Below is a collection of quirky stories and strange calls traffic officer John Roman encounters on the job.
He sees dead people
The other day, I was on my way to a collision call when dispatch broadcasted a panic alarm over the radio at a crematorium.
Now, that in and of itself sounds weird.
I wondered if someone wasn’t ready and hit the panic button to stop the process.
I was right around the corner from the call so I went there instead of the traffic collision.
I pulled my car to the curb just north of the location and didn’t see anything going on outside. I picked up the microphone and couldn’t resist as I said, “729, It looks dead out front. I’ll stand by for the follow.”
When the other officers arrived, we had dispatch call the business, but there was no answer.
We then walked around the business as we checked doors. When we got to the rear, we heard a loud bang come from inside. Now we knew at least one person was alive inside.
We knocked on the door a few times before a man opened it up.
He was wearing a large reflective apron, two large pot holder-style gloves that went up to his elbows and a hat with a face shield.
There was also sweat pouring down his forehead. I could feel the heat coming from inside the location through the open door.
The man told us he was alone and didn’t realize the alarm had been set off by another co-worker, who had just left.
I asked, “Is it hot in there?”
“Yes, it’s hot,” he said with a smile.
“Can we come in and look?” I asked.
We walked inside as the worker started telling us about the cremation process. The ovens were on one side of the room, and you could feel the heat coming. On the other side of the room, there were three long cardboard boxes on a conveyor belt.
Off to the side, there were six more boxes that were stacked on shelves. Next to that, was a large refrigerator the size of the wall. The worker told us that each of the boxes had bodies inside that were waiting to be put into the ovens.
Within a few minutes, we were done and we went back out to our patrol cars. Now, it was time for another call, but we had a story to tell for sure.
As officers, we’re used to dealing with dead bodies, but this was entirely different. The place had a weird feeling about it.
It was definitely not a place I ever thought I would get a tour of. In fact, I had no idea our city had a crematorium until that call. I had driven by this location many times over the years and had never seen anyone outside.
Thinking back, I guess it wouldn’t be the type of place where you would see a bunch of people hanging around.
This was more of a place where everyone was dying to get in.
The mysterious cucumber
One night, dispatch broadcasted an unknown trouble call over the radio with no other details except there was a man down on the sidewalk.
I was close by and responded with other officers.
When I got there, there was a male in his mid-to-late 50s lying on the sidewalk. There was no one else around except for him. He was disoriented and was hard to understand. He didn’t look homeless and he had clean clothes on. I didn’t get close enough to see if he was drunk.
At first, it appeared the guy might have fallen and hit his head, but we weren’t sure. It clearly wasn’t a collision since the guy was on the sidewalk and there was no evidence of a car hitting him.
Other officers and fire personnel spoke with the guy to try and find out what happened. I stood by with another officer as we watched. While we stood there, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a large cucumber on the sidewalk next to the man.
It wasn’t a gun, a knife or any other type of weapon.
It was a cucumber.
And I’m not talking about any old cucumber. I’m talking the longest cucumber ever seen. It was the type of cucumber that would make other vegetables jealous.
There were so many questions now: Was the cucumber the weapon that took him down or was he carrying it? Even if he was carrying it, who walks around with a cucumber at night?
Someone else handled the call so there really wasn’t anything to do except to make jokes about the cucumber. How could we not?
Good thing it wasn’t in his pocket. That would’ve been an awkward conversation for sure. “Is that a cucumber or are you happy to see me?”
The paramedics loaded him onto a gurney and started to wheel him toward the ambulance. The cop I was talking with picked up the cucumber and put it on the gurney next to the guy. Who knows, it might’ve been his.
I bet that was the first time a cucumber went for a ride in an ambulance. I’m sure the people at the hospital were going to have the same questions about the cucumber on steroids.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
The other night I responded to an injury collision involving three cars. When I arrived, I saw the usual sight of crashed cars and a fire truck on scene. One of the vehicles was in the middle of the intersection. The other car was up against a traffic signal pole and a third car was parked off to the side.
The car in the middle of the intersection had two women in it. The driver was in her late-60s to early-70s and the passenger was at least 10 years older. They both had a frail look. I stood at the door and spoke to the driver through the window as fire personnel worked on the passenger. After I was done, I went to speak to the other drivers.
One of the other drivers told me how she had made a left turn when she was hit by a car. The collision caused her to spin around and hit a third car and then a pole.
After I was done speaking to all three drivers, I noticed the woman from the first car was still in the driver seat. I walked up to her and asked if she wanted a tow truck. She told me she was waiting for another ambulance to take her to the hospital. The firefighters were standing off to the side and I didn’t know they had called for another ambulance.
I was standing at the driver door when I noticed she was folding up a blind person’s cane. It’s not every day that you see a driver with a blind person’s cane. It kind of raised a red flag.
“Is that your cane?” I asked as I tried not to laugh.
“No, it’s hers,” as she pointed to the passenger seat. “Mine is the walker in the backseat.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I wasn’t expecting that answer.
It goes to show that you never know what you’re going to hear at a traffic collision.
After all these years, that was the first time I ever asked a driver if they owned a blind person’s cane.
Editor’s note: John Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 (www.badge415.wordpress.com). His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. BehindTheBadgeOC.com shares some of his columns.