I’ve been stopped by a Police Officer in Michigan before, for driving too slow. I’ve told that story a hundred times. It’s a fun story to tell after a few beers, when people let their guard down and copper incidents are being exchanged. But I never expected my first interaction with a Philadelphia Police Officer to lack the excitement of a cop-story, yet be one of the most intriguing experiences I’ve had in a long time.
After playing ping-pong, Geoff and I walked down to the Wawa to get some food. A woman in full police-uniform walks in, looking vaguely Asian. She exchanged pleasantries with the person at the counter, and I detected a strong accent. Because of the darkish nature of her complexion I assumed her to be Hispanic/Black. But something about that assumption bothered me.
Being next in line to order a sandwich, I quickly forgot about the officer. I busied myself with the difficult task of choosing what I wanted on my hoagie. I settled on my usual – egg salad, American cheese, little mayo, little oil, onion, tomato and lettuce. I can’t remember ever having gotten anything different.
The Officer is by now paying for her order behind me, and I’m waiting to pick up mine. She stands on my right. I don’t even notice, being deep in conversation with Geoff who is as usual waving around his paddle threateningly. The officer notices and starts talking to him about his paddle saying itâ€™s the thickest she’d ever seen; the last time she’d seen a paddle was when she was a kid in India.
A lady Indian officer in the Philadelphia Police Department?! A sight sure to make most Indians here gasp in surprise.
Anyway, Geoff and I continue talking and he says my last name. The officer turns to us once again and says thatâ€™s her Uncles name. Now, feeling a lot less intimidated and almost compelled to make conversation, I say to her that Srinivasan in my father’s name. She points to her badge and says her fathers name is Seetharam. By now I’m positive that she’s South-Indian and almost positive that she’s a Tambram.
Then she starts talking to me in perfect Tamil, with no hint of the accent that she’d been so comfortable with earlier. This takes me by surprise and I’m standing there with a silly grin on my face. She introduces herself as Chitra and I tell her my name and muttering a few other sentences in Tamil, telling her what I’m doing.
My sandwich is ready; I’m in two minds. Stay and make pleasant chatter and embarrass myself or leave and save some face. Geoff makes the choice easy. I say bye; she says it in Tamil. I try to reciprocate, but fail. We exchange goodbyes and her last words are, “I bet I’m the last person you expected to see in a police uniform, huh?” I smile in agreement.
I was still trying to figure the whole thing out as I walked out of the Wawa, clutching my precious hoagie. A Tamil, Brahmin, lady, City of Philadelphia Police Officer? I’m pretty certain there aren’t too many more with similar credentials.
I’m glad I met her. I hope I run into her again. I also hope that if I’m ever stopped by the Philadelphia police, she’s in the squad car!