I was standing in line at a gas station today. As I stepped to register to pay for a delicious and moderately priced beverage, a man walked up beside me. This is never what I want to happen. It means that the person next to me is about to distract the cashier from the pressing matter of allowing me to hand her money.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Does law enforcement get free drinks?”
He stood there in a crisp gray uniform. I looked at the picture of a badge emblazoned on his shirt.
“Yes,” she said.
“Oh good,” said the man, walking out of the store. If I had been drinking that delicious beverage, I would have done a king-sized spit take at what I saw. The man who had just taken a free drink for law enforcement was not a beat cop thirsty after a long day of chasing perps or reciting the Miranda rights. He was not a detective who had spent his day piecing together crimes by pinning pictures to a bulletin board and one by one crossing suspects off of his list. He wasn’t even a traffic cop who had handed out tickets for illegal parking.
No, this man was from a local security company. The company that patrols the local mall.
Law enforcement, in my opinion, should be entitled to a free fountain drink at every gas station. They do a very necessary job, working day in and day out to protect the good citizens of their jurisdiction. Local security cops, however, do a moderately necessary job of riding around a mall on a Segway, making sure youths do not give into their predilection for causing tomfoolery and shenanigans.
These are not the same level of job.
If I were a cop, I would be very offended by this. This cashier was playing pretty fast and loose with the term “law enforcement.” I mean, I guess by definition this man had enforced a law or two. He had prevented loitering. So I guess, by definition, he should be entitled to a free drink.
If we’re going to be that loosey goosey with the rules, though, I should get a free drink. I have personally enforced many laws. I have never allowed myself to murder anyone, maim anyone, steal anything. I don’t even let myself loiter. I exhibit all kinds of law-abiding self-control, mentally enforcing all of these laws.
By giving this drink to that man, the cashier has set a very dangerous precedent. She has basically said that Columbo, Dirty Harry, Walker Texas Ranger, Kojak, Crockett and Tubbs are the equivalent to Paul Blart: Mall Cop. They are not.
Maybe I am underestimating his job. Maybe he is a security guard for a local factory that houses plutonium and he spends every night having shoot out after shoot out with Russian terrorists bent on world destruction. I haven’t heard of a plutonium factory around here, but that doesn’t mean a thing.
The more likely situation, though, is he is taking advantage of the kindness of the gas station clerk. More importantly than that, though, is that he CUT IN LINE TO DO IT! IN FRONT OF ME! I JUST WANTED MY DRINK! People can’t be just jumping in front of people to ask the cashier for free things! Lines are what separates mankind from the animals! Well, opposable thumbs and speech separate us from the animals. But lines do too! There needs to be some sort of semblance of order in a gas station. They need someone there to enforce the rules of the line.
Someone like a security guard.
That security guard would for sure deserve free drinks.