How to Win an Award from the Town of Greenwich
(sounds of the AuthorBabe hitting the floor in a swoon of disbelief because wonders clearly never cease)
By special request from the AuthorBabe, herewith - in narrative form, with apologies to Hemingway, Bulwer-Lytton, Snoopy, Kafka, Hammett, and other literary stalwarts - the backstory behind your scribe's recent award from the Town:
It was a dark and stormy morning. Snow fell. February bound the earth in its iron grip.
Inside the library it was warm. The man stood at the computer terminal, looking for a book in the on-line catalogue. His hand clutched another book, one he was desirous of reading. But he had not checked it out - yet.
Suddenly, a cop ranged in. Two of them, in fact. They planted themselves on either side of the man and invited him to join them outside the library, where it was cold, and snow was falling.
The library was warm. The man had not yet found the book he was searching for in the on-line catalogue. He politely declined the invitation of the cops and continued his computer search.
Rough hands seized him. His arms were forced behind him. Handcuffs were snapped upon his wrists, rendering them immobile. But his hands still held the book, the one he was desirous of reading, the one he had not yet checked out.
He was frog-marched to the front door. Hands began to work through his pockets. His keys and coins were thrown onto the floor. They were soon joined by his pen and notepad and his wallet. When all his personal possessions were strewn across the entryway, the man was seized again and forced towards the door.
He screamed. Two words only. "Police brutality!!" The crowd of wide-eyed onlookers shrank back a bit, but kept looking on. No one raised a hand. No one said a word.
The agents of the Greenwich Gestapo forced the man down the front steps and into the back seat of a waiting cruiser. In vain the man asked why this was happening, what law he had broken. The only response from the stormtroopers was a cryptic, "You'll find out when you get to court."
They left him there, handcuffed in the back seat of the cruiser, with the window open and the snow drifting in. The man was cold. He was wet. The stormtroopers went back inside the libary, where it was warm. The man grew colder. And wetter.
Finally they came out. "My book," said the man. "What book?" said Stormtrooper #1. "The one in my hands," replied the man.
Stormtrooper #1 looked at the book in the man's hands. "What about it?" he said. "I haven't checked it out," the man said.
Stormtrooper #1 removed the book from the man's hands and took it back inside the library, where it was warm. The man in the cold car became colder. Stormtrooper #2 snickered and got into the second patrol car. He drove away.
Stormtrooper #1 returned. He had checked out the book for the man. He put it back in the man's hands. He started up the engine. "What is your name?" asked the man.
Stormtrooper #1 did not answer. He put the patrol car into drive and drove it. To the Greenwich Gestapo headquarters.
He hauled the man out of the car. Not gently. He put the man in a wire cage. The man demanded to speak to a superior officer. Stormtrooper #1 ignored him.
Time passed. The man could not read his book because his hands were handcuffed behind him. Nothing happened. More time passed.
Finally a superior officer came in. He greeted the man by name. He let him out of the cage and took off the handcuffs. He offered to drive the man back to the library. In the front seat. The man accepted.
They entered the library together. Everyone watched from the corner of their eyes. No one said anything.
The superior officer marched up to the Deputy Director of the library. Her name was Inga Boudreau, a name that would soon live in infamy. The man knew she was a liar and a thief, but no one else seemed to know, or care. Yet.
Later she would herself be arrested, multiple times. She would be fired from her job at the library. She would be convicted for her crimes. But the time for all that was still in the future. And the man was still in the present.
The criminal Deputy Director was the one who had told the Greenwich Gestapo to arrest the man. The superior officer told her that her complaint had been false. She turned a shade of puke-green.
The superior officer gave the man back his belongings. Then he left. The man went back to the computer terminal to continue the search for the book he was looking for. No one inside the library said a word. The snow continued to fall.
Well, dear reader, there you have it: another slice of life in this charming Town of ours. Seven and a half years later, the guilty have been punished or pensioned off. And your scribe is richer by a modest four-figure settlement.It was, all said, only an hour out of his life on that February day. So on an hourly basis, you might say he made out pretty well. Of course, there was the intervening lawsuit, and seven and a half years is a longish time to have to wait for justice to be done. The wheels grind pretty slowly in these here parts. And meanwhile, naturally, the legal bills of the Town of Greenwich (paid by you, dear taxpayer), ratcheted up well north of an immodest five-figure amount.
The scary thing, of course, is that this ever happened at all. And even scarier is the fact that no one - NO ONE - ever stood up to ask the cops what they thought they were doing. It was Germany in the 1930s all over again: the good lacked all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity. Keep your head down. Close your eyes. Pretend it isn't happening.
Yes, gentle reader, it can happen here. Hell, it did happen here. Civil and consitutional rights can be and are trampled on by warrantless authority. Interestingly, all this took place in 2000, well before 9/11, well before Guantanamo, and well before the current administration's egregious assaults on the Bill of Rights.
Do you still wonder, dear reader, why your scribe refers to the local cops as the Greenwich Gestapo? And, dear AuthorBabe, has your question now been answered?
While he was President of Yale, the late Kingman Brewster was fond of using the phrase, "it depends whose ox is gored", when explaining which university faction was being the most vociferous at any given moment. In Nazi Germany, the general population ignored the plight of the Jews - it wasn't their ox being gored. And here in Greenwich, the general population ignores the troublesomely frequent misdeeds of the local police - again, it's someone else's ox in question. Until, of course, their own turn comes....
If your scribe had a dollar for every person who has come up to him over the past 15 years or so to tell him he was right about the GG, he would be a moderately wealthy man. But the vast majority of our fellow Townspeople, dear reader, continue to think and act - or not, as the case may be - very like the ones who stood by in the library on that February day and pretended that nothing was happening.
Scarier than Stephen King, when you think about it....