Working nights, 1100 to 0700 hours, was one of those good news-bad news things. You were either going to be bored out of your mind or scared out of your wits at some point. In between those extremes was routine patrol. Occasionally, there were also little incidents that made you wonder how some people managed to get dressed in the morning.
For example, one night shift, I was camped out watching the infamous Fry Street area in Denton, Texas. I was parked where I could keep an eye on the local “stop and rob,” the head shops and bars on Fry, and the Jack in the Box. The Box was where the stoners and drunks would go to scarf down greasy burgers and fries.
Shortly after the bars closed, I heard what sounded like a car at the drag strip warming up the tires.* There was that loud screeching sound and the noise of an engine revving up, ready to launch, but there were no loud exhaust noises.
Now, that was strange. Who, in those days at least, did burnouts without loud pipes? Nobody! Yet, for a few minutes, there would be loud screeching and engine noise but no movement. I could not see anything to match the noise and was about to drive down the street to see if I could see something.
Then there was movement. From behind the Jack-in-the-Box, a car appeared. It moved in jerky stages. The engine would rev, the tires would screech, the front end would raise up, and it would move a few feet. Then the noise would stop, and the strange show would start again. When it reached the street, I was there, red lights flashing.
Of course, I expected some drunk kid or local stoner to stagger out of the car. Instead, a nicely dressed, polite young man stepped out when I asked him. He and his three buddies had those “Oh, no! What am I going to tell my mother” looks on their faces.
After checking them out, checking the car out, and realizing what happened, I had to laugh. However, I did not laugh until I let them go on their way.
The driver and his friends were new students at North Texas State University. The driver’s parents surprised him with a brand-new Chevrolet Monte Carlo and had it delivered to his apartment in Denton. Since it was a delivery, the driver dropped it off and left the keys at the office, and no one familiarized the kid with the car.
The display of smoking tires and revving engines was not due to drugs, alcohol, or a desire to show off his powerful new hotrod. Rather, it resulted from not releasing the parking brake before putting the car in gear.
The look on the kid’s face when I pulled the release and the parking brake pedal popped up was priceless. The muffled laughter of his friends was sad.
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