To most folks the word "monsoon" means little more than a tropical rainstorm in a war movie. But to those of us who have lived in Arizona, it means a potential "wrath of God" storm with severe winds and tons of intense rain that transform ephemeral rivers into real rivers. These little atmospheric events give everyone and everything in the desert a much needed dose of rain and a brief glimpse of quite possibly how it will look at the end of time.
I remember one monsoon in my rookie year with the Tucson Police Department. I was driving into town to get ready for a late swing shift and found myself admiring the massive towering anvil-headed clouds bearing down on the Old Pueblo.
By the time we hit the streets the storm was in full form. There was lightning and thunder that seemed like a full-fledged artillery assault and winds so vicious I even found myself admiring the speed of a shopping cart racing along Broadway at Campbell.
Normally, a monsoon is a sweeping dramatic moment that soon passes, but sometimes they seem to be having so much fun messing up your town they hang around until they have really mucked things up. This one stayed to really hammer the city of Tucson. Alarms were being set off right and left and JW reported the contents of a furniture store could be found in its parking lot but the call he was answering was still a false alarm. Nobody had broken in.
The power went out, but unlike its normal pause, it stayed out. Soon I found myself ankle deep in water in the arroyo known as Alvernon and Broadway doing traffic control as darkness fell and no flare would work. After an hour or so, the storm had passed and I was relieved by two fellows and began taking calls.
First was a little pucker factor of a gas leak created by a crashing massive tree. Sam and I handled the crowd waiting to be instantly consumed in a massive fireball while the gas company struggled to get it controlled.
After the gas was controlled, I went from call to call, handling all kinds of minor and not-so-minor disasters precipitated by the storm. Even with the power off, folks still had domestics, and alarms still went off, and suspicious people still acted suspiciously. As the night wore on I went from intersection to intersection relieving one hungry cop after the other so they could take a break and get something to eat.
It was in these late-night hours that I began to wonder at all the traffic. It was mostly lookie-lous, people driving by and staring at the damage, staring at all the police, staring at all the service vehicles, staring at all the industry of recovery going on. They were all families, just driving, driving, driving.
I had this sudden premonition that someday there will be a great apocalypse and all the land will be thrown into a great darkness. There will be terrible wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. Then it will end and there will be all the families everywhere just sitting and staring at the blank television...waiting, waiting for the power to come back.
It won't come back on, and they will yearn to do something since they are bored. That's when Mom and Dad will look at each other and then the kids and say, "OK, kids, everyone get in the car."
And so the end of time will come with all the families everywhere driving around staring at the nice police officers directing traffic as the last moment suddenly comes upon us all.
Back to my Monsoon story.
We were relieved by a new shift coming on in the morning and, as we all dragged our wet bodies into the station to debrief, I looked at my activity log. On top of all the traffic control I had handled 13 calls. When the hell did I do those?
We all compared notes...what a shift...what a great shift. At breakfast I shared my bizarre vision of the end with my roommate, JW. He took a fresh dip of snuff, looked out the window of the restaurant, shook his head, and said, "Maybe, maybe not, just not on my shift."
Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.