Trooper’s help a big bust

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I’ve always been a big fan of the police department. My uncle was a police officer &045; a good one &045; for years until he retired.

He rode around in his police car, and my Neena’s house was the coolest on the block when he’d come by and whirr that siren.

When I was speeding just after my 16th birthday, he was the one, it turned out, who pulled me over. I managed to get out of that one, thank goodness.

And when I was on my way to the senior prom, we just had to stop by the jail where he was working so he could see us all dressed up.

So the police and police department have always been close to my heart.

Here in Shelby County, we have some great police officers &045; like Sgt. Gary Griffith of the Columbiana Police Department; Detective Curtis Rigney of the Alabaster Police Department, Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Billingsley of the Sheriff’s Department and Chief Jim Finn of the Calera Police Department.

They are all fine officers &045; a credit to all Shelby Countians.

I began, on Saturday night, to doubt they were the norm, however.

Since childhood, I was taught that when something was wrong &045; whenever I had a problem &045; I could come to a police officer for help.

&uot;To Protect and Serve,&uot; after all, is the motto.

But this past weekend, I had an experience with the other side.

After having spent the day at St. Vincent’s Hospital, I was on my way home, down Interstate 65.

By the time I reached the Oak Mountain exit, my car had begun to chug, apparently low on gas.

I pulled off the interstate but only got as far as just in front of the Pilot gas station, which is located next to Cracker Barrel.

That was when my car went dead &045; within &uot;spittin’&uot; distance of the pump, but unfortunately too far away.

I went inside and the very nice lady behind the counter told me they did not sell gas cans, so I decided to try something else.

I emptied an apple juice bottle, filled it with gas and tried to pour it into the car. That didn’t work.

So I went back inside the station and asked to borrow a phone book. I was going to call the Pelham Police Department for help.

The lady told me that I didn’t have to. She said there was a state trooper sitting in his car behind the building.

I was so relieved. I just knew he’d be able to help me or at least advise me on what I should do.

I walked up to his car, which was sitting there, idling, behind the station and told him my problem.

His response: &uot;Hm. That’s bad that you could only get it that far.&uot;

He told me there was nothing he could do to help me.

I just stared at him &045; mouth and eyes wide open.

I asked him if he would call the Pelham Police for me on his radio.

He told me he would not, because there was nothing they could do either.

So I turned and walked away, the tears gathering rapidly.

I went back into the store, told the lady who had been so nice that he had refused to help me and almost broke down.

It was only while I was walking aimlessly up and down every aisle, trying without success to calm down, that a man, who also worked in the store, walked up to me and said, &uot;Don’t worry. We’ll help you.&uot;

He and another man walked out to the car with me and pushed me the 50 feet or so to the pump &045; with the state trooper sitting there watching directly in front of the car.

I could have hugged them, I was so excited. They were very nice and made sure I was OK before they left.

I was stranded there with a short-sleeved shirt on a chilly night, no jacket, with my car only 50 feet away from the pump and the State Trooper, who is paid, by the way, with my tax money, refusing to help.

I don’t know. Maybe I was intruding on his donut break or something.

I do know that I’ll never call on a State Trooper for help.

&uot;To Protect and Serve&uot; obviously does not refer to the State Troopers.

I drove away from that station, with the state trooper still watching, questioning everything I had ever thought true about police officers.

But on the way home, I decided there must be a difference between the values and concerns of a local police officer or sheriff’s deputy and a state police officer.

I had never known there was a difference. I’ll not make that mistake again