Photo credit: discoverpolicing.org
I watched the news, with a glimmer of humor in my eye, last week when the summer solstice was “celebrated.” The weather folks all seemed so excited about “the longest day of the year” (most hours of daylight) and how wonderful it was that we were now, “officially,” done with that damp, cold spring that followed such a long, bitterly cold winter. My first thought was, “Great; more people drinking themselves stupid OUTSIDE instead of inside.” Then I realized my thought, shook my head at how cynical I was and realized my cynicism was born of experience.
I’ve been a police officer for over 30 years now. That’s (at least) 29 summers across which I’ve “enjoyed” dealing with the stupidity of drunk people. Are summer drunks different than winter drunks? The answer is yes… in some minor ways. Summer drunks sweat more and stink more (usually). Summer drunks wear less clothing and are much more confident in how great they look (unfortunately most of them don’t look so great). Summer drunks get dehydrated faster and often need EMS help so they don’t keel over dead. Summer drunks fight OUTSIDE more often. Summer drunks are stupid in a wider variety of venues: yards, parks, boats, cars, pools, etc.
In the summertime, I think we really do see more drunks outside. Although Memorial Day (in May) isn’t actually in the meteorological summer season, it is the unofficial start of what most folks consider “summer” and far too many people kick it off with a big BBQ wherein the only thing there is more of than burned meat is cold beer. Of course, that gets consumed in large quantities and before long you have a group of people red in the face, sweaty, staggering and yelling at each other because, for whatever reason, their ability to recognize their own voice diminishes as their BAC goes up.
Then, on the Fourth of July, we get a repeat but, glory be, the drunk people get to also play with explosives! (fireworks) Our brothers and sisters in the fire fighting and EMS services get to clean up bloody and burnt (or burning) messes while we referee alcohol induced (or magnified) stupidity.
During the Labor Day weekend, as everyone “celebrates” the “end of summer,” it seems like the alcohol consumption peaks as folks try to drown their sorrows that summer is over (or parents celebrate that school has started again). More drunks; more brawls; more loud disagreements; more stupidity.
And let’s not forget every weekend with decent weather in between Memorial Day and Labor Day; those Friday evenings, Saturdays all day and Sunday afternoons where folks enjoy the weather… and whatever they are drinking copious amounts of.
Of course, summer for us also means sweating more because body armor simply isn’t cooling. It may save your life and it may help you sweat off a few pounds you don’t need, but no one has yet created body armor with air conditioning built in. Summer means we need to stay hydrated and NOT get over-heated (heat stroke sucks and is very dangerous). Summer also means we get to test, perhaps more than during winter months, our anger management skills as we get slapped in the face (figuratively) with the stupidity of others.
Those “others” are the folks we get paid to deal with and our job should never be taken personally. We have to do our best to remain professional and impartial in the performance of our duties. I know it’s not always easy. We get insulted. We get ignored. We get threatened. We get… well, any and every example of negative human behavior and, as humans ourselves, it’s all too tempting (and sometimes unavoidable) to get angry and act accordingly. All too often we’re ashamed of ourselves afterward. Even if we didn’t do anything unprofessional, against policy, etc. we still know how we FELT and what our motivation was and that causes us to feel shame. Acknowledge it; integrate it; learn from it and move on. Don’t dwell on it. We’re all human.
For the love of all that’s good, don’t go home and crack open a case of beer to deal with it. That just adds one more stupid drunk to everyone else’s work load. Talk with whoever does you good. Recognize your own human frailty. Relax. Unwind. Recharge. Then put back on your uniform and game face and head back out to safely deal with summer stupidity. The key there is SAFELY. Stay alert and stay alive and get home to enjoy the summertime with your family.