The  Beat: True Stories From the Streets

Page 25  by Harry Martin Polis
                Artwork by Jaynee Levy-Polis

The Nickel Ride


Years ago and even now, there has been a practice on the Police Department called “The Nickel Ride” named for an amusement park ride that cost a nickel about fifty years ago.  It was used by the police officers to get “even” with unruly prisoners who they were transporting in police vans.  Usually, the prisoner had been verbally abusive, or was kicking at the doors or walls of the van.  The police officers often had been attacked either physically or verbally by the person now prisoner.  They took the prisoner for a “ride” with his hands cuffed behind his back.  (That way, he couldn’t right himself.)  Sometimes, the prisoner was thrown head-first into the police wagon—a van—to be taken to the station house to be arrested or transported further to a prison cell downtown in Philadelphia.  Cops felt such anger toward the “dirt bag” in the van, they would take him the “long way” and bump their way downtown.  Quick stops and turns along the old railroad tracks and deep ruts along the river were de rigueur.  The prisoner sat on a small wooden seat just maybe wide enough for an eight-year-old.  As the officers sped down Delaware Avenue (along the river), lights suddenly turned red and the brakes were heavily applied with screeching tires.  They turned corners on two wheels, and their “low-life dirt ball” was tossed around like a sack of potatoes at a loading bin.  If he were lucky, he might just have bruised a limb, or his back.  Lots of times, the angry prisoner was a mass of bruises, but not severely injured.  All the while, the friendly police officers were laughing about the noise issuing from the rear of the wagon.  Once they arrived at their destination, if they were asked how the prisoner was hurt, they could say a dog or cat ran in front of the van, they had to make a fast stop at a traffic light, that traffic was heavy, or mention how bad the potholes were on Delaware Avenue. 
This was an acceptable way to get even with prisoners without beating them.  They went “flying” around the wagons on the ride of their lives.  The cops hoped the prisoners would learn a lesson not to mess with “Philly cops.”  Only recently, a case came to light where a young man was severely disabled through one of these rides.  This was way too high a price to pay, so this practice will hopefully be abandoned. 

 It is easy to understand how good people can fall into this kind of behavior.  A police officer can get sadistic after being a cop for a while.  He or she becomes jaded about life and the public.  Dealing with criminals and street-wise folks day-in and day-out can make a cop fall easily into a negative mode of behavior.  The thin blue line between the criminal and the law-abiding people fades.  It is like an old-timer told me years ago, “It’s a whore’s job, son”, a whore’s job.

Copyright 2001 by Harry Martin Polis
Harry is available for lectures and entertainment with stories and poetry.  Contact SCOOP USA, or e-mail Harry.


 Jaynee loves cookies, but she herself can be a tough cookie.  A cross between a kind of Jekyll and Hyde, she can be really sweet but when her mother’s side comes out, watch out!  I just got done telling her that there is no need to be angry at the things she gets angry at.  Things can be annoying and that’s all it takes.  She makes mountains out of molehills and is ready to machinegun the anthill.  Over and over, she repeats her behavior.  I tell her she will get the same results if she doesn’t change her old response.  “Do what you always do and get what you always get.” 
 Sometimes, talking quietly will get you tons of help or understanding but if you antagonize people who are already aggravated, you bring no sanity to the situation.  Jaynee is a most admirable person with tons of insight.  She is perceptive but she has no patience and a hair-trigger temper.  You need to avoid that flaring temper.  She is a quick learner in life’s lessons usually, and a great asset to me.  I truly respect and admire Jaynee, but like all of us, she has room for improvement.  People seek out advice from Jaynee just like I do.  Years ago, a famous therapist wanted to train Jaynee to carry on his work, but he died before he could teach her.  (She loves painting anyway.)  It is a pleasure to deal with Jaynee most of the time.  This year though, when Santa comes to town, I will ask him to please give Jaynee a little patience, some calming words, and anti-feisty serum!

Copyright 2002 by Harry Martin Polis
Harry is available for lectures and entertainment with stories and poetry.  Contact SCOOP USA, or e-mail Harry.



Under this heading, you can use the old saying about making lemons into lemonade.  This is a variation on that old standard.  Life has handed too many of us lemons in one way or another.  We can get it at birth, or anytime between the cradle and the grave.  No one escapes this life without some rain falling on his parade.  Some people have more than their share of hurt and pain.  Most of us just go through periods of problems, which we handle or don’t handle.  The problems eventually are resolved and we move on in our lives.  Relationships are the hardest situations to deal with because they involve other people, usually our families, friends, or lovers.  These relationships can seem, and drive people crazy.  We walk around in pain, in a daze and sometimes we don’t even know who we are.  We want solace in our lives and what we get is stones thrown at our windows to the world.  We want to breathe deeply but are stunted into short breaths, struggling to catch the oxygen.  “Life is tough and then you die.”  That is another pithy saying with an honest sentiment.  Someone you love loves you.  Someone you love falls out of love with you.  Someone you love has started to hate you and wants to leave.  Your family has left.  Your heart aches and your friends turn against you.  They talk behind your back.  Life is hard.  Your glass is half full, or half empty depending on your point of view. 
 Because I love to cook and eat SO much, that when life hands me a potato, I make potato salad.  I sit down and eat it and realize whom I am and what I want to be when I grow up.  Harry’s handy like that and he can and does change, but the pain he feels just adds an extra notch on his belt of life.  Nevertheless, a lemon, he is not. 

Copyright 2002 by Harry Martin Polis
Harry is available for lectures and entertainment with stories and poetry.  Contact SCOOP USA, or e-mail Harry.


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