Sunday, July 4, 2010

LAPD Shuttle to USC

Driving yesterday, I recalled an incident during my sophomore year at USC, which would have been about 1986.  I have to preface this story with three bits of information. 

The first is that USC was and still is essentially a commuter school.  Most of the students come from Orange County and from the San Fernando Valley.  So the big party night is Thursday night, before everyone skips the campus for the weekend.  Inversely, weekends resembled a ghost town with just a sprinkling of out of state students to be found.

The second thing is that since USC sits in not such a great neighborhood, the on-campus security, “USC Security,” are pretty heavy patrollers.  One sees them ubiquitously throughout the campus 24/7, attempting to maintain some sort of buffer between USC things and non-USC things.  I suppose that USC brings in a lot of money and taxes into Los Angeles, so it’s pretty well protected.

In fact, I once noticed while a student there, that within a quarter-mile of the campus in every direction, the road asphalt is maintained very well.  As soon as one drives beyond that radius, one notices potholes and cracks in the streets.  Would one call this street maintenance gerrymandering?

And thirdly, one of my dorm mates was named, Chris (I’ll leave out his last name in case he’s the CEO of some huge corporation now).  He was one of a small group of buddies who would sit around with me weeknights in the common area of the dorm and catch Carson and then Letterman once we had all decided that we’d had enough studying.

Chris was a big guy.  Tall, strong, big boned, a little chunky, with curly sandy hair and fair skin.  When he drank, which was a lot and often, his cheeks would get rosy red.  He was also one of the smarter people in this Dean Scholar’s dorm, knowledgeable about pretty much everything under the sun. 

We once had a dorm pillow fight that we videotaped.  For some reason, the sound did not recorded on the cam-corder, so after it was over, we all sat and watched a silent movie version of the fight.  As it started, there was some easy pillow-hitting, but within about 30 seconds, all fifteen or so people involved started whacking each other with strikes hard enough to send the recipients slamming into the white painted cinder-block hallways walls with fierce impact.  And as we watched this transition from kindness to cannibalism on the video playback, Chris said in the most dry, matter of fact voice possible, “This is what you call, 'escalation.'”  I laughed my ass off at that for a good ten-minutes.  This guy was really funny!

So onto the story.

One Friday, night, I was walking across the commuter-dead campus from somewhere, probably another friend’s dorm or apartment, returning to my own dorm at about 1:00am.  As I approached my dorm, Mark’s Hall, I noticed an LAPD squad car pulling up inside the campus right next to my dorm.   This was a strange and slightly alarming sight, because as I mentioned before the private USC Security handled most security matters.  Something was really up here.  I was still a distance away, but close enough to see the squad car come to a complete stop, one of the two officers exit, open the back door, and let a passenger out.

It was Chris.

And by now I was almost right up on them and could hear everything.  Chris said, “Thanks officers, I really appreciate it,” with a big smile.  He was hunched over a bit, trying to say steady on his feet.  He was shit-faced!  The officer obliged, got back in the squad car and kind of rolled his eyes to his partner.  To my amazement, there was no trouble here; they were just dropping Chris off.

By then, I had made it to the front door of our dorm,  and I waited patient and exacting, ready for Chris to stagger way up so I could ask him the only question that could be asked.

“What the hell was that?”

Full of giggles and laughter, he said that he had left a friend’s place near the row (fraternity row), and had been walking in Hoover Street (notice I didn’t say “on”), and at some point he didn’t recall, LAPD officers pulled up to him in their patrol car and asked that he move to the side of the road and present identification.  When all was settled, they offered to take him back to his dorm on campus.

Clearly, the LAPD saw him as a potential target in that neighborhood; a big, drunk, white, probably rich, college kid trying to make his way in the direction of the USC campus, but still a ways off.  The police knew that he needed some help making it home safely and delivered him, as if by taxicab, politely back to his dorm on campus.  Job well done LAPD!  And my special treat as witness; I get to keep this hilarious image in my head forever.