Mawwage, part 1 Coming to America

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We had a tea party recently with some friends: lapsang souchong from Jacqueline’s Tea Rooms in Freeport if you must know, with home made British scones, none of your triangular American ones here thank you, round British ones with craisins and sliced almonds, home made jam’s and not forgetting the cucumber sandwiches. We have to cheat on the clotted cream, the only way we can find it is about an hour away in tiny imported jars for about $5 a time, just enough for a couple of scones if you stretch it. So we make do with whipped topping, but it isn’t the same. We could make our own clotted cream we even have a recipe, but you just cannot find pasteurized cream, it is all ULTRA pasteurized, which won’t change to clotted. So if anyone is feeling sorry for me after reading this, CARE packages are gratefully received, can you put Marmite in also please?

After we had ravaged the meal, we were sitting around chatting, and the subject of how we all met as couples came up, we were familiar with our visitors meeting at college, but I guess they had never heard how we met, they knew neither of us had been in the military, the usual method for people of different countries to meet, as had happened to another couple we all knew, so they were curios about how we had actually met, and were quite surprised by the story. I think our current appearance of middle aged-complacency, jobs, house, kids, mortgage, cars, seemed at odds with the exploits we were recounting, certainly judging by their reaction, they had trouble relating the us as middle-aged married couple with kids mortgage and car payments to the antics of us as teens in love.

Back in the Dark Ages (pre-interwebs) 199_ I had been accepted into Marjon’s but had opted to defer actually attending college for a year to gain ‘experiences’, but with the knowledge of having a guaranteed college place in a year, to study History and Sociology. I started off rather inauspiciously changing from a summer job in a local ‘Off License’ to working at a Wine Merchant’s in Pullborough, which I suppose could be seen as broadening my horizons in some directions. Well at some point during the winter, I realized character building experiences were unlikely to just fall into my lap, i was actually going to have to go out and seek them out. Around this time I heard about an agency that places students in American Summer Camps called Camp America.

Now I was not in the slightest way familiar with summer camps, which bear no relation to Scout Camp in England, nor was I familiar with the length of American summer vacations, which tends to be from late May until early September. But having heard Camp America was having a Camp Directors Recruitment Fair in Kensington I decided to take the plunge. So one cold February Saturday I hopped on a train and headed to London. Now at the time this was happening, there was also the small matter of the US invasion of Kuwait, which had led to increased security levels for US citizens. Now the Camp Director Fairs basically fly over a bunch of Camp Directors who recruit staff for the summer, depending on their needs.

What I realized when I got there was that here was a bunch of US citizens in a heightened security situation, which meant that there were metal-detectors , bag searches and pat-downs for all these suspicious looking student-types to get into the Fair. All of this is routine now, but back then, I was pretty impressed with it all, even my Walkman was confiscated (that’s an early type of analogue iPod which used metallic tape to hold the songs which could only be played in series) in case it was actually a bomb. By accident all this combined to make me feel like this was serious, if the job fair was the important, the actual jobs must be even more so! Perhaps even enough to qualify as the ‘experience’ I had been looking for.

Once I got inside I made an initial foray around the room, most of the booths were manned by serious suit types, with dry-erase boards showing what skills they were looking for. Most of these camps are pretty heavy into the sports, needing people with life-guarding, sports education experience, which I had none of. None of this really seemed like my cup-of-tea, all very serious, no one appeared to be looking for me. Then in the far corner, I saw a camp director with his tie at half-mast, chowing down on a McDonalds sandwich. this was Greg Oulette, someone I was to come to know quite well over two summers.

Greg’s requirements were a little simpler, he ran a camp for people with disabilities, they needed a rather unique type of individual which could not be classified with simple qualifications. What they were really looking for was people who were not afraid to do some dirty jobs with compassion, and to work hard. Greg did not like to take too many chances, he offered me a job in the kitchen for the first year, while he sized me up. Working at Pine Tree Camp as a counselor could be very demanding he explained, since I did not have any previous experience with people with disabilities, he wanted to see if i could handle the environment. So I signed up for a summer in the kitchen, did a lot of paperwork with Camp America, and basically went back to my rather mundane life for another three or four months.

I already had an up-to-date passport, a nice backpack, so I didn’t have to get much to prepare, I did make a special purchase of Airmail Letters, which were postage paid from the US, which I think was the only special item I took with me. Camp America took care of obtaining my J1 visa for me, booking the airline ticket, all of which would be deducted from my wages over the summer at Pine Tree Camp in Rome, Maine (this was my first problem, neither I not any of my family had ever heard of a state in the US called Maine, we had heard of California, Florida, Texas, Washington D.C. and a few others, but no-one had ever heard of Maine). After the end of the camp season, there would be a short time for sightseeing in the US before my visa expired and I caught my return flight. There was also all sorts of warnings about if we failed to do the work which was required of us, we would owe Camp America the money for our flights, and their trouble. Then there was the warnings about things that could get us into trouble in the US, underage drinking, which seems to be a particular favorite subject for moral decay in the US, and not at all allowed as widely as it is in Europe, where the legal drinking age is much lower anyway.

I did a little research, and found that many students traveled in groups of friends to these camps, so that they would know someone. I however, was the only person in my circle of friends who was going, and besides, i was determined to have ‘experiences’. I heard tales of people who pre-purchased Delta Airline passes, and spent the few weeks holiday after finishing work at camp, before their visa expired. Or one could obtain an Greyhound Bus pass and travel around the country that way. Or buy a ticket on the Green Tortoise to travel from one coast to the other. In the end I decided to make sure I had some spending money I had saved up from work, and wait to see what developed over the summer.

So I gave my notice in at work, ‘sorry, going to the US’ and packed my rucksack and said my good-byes. this was not the first time I had flown alone, or internationally, but it was the first time I had traveled to the US. the plane was apparently full of fellow camp travelers, but since I didn’t know any of them, and was rather nervous about the trip into the unknown, I didn’t really mix much with my fellow travelers, but from what I observed, there was plenty of mixing and lubrication going on. I however wanted to arrive with a clear mind.

Back in 199_ the international arrivals at Logan Airport in Boston was quite small, especially after leaving out of Heathrow, and after navigating immigration and border controls, I came out into the international arrivals and luckily had no trouble finding the rep from Pine Tree Camp among all the other Camp reps. And so began my introduction to the US. It was hot, even late at night it was still really hot, the short term parking lot at Logan was gravel and dirt, which I found a little strange, and I and the other PTC arrivals loaded into a camp van, which doubled as a transport for campers, so had all of the needed hook-ups for wheelchairs.

As we traveled north into the wilds of Maine, a few things struck me. First how patriotic Americans appeared to be, there were US flags everywhere, little did I know I had arrived on Flag Day, when people and municipalities are encouraged to cover everything possible with US flags in a show of patriotic fervor, and it being the summer after the US had whupped Saddam Hussain in Kuwait, patriotic fervor was at a peak.

The second thing that struck me was how most houses were made of wood, and how far apart they were, eve in-town. This very much reminded me of Stockholm, perhaps even Copenhagen, with brick or stone buildings in the town centers, but peoples houses made of wood, with their own yard space. This was in contrast to what I was used to in England, where the vast majority of houses were brick built, and a lot closer together.

Of course after seeing all of this strange urban sights, we then delved deep into the woods of Rome, to Pine Tree Camp on North Pond.

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Force Continuum

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So in a recent conversation about British Policing, I  was describing how when I started with Kent County Constabulary, way back in the Dark Ages as far as my audience was concerned, I was telling them how we were issued a wooden truncheon, which sat in a special pocket in your wool uniform trousers, so ordinary people would not be offended by your weapon. And a pair of Sheffield steel handcuffs, which were also concealed in a special pocket, so as not to offend, and a radio, which clipped to your belt, presumably because it did not offend the public. With this you had to sink or swim, learning the Force Continuum from scratch.

We were talking about how badly Police Officers are paid, at least the honest ones. and digging back into the deepest realms of my memory, I dug out some sociology terms I had learned in college, how the most valuable, most important part of Police Officers is very difficult to quantify. At the beginning of the force continuum, the first effect of a Police Officer on any situation in their mere presence, which may or may not affect how any given situation plays out. Now this is very difficult to quantify if the situation does not lead to any more easily quantifiable events.

This example of from 199_ in the small town of Snodland, yes that is it’s real name, I was on duty with a colleague  cruising up the Malling Road, which is the main drag through the village, when at the junction with Rocfort Road by the Corvette showroom, we see a beat-up Ford Escort pull up to the junction, indicating to turn right onto Malling Road. There were two occupants inside, and we all exchanged what can only be described as ‘old fashioned’ looks, or what is also known as “Poo Stares”, we stared at them they stared at us. Obviously something was going on, we had passed by where they were pulling out, so we pulled over to the side of the road to wait for them, which they were not prepared to do, so they made a U turn and shoot right off, which mean we have to make a U turn and chase after them. Of course we had to do that safely, and wait for another car to pass, so by the time we get onto Rocfort Road, they have made it to the by-pass and are making off at high speed to Medway.

This had all happened so quickly, we had not had time to put anything out over the radio, and by the time it was over, we didn’t even have a registration number to put out over the radio, just a vehicle description, which matched the description of lots of other cars on the road, it was the middle of the morning, lots of traffic on the road, so not a great time to be racing around aimlessly in the cruiser without a good idea of where the target vehicle was so we just called it good, one that got away, their time would come again.

Well it turns out their time came a week later, when they were arrested trying to blagg (rob) a Post Office in Medway, in the same car, with iron bars and balaclava’s over their heads. When they were interviewed they admitted being foiled a week before at another Post Office nearby. Since where we tried to stop them was just down the road from the Snodland Post Office (apparently now closed alas)  we figured that we had prevented them from robbing the Snodland Post Office that day. Of course we received no recognition for this, nor did we expect any, it was part of our job.

And this is the point I wanted to make, I told the story to say this, it is almost impossible to make people understand the ‘quality of life’ improvement that is obtained merely from having ‘Officer Presence’ in a given area, merely by being on patrol, they can deter a certain amount of patrol, for which no recognition is ever received. There is a flip side to this, I recall one statistic being bandied around at training school, that in London, the Metropolitan Police estimated that statistically speaking, every seven years an Officer will pass a house that is being burgled, and never even know it. Obviously Officer Presence is only effective in a few cases, but to the staff at Snodland Post Office that day, the did not have to suffer being victims of a violent armed robbery, which would be important to to them.

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Never… leave your car keys in the Ignition

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Now here is something I had never heard of before coming over to the US. In the UK if you leave your keys in the ignition of the vehicle parked outside hour home overnight, you have every expectation that the vehicle will no longer be where you left it when you return to it, and the police will take your stolen car report while shaking their head all the time at how foolish you had been to leave your keys in it, perhaps muttering that you were ‘asking for it’. My family routinely locked the car while it was parked in the driveway, as did I, and still had stuff stolen out of various car’s.

However when I came over here, it is apparently quite normal to not only leave the key in the ignition when you park your car in your own driveway, but it is also quite normal to leave a vehicle running with the keys in it while you ‘pop in’ to a store, with the confident expectation that it will still be there in the same condition, when you return. Now that I have been here a while, I can see the point when it is -40 F outside with nasty wind-chill, you would want to leave your car running to make sure it will a/ start and b/ be warm. However I have never managed to overcome a lifetime of security to leave my keys in the ignition, and the same for wearing a seat-belt, which many people around here also seem to forgo with regularity.

This tale takes place in _________, Maine, in 20___ while I was a patrol officer one night. There was a group home in town, which I did not know until that point, for a small group of people with developmental disabilities, a nice normal looking house in a nice quiet neighborhood, staffed 24 hours a day with State licensed workers. I bet the night shift there was normally pretty quiet, a nice job if you can get it, all of the residents had their medications, nothing much to do all night.

Well one night one of the workers did not have such an easy night. At this point there was only one resident there, and so only one worker at night, who, as was his habit, had left his keys in the ignition of his unlocked vehicle in the driveway, which was in fact in contravention of the Department guidelines, his car keys should be in a secure location, for reasons which will become apparent.

Well the one remaining resident was not having a good day, the worker used all of his skills in trying to divert the resident, getting him calmed down and ready for bed, so the worker could have a nice quiet night, or so he thought. Apparently the resident managed to slip out of his bedroom while the worker was not looking, and find an open window, and he was outside, straight into the workers car, with the keys in the ignition. Of course having seen people drive all the time, he knew how to turn the ignition on and actually start the car, put his foot on the accelerator, and to put his hands on the wheel, he just didn’t know how to steer, which is why the car hit the big tree on the front lawn.

By the time I got there, the worker had extracted his unhurt charge from the car and managed to get the rather excited individual inside, and was faced with the double reality of a wrecked car, and having to admit to what happened to his supervisor. I had trouble keeping a straight face, obviously nothing was going to happen with the accident report, it just needed to be filled out, but the worker was saying his supervisor was telling him to take his charge to the emergency room for an evaluation, since he was so agitated. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone, since I was not going to get an accident report of out him while he was about as wound up as his charge, so i bundled them both into the cruiser and off to the emergency room we went.

The kids behaved on the way to the emergency room, since we were both talking to him, but one we got to the emergency room, I wanted to get the accident report done so we sat down and gathered up the paperwork. Well that did not sit well with our young driver, who must have been an attention seeker, and decided to play up for the nurses. He had been sat down on the bed in the room, we were sitting at a small table, he found a blanket and spread it over himself, below the waist, and was suddenly inspired that he was a young lady going into labor right there and then. Now I had some experience dealing with people with the same general problem as this kid, so we were content to let him try his role on the nurses, we were not going to play along, but wondered how good the nurses were. Of course his cries of labor summonsed a nurse, who was a little unsure at first because we were completely ignoring him, but soon got into the feel of things, making sure he was comfortable, and asking all sorts of questions about his labor, which he did a fairly good job of making up.

The other time I came across someone who left the keys in their car while it was running, they had left their car running outside of the local corner store while they went inside for something, and when they came out, the car was gone! So full emergency mode, the owner was only inside for a few minutes, so the car is not far away……set up roadblocks! Put out and All Points Bulletin!

Then the owner realized they had driver their partners car to the store, which was still sitting there nice and warm with the engine running…..

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Fun with Microwaves

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Back in the 1980’s, my father managed to find cheap holidays by swapping houses with people through an agency, which matched up families who live where someone wants to go, with people who want to go there. Back in the 1980’s we lived just outside of Bognor Regis, where strangely some people actually wanted to go, probably because we were about a five minute walk from the beach, which while a little stony around the sea-defense wall, had quite a bit of sand at low tide. Actually for a few years, if the wind and tides were right (or wrong depending on how you looked at it) there was a problem with seaweed being washed back inshore, and the tide would deposit huge amounts of seaweed on the shore, about 6′ deep and 20-30′ wide in points, it would just sit there and rot all summer, really good for the tourist season. i can remember smelling it from Pennyfields, my local elementary school, where it was unpleasant. By the time I had walked home, closer too the shore, it was strong, if I had to take the mutt for a waddle down to the seafront, the smell was strong enough to make you gag.

These house swapping agencies list all sorts of swaps, back then they would publish a book, with all sorts of codes for if pets were welcome, how close you were to amenities or local attractions. There were a lot of listings from the U.S for very long periods, years even, which always seemed a little unrealistic to me. We went to Stockholm this way, I swapped with a teen in Copenhagen, my family swapped a few times with a family in Greenwich who wanted to come down to the seaside for a weekend, while we wanted to go to the hustle and bustle of London for a weekend.

The first time we went up to Greenwich, we actually met the family we were swapping with, I remember thinking they were terribly sophisticated because they drank Earl Grey instead of regular blended tea, I thought it must be a London thing. After that we just simple swapped with them without seeing each other. The swapping agency had all sorts of guidelines for how to leave your own house, leave instructions for any quirks to do with the house, alarms, temperamental boilers, that sort of thing. We usually left a map of how to get to the beach, which was about a 5 min drive, or 5 min by foot, because you could use the twittens, footpaths which cut right through the convoluted cul-de-sac roads on the Summerly-Fields estate, so it was actually a lot easier and closer to walk, although if you were burdened down with beach toys, it could seem a long way. But being able to just walk down to the beach for a walk was awesome, so I could see why people would want to house swap with us.

We got a lot out of it too, from Greenwich we could catch the tube into London proper, and so we went up to London for the lights at Christmas and shopping on Oxford Street. We visited the Cutty Sark, well before it burned to the waterline, and stood on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Greenwich Observatory with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere, and one foot in the Western Hemisphere.

Now as well as being sophisticated Londoners who drank Earl Grey instead of blended tea, our hosts were also Early Adopters of new technology, because they had…..a Microwave….oooh. To us hicks from the ‘burbs this was really fancy, back when home microwaves were introduced, they were big, clunky and expensive, with vague twist dials for timers that could vary the time selected by up to thirty seconds.

So the first morning we were there, all four of us were sitting at their breakfast table, which was round and fairly small, and my father decided he was going to have a soft-boiled egg and soldiers, so mum decided to use the newfangled microwave thingy. Now just remember we had never seen a microwave in person before, let alone used one, and the one in-front of us did not have a manual with it, since the owners were presumably familiar enough with it’s operation now, having owned it a while, and were familiar with all the warnings and use policies. Microwave usage had not yet permeated our circle of society, they were still pretty expensive and unusual, they were not the standard modern convenience they are now, that kids grow up with, and see used every day by their family. They were something new and unusual, that broke the usual mold of cooking rules, and had some unusual quirks which were not readily apparent.

So mum decided to boil dad’s egg in some water in a microwave-proof dish in the microwave oven, rather than just boiling it on the stove, because, well you know, because it was there, so why not use it? That I think was the extent of our knowledge, that a metal dish could not be used int he microwave, we needed an enamel over dish. So in goes the egg, in a dish of water, so how long do you boil an egg in the microwave for? Well you should boil it in water for about five, remember this is going to be a soft-boiled egg so the yolk is nice and runny for the soldiers. So of course mum set the dial timer on the microwave for five minutes, although I think she added a bit when it took the water a minute or so to boil.

Now i have told this story to a few people over the years, and they all thought something should happen to the egg in the microwave, but remember, it is only being soft-boiled, for a lot less time than hard-boiled, so the pressure build-up inside would be less. After boiling in a dish of water int he microwave for five minutes, out comes the egg, and is installed in an egg-cup and surrounded by soldiers on a plate in-front of dad on the round kitchen table.

So for those who have never had the joy of a soft-boiled egg and soldiers, the way to best enjoy them is to open up the top of the egg as it sits in an egg-cup, peel back the shell a little, and take off enough of the now hard egg white to allow introduction of a soldier of toast into the still soft yolk. Now the implements at hand are usually just the spoon you will eat the egg with, so a sharp rap on top of the egg shell breaks it up, you peel it back a little, and lop off the top of the white and enjoy. So, everything was gong just fine until dad took hold of his spoon, and gave the egg just the tiniest of taps on the top, at which point all of the pressure which had built up inside the egg from microwaving was released through the tiny crack he had put in the top of the egg shell, with the effect that the entire contents of the eggshell were forced by the pressure through the hole and sprayed out of the top of the egg like a volcano erupting.

I had been sitting at the table with dad and my sister, as the eruption started we all pushed our chairs back. The egg white and yolk seemed to manage to cover the whole table, incredibly from such a small container, it seemed to erupt for ages, before calming down, by which time we were all standing in amazement well back from the table, stunned by what had just occurred.

I would like to say this was the last time we had family fun with a microwave, but we did not learn from that experience. Not long afterwards, as the price of microwaves came down, we purchased our very own one, which I believe is still at the family home. Anyway not long after acquiring the device, which again had one of those horrible dials, mum decided to warm up some croissant with it, and still not being really familiar with the device, put them in for three or four minutes. As you can imagine, a light pastry like that only needs a few seconds to warm up, and three or four minutes was enough to start heavy black smoke billowing from the device, which alerted us to the crispy nature of the croissant before they could catch fire.

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Emlyn Volume #6

maidstone nickThe Police Station in Maidstone, on Palace Avenue, is a purpose built structure, and extremely ugly. It is attached to the old court-house so that prisoners could be moved directly from the Station cells to appear in court. On the top floor was what used to be bachelor quarters, but was now locker rooms, and of course, the bar. No really, on the top floor of the Police Station was the bar, which opened every day. You could pop in after work, have a few beers, drive home, awesome. The Fire Station had the same sort of arrangement, except they restricted the Fire Truck driver to one beer, everyone else was fine to get plastered.

On the bottom floor was the daily-use rooms, the parade room for briefings, the shift supervisors office, the custody area, and the report room, where you could sit in relative discomfort and hand-write a report before the days of computers.

At the time of this story there was what we would now call an ‘analogue’ answering machine, it had a tape, and a general message. Of course no-one wanted to either answer the phone, or transcribe the messages, firstly, because to get to that extension, the caller would have had to go through many layers of annoying prompts and messages, and would be extremely frustrated, and more than likely actually want to speak to someone who was off duty anyway. Secondly, no-one would want to get involved in someone else’s problem. Thirdly if you took a message, you would be responsible for making sure someone else followed up on it.

So the phone and machine were fraught with issues, if the Control Room really wanted you they would call you on the radio, if your supervisor wanted you, they would have the Control Room call you on the radio. If a colleague wanted you, they would find you. So the only people who used the phone were members of the public, and you definitely did not want to get involved in another officers case.

Later the answering machine was replaced by a ‘messaging system; where some poor peon took a message, transcribed it and you got a copy. If you did not record what action you took on the message, your supervisor would be advised to follow up, with a copy of the message, and you would get some quality time with your supervisor explaining what you had or had not done about the message.

This story takes place while the analogue answer machine was still in play. I came in one day to find the tape in the machine missing, and an evidence tag on it showing the tape had been seized in evidence in case number…….

So a quick question revealed no-one on shift with me knew why it was missing. It was not until we met with the shift taking over form us at the end of our shift did we learn the full details. Apparently someone had called in, eventually got through to the answering machine, and entertained themselves by making threats and swearing over the phone. Emlyn had overheard this, and recognized either the voice, or the person had identified himself on the message, I forget which, and so Emlyn had called him right back. A discussion ensued of the contents of the message, which became heated, and culminated with Emlyn advising the person on the other end of the line that he was under arrest…over the phone.

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Royal Swans

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Back in 199_ on patrol in Maidstone one night, the police station is right on Palace Avenue, ‘downtown’ with a one way dual-carriageway going right by, the station on one side, a small tributary to the Medway River on the other side. Well one night, as they were often to do, some swans tried to cross Palace Avenue to get to the water. Officer ‘Spike’ ________ happened to be travelling that road while they were trying to do this, and assisted the avian’s in their road crossing, right outside the police station. This was way back when each Police Station had it’s own control room right there in the station, and of course they could look out onto palace Avenue and see Spike chasing the swans around Palace Avenue.

The Control Room Sargent decided to mess with him a little, and advised him over the radio that he has to submit a report on what had occurred. Normally there was quite a bit of traffic over the radio, and the control center put out ‘pips’ so that you would know the channel was in use by another unit. You could often guess what was being said by the length of the pips put out, and the occasional word from control. But in this case, the Sargent was very kindly sharing the joke with everyone, and explained himself over the open air, that swans are a protected species, and are protected by Royal command, so Spike would have to file a report on the incident involving a Royally Protected Species.

So Spike decided to get his own back, and after a while, was seen around the ‘senior management’ floor of the Station, so the Control Room Sargent followed up with him and asked where the report about the swan’s was, Spike told him over the radio he had submitted it directly to the Area Commanders office, which of course wound the Control Room Sargent right up. Everyone else was fully entertained on a otherwise quiet night, of course no ‘Swan Report’ was ever written or submitted, but such are the ways we kept ourselves entertained.

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Ar Kansas

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One of my first jobs after getting off the boat and headed the wrong way, was at a small Sheriffs Office working in dispatch. Over here Policing has three main visible arms, the local town police, she county Sheriff and the State Police. Then of course you have various Federal Law Enforcement, some in uniform, some not. As with anything, you are usually responsible to whoever signs the paycheck, so local Police Departments are controlled by the town, Sheriff Offices by the county government, and State by the State. In England which each local county has it’s own Police Force, they are all held to the same standard for training and discipline, over here you never know what training or experience any officer may have.

So anyway, I was working as a dispatcher, and was quickly on my own on night-shift as low seniority person, when no-other than the Sheriff himself made a traffic stop on his way home, and called in a registration for a check. Now my knowledge of American geography and history was pretty slim, I had not even heard of the State of Maine before I went there to work in college. In some ways this helped because I had not seen some town names written down before I heard them, so when I saw them written down I already new how to pronounce them. Towns like Bowdoin, Topsham, Allagash, Millinocket, Machias, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Penobscot, Passadumkeag, Passamaquoddy, I had heard way before I had seen them written down. Then there are towns like Vienna, Madrid, Bremen, whose pronunciation I am familiar with from the European Geography, but bear no resemblance to the Maine pronunciation, but I would pride myself on handling the difficult names, strange pronunciations, without pause.

Then sometimes I am completely caught unawares. The Sheriff had stopped a car registered from somewhere I had heard of, but never seen written down. I was familiar with Kansas, after all, that was where Dorothy and Toto came from. But he called in on the radio with a registration check on a vehicle from “Ahhhhhhrkinsaaaww”. So I go look at the handy-dandy computerized drop-down window, with all of the states, but it is by abbreviation, not by pronunciation by a Mainer. Maine itself is ME, that always made sense to me, so does Florida – FL, some are less obvious, MT for Montana, NE for Nebraska, but what on earth do I choose for “Ahhhhhhrkinsaaaww”? I go through all of the A’s three times, nothing matches ‘Arkinsaw,’ I look through the whole list, nothing, by this time the Sheriff is asking if there is anything back on the plate, I tell him to wait, and purely out of desperation, choose Ar Kansas, and it works!

So to this day I think of Ar-Kansas when I hear the state. For an actual explanation of why Arkansas and Kansas are pronounced differently, try here

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