Power of Words
I’m not going to lie. I took one look at the shotgun and its giant shells, and I quickly questioned just who I thought I was and what I thought I was doing slipping into the passenger seat of the patrol car.
My eyes swept over the barrel, and a thousand stories sprung to life – you know, all the scenarios in which officer, detective and sex crimes specialist Suzie Ivy might operate that firearm while I sat alongside her cowered beneath the dashboard during my citizen ride-along.
Is this glass bulletproof? I thought as I snapped my seatbelt in place. Then I looked at the space beneath my feet. Could I even fit under the dashboard if necessary? And then, Really… I met this woman on Twitter, and now I’m seated in her police cruiser? Voluntarily.
I’m actually familiar with guns. I have a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun within arm’s reach under my desk. I grew up shooting my dad’s Beretta, and we have a 20-gauge shotgun that packs a nice punch against my shoulder blade (okay … admittedly, the punch comes more from the ammo choice than the gun, but it’s still a little kick).
So maybe it was less my writer’s imagination and more the stories Suzie had already told me: about the serial killer she’d nabbed, the sex offenders she monitored, the victims of sex crimes for whom she still has so much compassion. Maybe it was because I knew the pivotal role she played as lead detective on a nationally known homicide case a few years back (yes, her first day on the job). Maybe I was in awe that this woman, at 5’ 3″, was such a badass.
As it turns out, my ride-along wasn’t a high-action homicide kind of day (though I learned, the next day, a car exploded into flames in a field, and two neighbors decided to settle their differences by shooting at one another during Suzie’s shift).
My introduction to the officer’s life included patrolling within the city limits and driving past places known as Pee Pee Lane (use your imagination), Drug Alley and Little Mexico. I heard stories of the female resident in town who, scantily clad, walks her sheep down the road (Yes, I said sheep); about the man who once lived with so many goats in his house that boots were a necessity upon entry. (Yes, I said goats. And, yes, use your imagination about just what was piled on the floor).
We drove past sex offender houses and trailer parks known for their drug activity; and I eavesdropped while Suzie dealt with vehicle towing issues, stolen property and heartbreaking domestic situations*.
But of all of the components of this surreal (but exciting) experience, what really amazed me was Suzie’s skill. With people. With words.
During patrol, a young man walked right up to the cruiser, poked his head in the passenger’s window (a bit too close to my face … I could see his scraggly teeth…), and said, “You didn’t hear this from me, but 28 over there …” he pointed to a trailer, “I’ve heard they’ve been drying their weed in the morning. Thought you should know.”
Apparently Suzie has a knack for getting people to talk. Like this situation – unsolicited. During confessions and not during confessions. And about nearly everything. When I asked her how she did it, she said, “It’s all about talking, not acting like you’re better than anyone else.” The power of words.
Me… Um … I’ll stick to writing my words on paper… (Though Suzie has me beat there, too. She’s written a few books about her adventures on the police force: Bad Luck Officer and Bad Luck Cadet Suzie Ivy).
Some patrol, some play. The weekend wasn’t all work. We took a hike through a gorgeous canyon on Suzie’s mother’s property. It will not surprise you that the apple did not fall far from the tree. Mama is pretty hardcore!
For Readers & Writers: As readers and writers, we understand the power of words to transport. I was reminded, however, during my ride-along last weekend of the power of spoken words to move people to action – the power of those words to heal.
Do you think written words and spoken words hold the same weight? Is one more significant than the other? How do you hope the words in the books you read will affect you? In what ways do you want to influence those who read your words?
*Update: Suzie helped find a solution for a homeless young mother of three who had ME in tears while Suzie talked with her in the squad room. She is GOOD.
And, when you get a chance, read Suzie’s humorous account of our visit!