Saturday, February 03, 2007
Welcome to the office!
The other day was Bring Father To Work Day for me with one of my sons. Though, very unofficially and with hardly any notice, it was a day nevertheless honored and commemorated by the both of us and my son’s immediate superior or superiors. For that day was tagged as ride-along day for me in my son’s CHP patrol car. A little-known practice that actually is encouraged by the agency, to get the general public introduced to and acquainted with its functions and responsibilities. And maybe as part of its public relations agenda, for after all the public is its main concern and employer. Thus, as I understand it aside from promoting it among family members, members of media may also participate; and as told, have indeed participated in the past.
As a life-long motorist on our freeways and byways, the eight-hour experience was quite an eye-opener for me. While many of us as motor vehicle drivers can proudly point to our own years of hardened experiences navigating through the many freeways thereabouts, we tend to forget that it has always been essentially from the narrow perspective of a motorist. And not from other equally relevant perspectives. Take the example of the people whose critical task it is to maintain the roadworthiness and the integrity of the freeway system, and the people who are engaged to keep them free from litter, debris, and the ubiquitous conked-out vehicles hugging the shoulders.
Please have a seat.
And what about those whose sworn responsibility is to keep the freeways safe by ensuring that motorists follow traffic rules and regulations when using them? For after all, traffic rules and regulations are intended to ensure public safety. These specific duties fall on the able shoulders of the patrol officers in the black-and-white cruisers or motorbikes. They inhabit the freeway system using them in a manner of speaking as their offices, where they preside over its orderly and smooth functioning and the rigorous daily task of directing motorists to and from their destinations in the most efficient and accident-free manner possible.
All these people also use the freeways, but see them from totally different prisms.
Needless to state, the freeways can be perilous and at times fatal places for any motorist while driving, being stranded, or worse, figuring in any high-speed accident. And in this perpetually fluid and fast-moving environment where danger lurks at every moment and turn, the people tasked in ensuring safety engage and wager their own personal welfare and their lives on a daily basis, come rain or shine, night or day, fog or clear day.
And one salient observation that stubbornly sticks to mind to this day is how hazardous if must be for these officers to be doing what they do each day. For they are not only asked to be skillfully precise drivers, arguably more skillful than your typical fast-lane-hogging motorist, but they also have to be literally multi-taskers because of what is required of them while driving their patrol cars at high speed. With eyes peeled to the road and one hand steady on the wheel, the other hand may find itself either operating the radio and carrying a conversation, or keyboarding on the mobile PC, or operating either the installed radar or the new portable one.
Excuse me, while I attend to work.
And in a very real way, one senses that at times, these officers must find themselves in some kind of catch-22 situations. For to catch up and to direct/guide out of traffic (typically away from the fast/cruising lane) an errant driver who is dangerously over-speeding and improperly weaving in and out of lanes, the pursuing officer has to somehow mimic that motorist’s moves. That is, go at even higher and riskier speed to catch up, and similarly weave in and out of lanes fast. Imagine yourself pursuing a motorist going at 80mph in the midst of a dizzying maze of cars going at different speeds and you are a couple of hundred yards behind him , you’d have to initially accelerate beyond 80mph just to catch up and skillfully maneuver to get behind him to guide him out of traffic.
These and more have given me some new-found appreciation and gratitude for those hardy officers who do very hazardous work on a daily basis. In which a typical day in the office must require one to always be 110% alert and able. And we have not been delved here on the possible life-threatening hazards a routine traffic stop may escalate into because of unpredictable criminal behavior that may enter into the equation.