1-11-2007 Suicide by tower?

Another day, another emergency bridge repair on I-81. So, what else is new? At the risk of sounding like a girlie man, Iím wondering if the smallish bridges in question are really, really safe at this point.

About a decade ago or so, Connecticut led the country in the number of bridge collapses. The state was working feverishly to replace a number of bridges deemed to be in some state of distress. And as the driver of a commercial vehicle in excess of 26,001 pounds when empty, little things like frequent bridge collapses resonate with you.

There was this one day when I got caught up in a monstrous traffic snarl on I-95 just west of Bridgeport. And when I hit the back of the snarl and reached to engage the parking brakes, I was sitting smack dab in the middle of a medium-length bridge. A southbound big rig went and crushed one of those pesky four-wheelers, rolled onto the northbound lanes and us folks headed north were in for quite the down time. Luckily, WABC from NYC had a great lineup in those days.

Thing was, I was sitting there on this bridge and I was certainly not alone. There were big rigs, straight jobs and cars parked on it from one end to the other. And at some point the emergency workers cleared the southbound lanes and the traffic started to roll in earnest. And as the passing big rigs rumbled their way over that bridge, my open bottle of Coke sitting in my dash-mounted cup holder started belching cola up onto the windshield with the heaviest rumblings. Literally speaking, the bridge was lurching up and down, and with disturbing frequency. And since the good ole boys on the Citizenís Band radio were saying we were still in for quite the wait, I grabbed my soda, locked the cab and took up a spot on the guardrail just a few feet removed from that bridge.

My point? You just never know. And when the same bridge needs emergency repairs on 1,000 consecutive days, Iím thinking thatís the last place Iíd want to make with the parking lot routine.

Iím just saying.

Suicide by cop? Hell, in this town, it could well be suicide by tower.

Local tower to testify in 1 trial, face charges in another

WILKES-BARRE Ė City Wide Towing & Repair owner Robert Kadluboski found out Wednesday he will go on trial in one police chase incident and serve as a witness for the prosecution in another.

Confused?

Kadluboski said he is.

In both incidents, Kadluboski rammed his tow truck into cars that police were pursuing

When the first instance happened following the bar shooting and subsequent car chase, I remember wondering why no charges were filed against our self-appointed would-be battering ram. Itís not a case of vigilantism, since no street justice was being delivered. And itís not ignoble to want to assist police officers as they endeavor to overtake fleeing criminals. Although, inserting yourself into a car chase and a potential gunfight in the making is certainly something every police officer would strongly advise you to avoid at every opportunity.

But going back to that first incident, since no charges were filed, I was left with the distinct impression that our police department condones that sort of ill-advised intervention on our part. And being the terminally juvenile being that I am, I also remember thinking it sounded like a ton of good fun to he had by all.

What? A fleeing vehicle headed due north on Penn Ave.? Really? How about if I ram the Ďperp just as he approaches the end of our street? Wouldnít that be cool.

The cops make their arrests, and Iím the big hero splashed all over the television screens of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The mayor gives me a key to the city. The cops give me a ďGet out of jail freeĒ card. Scantily-clad former Hugo groupies call to me for kisses from behind the hastily-arranged barricades. Freelance photo journalists camp out on my front lawn. A Citizensí Voice headline parlays into a Time Magazine cover story. Paris Hilton sends me a text message the contents of which would be rated XXX. And within days I announce my intention to run for Congress. Whatís not to like?

Then again, if I ram that fleeing vehicle, it could careen out of control and kill incident bystanders. In which case, Iím thinking all of the accolades and fanfare would be replaced by a pair of handcuffs tailored just for me. Or, by way of my actions, maybe one of the officers in pursuit gets injured or worse. Think theyíd be mad at me and be eager to press charges? Think anyone would get to suing me at some later date?

Maybe I could just block the path of the fleeing vehicle and not put any incident folks in danger. Then again, at that point the frustrated gun-toting criminals might just take it upon themselves to start shooting at the cops, the innocent bystanders and even worse yet--at me. Maybe a needless fatality results. And wouldnít that just suck? No key to the city, no jail card, no groupies and no Paris wearing nothing but sandals and a bottle of baby oil. Rats! Think theyíd be mad at me and be eager to press charges? Think anyone would get to suing me at some later date?

The point Iím trying to make is that policing is best left to the police.

Police officers are not paid to forevermore eviscerate crime. Rather, they are employed to maintain order in an increasingly violent society. Theirs is an industry not unlike mine in one major respect: They cannot completely eliminate the marauding locusts and they know as much. The more realistic goal is to keep their numbers and the damage they can inflict to an absolute minimum. The only way that crime can be completely eliminated from an urban landscape such as ours would be to implement city-wide saturation patrols for the duration of manís existence. And finances being what they are, thatís not going to happen no matter what the locale.

But when a civilian is, for lack of a better word, allowed to ram one fleeing vehicle and then not the next, what kind of signal is being sent? What are we to make of that? It depends? It depends on the situation? When encountering instances of punishment being meted out by members of the public, police should act decisively to uphold the rule of law. And when civilians take it upon themselves to engage in a police action fraught with danger to begin with, the police should act decisively to make it known that a line that should not be crossed has been crossed. To do otherwise would be to encourage further acts of well-intentioned but ill-advised do-it-yourself policing.

Which is not to say that a situation will never present itself wherein a police officer might need the assistance of some startled onlookers. If three large men pounce all over a cop and one of them is trying to dislodge his gun from his holster, what should you do? Should you dial 911 and then watch the proceedings with a bit lip until backup arrives? Or should you pounce on the man trying to rip free the copís gun? You could end up being a hero. And just as easily, you could be called an irresponsible interloper once things get sorted out. You might save that copís life. Or you could get yourself and the cop shot full of holes. Thereís a very fine line between bringing charges down on yourself and taking Paris to your next high school reunion.

Police officers receive the training, ongoing education and equipment necessary to maintaining order. We do not. Very many of our police officers have military backgrounds and that training can serve them well when dealing with potentially violent confrontations. Most of us do not have that training to draw upon. Veteran police officers have pretty much seen it all before, and may not be in the danger we perceive them to be in. They have the experience that allows them to handle the nastiest of the situations that would get most of us to wetting ourselves. And to interfere when they are applying their skills could result in a bad situation quickly deteriorating into a much worse situation.

You can support your local police department in any number of ways that Iím certain they would appreciate. Iím just not sure that making Americaís Funniest Car Crash videos is the best way to go about it.

And thatís why I maintain that policing is best left to the police.

Suicide by tower, or Bronco, or what have you?

Not a good idea.

NowÖon to the next important policing issue.

If you're not supposed to drive under the influence of alcohol, why is it the drinking haunts provide ample parking?

Címon, answer me that one.

Will Wilkes-Barre eventually join the Nanny State parade by banning smoking in all public places? I truly do not care, but I find this sudden aversion to second-hand smoke to be amusing to a very great degree.

On one hand, we are becoming a risk-averse society that is fast approaching the point of ridiculousness. We excoriate McDonalds at every turn. Municipalities like New York City have passed ordinances whereby the government becomes the menu-planner-in-chief. We can no longer function without a bottle of trumped-up tap water surgically implanted into our hands. We eat manipulated foods that taste like dung because somebody somewhere conducted a study that suggests eating foods devoid of flavor will make us live forever. We eat granola products by the metric ton even though nobody really likes them. That immortality nonsense again. We need more oats, we need more fiber and we need more carotene, even though we all made it this far while being raised on steak and potatoes. We guzzle green tea, we pop green tea capsules and we even smear green tea extracts on our rapidly wrinkling skin. We eat vitamins, supplements, root extracts and aspirins because television commercial tell us we need to, else weíll keel over. We pretend to enjoy wheat germ. We actually consume alfalfa sprout burgers. And we seem to think that ordering low-fat sprinkles for our ice cream sundaes is ultimately clever and healthy. And if all of that isnít silly enough, we flock to products containing the following advisory: Side effects includeÖ

ButÖbut, with all of that having been said, we think nothing of running ten red lights each and every day. And with the kids in the car, no less.

On the other hand, weíve got these people who consume alcohol on a very regular basis. They simply adore their medium-rare double-decker burgers. They canít get enough of chips and pretzels and salty nuts of all sorts. They think nothing of eating dead animals, the permanent remnants of which fester in their innards for years upon years. They canít go without their fat-laden ice cream. Heavy cream sauces and tasty gravies are to die for. They overindulge for the holidays. They overindulge for the playoffs. They overindulge for the Super Bowl. And they huddle together at the corner bar and overindulge for the World Series. As the commercial goes, they canít eat just one.

But let somebody slightly upwind of them light a freaking Marlboro, and theyíre squawking away about their precious health being endangered. How smart are these people?

This is the way I look at this issue of second-hand smoke being dangerous, and this overzealous health conscienceness in general. The way I see it, weíve got two choices. We can enjoy ourselves and possibly cut our lives short along the way. Or, we can subsist on broccoli, oats, granola, rice cakes and spring water alone only to end up in a warehouse of a nursing home driveling all over ourselves while people look on in disguised horror. Whatís worse? To drop over at 65 while still in charge of your faculties? Or to live to be 100 or so and be a minute shell of our former selves? I canít speak for the rest of you, but Iíd rather do without the zombie routine.

I say chill out, enjoy yourselves every once in a while and cool it with the self-righteous preaching all the time.

And to those who say they donít want to go home from the bar smelling like smoke, whoís to say itís not masking the smell you walked into the bar with?

I know it must have sucked to be the last one picked in gym class. But looking like youíre 30-years-old while fast approaching 60-years-old isnít going to change any of that.

Chill out. Take two Newports and call me in the morning.

Sez me.

CYA






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