by Chris Van Orden
Dear Leather Cop, (The Emphatically Gesturing Traffic Officer Stationed at 36th and Walnut)
How do you do it? Every day, rain or shine, or that awful mist-fog-haze nonsense we’ve been having recently, you’re out there, directing traffic with aplomb that is usually reserved for raving lunatics and only the most ambitious of conductors. You are a shining beacon, your patent leather stripper-cop outfit gleaming in the noonday sun, guiding me home.
I know that I, for one, would be helpless navigating the treacherous grid that is West Philadelphia without you. Should I continue driving straight when the light is green or jerk the wheel hard to the right and floor it into the Franklin Building lobby? One look to you, arms flailing and whistle blaring, and I feel safe.
Your peers (if they even earn the right to be called ‘traffic cops’) guide cars along with no thought of the people inside. They just wave their charge along like so much cattle. No connection is made. As I pass, I look into their hollow eyes and I don’t feel like we’ve shared anything.
And their technique – it’s flat out abominable. A limpid flap of the wrist, maybe a head swivel if you’re lucky. They lack your flare, your panache, your joie de vivre. Every step of your moonwalk is like magic. You make Mikhail Baryshnikov look like a palsied war veteran.
And so, I speak for the entire community when I say “Thank you”. Thank you, Leather Cop, for the double whistle screech arm windmill, for the teasing ‘come hither’ fingertips, for the for the 540 heel spin into friendly wink. Know that when the blue 1997 Sentra with the dings in the door crawls past, inside is a friend.
Chris Van Orden