Roman: My patrol car's midlife crisis

By John Roman

We all have a certain patrol car that we like to drive. Ask any patrol cop and they’ll tell you their favorite car number.

Mine is 779.

I’ve been driving unit 779 so long the seat knows when Daddy’s home. On my work days it seems like I spend more time in that car than in my own house.

Through all the good and bad times, 779 has never let me down. That is until this past Wednesday night.

It failed me. It stranded me.

It made me ask a few questions like: “What did I do to you?” “Haven’t I treated you well?” “Don’t I get you washed?” “Don’t I go over speed bumps slowly?”

The other night at about 2:30AM I decided to write some parking tickets before EOW (End of Watch). When I left the station I noticed the alternator light was on. No big deal. I was going to write the tickets and then put the car out of service when I got back.

As I drove to my target location I noticed that my laptop wasn’t charging even though it was on the docking station. Then the unit radio started turning on and off.

What could happen next?

I drove into an alley and saw about fifteen cars parked on both sides. Add the trash dumpsters to that equation and a fire truck would have a hard time negotiating the alley.

I parked my car and left the engine and head lights on like I always do.

I started to fill out a ticket and noticed the engine was making an unusual noise. Not to worry, the shift was almost over.

After I wrote the second ticket I turned back to the car and saw the headlights had shut off. Not a good sign.

The engine didn’t sound so good now. Maybe I should’ve just stayed in the traffic office for the last thirty minutes of my shift.

I got into the car and the unit radio had shut off. I might have a problem now.

There was no way I could drive the car in like this. I decided to turn the car off for a minute or two just to see if that would help.

I wrote the third ticket and then went back to the car to start it back up. I turned the ignition and all I heard was clicking.

It was almost as if an unseen force was trying to prevent me from writing parking tickets that night.

I then had to make the dreadful radio transmission for a tow truck.

“784, my car just died and I need a 926.”

“10-4, 784,” replied the dispatcher.

A patrol sergeant got on the radio and said, “2S1, send a unit to stand by with 784 until the 926 arrives.” I appreciated that because you never know in this neighborhood.

After a few minutes I decided to try and start the car again. I wasn’t willing to accept defeat. Plus, I didn’t want to wait for the tow truck.

This car had never let me down, so why start now?

I sat in the car and turned the key again as I said, “Come on.” With a lot of hesitation, the engine started. It was alive, but in critical condition.

I turned the lights on and saw they were dim. Probably as dim as my hopes of making it back to the station. The unit radio was off, but I didn’t need it now. I needed the car to move.

The car was on emergency power mode and I was going to have to baby it on the way in.

See, 779 would never fail me.

“784, my car is possessed. It just started up again. You can cancel the 926. I’m going to limp the car back to the station,” I said.

With a feeling of relief, I started driving westbound through the alley. I started to turn onto the street when the dashboard lights went out. The car died and it silently rolled to a stop. It just shut off.

The car threw in the towel. It raised the white flag of surrender. It rolled over and played dead.

Now I was blocking an entire street and the alley.

With a feeling of defeat I said, “784, start the tow truck again.”

I put the car in neutral and pushed it back a little so it wouldn’t block the street. Why couldn’t I get stranded in the parking lot of a 24-hour Starbucks instead?

My car had failed me, but at least it wasn’t 100 degrees in the summer time.

The tow truck arrived and 779 was loaded up. I got a ride from another officer and my car was then sent to “time out” to be fixed on another day.

The next day the car was back and the alternator was fixed. I had full power and I was back in business.
Then……..The transmission failed me.

Maybe unit 779 will have a better week when I come back from my days off. If not, unit 780 might be my new number one.

Just kidding.

779 is my car. At 48,000 miles, It was just having a midlife crisis.