Big E was hired 16 years ago today.
There has to be some sort of symbolism
to hiring police officers on a day that exists
only one year out of four. I'm just not sure
what it is. It's a Brigadoon sort of marker.
Sixteen years. Sweet Sixteen? Perhaps not.
I remember turning 16. I was in Australia as an
exchange student. My host mother made me a
fruit cake which had been coated with marzipan
and fondant. I was not particularly appreciative.
Turning sixteen meant something to me then.
There was a sense of being more grown up,
of moving toward independence.
Being on the job for 16 years and still on the street,
just makes you old man on the shift. You do things
differently, you move at a different pace. You've seen
brass come and go, you remember Old Days,
and you know just how old the equipment is.
The in-car computers might have been upgraded
through the years, and the vest styles have changed,
(they are bulkier and more uncomfortable)
but you know the radios are the same model
as they've always been, the nets are just being used
differently. You look at your daily uniform, and
know what is original, and what has been upgraded.
That webgear lasts a long time. Things that were
issued, and now aren't. Hobbles for one.
Being a police family for sixteen years feels more like
just another year forward, another day in a pattern.
The arrests, the stories, the people, they blend for me
as the years go on. I remember the illnesses, the
close calls, and the injuries that mark the years.
It's like a personalized Zodiak.
There was the year of Bacterial Pneumonia,
the Year of Viral Pneumonia, the Year of the
Gunshot Wound, the Year of the Car on the Wire,
the Year of the Dog Bite (okay, there have been
several years like that).
In fact, if it weren't leap year, I think it would
just be another anniversary, just another year between
10 and 20. There isn't a pay raise. There isn't a stripe
to add to the sleeve. It's just another year.
Leap year is what makes it stand out.
Of course, his anniversary isn't leap day anymore.
They changed it years back because the computer
system couldn't be schooled to understanding a
day that only came around quarterly.
In the beginning, Big E would have to remind the
timekeepers that his anniversary had come and gone.
(Of course, that was when we had Timekeepers
and there were pay raises. Now time keeping has
been centralized and the pay raises are long gone.
This is another one of those "Used to Be" things you
notice when you've been on for sixteen years.)