• No Tolerance for No-Tolerance

         Some folks think the proliferation of “no-tolerance” laws and policies in today’s culture are great and send a stern message. Perhaps, but what if it’s the wrong message? I’m a cop and you’d think I’d love to “stick it” to the bad guys—I do, but that’s not always what happens. Sometimes, in knee-jerk, do-something responses to emotional incidents, some people tend to overreact and overreach. In a free society cops, prosecutors, and judges are rightly given discretion, because crimes should be assessed on a case by case basis. Not all crimes or criminals are equal; there are degrees.

         Here’s an example: Let’s say dispatch sends officers to a report of kids drinking in the park—teenagers having a “kegger” at the end of the school year. And let’s say there is a, “no-tolerance” policy in effect for any kid caught with any alcohol. (Like no one in high-ranking positions ever used alcohol when they were under age.) Any kid caught drinking, or with an open container, regardless of any association with driving, will be issued a citation and will loose his or her driver’s license. Great! Right? Well, hold on.

         I arrive at the park, stroll down a grassy hill toward the party. The kids see me and despite my order to stop, they scatter en masse, slip-sliding down the slick slope. Only a few kids remain behind. These kids are cooperative, sober, and say they’d just arrived and only had the cups of beer they were each holding.

         My inclination: Scold them about what they’re risking, call their parents, and then release the kids to them. Sounds reasonable, right? Screech! (Hard brakes) You’re forgetting about one thing: The no-tolerance policy. I have no discretion. I arrest the kids, transport them to the precinct, issue Minor in Possession citations, and then release them to their parents. They’ll each be issued a summons to appear in court and will likely lose their driving privileges. And the arrest could affect their future college, military, or job options.

         Now, you might say they got what they deserved. Okay, maybe, but what about all those kids who ran? What’s their penalty for, first drinking alcohol while a minor, and then disobeying a police officer’s order to stop and fleeing? Zilch! Nadda! Nothing! So, because of “no-tolerance” the cooperative kids receive a very stiff sanction, while the true “criminals” receive nothing. Oh, there is one thing both groups of kids learn: That running from the police, rather than cooperating with them, is the better way to go in the future.

         No tolerance laws and policies are the coward’s way out. They’re for people who are afraid to make the hard decisions. Well, in a free society, enforcing the law is all about discretion and hard decisions. Totalitarian societies create no-tolerance laws, because they’re interested in compliance—in dominance, not in justice. True justice derives from discretion.

         On the other hand I won’t argue that those who abuse or misuse their discretion taint the system for everyone, and create emotional calls for these types of laws. I say put down the shotgun and hold these people to account, individually. In a no-tolerance society, for every bad guy who gets what he “deserves,” five good guys, who may have done a bad thing, get more than they deserve.

        

  • Get Out of the HOV Lane!

         Does this bug you as much as it bugs me? Now, let me make the proper disclaimers: My comments are not meant to imply, infer, or otherwise implant any suggestion that I endorse breaking speed laws—I don’t. However, enforcing them is my job, not yours. Also, this is primarily directed at those of us who brave our various metropolitan rush hours daily. For those of you who are fortunate enough to avoid rush hour, well, ain’t you just so special.

         Okay, back to that thingy buggin’ me. You’re cruising to work on the freeway in moderate traffic. Moderate meaning your wheels are turning and you’re actually creeping steadily toward your destination. You’re actually making a little headway, and then it happens; you catch up to him. He’s the driver who’s taken it upon himself to “police” the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes.

         He’s driving in that lane just because he can, because he’s got two or more people in his car. The speed limit is 60 MPH, but he’s driving 57 ½ MPH, and doesn’t give a rat’s behind about you rats behind. But don’t worry, once he gets to the Express Lanes he’ll blast up to 70 MPH. Why? I don’t have a clue.

         Okay, this is for you left lane loiterers, you road rage instigators: If you’re driving in the HOV lane and you see folks passing you on the right—now, listen up, GET OUT OF THE DAMN LEFT LANE!

         Ahem! I’m better now. Who cares if other folks drive above the speed limit (well, I do; but…), you shouldn’t. It’s not your job to care about other driver’s driving, while you’re supposed to be busy caring about your own driving. Rather than making things safer, by impeding faster traffic you’re much more likely to piss folks off and encourage them to make unnecessary lane changes just to pass your sluggy ass.  

         Leave the job of catching speeders to those of us trained to deal with them. I realize you may mean well. You may have good intentions. You may even view it as a moral imperative—people manufacture all kinds of motivations. All I can say is pay attention to the car attached to the steering wheel you’re gripping. If you have a legitimate problem with a serious traffic risk to report, that’s what cell phones are for.

         As for the drivers who unintentionally and obliviously impede traffic in the HOV lane because when their car engines engage somehow their brains simultaneously disengage, sorry folks, you’re on your own.

  • Give Professional even if You Don’t get It.

         How do you deal with professionals when they behave less than professionally? This is a question with which I’m struggling at the moment. We writers need editors, agents, and publishers. (They need us too, they just don’t act like it.) We don’t want to derail any potential gravy-trains, but we also don’t want to be squished between the tracks.

         I’m experiencing one of those problems, which, when I was an unpublished writer, I couldn’t wait to have. I’m being ignored by one publisher and by another editor regarding two separate projects. This is all the more confusing because my initial contact with both was positive.

         As a writer I’ve received numerous rejections, so I can’t imagine these folks are afraid to give me bad news. So, why aren’t these professionals responding to my cordial follow ups? It’s not like I haven’t been patient; it’s been many months for each since we’ve had contact. I’d granted each of them exclusive consideration of the project before I went elsewhere, making the lack of response even more frustrating.

         As an aspiring author (read: half-paranoid), many scenarios cross my mind: I suck so badly they can’t bear to talk to me for fear some of my suckiness will rub onto them. My proposal or manuscript “accidentally” fell into a shredder. Maybe they simply forgot. Or, perhaps they’re so busy they legitimately haven’t had time to look at it yet.

         Regarding the last point, aren’t we as writers busy too? Unlike most editors, agents, and publishers, a significant number of writers also have another fulltime profession or vocation. Writing is done all that “free” time we have. As a writer, I understand if they haven’t had time, I’m just asking for the same professional courtesy I afford others.

         We writers ask ourselves, if I push too hard, will I be considered one of those “problem” writers who, regardless of talent, agents, editors, and publishers don’t want to add to deal with?

         I’m going to keep on pushing, but only a little; perhaps a bit of a nudge.   

  • Those Unexpected Gifts, if You’re Ready to Listen.

    One of the things I find so exciting about the writing life, actually life in general, are those things that seem to come out of nowhere. I see them as rewards for those of us who refuse to quit. In fact, this hit me the other day when I was wondering about several writing-irons I currently have in various fires. I was frustrated wondering if I might finally hear back from someone on these projects.

         I thought about the thing writers both fear and tend to experience frequently: Rejection. Those niggling thoughts crept in making me wonder, should I stick with it; is it worth it? Well, sometimes folks say things, even profound things, but if you’re not ready for it, the speaker’s breath is wasted. Conversely, something said, though simple, can hit like a ton of bacon bits.

         I was enjoying the banter during a teleconference for an on air publicity club I belong to run by my friend and mentor Wayne Kelly, when another friend and motivator Tony Dyson (creator of R2D2) said, “Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going, and you’ll make it,” regarding promoting your passion. Seems pretty simple right? But when it comes at a time when that precise discussion is rattling around in your own teeny little head, the impact is magnified.

         And as Tony added when I thanked him for the comment, “…if you like a word, why not say it over and over again[?]”

  • PETTY PARKING PARTICULARS

         I stopped my patrol car beside a woman leaving her car after parking on the wrong side of a residential street. (In other words she parked facing northbound on the southbound side of the street.) I politely informed her that parking on the wrong side of the street is against the law and she should resist repeating this in the future, especially when doing it in front of a police car.

         Rather than a thank you (I could have issued her a moving violation as well as a parking citation), she replied, smugly, “What’s the big deal?” Well, let’s see; what is the big deal? I’ll explain.

         First, many drivers are just plain lazy and it’s simply easier to do it the wrong way. Second, they fail, or perhaps refuse, to understand the overt and subtle reasons for such a parking restriction. It’s virtually impossible to park on the wrong side of the road without first driving on the wrong side of the road to get to the parking space. You’d think no one would argue that driving in an oncoming lane is against the law and can be pretty darned dangerous, but you’d be wrong; for some reason some drivers think they’re exempt from traffic laws while driving in a parking mode.   

         Consider next that parking facing the wrong direction positions the driver in such a way that when he attempts to reenter traffic, his driver’s side will be on the curb side of the car rather than the traffic side, with traffic headed toward him rather than in the same direction. This compromised position is compounded when a larger vehicle, especially a container truck or van, parks in front of your car. Just try to watch for oncoming traffic when you’re sitting on the sidewalk side of the car and there’s a large vehicle in front of you blocking your view.

         Another consideration people fail to recognize is that cars are designed so that red lenses, which double as reflectors, are located in the rear of the vehicle; front lights are clear and amber, and do not reflect headlights efficiently. Try this experiment the next time you’re driving down a dark street with cars parked both legally and in the wrong direction. You’ll notice your headlights will more than adequately illuminate the rear red lenses, but cars parked in the opposite direction have no such red reflection on the front and you’ll be amazed by the contrast and how difficult it can be to see them, especially in foul weather.

          A final important element: Cops and Parking Enforcement Officers routinely enforce parking the wrong way on primary arterials (busy streets), but commonly tolerate it when done on residential streets. Even so, drivers should keep in mind that if they are involved in a collision when entering or exiting an illegally parked position, they’ll likely be found at-fault for the collision. They’ll be cited appropriately and may be held legally liable for resultant injuries and damage.

  • Time (Mis) Management

    Time management; that’s my current thing; my current, actually chronic, fret—nice to know I’m not too old to experience angst. I’m constantly berating myself for not using my time appropriately. (And I don’t even play videogames) I get angry with myself as I wait for someone to finally do something about this time-wasting, as if the person responsible for doing that something isn’t me.

     

    Each of us is allotted the same twenty-four hours a day; the same 1440 minutes to use as we need and perhaps some of it as we want. That’s plenty of time to get things done, which leaves me wondering, what the hell’s wrong with me? Wait, don’t answer that; I have a fragile ego.

     

    My goal now is to endeavor to manage my time better. I could simply try to manage my time better, but I think if I endeavor I’ll be holding myself to a higher standard and it just may enhance my chances for success. 

         

  • Driving is something you do; not something that happens.

         I recently wrote an article entitled; Drive like you care, for www.ezinearticles.com . I thought I’d share some of my contentions with y’all. First, I noticed an interesting phenomenon (by the way, if you haven’t noticed, I’m often noticing interesting phenomena) in that many folks don’t treat the act, or activity, of driving as a separate thing to be done in and of itself.

         Many drivers seem to be very much engaged in what they’re doing, before they get into their cars, and then reengage after they get out of their cars, but driving their cars isn’t something they do, they treat it as something that simply happens on the way to and from.

         Do you ever do this? I sure do. Let’s say I’ve just left a place where I had a bad experience, poor service, argument, whatever; I get in my car and what’s on my mind, certainly not driving my car. Or I’m on my way to the Oprah Show studios, because she want to interview my about my latest book, which, of course, is the best book she’s ever read in her entire life, and she declares she’s quite confident it is the best book she ever will read and declares, on her TV show, that she’ll never read another book again—ever, having read it all now. Oh, sorry—where was I? Right; am I thinking about driving with Oprah on my mind? Hell no!

         Think about it next time you get in your car; is driving something you do, or is driving something that merely happens while you’re getting your butt from here to there or there to here?

  • What are you teaching your kids about cops?

    Please visit: www.isthereaproblemofficer.com 

         I had an experience yesterday that brought something home that I’d had in the back of my mind for some time now. I was in my usual morning coffee shop picking up a couple of coffees to go, as my normal java partner had to work the desk today. I passed a table where two couples were seated discussing Barack and Hillary, while two children, boys about four or five played just outside the store’s door.

     

         When they noticed me, I heard one of the men tell the others how funny it would be if, “the police officer,” were to go outside where the boys were playing, because it would startle the little boys. Standing, waiting for my coffee, the man caught my eye. He said, “I was just saying how funny it would be if you went out and accused the boys of trespassing, or something like that.” The two women and other man joined him, laughing.

     

         I glanced at the two, cute little boys who were totally absorbed playing in the dirt. I looked back at the folks at the table and said, politely, “There are enough people in Seattle who don’t like the police, without my scaring little kids.” Faces turned immediately serious. They didn’t seem offended, but they looked as if I’d pointed out something they hadn’t thought of before.

     

         After this incident, I thought about the two types of parents I’ve run into over the years as a cop. One parent respects and is grateful for what cops do and introduce me to their kids as someone they can trust and go to if they’re ever in trouble. The other type of parent, perhaps subconsciously, views the police as bogeymen, authoritarians, and cavalier abusers of rights. When they see a cop they tell their children, “You’d better behave or he’ll put you in jail.” These parents have come up to me to ask me to “talk” to their kids and threaten to put them in jail if they don’t mind their parent.

     

         I brought the coffee back to the precinct and told my partner the story. He was reminded of an officer he saw many years ago, before he was a cop. He said he was in a diner when a parent interrupted an officer’s meal. She said her child wasn’t minding her and asked if the officer would speak to him.

     

         The officer walked over to the child, who grew silent, gazing up at the officer. The officer greeted the child in a friendly manner, which put the kid at ease. The officer then pulled out his handcuffs and dangled them before the child’s wide eyes and said, “How would you like it if I put these handcuffs—on your mom?”

  • A Recurring Conundrum

         On occasion I find myself confronting a recurring conundrum. It’s one where it’s not about looking for the right answers; it’s about looking for the right questions.

         In this case, I’m talking about marketing, primarily promoting my writing and especially through the internet. The business and promotion end of things is often the most difficult for many writers, which is why so many of us don’t speak, market, or promote (or at least don’t like to)—instead, we write.

         Having said that, I have come a long way with the promotion aspects of marketing thanks to my friend Wayne Kelly at Onairpublicity.com. If it weren’t for taking his radio interview class last year I can only imagine how much of a dork I would have sounded like. (Any residual dorkiness you detect in an interview is purely me.)

         Trying to find time to market, promote, and run the business aspects of writing, while also working a full time job is indeed a challenge. I’ve been attempting to find the best ways to reach the most people and make sure my promotions budget gets the most bang for its buck. Unfortunately, there are plenty of internet scammers out there who prey on folks like me. Fortunately I haven’t wasted too much time and money on these scams.

         However, it’s left me searching for the piece of the puzzle to what feels like a gaping void in my marketing or promotion plan. Even if I could find the right folks to talk to, would I know what questions to ask? What works best, what works at all, what do I need, what could I do without, what should it cost?       

         I think I’m getting a little closer though when I realized I didn’t have to continue feeling around in the dark, I should just ask someone who knows. I recently asked my friend and mentor Wayne Kelly, who created his site, and I think I may finally be on the right track now. All I had to do was ask a knowledgeable friend about the right questions to ask. So, in the end it was simple. We shouldn’t be afraid to ask. Our networks are probably deeper than we think.

  • Just Stuff

    Figuring out how to get the word out about what you do can be frustrating to say the least. I can’t tell you the number of, “Reach Millions of New Customers–Easy!” scams I’ve checked out on the web. I can’t tell you because it embarrasses me to think of it. I’ve pretty much ended that venture (or misad-venture.) Now, I plan to focus on doing what I do the best I can and reaching folks one person at a time. Well, that is until such time I stumble on the way to reach millions! (Insert diabolical laugh here.)

    I found this website called, Authornation.com. Seems like some good folks over there. I’ve already “met” other writers, one quite successful from Hawaii, and another climbing the literary mountain like I am, from Florida. Lots of resources for writers.