This Precinct Serves the Shame District

precinct.jpgNo one is happy at a police station. No one wants to be there, not even the cops. And all precinct headquarters (in NYC, anyway) were built at the height of the Stalinist Municipal Building movement, designed by the architecture firm of Doom & Hopelessness, making liberal use of cinder blocks, warped wood, and muffled screams.

To add to this aesthetic austerity, police stations make poor interior design decisions. Like painting dirty walls rather than cleaning them. Or leaving up a corkboard full of outdated, mimeographed notices. Or choosing cracked orange plastic chairs for the waiting area that must have been discarded from the saddest pizzeria ever.

My police station experiences have been maddening, but ultimately pain free. Then again, I’m a white male age 18 to 35, so police stations don’t evoke the fear in me that they do in some people. Yesterday, I went to the local precinct to pick up a stolen vehicle report I need for DMV/insurance purposes. I was reminded that it sucks getting your car stolen, then waiting an hour to pick up a report that takes five minutes to complete, but some things suck a lot more.

When I arrived, some kid was trying to clear up some hassle involving a vehicle-related summons/ticket. I couldn’t quite understand what was his deal was, but I got the impression that his dad was a cop–the other cops addressed him by his first name, and had no problem with him going behind The Big Desk to explain himself. I also got the impression that he was trying to take care of this matter ASAP and obviate a severe ass-whipping from said father.

After him, a young lady filed a complaint about some creep who’d been following her in his car. She knew the guy from the neighborhood, but didn’t really know him or talk to him ever. Didn’t sound like she’d been threatened per se, but she felt threatened and thought it could get worse from there.

This was about all I could hear (without trying) about this case, and pretty much all I wanted to hear.

I thought another man was next, a well-dressed Asian gentleman who looked to be in his 50s, but he said he was still waiting for his paperwork. So it was my turn. But when I entered the clerk area, he then came up to the little saloon door that separated it from the waiting room to inquire about his paperwork. There was a mirror directly across the room from him, and I could see his head barely stick over the top of the door, which made him look sad and ridiculous.

As soon as the clerk saw the man, she sighed. “I told you, I can’t take your report, you’re wasting your time!”

The man insisted, very calmly, “But the DA told me I had to come here…”

The clerk cut him off. “You can say that all night, but if you don’t got no paperwork from the DA, I can’t take your report.”

The man sat down, but returned five minutes later, looking like a scolded puppy in a gray suit. The clerk tried to deflect him again, and he was just as insistent in his stoic way.

I barely understood the gist of their back and forth. But apparently the man had been evicted, wrongly, in his opinion. So he needed some kind of report to take legal action, I think. But without some sort of paperwork from the DA who worked his case, he could not file that report. Or something. It was all very Kafka-esque and bureaucratic sounding.

The clerk had no intention of taking his report unless he returned with the proper paperwork. This hadn’t deterred the man for waiting for three hours (according to the clerk), until finally, during my visit to the clerk’s room, he was sufficiently convinced to go home and get the paperwork. Or come back the next day and try to wear down the clerk with zen fortitude.

So all things considered, I’m okay with waiting an hour for paperwork, then sitting through a clerk’s weird phone conversation with an unnamed relative. Anything to get out of there.