You know how sometimes you stay up late watching videos of Richard Feynman lectures on YouTube, enjoying a whiskey-absorbent snack when you realize, with gradual suddenness, that you have to rescue four trapped policemen from the confines of the backyard alleyway of your building?
You know how, every time this happens, you happen to still be so inebriated (thanks, on occasion, to the extra hour of nocturnal drinking you can achieve when clocks fall back to Standard Time) that the scenario’s dreamlike qualities seem too enjoyable to be dashed out too quickly?
And you know how, also, the definitive shift from delightfully oneiric to startlingly real takes place the moment you sit up quickly and wincingly, with tolerable but briefly searing pain, due to a recently fractured bone in your upper ribcage?
You know how, then, your next logical act is to remove the earbuds that make you a responsible housemate so that you might then prove yourself, with a fair level of drunken audacity coursing through your being, a responsible neighbor and citizen?
All quite normal in the wee hours of Saturday nights, right? Yes? Maybe? Not so much?
Ok, agreed. This might be a less-than-common occurrence. But let me assure you that the only mild hyperbole above is in the situation’s suggested quotidianity. For what follows did indeed, in chronologically extended writ, take place:
Approx. 4:30am (in recently reactivated Standard Time): While in bed, eating happily and watching said Feynman lectures, I observe the uncertain circling motions of a flashlight outside my window. The light is directed into the depths of the closed-off alleyway’s broader area, though, not into my window. I assume someone has taken his dog out back to leave a frigid, late-night fecal deposit. Common enough, I think, though the flashlight must be a new feature.
Approx. 4:33am: That dog is taking quite a while, it seems. And that flashlight is extremely bright. A handheld lighthouse of sorts.
Approx. 4:37am: There now seem to be two or three flashlights peering around out there, and now a bit more erratically. Over Feynman’s and his amused audience’s temporally distant voices in the depths of my ears I now hear, also, the moving around of large objects, some pounding, loud voices, knocking. Pounding? Knocking?
Same moment: Time is rather frozen right now as I think, ‘oh fuck, oh fuck,’ coupled with, ‘fuck this, I’m having an idiot’s dream.’
Moments later: I remove my earbuds, sit up, wince, clutch ribs (see above). The previously noted noises are very loud, very raucous. Potentially oneiric aspects of the situation have, at this point, completely vanished. I am, and have been, in fact, awake.
One moment later: I wonder if turning on a light is a good or bad idea. So I turn on a light. I then hear someone shout: “Push the table over there! No, over there by the fence! And use the chair!”
Same moment: Again, ‘oh fuck, and oh fuck. And oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.’
Same moment: I still hear Feynman’s voice faintly lecturing through the earbuds now in my lap. I pause the video, get out of bed, seek out my slippers.
One moment later: ‘What the fuck, actually, am I doing? Whatever it is, should I be doing it in my slippers?’
Same moment: ‘Shouldn’t I just call the police?’ I resolve to do so and reach for my phone when I hear, over the loud voices and slide-movings of objects, the staticky pop-crackle and stunted intonations of walkie-talkie type radios.
Same moment: ‘Those radios are used by cops and almost no one else,’ I think. ‘And custodians and truckers, but whatever. Are those cops?’
One moment later: Motionless, I listen in. I listen well. Listening close, such a good listener. I can’t make sense of anything, but those must be cops, right? (Quickly looking out my huge windows, incidentally, is not an option, as I have translucent panels and variable objects lined along them to prevent others from easily looking in.)
Same moment: Yes, those must be cops. Must be? Well, let’s see. I leave my apartment to snoop around elsewhere. In my slippers, of course.
Moments later: When I go down the hallway outside my apartment I hear more loud voices coming from the alleyway’s egress alongside my building. Some pounding, some shuffling, flashlights ablaze. Someone outside sees the form of me (impressive!) through the corridor’s gated, frosted windows. The pounding on the door gets harder and louder. I still hear those staticky radios. I think, ‘Can’t you just announce, to this approaching form that I am, that you are cops? You are cops, right? And what the fuck am I phantasmagorically doing out here, drunk, in my slippers!’
One moment later: I go around to the door to the backyard alley. It’s locked, duh. That’s what happens when you close it. Pounding, pounding. I really hope they’re cops.
Same moment: I take a breath, open the door, peer out. Two large police officers emerge from the dumpsters and darkness. Two more behind follow suit. “What’s going on back there?” I ask, relieved that I found cops outside and not, well, criminally minded truckers or custodians. I also see in the distance that the picnic table we have out there now has a chair atop it. It’s pushed up against a fence. It appears that someone had done as commanded.
Same moment: It is now obvious that the officers had simply locked themselves out. The whole thing becomes very amusing. It is both precious and funny, let me tell you, to have four big, huffing cops hustle up to you with awkward gratitude as you hold a door open for them. And you’re still drunk. And wearing slippers.
“What’s going on?” I repeat, kinda laughing out loud just a tiny little bit.
“We’re investigating a disturbance. Door slammed shut behind us,” says the first officer to enter, and quite sternly. He is not remotely amused about me laughing out loud just a tiny little bit.
I gesture to the very conspicuously placed piece of wood next to the door that one might use to avoid getting locked out. “Do you want me to prop it open for you?” I ask.
“No, we’re done here,” says the same cop. He walks right by me. Two more cops do the same. No sense of amusement from anyone, and no one says, ‘Hey man, thanks.’
The fourth one, however, is good for some much-needed non-self-induced comic relief. As he approaches, shaking his head and smiling just a bit, he says: “NYPD, keeping New Yorkers safe one locked door at a time!” He’s a big guy, too. What a joker!
And so they had all reentered the building and walked right by me. I call after them, “hey guys, umm, thanks?” My rhetorical gratitude seems to have gone unheard. They’d created a new disturbance in their rather temerarious investigation of a prior disturbance, after all. Understandable, sure. Excusable, sure. And maybe quite hilariously ironic. So why not thank them for the late-night frolic?
Approx. 4:43am: I go back to my room and get back into bed, by now very sobered though still amused. I glance at my computer. Feyman’s lecture is paused. I had actually taken the moment to pause it! As I reach for my earbuds to resume my previous activity, the title of a recent movie, Brooklyn’s Finest, comes to mind. Though I have yet to see it, I’d wager that it doesn’t feature a scene like tonight’s.