According to the police blotter
Our town newspaper?s police report is comedy, tragedy, sociology, poetry. It is my town, my species, me. Here are my summaries of some of the incidents it recounted this past year:
A man reports a message on his answering machine from a caller who threatened to defecate on his lawn if he was not paid $100 million. Police determine that the caller was drunk.
Man, age 33, calls police from hotel to report that his mother has sent a poisonous snake to his room to kill him. Officer arrives and finds man with cocaine and a woman not his wife. Man says he called the police by accident.
Newspaper runs erratum note: The bomb reported at the elementary school last week was actually a bong (?a water pipe commonly used for smoking marijuana,? the paper explains helpfully).
Tennis ball on Reece Road determined to be a tennis ball and not a bomb.
Man reports lock changed at house. Police report to scene and discover that the man wasn?t wearing his glasses and had been trying to open the door with his key upside down.
Doors of high school reported glued shut. Outhouse found on roof of school. Police suspect student prank.
Complaint: Manager of an apartment complex reports child going door to door in the complex asking residents ?What?s up?? Police do not locate the child.
Woman reports strange sounds coming from a nearby vehicle. Officers, suspecting an animal trapped inside, discover that the ?suspicious braying and whining? is a country music compact disc.
Squirrel reported ?intoxicated? on Cornell Street.
Woman ?spent 20 minutes talking dirty on the telephone before she realized the caller was not her boyfriend.? She contacted police to report the incident.
Charred Barbie doll found in chalk circle on State Street.
Seafood delivery truck smashes into light pole. Shrimp all over road.
Woman reports that someone broke into her house, used the hot tub, ate food, drank soda, used the boat, used the beds, used the towels, drank two cases of beer, and left behind the beer cans, some underwear, and three compact discs.
Man, age 22, seen clapping, barking, and making karate moves on Fifth Street. Officers contacted the man, who was practicing yoga while walking his dog.
Man at the bank on State Street reports that a woman in a red jacket asked him if he thought money was important. Police search the area but cannot locate the woman.
Man, age 41, reports that his mother has taken his car keys and refuses to give them back.
Police pull a man over on Boones Ferry Road and find these things in his car: three stereos, a black bag, screwdrivers, flashlights, seven sets of car stereo mounting brackets, an unidentified crystalline substance, and assorted drug paraphernalia. Suspect asked for receipts but cannot produce them immediately.
Woman calls police to complain that her ex-husband has signed up for the same dance class she wants to take.
Police receive call from a woman who believes she may have been the victim of a scam. Three weeks after losing her cat, she received a telephone call from a stranger in California. The caller claimed to be caring for the cat, but needed $600 to cover expenses. The local woman wired the money to the stranger, ?but now believes she may have been taken advantage of.?
Boy, age 4, returned to mother after she drove away from Starbucks and left him there.
Boy, age 4, returned to parents after boarding bus alone. Boy tells officers his parents were ?fighting and screaming? and he was so scared that he wanted to go far away. Parents did not notice boy gone for more than an hour after his estimated departure.
Among the things stolen in recent weeks: a Cadillac emblem, used tires, eight dollars, four bags of recycled newspapers, choir bells from the Christ Episcopal Church, an American flag, four tickets to an Elton John concert, a vacuum cleaner, a portable picnic table, three Santa Clauses (various sizes), two cases of Budweiser beer, two cases of Corona beer, a six-foot snowman, two newspapers (?by a man in a sports car?), a bottle of vodka (?by a woman in a sports car?), two bottles of vodka (?by four people in large coats?), a saxophone, a candy machine, the top half of a bikini, an air compressor, a blender, a Gore/Lieberman campaign sign, a ceramic duck wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, a mandarin orange, four dollars, half a cord of wood, half a bottle of Demerol, a Beretta pistol, a bird feeder, a box of chocolates, 12 tons of newspapers (from the Lions Club), 40 candy bars, a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac (worth $1,400), 20 football helmets, two fishing poles, a piggy bank, two avocados, a Yorkshire terrier, a hearing aid, and two boxes of detergent.
White parrot found confused on Hoodview Lane.
Front porch on Sierra Court meticulously covered with layer of marshmallow.
Teenage boy seen vomiting on State Street. Police determine that the boy and a friend were engaged in a milk-drinking contest.
Complaint: drunken teenage party. Police responding to the scene find ?an alcohol-free multicultural potluck.?
Pushy Jehovah?s Witnesses reported on Preakness Court.
Large golden retriever steals sandwich from a police officer on Monroe Parkway. Dog is last seen headed north.
Police issue a warning to three juveniles to stop posing plastic reindeer in mating positions.
I finally pop into the office of the Lake Oswego Review to find out who writes the police log. Turns out to be a young man named Scott Hammers: Alaskan native, news reporter for three years, previous job selling electric scooters. Hammers gets some 150 police reports a week and looks for serious crime first, drama second, color third. ?Most of the time I just leave the dispatcher?s language, which can be hilariously deadpan,? he told me. His all-time favorite? A duct-tape-wrapped bomb on the high school tennis courts, which turned out to be, after the police bomb squad exploded it, a pile of Penthouse magazines, scraps of which floated down all over town.
Brian Doyle, whose essay ?Leap? appeared in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Utne, is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. He is the author of two essay collections and editor of a new anthology, God Is Love: Essays from Portland Magazine (Augsburg Fortress Press). Doyle lives with his wife and three children in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Excerpted from The American Scholar (Fall 2002). Subscriptions: $25/yr. (4 issues) from Box 97269, Washington, DC 20078.