When Craig Boyette showed up at the annual LASD retiree meet-up, it was as its newest member: His retirement from the department had become official the day before festivities began.
Over the next couple days he had come to reacquaint himself with some old friends, and meet some new ones. But there were couple of other things that happened upon the former lieutenant's radar as well.
One was a gentlemen who went out of his way to greet Craig and expressed a seeming degree of familiarity with him, smiling warmly and asking him how he was doing. Craig regarded the man for a second, then asked him if he really knew who Craig was. The man said of course; he recognized him as they had crossed paths at some point throughout the department's history.
Craig conceded the point, for he readily recognized the man. But Craig could could go one further, and provide some actual context for the nature of their association. And so he laid out a story for the man.
The tale began in 1974, when a recent graduate from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departments' explorer academy had found himself standing in the watch sergeant's office of the East Los Angeles sheriff's station. The watch sargent flagged down a passing deputy and had him step in from the hallway.
"This is our newest explorer," the sergeant said. "You're going to take him on a ride along today."
"Give him to someone else," he said contemptuously of the young man who he'd barely glanced at. "I don't have explorers ride with me."
The deputy then walked out the office without another word, leaving the dumbstruck and impressionable explorer behind him.
As the years passed and the explorer got hired by the department as deputy sheriff, the men's paths would re-cross with one another. Each time, it was the deputy's brusque manner that registered with the former explorer and took him back to that first day at the East Los Angeles station. But the men remained in elliptical orbits of one another, never really getting to know one another throughout their entire careers.
When Craig told the man that the dismissive deputy in the story had been him, the man was visibly taken aback and politely excused himself.
The next day, the man again approached Craig at the table where he and his wife were sitting. He asked if he could join them.
Craig welcomed him, at which point the man opened up to him. He said their conversation from the day before had really bothered him. Craig's words had given him quite a bit to think about over the course of the intervening hours and he really wanted to make right by Craig even if he didn't remember the incident. Not once did he question the story's veracity.
The man's inability to doubt Craig's recollection of the events is perhaps testimonial to the man's knowledge of a general attitude he'd once embodied. But his current sincerity was not lost on Craig, and whatever resentment or hurt that he had been feeling towards the man dissolved and no more was said about the matter. The men parted on good company.
I was glad to hear the story for multiple reasons. At a very selfish level, it was because I could relate to what Craig had been feeling all those years. It is in my nature to internalize slights, particularly as I have almost always found them to be needless affronts. And my sensitivity on the matter is such that I could gratefully receive 100 letters of commendations and awards and various nods of approvals—not a one will resonate with me so much as that snide or cutting remark made by some jerk.
For it is this latter sentiment that I will latch onto with the tenacity of the pitbull's 2,000 pounds PSI bite so as to be found swinging around its tethered links for weeks thereafter. Even the gentle reminder of "consider the source" does little to balm the pain and is testimonial to my thin-skinned nature and horribly skewed priorities.
But if there is a saving grace to my posture, it is that I rarely get kicked in the teeth twice.
That Craig, 38 years on, still remembered this incident reminds me that I am not alone. Nor do I think that ours are particularly novel experiences. I believe that the greater part of humanity is a constituency of walking wounded that internalized all manner of needless hurts and slights throughout the courses of their lives.
There is nothing either wrong or weak in treating people with kindness and respect. There is always recourse for those who misinterpret the overture as weakness.
Unfortunately, there have always been those who cannot deign themselves capable of such acts, particularly as they relate to subordinates. My experiences with them is the reason I refrained from attending either Craig's retirement or the round-up. I don't want to see these particular irritants again.
Now, people can accuse me of getting my panties in a bunch and perhaps that's the case. I am, however, left to wonder what Craig's acquaintance might have thought if he'd given the young explorer more of a glance back on that day. If actually looking at that young man's face might have caused him to register its likeness with some sense of context. How might he have felt about his conduct some time later when Craig would double back into a house in a bid to rescue Jack Miller who'd been shot seconds before? Might Craig's heroism have made him regret his dismissive attitude?
I don't know. But based upon the remorse he expressed to Craig at the round-up, I suspect so.
For my part, I try to limit my hypocrisies and pieties. My penchant for being a mercurial prima donna is well established. But if there was a saving grace to my overly sensitive nature it was that I tried to treat everyone with good natured respect. I never shied away from having citizen volunteers or explorers ride with me and I like to think that most had a good time with me. Several have gone on to become deputy sheriff's themselves.
I like to think that if I ever should attend a round-up, I will not have some former explorer reminding me of the time I treated him badly.
I hope that you will have that same peace of mind.