When you’re drunk, the police never think it’s as funny as you do.
Every police officer will know the feeling – a bitterly cold night in February. It’s 4am on a Sunday morning and you’ve been on duty since 9pm the evening before.
Most sensible people are tucked up in bed. But you are standing outside the nightclub wearing thermals, fleece, body armour and quilted bright yellow coat. Yet, despite the layers, the Arctic wind is blowing right through your bones.
But all around you revellers mill around wearing short sleeve shirts or skimpy dresses. Of course, it’s not that their clothes are made out of some special material.
The difference is they are tanked up on alcohol while you are stone cold (very cold) sober.
You are standing there, trying to reassure the public, keeping a watchful eye on potential fights and stepping in when voices get raised or tempers start to rise.
Out they tumble from the night-club: the wall-wobblers who slowly weave their way home; the hunger-merchants, desperate for the taste of kebab with extra chilli sauce; the mellow drunks who happily meander along; the loud excitable gaggle; the tearful inconsolable girl whose friends are telling her that he isn’t worth it.
There will nearly always be a couple of girls staggering arm in arm, loudly chanting Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. It’s the anthem of the unloved.
And then it starts...the yellow police jacket is like a magnet for every would-be comic. You’ve heard it all a thousand times before, but you’re going to hear it again...and again... and again.....drunk people do have a habit of repeating themselves!
There is always one bright spark who, in his drunken haze, thinks it’s clever to show off by slurring “Oh, I love the smell of bacon!” as he staggers past, arm in arm with his potential conquest for the evening.
This is said with a clever smirk across his face. We’re police officers: we’re human, not pigs. Comments like this are designed to insult and provoke, so it’s inevitably followed by a public order warning being issued to the Jim Davidson wannabe.
As the first comedian staggers off, up comes the next. “Do you know my Uncle Mike? He’s a copper”. It’s quickly established that the uncle is in the Metropolitan Police. They seem disappointed that you don’t know all 31,000 officers of the metropolis.
As the disappointed policeman’s nephew staggers off, along come a group of jolly revellers. One of them shouts “I didn’t do it, ossiffer!” as the others giggle among themselves. Oh, I’ve never heard that one before!
Zero for originality. You’re grateful for the body armour as at least your sides won’t split from laughing.
Just as you are getting to the point that you can’t take any more hilarity a sensible looking young woman walks across.
This could be interesting. Is she going to report a crime? Will it be an opportunity to help a damsel in distress? Sadly, no..... ‘Is it true that if I’m pregnant I can wee in your helmet?’ she asks. Sigh. This is an urban myth you’ve heard a thousand times. You put the record straight on this one. Pregnant women most definitely do not have the right to use a police officer’s helmet as a toilet.
However, before you can explain this you see two angry men squaring up to each other. You split them up. Punches may have been thrown, but you didn’t see this and neither of them wants to talk to you. You check that neither are hurt and send them separate ways. One of them walks off sheepishly but the other doesn’t want to lose face in front of their friends. As their mates steer them away, they shout back at you: “It took ten of you to arrest me last time!”
No it didn’t; with budget cutbacks, there wouldn’t be ten of us, anyway.
Hard men take great pride in boasting about how many officers it took to arrest them last time and the number of officers needed multiplies with every telling.
At least, on this occasion, the flashpoint has passed. You remain there as the last of the night’s party-goers spill in to waiting taxis. But no, there’s always one that has to spoil it, thoughtlessly discarding their kebab papers on the pavement. As you tell them to pick their litter up and put it in the bin, they mutter “Why don’t you go and catch real criminals?”
You’d love to say “Because we’re too busy dealing with inane inebriates right now” but you don’t.
Using every ounce of your professionalism you ignore the comment and as the would-be litterbug, clutching their kebab papers, pours themselves in to the last taxi of the night, you see that the streets are finally clear.
You and your colleagues have just policed what politicians blithely call “the night-time economy”.
Your jaw aches from the fixed smile you have been wearing, but at least you know that the streets are safe. You can resume now and grant the wish of the loudmouth litterbug and go and catch real criminals.