The Switch

“What the #@%# did you say?”

There was a brief standoff at the top of the escalator following the challenge I issued, which in print would appear an innocuous question if not for the colorful expletive. But the tone—oh, man, the tone. And the posture, the body language, the daggers my tired eyes can still blast like cannons…

The addressee was a young man—aren’t they always?—mid-twenties, Native American, hair down to his ass, drunk as… well, I could drop a humorous joke here about a tent or a hunting party or a wagon, but I won’t. He was drunk—we’ll leave it at that. VERY drunk.

His response: “Lunflihagenblah lucky fluinow.”


The wife translated: “He said he hoped I had good luck.”

Flipping The Switch

I didn’t believe her. See, the wife (trophy wife/ warden) knows me better than anyone, and she knew (even as I, at that moment, didn’t) that I had flipped the switch. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but occasionally, something trips my wire. Her translation was meant to diffuse the situation, to encourage her idiot husband to let it go and move on. She’s much smarter than I am.

The drunk man bared his tiny little teeth in a grin that didn’t match the malevolence I saw in his black button eyes, a glimpse of his dark soul. Before he had made his first unintelligible utterance, the one that had stopped me in my tracks and prompted my challenge, those very eyes had taken in every inch of my wife lustfully. So it wasn’t that he was wishing her luck on the slots in the downstairs casino where we were headed—it wasn’t that at all.

I don’t generally challenge men for admiring my wife. Hell, I wouldn’t have time for anything but that if I did. There was more to this, much more, and if there is a time for some good old-fashioned toxic masculinity, it’s at times like that very moment when drunken idiots who’ve grown accustomed to rude behavior in today’s world step on your toes.

The Roundup in Laughlin

We were in Laughlin for a law enforcement reunion. The place was rotten with cops—we were everywhere! Old, retired cops with varying degrees of remaining capabilities. I had met a few of my former colleagues in a quiet lounge upstairs where we shared a few drinks and reminisced about the good ol’ days of working in South Los Angeles during the eighties and nineties.

On our way out, Jerry peeled off to use the restroom, saying he’d see us downstairs. Z-man and I were shoulder to shoulder, laughing and having fun. My wife led the way a few paces ahead of us. The Indian had taken the escalator up, and our paths crossed right at the head of it.

Fortunately, after he slurred a few other unintelligible words while holding my gaze, he finally moved on. Fortunately for me, as it turned out…


I chuckled as we continued down the escalator. “My dumb ass. You’d think at sixty-two and with a bad flipper (I’d had rotator cuff surgery six weeks before and was just two weeks out of a sling), I could let some things go.”

Z-man said, “I had your back, brother.” He always had.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “but I had already decided if he came at me, I was going to grab him by his hair with my good arm and throw him down the escalator.”

Z-man chuckled. “That was my plan, too.”

The Plot Thickens

My bride went to the slots, and Z and I went to another bar where we expected to find some of our other colleagues. Along the way, we picked up Skrnich (if you know Steve, you’re grinning already), who’d asked if we heard about the drunk Indian. The three of us went up another escalator and settled in at the bowling alley’s lounge, and Skrnich told us that a drunk Indian had shown up in the conference room reserved for our reunion and had to be escorted out by security.

There had been a cigar night by the pool, which ended at ten, and soon after, there were twenty or thirty other former deputies who gathered with us for fun and suds and frivolity in the bowling alley.

“Did you hear what happened on the patio?” one of the other retirees asked. He was encouraged to enlighten us because if retired cops are good for nothing else, we tell great stories.  He went on: “There was a drunk Indian…”

The Timeline

Some had witnessed this other incident and told their accounts. Others mentioned the incident where the same man showed up in “our” briefing room. I then told my story, and we put together the timeline: The drunk man had stumbled into the briefing room while Jerry, Z-man, the wife, and I (and others) were relaxing in a lounge on the other side of the hotel. After security escorted the man out of said briefing room, he went downstairs into the casino. Then, in the next half hour or so, he went to the north side of the hotel and rode the escalator to the second floor where we had our little encounter with him. Sometime in the next hour, he made his way back to the south end of the hotel where he stumbled out onto the patio and encountered a group of retirees enjoying cigars and adult beverages.

“He was causing trouble,” a former cop said to our group in the bowling alley bar, “and security came and asked him to leave.”

The drunk man did not comply.

Rather, he became combative, and as security officers attempted to restrain him, he pulled a knife and stabbed one of them.

Moral of the Story

At this point in the story, I privately lamented what a dumbass I can be at times. It could have been me who took a blade across the face (the officer was stabbed in the mouth) had my incident with him escalated into a physical one. Or I could have thrown him down the escalator and a security officer wouldn’t have been stabbed. Fate is a funny thing.

On the patio, a former Narcotics sergeant assisted security in arresting the drunk assailant. The sergeant walked away unscathed but covered in blood, nonetheless.

The rest of the week was relatively uneventful, thankfully. But the takeaway for me was to be more mindful of that switch. Because as we grow older, the bad guys never do—they’re always twenty-something and usually formidable. Sometimes drunk. Sometimes insane. Sometimes armed and prepared to do unto others great bodily harm.

So stay frosty, friends, and mind those switches

* * *

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.


30 thoughts on “The Switch

  1. Fortunately I missed all this nonsense and fortunately you controlled your instincts. Like previously stated , we are cops and will be forever.

  2. Good story, Danny. I don’t know how I missed the AH everyone seems to have run across Tuesday
    night, but just as well. “Too old to take a beating”, huh? So true…

      1. Idiots are plentiful even in Laughlin…

        Just finished, “First Felony”. Typically outstanding my brother.

  3. Very enjoyable story to read, I know now I am not alone in my thinking as times change but a– h—-s don’t, they come in all colors, sizes, genders (2) and types . Usually those weasels are routed out of the Casino’s by security (as an across the river resident I have seen a few and unfortunately encountered a few , very few during my retired 20 + years here). It is a shame you had that encounter as the Round -Up is an important time for us and mostly very enjoyable .

  4. Hey Danny,
    Let’s not even think how this might have turned out if the location was The Short Stop, ohhh say circa the late 80’s. Take care, Opie

  5. Danny,
    I enjoyed reading this story. I could visualize the locations and the feelings of the thought process that occurs in the heat of the moment.
    Hell, I’m almost motivated enough to crack the cover of one of the books I bought from you!
    Thank you,
    Jerry Pillen

  6. Glad your story had sort of a happy ending. It’s too bad about the security guard getting stabbed. It’s a good reminder that there is always danger lurking and that we’ll always have assholes. Stay safe, brother.

  7. Glad it turned out OK for you. Sorry to hear about the deputy who got stabbed, hope he is doing good.
    Unbelievable what some drunk people will do, especially armed ones.
    Stay safe.

  8. Good story and good lesson. I thought I was going to read a story about the old days at the Foothill; another encounter with a drunken Indian. If you know, you know…..

  9. Great story, Danny! Well written as usual. Maybe you should have Moon post a link to your blog in his newsletter if you haven’t already so all the Roundup attendees can enjoy it.

  10. Excellent story, Danny. Thanks for telling it. You’re right—we all have those switches, and they flip just as easily now as they did then. One of my favorite relatives, a cousin’s husband and grizzled Vietnam Veteran who saw a lot of action recently said about himself, “I’m too old to take a beating.” His words stuck in my mind. They are like an old suit hanging in the back of my closet. It doesn’t fit anymore, but I look at it once in a while to remember how it used to fit and how it used to feel to wear it. But I don’t try it on anymore.

  11. I wish I was there with you, Smitty. We could have relived those moments when bad decisions were the order of business. I miss it. I know we’re not as capable as we were, but that just makes the game a little more even and exciting. Hell, my knuckles have to go through a 90 minute warm-up every morning or my fists won’t close….WORTH IT! I don’t fool myself into thinking we would have won and gone on to telling stories later. We could have lost. We could have been hurt. We could have been in trouble. Man! Like I said, I miss it. Poor judgement has its own reward in making priceless memories.

  12. That’s a good story Danny, and a good reminder to us retired cops who still and always will think like cops!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.