By Frank L. Palmeri
Not long ago, we were having dinner at the Highlands restaurant, right at the top of Altamont Hill. This place is special to us — my lovely wife used to play in a band there.
As we’re sitting at the table, the waitress comes over to take our drink orders.
My buddy says to her, “Hey, you have a celebrity here — he’s in The Altamont Enterprise.”
The waitress, not missing a beat, looks at me and says, “Oh yeah? Are you in the ‘Blotters and Dockets?’”
With that, of course, everyone cracks up at my expense, not for the first time and I’m sure not for the last.
I read a lot of newspapers when I lived downstate, but I don’t remember reading anything like the individual “Blotters and Dockets” listings we have in The Enterprise and other local newspapers. I guess this is because there was just so much news in the big city, and so many more people in the area, the papers just couldn’t spare the space. So it’s interesting to read what your neighbors are up to.
I say “neighbors” and I really mean it. When everyone at the restaurant stopped laughing, we got to talking about the “Blotters and Dockets”; the waitress said she sees someone she knows in there every week. I can’t go that far, but I can say that, every now and then, someone in my family will see a familiar name in there.
Of course no one wants to see their friends or family members in trouble, but it sure is a good way to keep tabs on them.
When you read the “Blotters and Dockets,” it’s interesting to see what the offenses are. Many are shoplifting related. That’s why I’m glad I’m not in retail.
I could not handle someone lifting merchandise from me, period. I do not have the temperament to deal with that gracefully at all.
Sometimes, with the shoplifting, they’ll list the stolen goods and their prices. The ones that stick out are where it’s something personal, like underwear. Yikes. How embarrassing is that?
I know I haven’t been the best parent — there are many things I’m sure I could have done better — but, as far as I know, my kids always had enough underwear.
At least I can be proud of that.
Other offenses are much more serious: harassment, assault, and driving under the influence come to mind. When I read about these, I’m always reminded that life is all about choices.
At any given moment, you have a choice to do or not do something; it’s as simple as that.
Some of us are mature or smart enough at an early age, or have a genuine good nature, or are born rich (not that money solves all or even the really important problems) so that making bad choices is not ever a problem.
Others, for one reason or another, make bad choices. The thing is, making a bad choice now and then (as long as you don’t kill anyone or yourself) can actually be a good thing, a kind of tough love, as long as you learn from it.
That’s why employers are always looking for workers who have experience; they want someone else to have had to pay you while you made enough mistakes (and survived) so you can now do the job properly.
For some reason, so-called reality TV remains popular; however, there is very little reality involved, because you have writers, producers, etc. involved.
If you want reality, go sit in your local town court some night; it doesn’t get any more real than that. Here is where you really get to see what your neighbors are capable of, from speeding to far, far worse.
The good thing is, invariably, the court employees, from the guards to the judges and everyone in between, really want you to get out of your jam. I’ve seen second, third, and more chances given, and when someone finally “gets it,” it has to be a great relief for everyone around that person. What a fantastic outcome that is.
Still, like quitting smoking, it has to come from within; there’s only so much anyone can do for you if you, yourself, don’t take charge of your own life.
Here’s a quick example: I went to college at night. In the morning, I’d go to work; then, after work, I’d go to night school.
In my travels, I’d always see people just standing around — on a corner, in a doorway, etc. Often the same people would be there all day.
Now, I had long days for sure — working full-time and going to night school will do that to you — but still I pressed on until I got where I needed to be.
I’d always think, jeez, why aren’t these people working, or going to school, or reading, or exercising, or doing something productive? To this day, when I drive downtown and see people just standing around, staring off into nowhere with dazed or indifferent looks, I ask myself the same questions.
Lots of social policy there to debate, I know, but I’ll bet some of these folks wind up in the “Blotters and Dockets” from time to time, unfortunately. It’s a real shame.
There are programs available and people who want to help but, as always, it has to come from within.
Having said that, even the best of us have our moments. There is simply no accounting for human behavior and motivation (just ask General David Petraeus).
I took mostly business and computer courses in college, but one of my electives was psychology, and I totally loved it. In another life, I could have been a psychologist; that’s how fascinated I was by it. There is simply no predicting human behavior.
Just read the newspapers. Truth is always stranger than fiction.
I hope I never do make it into the “Blotters and Dockets,” and, with any luck, I won’t. Still, nothing is ever certain in life.
I always love good quotes, sayings, and proverbs. When I read the Blotters and Dockets, one always comes to mind: There but for the grace of God go I.