Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Respecting the Police

I was once in a holdup where shooting broke out. May I tell you the story? After college, I went to work at a Procter & Gamble factory in the Port of Long Beach. We had a dock for ships bringing cobra from exotic places. We produced coconut oil, a soap ingredient, alongside many P&G products. It was an old plant built in 1932, full of fragrances and interesting people. There was also a certain élan; our products—Tide, Ivory bar soap, Cascade, Crisco, etc.—were market leaders. It took me a while to realize this wasn’t the best place for my modest talents, but I loved that old factory, especially the satisfaction of making things people needed.

In the pursuit of improvement, we occasionally met in off-site meetings that would go into the evening after a dinner break. At one, with most of us returned from dinner, there was a knock at the door. Presuming it was our laggards, we opened the door to two guys pushing their way in, one brandishing a gun, the other a knife. A holdup. We, six men, were backed up in a semicircle facing our visitors, who demanded our wallets. You hear a lot about bullying these days, but this was the real thing and I was worried. The lean years of college had given me the habit of not carrying money—I had nothing to offer.

One of our group, a man I’ll never forget, declared he wasn’t giving his wallet to a couple of punks. It was an unexpected response; our armed assailant didn’t know what to do, so he fired a shot into the wall. Our leader, an older guy—this was when men who had fought in WWII were running things—reacted by whipping off his belt and taking a swing with the buckle at the closest assailant, the one with the knife. Seeing the motion, the gunman fired again, hitting our leader. The gunshots spurred us into action; chairs and lamps became our weapons. Our assailants headed for the exit with us in chase.

Afterwards, we tended to our wounded warrior and called for the police. Back at work, the story spread and we acquired, if not hero status, a bit of swagger. Our boss was lucky. He returned in a few days, none the worse for wear. I learned a few things from the incident. One was that the calculus of fear versus action is different for everyone. Most people would have simply given up their money rather than risk their lives—a decision the police support. Leave dealing with the bad guys to them.

But I also learned the importance of police in maintaining order in our society. I read in the last Indy that morale is down at our police department. I’m speaking up. The police do a difficult job dealing with troubled people and we need them; they have my total respect and support. I hope they have yours. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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