged her hands on the dashboard and started tearing her hair out.
I tried to explain to her that it was just a defective headlight, and if she got it fixed within 24 hours and mailed the receipt in with the summons, she wouldn’t have to pay for the ticket at all. But she wasn’t listening to a word I had to say, and my partner and I were getting scared. So, I placed the ladies license and insurance card on the roof of her car and we ran back to the cruiser. As we peeled away, I could still hear her over-the-top, blood-curdling screams.
When I was in the Police Academy, an instructor told us a story of how a simple summons can solve a major crime. In the late 70’s, The Son of Sam serial killer terrorized NYC for a year, murdering six victims and wounding seven others. When he was eventually apprehended, it wasn’t based off a positive ID, fingerprints, or ballistic evidence. The Son of Sam was caught because he parked his yellow Ford Galaxie at a fire hydrant on a quiet Brooklyn street, prior to trolling on for his next victim.
Moments after the shooting of Stacy Moskowitz and Bobby Violante, a witness saw a man getting away in a car that had been ticketed. There were only several parking tickets written that fateful night in the area of the crime scene, one of them for a car registered to David Berkowitz of Yonkers. Still only considered a possible witness, NYPD Detectives went to interview him. After spotting the yellow Galaxie parked in front of his home, they peaked inside and saw a shotgun in the backseat. When the Detectives knocked on Berkowitz’s door and identified themselves, the first words out of his mouth were, “what took you guys so long?”
So, the next time you see a Cop writing up a summons, try not to hate them too much; they’re just doing their job. Most summonses won’t lead to the apprehension of a serial killer, but they may stop a major asshole from inconveniencing the rest of the world.
Back in the day, I wasn’t a fan of writing summonses. I worked my butt off to get promoted to Detective and get out of the bag (uniform) so I wouldn’t have to write them anymore. Now that I am retired from the force, I wish I ‘d kept a book of them just for the inconsiderate ones like Ms. Mop Top, who need a little motivation to be civilized.