What had always been general disinterest in drug culture evolved into adamant distrust the second I first saw the infamous dead baby scene in Trainspotting. I thought, "Fu-huck that!" and assumed that if you could smoke, eat, and/or inject something that you couldn't buy at Kroger, then you would hallucinate and you would die.
|Like this. Except for meth.|
The cops came on a Saturday morning.
I had booked a promotion San Diego for my favorite* late night talk show host. The drive would take roughly two hours, so I figured that a 7:00am alarm would give me plenty of time. I had carefully budgeted my time to afford me enough sleep without compromising drive and prep time. Seven o'clock seemed perfectly reasonable. Then 4:50am came along and told 7am to piss right off.
Normally I wouldn't have dreamed of answering the work phone before eight - and that was just for weekdays. On weekends I went out of my way to not answer the phone at all. That particular Saturday, however, the phone continued to ring. And ring. And ring.
I violently wretched beneath my sheets until I couldn't take it any longer. I grabbed the phone, flipped it open, and croaked out an exasperated,
"Yeah, Jas? This is Karen from the fourth floor. I finally got fed up and called the police."
"They fight all the time. I can't take it anymore. It sounds like someone is getting killed in there."
Karen had called to alert me of the violent spats between Iggy and Homeless Red Head at least three times since I started managing the building:
"Jas, they're playing awful music loud and it's one in the morning. I'm going to call the cops."
"Jas, they are screaming at each other and it's two in the morning. I'm calling the police."
"There's a transvestite with them and it sounds like all three of them are throwing each other across the room. Someone should call the police!"
"The red head is running around with a kitchen knife. I'm going to call the cops."
Body throwing fights, knives, screaming matches; I just assumed that the cops came and went all the time. It actually surprised me to learn that she hadn't followed through until now.
The following is an actual conversation with the police:
"How long ago did you call them?"
"About twenty minutes, when -"
"Actually, Karen, could you hang on a second? Someone is knocking at the door."
I peered through the peephole and distinctly remember taking a beat to marvel at the local police force's uncanny timing.
"Karen, I've gotta let you go," I said before quickly ending the call.
"Are you the building manager?" asked a short, young looking officer.
"Someone dialed 911 and reported an incident of domestic violence. We're here to check it out. Fourth floor, correct?"
"418. I think."
"What do you mean, you think?"
"I'm really new and I try not to go up there."
"They are problem tenants."
"But you're the manager."
"They cause a lot of problems."
"Do you know if the door is even open?"
"I - no, I don't know."
"We're going to need the key if it's not open."
"Am I allowed give you that?"
"You're asking me?"
"Is that even legal?"
"Ma'am, are you being serious?"
The cop looked back to his partner as if for support.
"Alright," he said, rubbing his temples, "We're going to go up and check it out. If we can get in, we get in and take care of whatever is going on. If not, you had better give us that key."
They turned and jogged up the stairs Call of Duty style.
While it seems hilarious in retrospect, they scared the crap out of me at the time. I had previously engaged in only one other extended police interaction; I was driving home from a New Years Eve party in Georgia and my smashed passenger, a guy I was dating at the time, drunkenly told the officer that he resembled John Travolta (he did not) and that there was a full bodied rat suit in the trunk of my car (there was).
As soon as the cops disappeared from eye sight, I called the friend who had gotten me the manager job in the first place.
"Hello?" he answered, groggily.
"I am so sorry," I began, "But the cops are here and they want the key and I don't know if I can even give them the key and they really want the key so what do I do if they come down and demand the key?!"
"Whoa, whoa. Calm down. Breathe. How long have they been there?"
"You didn't already give them the key, did you?"
"Ok, good. I don't think you are allowed to give them the key."
"But what if people are dying in there?"
"... Hm. Good question."
I called my supervisor.
"Don't give them keys for anything!"
"But what if someone is dying?"
"Then they will have to break down the door. It's their job."
The cop had returned.
"They're back," I whispered.
"Don't give them the key."
"Miss, we need that key. The door is locked but we can hear them screaming inside."
"I can't give you the key!" I said - a little too quickly. The cops looked at each other and then back at me.
"Are you REALLY doing this?" they said with the exact emphasis on 'really' that all-caps and italics implied.
"My supervisor says I can't legally give you the key."
"So what are you going to do if someone up there is injured?" he asked, "What are you going to do if someone is dying? Do you want us to just kick the door down? Because then that's dangerous to both the residents AND us. Do you want to be responsible for the injuries and possible deaths of whoever is in the room plus any police officers involved? Do you?"
He had raised his voice at this point.
"... no," I said, quietly.
"Is that your boss on the phone?" the cop asked.
"Here's what you tell him. You tell him that the lawsuit he would definitely face from a preventable death is far worse than the lawsuit he might face from someone who was pissed off that you allowed the law to enter their residence."
"What do I do?" I whispered into the phone.
"Just give them the key," my boss muttered, exasperated.
I handed the key over and they disappeared once more. I leaned against the wall and debated on what to do. I had a little over two hours to get to San Diego.
"Um, Jas?" a young woman's voice interrupted my train of thought.
I looked up to see Karen, Iggy's neighbor on the 4th floor, coming down the stairs. She paused to gather her thoughts.
"I just thought that you should know that they keep flushing the toilet over and over again."
- END PART II -
*In case that sparked anyone's curiosity, I am slightly more than kind of obsessed with Conan O'brien.