Recently I had an encounter with the Seattle police. The background is a long, drawn out story that I may tell someday. But right now I am focusing on what the officer said, partly because it’s so odd and partly because I find it amusing.
I sit in public spaces for long periods of time when I am not feeling well, and this apparently makes some uncomfortable, who then call the police about this strange man — me — who just sits. I rest up and then eventually move on. But when I am exhausted I just sit and rest.
I usually do this in spaces with wifi. Otherwise, I’d be bored out of mind, though lately I have been catching up on my book reading. (I am reading one about Martin Luther and the Reformation that is fantastic.)
Part of our conversation went as follows:
ME: “I’ve been having serious medical issues. I may have lymphoma.”
A look of alarm suddenly covers the policeman’s face. He backs away slightly as if I might somehow infect him.
OFFICER: “Is that contagious?”
I am taken back by his ignorance.
I am quickly chastised by his partner, so I expound on my answer.
ME: “It’s a blood cancer,” I reply, incredulously.
He probably still has no idea. Did he get into his patrol vehicle and look it up? My guess is no.
I’ve been wondering if he was hoping he’d have something on me, like being a public health threat, so he could call in a HAZMAT team and ship me off to a hospital ward somewhere.
These two officers were hard, cold-hearted authoritarian types. Not a fan. I’ve encountered so many heartless bureaucrats recently.
My great uncle died earlier this year, in February. He lived to the age of 101. Before his death, I interviewed him in-depth multiple times about his life and what he remembered.
He taught me a bunch, indulging what corn cribs are, the storms of the Dust Bowl, and a slew of humorous stories, his particular talent, which I wish had been documented in some way.
While living in Seattle, from 1939 to 1941, he was recorded in the phone book, which are quite hefty to lug around. He lived with the Neilson family, who came from the same South Dakota town as him, Lake Preston.
Nineteen forty-one was a pivotal year. Everett married his longtime girlfriend, his father died from cancer, and the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting America’s entry into the Second World War.
The death of his father, George Hay, impelled him and his newlywed wife to return to South Dakota, where he took over operation of the family farm, until doctor’s orders made him give it up in 1953, the year they returned to the Pacific Northwest, moving to a berry farm in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.