Sam's Humor

These essays were written in 1995 and are still funny to this day. Enjoy them! Don't steal them!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Police Line - DO NOT CROSS

by Sam Palahnuk

A few years back Shannon and I were living in a rented house in West Los Angeles. The ad for the place actually said it was in “Brentwood” but we were easily miles from the prestigious Brentwood area. I felt I could relate to this little neighborhood aspiring to be the better neighborhood it clearly was not, just as I aspire to have the body of a body builder, which I clearly do not.

The ‘hood was a bit on the busy side, but there were dozens of excellent restaurants near us, and we were within shooting distance UCLA. I mention this because one day, Shannon and I returned from work to find our neighborhood had been cordoned off. For those of you who are lucky enough never to have had your house cordoned off, let me tell you what it’s like so you’ll know what to expect when it happens in your neighborhood.

First of all, there are lots of police cars and yellow “POLICE LINE - DO NOT CROSS” tape stretched taught between trees, fence-posts, homeless people, curb-side trash heaps and other regular fixtures of life in West Los Angeles. When you try to get to your house, a police officer dressed in a black leather outfit with dark sunglasses stops you. The LA police department takes seriously their duty “to protect and to serve” so he made sure to thoroughly answer our questions, assure us that the entire situation was under control, and to soothe our frazzled nerves:

Us: “Can we go to our house?”
Cop: “No.”
Us: “Why?”
Cop: -silence-
Us: “When can we go to our house?”
Cop: “Come back later.”
Us: “When?”
Cop: -silence-

This, my friend, is what cordoning is all about.

Well, we NEEDED to get home, our dogs were starving, and had to be walked. The poop timer was running, and it was either be on time, or be cleaning up. Somehow I knew that the friendly police officer who wouldn’t let me get to my own house wasn’t planning on cleaning up the poop that was sure to be waiting for me in my living room.

Our enlightening conversation with the officer took place at 5:30. We decided that we should pass the time by going out for dinner. At dinner our perky waitress told us that she heard some gunshots and that the special was meatloaf.

This made me very nervous about our dogs. I know people generally don’t rob dogs, but I was still worried about them. What if Albion, our brave sheltie had tried to wrestle the gun from the villains grasp and was shot in the struggle? What if Honey, our irresponsible and destructive husky, had decided to sniff the crotch of the villain and shot in the struggle?

Our waitress must have seen the worry on our faces, and we told her about our “children” still being in the house. OK, I know some of you are thinking “Oh great, this Sam guy is one of those lonely and pathetic people who spoils his dogs rotten because he can’t handle the real task of raising HUMAN children”. Well, I’ve though long and hard for many years now on this subject, and I’ve formulated a thoughtful and logical response to you -- “Bite Me!”

After dinner we tried to go home again. We were again met by our new police officer friend, who hadn’t moved an inch in the hour we had been away.

Us: “Can we go to our house?”
Cop: “No.”
Us: “When can we go to our house?”
Cop: “Come back later.”
Us: “When?”
Cop: -silence-

We went to a payphone and started calling our friends to see if we could invite ourselves over to someones house. We tried just staring at each other in the car and it got boring after a few hours.

We visited a friend and finally went home at 11:30. The yellow tape was gone. The only evidence of the police presence were flare ashes and little plastic flare caps all over the street -- littering if you ask me.

Needless to say, the dogs had trashed the house and left deposits all over. They were so happy to see us we could hardly be angry at them. They both vigorously denied trashing the house.

It turns out that a UCLA student who was renting an apartment next door flipped his lid and used a rifle to shoot at innocent pedestrians as they walked by from his third story balcony. He shot a woman carrying groceries dead. This was on the sidewalk that Shannon and I walked our dogs on twice a day.

I can say, being a former UCLA student, that college life is horrible indeed, and a monumental waste of time, but most of us only THINK about shooting people, rarely do we actually do it. When I was a UCLA student I ate a lot of ice-cream instead of shooting people -- making me a peaceful person of robust girth.

The next day life was no different than the day before. The city bus rumbled down our tiny residential street, shaking the windows like an earthquake. We walked the dogs. We said “Hi” to people and they ignored us. It was as if nothing had happened at all. Only the blood on the sidewalk hinted at the events of yesterday.

I’m told that in small towns minor events such as someone buying a new truck, or someone getting married is cause for gossip in beauty shops and hardware stores the town over. It seems sad that in our relatively small neighborhood, which only wished it was Brentwood, an event as profound as a university student killing people would at least be enough to cause neighbors to chat -- but strangely it didn’t.

Shannon and I were shaken up by the killings and only a few weeks later our house was robbed. We then left Brentwood, I mean West LA, for the wilds of Burbank to be closer to work. Burbank is only 17 miles from our old neighborhood. Now when we say “Hi” to someone on the street they actually respond. We have neighborhood parties, exchange Xmas cards, etc. We’ve even attended city council meetings. Life here is indeed better, and much safer.

Maybe, when a neighborhood claims to be Brentwood when it’s not, it’s actually an attempt to deny the reality of the situation. Burbank only claims to be Burbank, and maybe I should be content with my current pear-like shape.

Word Count: 1113

Copyright 1995 Sam Palahnuk
Do not duplicate or distribute without written permission of the author.


  • At 4:27 PM, Blogger Lazer said…

    I read all these stories here today and just wanted to let you know that I truly enjoyed them. The brother one was my favorite.


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