New York City is full of diverse people and events, but I have never seen it as I did seven years ago. I had recently graduated from the academy and was assigned to a field training unit in midtown Manhattan. Of the 10 months that I spent in that training unit, there are three memories that stand out.
It was about 6 o'clock on a February night, when I received a call that a deli was being robbed five blocks from my foot post. The only description of the suspect was of a male wearing a blue cap. I met two other officers near the robbery location, and the three of us attempted to get into position to look inside the deli. Doing this without being seen by the suspected robber wasn't easy. While down on my knees, I managed to look inside and spot a man in a blue cap pointing a gun at the cashier. The three of us, with guns drawn, we're anxiously waiting for the suspect to leave the store.
That's when a woman with both hands full of shopping bags approached me-while I was in a combat stance and aiming my gun at the door-to ask me the time. I don't know who was dumber, she for asking or me for giving it.
If there's one thing you can count on in New York, it's a protest. This one was to take place on a beautiful Fourth of July in front of City Hall. The sergeant told us that the protesters thought July Fourth shouldn't be a holiday because they thought the United States had gained independence on a different day. About 100 police officers were assigned to keep the peace. It was about noon when we finished setting up the barricades and were assigned posts.
One o'clock came and went, and there was not a protester to be seen. About an hour later, a man dressed as George Washington entered the barricades, surrounded by dozens of cops. "George" was carrying a sign that said, "Just Say No to July 4." He left after about a half-hour. I guess the protesters decided to take the day off.
My third memory reminds me that there is always room for a little magic in New York. I was working a tour that ended at 2 a.m. At about I a.m., I was standing at the comer of 34th Street and Seventh Avenue. Garbage bags full of paper rolled past my feet. I was leaning up against a lamp post, waiting for the tour to finally end, when I heard elephants.
I didn't think much about it, figuring it was probably a bad set of brakes. But that theory went out the window when I saw about 10 clowns and a line of animals that stretched for three blocks. I stood in awe as lions, tigers, elephants and performers from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus passed by. Everyone waved at me-I was the only person on the sidewalk. The circus had to walk to the train by way of the streets after their engagement at Madison Square Garden. Because of the animals' size and number, walking was the only practical way to get there. Being greeted good morning by a man in yellow tights riding an elephant in a pink shirt was the personal "Miracle on 34th Street" that brightened up my lonely morning.
Those experiences in the training unit were only my introduction to the finest job I've ever had. Each day in New York is as diverse as the department that protects it.
Kenneth C. Payumo is an officer with the New York City Police Department.