Undercover CockupThe sleazy nightclub district of my city seethes each night with energetic youth intent on having a good time, and bully for them, I say. But it is the next day that the cleanup must be done, by older men in trucks, with hoses and stiff-bristled brooms, who sweep the night’s detritus gutterward, where cigarette butts, bottles and cans and plastic packaging flows on a solution of diluted vomit that still reeks of alcohol.
When I arrived there –just passing through, on my way to an appointment- the streets were almost empty. A loose bunch of casually-dressed men were window-shopping outside the string of adult stores and a scruffy woman emerged from the all-night souvlaki bar, where I was headed for a ****. She held up a cigarette and asked if I had a light. I patted my pockets and found my lighter, handed it to her and repocketed it when she returned it. Then I ducked inside the souvlaki bar and headed straight for the toilets at the rear.
As I re-emerged onto the street, one of the young men in casual clothes approached me, with a silver badge held in one hand. The others –perhaps five in all- surrounded me.
“Police,” the first guy told me. “Come with us,” –and led me fifty metres along the footpath to a laneway.
“Empty your pockets,” the first cop ordered, adding “Slowly”.
So I removed my phone, my wallet, and perhaps a handkerchief from my pants pockets. I saw one cop open my wallet and sort through my cards.
“If you don’t mind my asking, why are you on a pension?” he demanded.
“It is a Carer’s Pension,” I told him. “My wife is an invalid, and I am her Carer, and our son’s.”
A third cop bent and ran his finger inside my socks, then up my legs to my crotch.
“If you don’t mind my asking, are you actually allowed to do this on the street?” I asked him. “I mean, we have only just met... no candlelit dinner, no flowers, and you’re already getting intimate...”
Nobody laughed. I saw some office workers in a first floor building across the street from the laneway looking down at the action unfolding beneath them. I gave them the finger.
“We can take you to the station and do it if you like,” the first guy told me.
“Ahh... no. Here is fine,” I told him. “I have nothing to hide.”
I had forgotten the tiny ball of aluminium foil in my breast pocket, with its little bud of cannabis inside, until the third guy found it with his probing fingers.
“Here we are!” he crowed, holding it up for all to see.
“Oh... that’s just a little bit of green,” I told them.
“Really?” said the guy in charge. He turned to the cop with my tiny stash. “Open it carefully,” he instructed. “We don’t want the powder to blow away.”
I shook my head.
“It isn’t powder,” I insisted. “It’s just a tiny bit of pot.”
The other cop carefully peeled open the foil, revealing the truth of what I’d told them.
I heard a chorus of disappointed grunts from the posse of police.
“Are you going to arrest me for that?” I asked the cop in charge.
“We could,” he said.
“Well yeah, you could,” I taunted. “And wouldn’t you be the heroes of the station? Five cops to bring in one guy with a tenth of a gram of cannabis! Wow! That would surely earn you all a promotion, wouldn’t it?”
The cops all looked at each other sheepishly. They realised that they had the wrong person. The cop in charge handed me back my minute foil parcel, still open.
“Tip it out,” he ordered. “Onto the ground.”
I shook my head slowly, but obeyed.
“Now grind your foot on it,” he said.
I looked down and saw the miniscule amount of grass sprinkled across the pavement of the laneway, and ground it with the sole of my shoe into the dusty asphalt.
“OK,” the cop said. “You can go.”
I looked around at all those cops and laughed, and left.
* * * * * * * * *
I later found out that the scruffy woman who had bummed a light off me was a known heroin dealer called Mouse, and realised that when they saw me hand her my lighter the cops must have thought I was her dealer. Clearly, their undercover operation on the street had failed.