Friday, October 23, 2015

I Have A Penguin And I'm Not Afraid To Use It

The following story is true.


OK, some details may be a bit (What's the word here? Oh yeah) lied about. 

But really. True story. 



Yesterday, I posted about my one of forays into the world of radio, working for a station called WMAG. I mentioned that the station was on the top floor of a bank building that was about 16 stories tall. (It's been 3 decades since I was last there so my memory is a bit hazy on same of the specifics.) The building was built back in the 1930's or '40's and had a classic Art Deco feel to it. The lobby was ringed by marble columns. Some of the offices still had frosted glass in the doors with names written on them, something right out of Sam Spade detective fiction.  

The main tenant was a bank. It was their name on the side of the building. But at the top of the building was a radio tower that beamed out WMAG to waiting rooms, convenience stores and the homes of sad, lonely people looking for a little guidance from Lionel Richie

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I worked overnights during my time at WMAG. So it was dark when I got there and it was still dark when I left. I was like Dracula but without the cape or the lust for blood or beautiful maidens held in my hypnotic thrall. Scratch that, forget Dracula. That comparison is rubbish. 

I carried a briefcase with me. It was a college graduation present, something to help me when I got my high power high paying job thanks to my handy dandy degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. Yeah, I know. Having a B.A. in communications didn't qualify me to run the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven. But it was a nice briefcase and damn it, I was going to use it.  

What I carried in my briefcase was hardly the typical stuff of a business man. I used to carry food; perhaps a peanut butter sandwich or a bag of Doritos or cookies, whatever junk food I could nosh on to keep me awake for my late night stay in the land of Lionel Richie

I also carried various reading material which included various books and magazines but mostly, as any reader of this blog would've probably guessed, comic books.  

Also in the briefcase was a penguin. Specifically, Opus the Penguin

It was a little stuffed Opus that was a special gift from someone and I carried it with me as, I don't know, a bitter reminder of the dread pain of lost love. 

Oh you think that's funny? Well, I'm so glad my suffering amuses you. (Hey, I worked in the blog title. Cool!) 

So one morning I'm leaving the station. It was 6 AM and the sun wasn't up yet. I took the elevator down to the bank's lobby and exited through the front door. What I would do next is turn the corner to walk along one side of the building to a parking lot in the back. As I was walking down the sidewalk along the side of the building, I became aware of a car sidling down the street behind me. 

To be honest, I never really gave a lot of thought to my safety back then. Young and stupid, I guess. Still, I was wondering why a car was moving so slowly down the street, so slowly it was keeping behind a walking person. I gave a little peek behind me. 

It was a police car. I tensed up a bit but figured, "Hey, I'm just walking here."

So I made my way around to the back of the building towards my car when I couldn't help but notice the police car because it had sped and pulled into the parking lots, blue lights flashing. Police officers got out on both sides of the car. In the glare of the lights I could see one had his hand on his holster, ready to draw. I'll call him Andy. 

The other policeman was not so patient. He already had his revolver in hand. Let's call him Barney. 

Barney, just like a cop on a TV show yells, "Freeze!" 

Andy is slightly less tense. He calls out to me, "Sir, stay right there please." 

Barney was less inclined to be magnanimous. "Put the case down now!" 

I was genuinely baffled and confused. I held up the briefcase and asked, "This one?" You know, just in case someone else was in the parking lot with a briefcase too. I can't tell you how many times I've thought someone was talking to me but it was the person behind me. 

This was not one of those times. 

Barney was not taking any shit of me. He hadn't aimed his gun at me yet but it was still in his hand and that was close enough in my direction to give me some pause. 

"I said, put the case down, NOW!" Barney had seen way too many episodes of Hill Street Blues or Police Woman or something.  

I was standing right behind a car. I thought I would make things convenient by place my briefcase on the trunk. No sense making people bend over for no good reason. 

Andy instructed me, "On the ground if you don't mind." 

"Yes, sir! On the GROUND!" Barney added for extra tough guy emphasis. I kind of stood there, the proverbial deer in the headlights, blinking in the flashing lights of the police car which got brighter and flashier as two other cars showed up for the party.

What kind of threat does the police think I am? What am I going to do, pull Opus out of my briefcase, hold him by the nose and declare, "I have a penguin and I'm not afraid to use it!"  

Maybe, a voice in my head said, you should put the briefcase down on the ground.  So I did. 

"Slowly!" Barney barked. Damn, everyone's critic. Do this, do that, no, you're not doing that at the right speed. I gently rested my case on the ground and slowly stood back up. 

"Hands up where we can see them, sir," Andy advised.  

"Hey, hands UP!" Barney repeated loudly. Perhaps he was worried I was hearing impaired. 

Andy was a bit older than Barney and was a bit more sanguine about what was going on. At this point, he was getting a little tired of Barney's tough cop act. "Settle down, will you?" To me, Andy asked, "What's your name, son?" 

Part of my brain was still in radio mode so I blurted out, "David Hall. Er, Long. I mean, David Long."  

Andy rather understandably thought that needed clarification. "Well, which is it, son?" 

"And why are you coming out of bank at 6 in the morning?" Barney demanded. Andy again sought to put his younger partner in his place. "I told you to settle down, I've got this. And put that gun away before you hurt somebody." Then he turned back to me. 

"My name is David Long, really. Er, it's on my driver's license. Would anyone care to look at that?" 

Andy nodded. "I was just about to ask." 

"I'm going to need to lower my hands."

Andy nodded again and said, "Go ahead."

Barney jumped in with, "But do it slow! No sudden moves!" 

Andy was done with this act. "Go back and tell the other units to just hang loose a minute, OK?" 

As Barney turned away, muttering to himself, I imagine, that he never gets to have any fun, I carefully pulled my wallet out of my pocket and handed it to Officer Andy. 

He looked at my ID and nodded. "But I call myself David Hall when I work up there." I pointed to the top of the building. 

Andy looked puzzled a moment. "What's up there?" 

"A radio station. See, there's a tower on the...." I stopped because at the angle we were standing, you couldn't see the tower. "Well, there's a tower up there." 

"I've seen that. I did't know a radio station was in the same building. Which station do you work for, son?" He handed my wallet back to me. 

"WMAG. You know..." (I dug down deep for my best radio voice) "Magic 99.5, WMAG." 

Andy shook his head. Apparently not a Lionel Richie fan. "Nope, never heard of it. If you don't mind, I would like to take a look inside that briefcase of yours." 

"OK." I bent down to pick the case up from the ground and placed it on the trunk of the car I had attempted to put it on before. I snapped open the latches. There was a brief moment where I wished Barney had shot me because I was going to die of embarrassment now. Here I was, a grown man with a briefcase full of comic books and a stuffed penguin toy.

"You read these?" 

I stammered a bit. "Well, not really. Er, kind of. Sort of. Yeah." 

Andy picked up Opus and remarked, "My little girl has one of these." He replaced Opus and noticed something that sealed the deal as to the veracity of my story: my most recent paycheck from WMAG. 

Andy yelled back to Barney. "Tell the other units to go, we've got this settled!" Barney looked dejected. He was so damn sure he was going to bag himself a bank robber. 

Andy snapped my case close and handed it to me. "Sorry for the trouble, sir. You understand, a man coming out of a bank at night..."  

"No problem, officer." 

"I'll make sure the force knows there's a radio station up there."

"That would probably be a good idea."

Andy shook my hand. "Good night, Mr. Long. Or rather, good morning." Then he turned around to walk back to his police car. He called out to his partner, "I need to talk to you!

I carefully got behind the wheel of my car and drove off into the dawn that was cracking the darkness. I smiled to myself. "Good thing he didn't check the secret compartment where I stashed all the money." 

Nah, I'm kidding. I drove back to my apartment and crashed, sleeping almost all day while Lionel Richie and Opus the Penguin danced about in my dreams.

That's all for now. Another blog post coming up tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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