STOP! Unless You’re Good at Golf…

There is a carwash that I like to use, just a few blocks away.  Moving to Virginia has brought with it a number of peculiarities.  One of those seems to be that coin-op, do it yourself carwashes are illegal.  I don’t know this for a fact.  I have not investigated it, but there don’t seem to be any to be found.   I have searched the streets and I have searched the internet.  No such luck.  

Anyway, at my particular automated carwash of choice, one of the guys standing at the front who guides you in is particularly bad at it.  It seems like he has given it no thought from the driver’s perspective.  When he stands there and gives signals, he hold both hands up , and makes a flutter motion with his right hand, as if he is fanning himself, while also impatiently waiting for you to get into line so that he can go to the restroom.  His gesture is too small, too difficult to decipher, and gives the slight impression that he is being impatient with you.  

I have been tempted to roll down my window and give him instructions about how to do this in a way that is more easily understood.  I have refrained from doing so, because I fear my intention would likely be misunderstood.  Misunderstandings are a significant portion of our society’s disfunction currently.  Often it seems like, if only this one thing could be done differently, so much would be resolved.

In the years since I was a police officer, I see other police officers doing things, from small things to large, that could just make so many things easier/safer, if only…. These days, I just take a deep breath and let someone else handle it.  Many officers do this particular thing incorrectly too.  People are not learning, and people are not being taught.  That’s all that I can surmise about this fairly simple gap in human communication.  

I have logged my time directing vehicles and aircraft from small to large, starting in the USMC, and later as a LAPD officer.  Situations arise where anyone might be needed to take such control, and two of my stops in life thought to teach their wards how to function in these cases.  There is a correct/orthodox way to do this sort of signaling.  It works like this:  First, the person doing the directing take a stance/position in the middle of the action, and gestures with authority.  You point to the person you are directing, and then begin the instruction.  The instruction should be one hand pointing in the direction that you wish the vehicle to travel, and the other hand waving in motion toward that side.  For example, if you want the vehicle to turn to (your) left, you point your left forearm to your left, and wave your right hand from center to left, toward your left side.  When the instruction is for the other direction, the gestures are flipped.  The motion on both sides starts at the elbow and uses the lower half of your arm.  This is very important.  The motion is large enough to be seen clearly from a distance, and smooth enough to not confuse laziness for urgency.  It sounds like a tiny thing, but I think it is a symptom of much larger deficiencies in communication in our culture.  For whatever reason, people do not know how to lead, and that seems to inculcate an inability to sensibly follow.  

Leading and following are rather loaded concepts for modern Americans.  So many seem to think that someone is trying to take advantage, and thus, are quite suspicious of leadership.  This is especially so when someone steps up to lead in a crisis situation.  Too many seem to think about what that person might be getting away with rather than what he is actually trying to accomplish…in service of all within view.  Somehow, this double sided cynicism makes messages get under sent, and under heeded.  

This seems to be what happened Friday morning.  In case you have not heard, Scott Scheffler, “the world’s top golfer”, was arrested and charged with felony assault on a police officer.  I saw this on the news Friday morning, and the many news reports left me with a similar feeling that I had driving into my local carwash.  I watch the way the reporters and anchors discuss what little information has been released, with absolute astonishment.  Again, little has been released about the incident, and much less on Friday morning, but one thing was very clear to me immediately.  Someone did not follow instructions.

The reporters, Jonathan Lemire in the first case, immediately described this as over-zealous, militaristic policing.  Another news analyst on the MSNBC panel compared the incident to Beonna Taylor.  This coverage went from zero information to absolute absurdity in less than 5 seconds.  

Now, I like MSNBC.  I like Jonathan Lemire more than most on this particular channel.  I became a fan of Lemire’s reporting when he attended a meeting between Trump and Putin in Iceland at the beginning of Trump’s term.  Lemire is good at what he does, and this is why I am so stunned at this absurd misreading of what this incident actually was.

This incident took place at the PGA championship, well, just outside actually.  Scheffler was trying to make his early tee time, and failed to heed an officer’s instruction, who was guarding an intersection where someone had been killed by a tour bus.  Now, it may or may not be common knowledge that when there is a traffic fatality, the scene is locked down so that evidence can be collected.  Without knowing all of the details of the incident, I do know that this was the case here.  That is the reason for the officer’s “militant” actions.  When the driver failed to yield to the officer’s instructions, the officer jumped onto the car, and was dragged, eventually fell off, and was taken to the hospital for treatment.  

Hundreds of miles away, I wonder about my own whiplash when my head snapped at the screen as the reporters could only talk about Scheffler being a golfer, and the officer being…somehow the problem.  Not only is Scheffler a golfer, but he is number 1 in the world…ya know!  (As if that matters.)  I guess you’ll have to see the coverage for yourself, but it is as if they were saying…he golfs, he’s suburban…wealthy…you know….WHITE!  His name is Scott, for gosh sakes.  He’s not guilty of this.  It’s a misunderstanding.  It’s not like he’s some football or basketball player.  

It’s a misunderstanding, alright!  Scheffler was told to stop by someone with the proper authority to tell him so.  Scheffler didn’t stop, to the detriment of the officer, and the public at large.  Scheffler didn’t understand this.  That’s bad enough.  The reporters don’t understand this.  That is possibly worse.  They are not helping the dissemination of knowledge that in certain cases, it is someone’s purpose to instruct, and others are to follow.  I don’t know what the officer’s instructions looked like.  I’d say that there is a even chance that they were substandard, but that is not the point.  There are two general possibilities for “misunderstanding” here.  One is that Scheffler was completely oblivious to the officer’s attempts to stop him.  That would make it Scheffler’s fault.  The second possibility is that he simply ignored the offer.  That also makes it Scheffler’s fault.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, of this has anything to do with the fact he is a golfer, or even that he is currently the best in the world.  Not a bit.  Even someone meeting those general characteristics must submit to the officer’s authority in a case like this.  I suspect that this is news to Scheffler.  My great lament is that this is also news…to the news.