A funny thing happens to me after the time change.  I don’t know when to stop working anymore.  I was doing pretty well at getting to a stopping place and wrapping up my work day at a reasonable hour for a while there.  But now, the sun sets while I’m still in the thick of my work day and is no longer a good clue that it’s time to start winding down.

Oddly, I no longer notice the sun setting even though I face a large set of windows while I work.  Usually, my first realization that the sun has set occurs when I need to use special characters on my keyboard–I look down to find them and realize it’s dark.  This leads to me turning on a light so I can see the keyboard and then all bets are off as to when I will next resurface to notice that it’s getting late.

But tonight, I am determined to do a little shooting.  I’ve been practicing shooting the moon now that it’s the main subject available by the time I’m done working.  I want to get at least a few minutes of shooting in.  When I walk out to the balcony to see if the moon is visible, I see a collection of cop cars about half a block away.  More keep arriving.  I’m surprised I haven’t noticed sooner–usually the screaming sirens catch my attention.

In fact, Pat and I have a joke that Chattanooga is a 3-emergency town.  Every day, sirens go screaming by the apartment at least 3 times.  Usually this happens while I am on a conference call.  Since I use VoIP calling that’s integral to the instant messaging application we use at work, I often lose the window for my call amongst the many things open on my PC and then struggle to locate the right window to mute my phone.  Unfortunately, the built-in mute button on my laptop doesn’t mute my microphone.

Chattanooga also seems to have a 6-cop minimum.  Whenever something happens, you can count the cops that go flying by and usually it’s 6.  Often, they go by silently, thankfully, so the screaming sirens are usually limited to the fire trucks.

As I look at the scene before me tonight, I see a pick-up truck and one man standing outside the truck talking to a cop.  Surrounding the pick up are about 8 cop cars with their lights on, four of which are in the street blocking both lanes of traffic.  Traffic is backing up on Cherokee Blvd, many cars giving up and making U-turns.

After a while, two cops come back and move their cars out of the flow of traffic, clearing one lane.  As I watch the traffic start to flow around the scene again, two more cop cars join the party.  A third drives by, but apparently decides there’s no place to park and keeps going.

I think back to the cops in Columbus.  We had an interesting mix.  There was our neighborhood liaison who was helpful and gave us tips about when to call the police, which number to use, and why we should never hesitate to report suspicious activities in the neighborhood (statistics on calls are used to determine how the police force is staffed–essentially, the squeaky wheel gets oiled.)  But, the actual cops who came to the scene were often surly, annoyed that you expected them to do something, or just observers there to watch.

There was an incident where a car was abandoned in front of our property (fortunately a side lot and not our house) and set on fire.  The exploding gas tank woke me and most the neighborhood.  When the cops arrived, they basically stood around watching the fire fighters do everything.  I don’t even recall them filling in any paperwork.  When the fire was out, there was no search for clues.  There was just waiting for a tow truck to come.  The only investigation that ever happened came from the insurance company.

Similarly, someone crashed a stolen Mustang into a utility pole also on our property.  Within an hour, a second one was crashed into our neighbor’s stone bridge up the road.  When the cops arrived and I told them what little we knew, they stood there and nodded like we were just swapping stories over coffee.  Again, they were just waiting for the tow truck to arrive.  I asked the cops on the scene if anyone was going to dust for prints or collect any evidence to attempt to find the person who stole the car.  They looked at me like I had 8 heads.  Apparently finding car thieves is outside the purview of the Columbus police department.

I suspect that the entire Chattanooga police department would be on you like glue if you committed a crime here.  After all, there are so many surveillance cameras in the city, it sometimes feels like Big Brother.  But if someone crashed a stolen car on our street here, they would be caught on film trying to exit the scene.  As I’ve gotten used to the notion that I’m on camera when I take a walk through the park, I’ve noticed less.  Given that I’m not one to commit crimes, I think I’ll take the tradeoff.  I like the idea that if you commit a crime, there’s a good chance you’ll get caught.

But tonight, I can’t help but wonder what this man has done that caused 11 cops to surround his truck.  Is it that he’s believed to be armed and dangerous?  I see no drawn weapons and all looks calm.  Maybe they are just a highly motivated police force and they all want to be on the scene and ready for action.

I decide to set up my camera and take a few shots of the scene before I start shooting the moon.  As I get my big lens set up and turn on the wireless remote, I have a sudden fear that one of the cops will see my lens or the red dot on my remote and think I’m setting up a high-powered rifle or something.

I take a few quick shots, but then turn my lens to the moon in the hope of avoiding the imagined scene of panicked cops taking cover and ordering me to drop my weapon that unfolds in my mind.  I pack up and go inside after only a few minutes, my imagination getting the best of me.  Perhaps If I were more familiar with what a high-powered rifle actually looked like I would be a little less worried.  But, the humor in worrying about getting shot over getting a shot makes me smile as I call it a night.