The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Aug. 1, 1985.)

When the music and the news on radio begin to get repetitive and I want some friendly noise in my workshop, I turn on a shortwave scanner that picks up police, fire and aircraft frequencies.

I listen most to a frequency emanating from state police headquarters. People listening would have to be impressed, if they didn't already know, with how many problems there are all around us.

All I hear on the shortwave radio is the voice of the person at police headquarters talking to the officers out on patrol. My radio isn't strong enough to pick up the weaker signals from the mobile radios in the police cars.

The area is primarily rural. The voice from headquarters giving information or direction to the officers in the field often has difficulty identifying the location of a trouble spot, because there are no street numbers on the country roads. Often, it's "the brown-and-white house three houses on the left after you cross a small wooden bridge" or "up a small dirt road just after you pass the red barn on the left two miles west of the village."

Here's a sampling of the kind of trouble America is in:

-- "There's a family dispute at the white house with red shutters just off Route 10. Subject left the house after a fight. Residents request to talk to a trooper."

-- "Please proceed to the Great Escape amusement park in regard to a hit-and-run accident in the parking lot there. Accident occurred to a stationary vehicle. There were no injuries."

-- "Trooper Walker, can you go to 124 Lincoln St. in Whitesville in regard to the larceny of a bicycle?" Five minutes later: "Trooper Walker, disregard the larceny of that bicycle. Subject's brother has returned the bicycle to the back yard."

So much for crime on Lincoln Street.

-- "Residents at 58 Morris Ave. request the presence of a trooper in regard to loud music from the house next door."

Loud music from a neighbor's house is one of a trooper's most persistent problems. I sense a generation-gap problem here.

There are many mysteries. In one sense, it's more entertaining than a television drama, but in another, it's less satisfying because you never hear the solution.

-- "Occupants of disabled red Mercury report aqua-blue 1977 Ford pulled up next to them and displayed a handgun and drove off."

Why did the occupants of the Ford display a gun? Did they demand anything from the people in the Mercury? What happened?

-- "There's a dead horse in front of a green house on Route 10, a quarter mile off the main highway. The horse is covered with plastic and cardboard. Please check. Complainant does not wish to be identified."

A lot of the complainants don't wish to be identified. I suppose if your neighbor had a dead horse in front of his house and you called the police, you'd be reluctant to let the neighbor know you'd complained to the police, too.

-- "Bud's Bar and Grill would like the presence of a trooper. An irate customer has just left there, but is returning with a baseball bat, possibly to do bodily harm."

The broadcaster dispensing information from police headquarters is usually a woman. She is faultlessly calm, cool and collected. She never changes the tone of volume of her voice. A barking dog gets the same emphasis as a body found in the bushes.

The language used by the police broadcaster is always wonderfully pseudolegal. There are "perpetrators" and "subjects." Perpetrators are not caught, they are "apprehended."

Most of the problems to be solved call for the state troopers to have the combined qualities of the pope, the president and 007.

For me, it's a great comfort to listen to so many problems I don't have.

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