Today, at 32 years old, I entered my first police station. This is a good thing as I don’t have a criminal record and doubt that I ever will. I had to file a police report on identity theft. I went home sick from work this morning only to find in the mailbox this afternoon that I’ve been denied for a credit card I never applied for at a store I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping in. (Sorry, you can take the girl out of Long Island, but you can’t take the Long Island out of the girl).
The whole idea of identity theft is scary and most people don’t think twice about it. I know I didn’t. I don’t use Wi-Fi, I don’t save credit card information on websites, and I don’t save passwords online. I doubt that I even have good credit, so if someone wants to really steal my identity, could you ask them to take all of my student loans, too?
(If this has happened to you, you know how horrible it feels. It feels like a betrayal or a violation. Unfortunately, it’s one of the negatives that has come our way in the electronic age. )
Sitting in the police station today felt strange. At first, I felt scared and vulnerable. The woman at the front window was on the phone and didn’t give me the time of day. Then, a policeman came out from behind and asked if he could help me. I sat down with him at a table and he started filling out my police report for identity theft. As I sat there, I kept peering into the back room through the glass. I felt like a little kid. My eyes widened when I saw what looked like a real cell! It just didn’t feel real, but that could’ve also been the Dayquil talking. Looking back now, it felt like a mash-up between a popular T.V show Taxi and the famous Police Academy movies.
Taxi – a sitcom that aired from 1978-1982.
The Police Academy movies are somewhat of a fixture of slapstick American comedy. They’re on par with today’s generation of comedies, and even “bromances” like: Superbad, I Love you, Man, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now, I recognize that these movies are not for everyone and if you’re disgusted by my comedic choices, then we’ll have to just agree to disagree. I can name at least two friends who are horrified to know that Superbad is one of my favorite comedies, but it just kills me.
It’s probably my father’s fault that I love stupid comedies. The Police Academy movies are a series that I was brought up on, alongside the Naked Gun movies and basically anything John Candy ever did. They’re some of my father’s favorite movies and while I can appreciate them, you’ll never hear me say that they are my favorites.
Police Academy shenanigans circa 1980’s
When I said that I felt like I was in a Police Academy movie today at the police station, I wasn’t kidding.
Let me give you a glimpse of my time down at the station:
OFFICER: “Are you a member of a gang?”
ME: “[sniffling] What? A Gang? No.”
OFFICER: “[smirking] Are you sure you’re not in a gang?”
ME: “[wiping my nose] Yea, I’m pretty sure.”
OFFICER: “Okay, just checking.”
Maybe it’s because I had a bright pink nose, no makeup on, and was wearing an old sweatshirt, or maybe he was just trying to make a sick woman laugh. Ah, Irony! How my life is plagued by literary devices!
On the walk back home to my apartment, I started thinking of my Best American Poetry Blog post for tonight and one of my favorite James Tate poems about a policeman and a goat came into my head. (Perhaps, I did need a good laugh after all!)
I saw Tate read it when he came to SUNY Binghamton in 2000 when I was an undergrad. I never laughed so hard in my life. His delivery was hilarious, and this poem in particular, is one I’ve always admired. I’ll never be able to write a funny poem, but if I ever do, I’ll base it on Tate.
It Happens Like This
By James Tate
I was outside St. Cecelia's Rectory
smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me.
It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish
brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered
what the laws were on this kind of thing. There's
a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People
smiled at me and admired the goat. "It's not my goat,"
I explained. "It's the town's goat. I'm just taking
my turn caring for it." "I didn't know we had a goat,"
one of them said. "I wonder when my turn is." "Soon,"
I said. "Be patient. Your time is coming." The goat
stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked
up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew
everything essential about me. We walked on. A police-
man on his beat looked us over. "That's a mighty
fine goat you got there," he said, stopping to admire.
"It's the town's goat," I said. "His family goes back
three-hundred years with us," I said, "from the beginning."
The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped
and looked up at me. "Mind if I pat him?" he asked.
"Touching this goat will change your life," I said.
"It's your decision." He thought real hard for a minute,
and then stood up and said, "What's his name?" "He's
called the Prince of Peace," I said. "God! This town
is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there's mystery
and wonder. And I'm just a child playing cops and robbers
forever. Please forgive me if I cry." "We forgive you,
Officer," I said. "And we understand why you, more than
anybody, should never touch the Prince." The goat and
I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning
to wonder where we would spend the night.
~From Lost River. Sarabande Books, 2003
Alas, on this third night of blogging, I must say good night with a hot mug of green tea and honey, and a box of Nyquil with my name on it. I urge you to always open your mail, even if it looks like junk mail, and to read up on identity theft because it could happen to you. Remember readers, the power of poetry is about the human experience, and part of that experience are the ironies of life.