When someone approached me and asked if I would be interested in speaking at her club’s luncheon, I thought she must have confused me with some other Tanya Grove. (I hear there is another Tanya Grove who, at least at one point, lived in Berkeley, and for all I know, she’s a popular speaker on any number of interesting topics.)
But no, she insisted it was me that she was inviting. Because we were at an Albany Patch event at the time, I wasn’t surprised when she said she read my comments on the Albany police blotter published in the Patch. But it did seem a crooked path to the speaking circuit.
Then she explained: she was always looking for humorous speakers. I probably should have politely declined then and there because there’s nothing so ripe with pressure as having to be funny in front of a large group of people you’ve never met.
It reminds me of a family story in which my sister-in-law, as a teenager, had been dating a new boy, and in that early stage had bragged to her parents just how funny he was. When the day came that my father-in-law was introduced to this boyfriend, his opening line was: “Say something funny.”
Of course nobody could be funny in that situation. Humor has to have a context—it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Ask my dog—he’s absolutely terrified of the vacuum cleaner and sees no humor in it whatsoever…
I had never spoken to a group of people taller than third graders, but I blithely accepted the invitation to speak and began planning my humorous talk.
But where does one find humor? Some people harvest tidbits from their own lives: you know, the clueless husband, the ungrateful kids, the unreasonable boss, or the randy neighbor. But I don’t have any of those things. I mean, I do have a husband, but he’s not clueless, and my daughter has turned out to be quite lovely, thank you very much. My boss (who also happens to be my husband) is a gem. Now it’s quite possible that one of my neighbors is hot to trot; but if that’s true, I’m blissfully unaware of this condition.
When I want a chuckle, I read the police blotter in the AlbanyPatch. If you have been a regular reader of my blog since last summer—and if you are, thank you, thank you, thank you!—then you know that it’s not that I enjoy reading about dangerous criminals or get a weird rush from hearing about violence. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel better about my neighborhood knowing that these are the kinds of things that make the police log. It’s strangely comforting to know that I live in a place where cops will respond to such calls.
When Emilie Raguso, editor of the Albany Patch, started reading my blog, she suggested that I become what the Patch calls a “local voice” and share my slightly irreverent musings on the police blotter.
And thus a career was born. Okay maybe not a career, since of course there’s no money to be made. But if I can bring a little laughter into the world, I’m happy to do so.
For those of you who do not read the crime blotter on Albany Patch—and if you don’t, why not?—here’s a selection of the tough calls that Albany PD gets on a regular basis, grouped loosely into categories.
There are those that are funny because of the way they are reported. (I don’t change the wording of any report, except to occasionally remove a name.)
Two callers reported two males involved in a fight with a bat.
—What I want to know is: did the two males win or did the bat? It seems like an unfair fight if you ask me.
Someone reported that his or her Jack Russell terrier was bitten by a “large shepherd” in Memorial Park.
—I can only assume the Jack Russell was bitten by a German shepherd because there are so few sheep to herd in Memorial Park.
A caller reported a dead young deer deceased in the back yard.
—So it was dead and deceased?
Then there are those that show how unreasonable or needy some people are.
Someone visited the Albany Police Department to report that his or her vehicle was missing after letting a “friend borrow it [a] couple months ago.”
—Unfortunately it’s not a crime for a friend to turn out to be an unreliable snake. Maybe it should be.
A woman visiting from Roseville,CA—north of Sacramento—went into the Albany Police Department to see if someone could “go shut her garage door,” which she believed she’d left open.
—Seriously? Hey, I think I left my oven on. Could someone go check for me?
A man near Madison and Castro streets reported he was “concerned because there is a swarm of bees near the corner.”
—I would be concerned too…if I didn’t have two legs to walk away from them.
A woman came into the police department to see if a police officer could speak to her 5-year-old daughter “as a reminder” about “Not good behavior.”
—Really? Scared straight in kindergarten?
Some of them just lead me to more questions…
Someone found a backpack on Jackson“with Tinkerbell on it” containing electronic equipment. The person was referred to another agency.
—Another agency? Sorry, Albany police only handle backpacks with Hello Kitty and superheroes. For characters from children’s literature and/or Disney movies, they have to hand it over to Berkeley police.
Someone on Stannage Avenue called to complain about six chickens that had been digging up his or her home on a regular basis.
—Okay, there are so many unanswered questions here:
- First, didn’t the person who was calling know whether he was a he or she was a she?
- And how does he or she know it was 6 chickens exactly? Did he or she see them in the act?
- If so, couldn’t he or she fend off a few chickens? I mean, it’s not as if they’re barracudas, right? Even six at once would probably be deterred by a little foot stomping and a few halfheartedly thrown rocks…
- And if they weren’t caught in the act, it would be presumptuous to accuse them all. (It only takes one bad chicken to give the whole coop a bad rep.)
- And finally, “digging up his or her home”—what does that mean, anyway? Is this home made of actual building material, or is it some little piggie house made of straw?
And then there are the ones that are just funny all on their own.
A woman on Ordway called to report a “loud party with some pleasant French music and some out of tune karaoke singers” that was preventing her from getting her baby to sleep.
—It is not against the law to play pleasant French music, even on American holidays. It is also not illegal to sing off-key. It probably should be, but I just don’t see how it could be enforced.
A man on San Carlos Avenue reported that his wife hid his car and would not tell him where it was. Civil matter, parties advised.
Police received a report that a man in his 40s was “chasing geese with a sword” at the soccer field near Golden Gate Fields.
- Man fighting geese with a sword
Illustration courtesy of Jim Beller. Jim, who also blogs on the Albany Patch, notes: “The police report didn’t specify if it was the man or the geese who had the sword, so, to be fair, I armed both sides.”
A man called police to say “he just wants to go to sleep and (his) wife won’t let him get in the bed.”
—I wonder if it was the same guy whose wife hid his car…
And sometimes crime reports have a silver lining…
Someone reported the theft of two boxes of books during the week after four cases were dropped off by UPS.
—Since I make my living from publishing, I found this as a good sign because in these uncertain times when many are bemoaning the slow death of the publishing industry, it means that books are still considered worthy of stealing!
Look for Part II tomorrow!