I once wrote an article about four levels of competence. It was within a series of essays about coastal navigation requested by a local yachting magazine. They never printed that piece. I think what I wrote was too offensive to their valued advertisers. So be it.
Those four levels start at the bottom and rise from not knowing even how little we grasp about how to do something. This skill level is often accompanied with a lot of condescending tones and braggadocio. “Empty wagons rattle the most,” is something this old farm boy tries to remember.
Most of us rise at least to the second level where we become aware of how little we know and begin considering how to improve. We become quite humble in the face of that awareness and mechanically perform the basic steps. Have you known the pain of trying to learn to play a musical instrument?
The third level is when we are finally able to perform to some point of satisfaction but still seek to improve ourselves and often need to consciously think about the skills we are employing. We’ve learned to respect rather than envy others who possess a competence we strive for.
The fourth level is achieved with experience and practice when we can finally do something intuitively. I’ve become fairly adept at sitting in this chair.
Here’s my drift; if you’re still with me. I’ve recently had two bemusing moments with the local constabulary in recent weeks. The first incident found me in handcuffs while going to the local Post Office. I’d always wondered what that must feel like. I was simply parking my truck. Another fellow was also trying to park and making a very poor job of it even after repeated attempts. I waited hoping he would settle. Embarrassed perhaps, he began shouting at me, asking if I had a problem. When I replied “yes” he responded by asking what was wrong. At that point my terse answer, without thinking, was that he was blocking the “F…ing road.”
Then all hell broke loose from behind the Post Office across the street. It turns out to have been a young cop interrogating a woman there about her boyfriend whom he’d just taken to jail. (No further comment on why he’d later share that information.) Crossing the street to get the mail and angling past him, his harangue continued. I suggested that he appeared to be plenty busy enough without spreading his efforts so thinly. He was enraged. I was arrested, hand-cuffed and stuffed into the back of his vehicle. Eventually the cuffs were removed and I was threatened with charges of disturbing the peace, road rage and uttering profanities in public. Yes, really!
He even had the audacity to mention the size of my wrists and how difficult hand-cuffing me had been. He wanted to know what my occupation was. I so badly wanted to say that I was a retired cop and had spent a lot of time playing with my gun. No, I did not. The handcuffs hurt like hell and I bore deep welts on my wrists for several hours.
Constable Zealous refused to acknowledge that he had not interviewed all those witness to my heinous behaviour nor had he noticed the traffic problem and who was shouting. After a half-hour of acrimonious debate I actually received a vague apology once I’d pointed out that he had a rage issue about being challenged and that his job did not involve being any sort of interpretive judicial system. Of course if I’d just kept my pie-hole shut there would have been no problem. I often remind myself of Don Ruiz’s four agreements: I will respect the power of my words, I will take nothing personally, I will assume nothing, I will always do my best.
From a skewed perspective I can see how I broke all those rules in my police moment but damnit, sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right. That’s the problem with Canadians, we are just too polite to the point of enduring all manner of abuses, even from people on our payroll: politicians, bureaucrats, civil servants. They are sworn to serve us, not to try forcing us to bend to their will. We’ve forgotten who’s supposed to be in control. I could easily begin to rant about how Canada is insidiously becoming a police state while we blissfully ignore the obvious. But, if you can’t see it, I’m not about to try penetrating your comfort zone.
I have no desire to be a policeman, not for any salary. It is a thankless task, fraught with danger, stress, frustration and hopefully, at times, guilt and is at most times subject to contempt from the taxpayer….. until, of course, they need to dial 911. There are life and death decisions to be made in an instant and no-one always gets it right no matter how much training they may have had. It is intolerable however when a police officer is arrogant, rude and assumptive. I will not endure derogatory tones from anyone, even a goon with a gun. “To serve and protect” dude! Friends who are retired RCMP members admit some embarrassment that they once wore the uniform. One retiree said that in consideration of the modern police force the only difference between it and motorcycle gangs is that the police have better resources. “They’re all thugs.” Strong words indeed. I do appreciate the job they try to do. I repeat that I don’t want it. I know I’m just too reactive.
I’ve made it to this point in my life without ever tangling with the police. There were, of course, times when I deserved to have been. I can’t remember my last traffic ticket and the last time I interacted with police was to help apprehend a severely impaired driver. A good thing I think.
My objection is that the prevalent police attitude I see, and hear about, is that they know more than everyone about everything at all times. That apparent insecurity is a dangerous thing for someone so heavily armed and so constantly under stress. A little contrition could go a long way. So, back to the four levels of competence and the four agreements.
On a recent morning Jack and I were driving to one of our favourite walking locations. We fetched up at the back of a small parade creeping along the road. A police car headed the procession with flashing lights. Well, actually it became apparent that an emu was heading the parade. It was high-stepping down the centre of the pavement and making a good four knots to windward.
Eventually big bird decided to make a u-turn and headed back toward town in the opposite lane. I saw a photo opportunity coming my way and perhaps a chance to help corner the outbound oiseau. The cop, now in mid u-turn began to bellow on his loudhailer. “GET-BACK-IN-YOUR-VEHICLE!”
Just what an over-wrought monster bird needed! The officer pulled alongside and angrily admonished me: “That bird has toes ya know!” He was clearly frustrated with the whole humiliating situation. It never occurred to him that perhaps I may have displayed some confidence with good reason. I do understood that in his eyes I was just another nuisance idiot in need of salvation from himself. I do actually have a little experience with these creatures which are indeed powerful kick-boxers known to have readily disemboweled people who get too close. A former farm boy, ranch hand, and rodeo dude I’ve also been in pens with angry horned cattle, kicking biting horses, tusky boars. You develop a savvy for critters, but not when they’re being pursued by bellowing policemen in hot pursuit and I was not about to offer my resumé.
The emu made it onto the evening TV news. It turns out his name is Parker. He is from a local farm and a repeat escape artist. Eventually the police blockaded the road for a half-hour and then tasered old Parker before “subduing” him. He’s none the worse for wear with nary a singed feather. Fortunately for Birdy Boy there was not enough cranberry sauce on hand for a barby and happily no “Conservation” officers were involved. When they show up, despite their title, something invariably gets shot. Parker survived unscathed and is back on the right side of the fence plotting his next adventure. So, choose your own closing line:
– Keep your pecker up/ Keep your eye on the bird/ The beat goes on/ drumsticks!
“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”