The Cabbie

I was a New York City Auxiliary Police Officer. In the 1970s I wore a uniform identical to that of the NYPD officers except for the arching patch over the NYPD patch on my shoulder (it said AUXILIARY), the star shaped badge and the notable absence of a gun.

We were a little crazy; willing to patrol the streets of the 20th precinct with a nightstick and a radio for protection in an era of police shootings and random violence. We were a diverse group trying to do some good.

There are a lot more stories that I can’t remember. The cabbie is one that stands out because I had to act alone and was happy that, although never a Boy Scout, I was prepared.

Badge

Crossing Broadway could be a challenge. I have always believed that because my mother jaywalked with the baby carriage I was a natural. The day in question did not require my crossing skills.

Standing on the corner of 80th and Broadway about mid day, directly behind a woman pushing a carriage I and other pedestrians were horrified to watch a weaving yellow cab run the red light and almost hit the carriage. Of course, he didn’t stop. He seemed intoxicated to me.

In those days I always carried my handcuffs, yup, in the middle of my back in a case. I gave chase on foot and caught up with the cab at traffic stopped for the red light on 81st. I bravely, but foolishly yanked open the driver’s door and cuffed him to his steering wheel. I think he was as dumbstruck as I so he didn’t take off. Uniformed patrol officers appeared and all was over.

We were not only a bit crazy, we were young and inexhaustible. There were several blackouts in the area, some more significant than others. As a uniformed auxiliary officer I was ordered to duty for one. That night we were called to a high-rise, newer and taller than most of the west side’s prewar buildings, to assist an ambulance call.

We surely assisted. First we climbed 14 or 15 flights and then we helped carry down an “aided case” the same number of flights. I got a ribbon for that night.

It’s funny that I do not remember the names of any of the auxiliaries I worked with in those days. We walked and talked for four hours on two or more nights a week, there were training meetings too, but I remember no one. Yes, I “retired” in late 1978 when I left the West Side, and that was almost 40 years ago.

Levy Brothers Revisited

Today we ask if predators even existed back in the 50s and 60s; we didn’t read about them in the news, we weren’t given games like “Don’t Talk to Strangers” or lectured on the same subject. There was no discussion of child abuse or those who would take advantage of children.

There were tough kids and tough blocks in the neighborhood and we were warned about those. You pretty much stayed off of 84th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam and most blocks between Amsterdam and Columbus in the 80s. But the worst that might happen was a mugging.

Assuming that there were aberrant clergy, they were not front page news nor discussed at Jewish dinner tables. The only ones I knew were nice people.

While I wrote about Levy Brothers and my thievery in a recent post (that was met by others with similar revelations) I have only told the following story three times in my life. Levy Brothers might have been a jumping off point for some pretty dark life events for other kids, mine still haunts me.

It would have been 1960 or 1961, I was 11 or 12. As usual I was seen in Levy Brothers on a close to daily basis. Wandering among the toys and games was less frequent than wandering among the paperbacks up at the front of the store. I apparently wasn’t the only one wandering there.

There was a man often lurking in the paperback section along with me. I don’t think adults thought about predators in those days either. I know I saw him more than once. He was old enough to drive but I couldn’t tell you how old. He spoke politely about the books I was interested in. Looking back, he was building trust.

One day he asked if I wanted to go for a ride in his car. I was too naive to sense any danger.  We got in the car and chatted away.

Approaching the toll barrier on the George Washington Bridge is when I became what can only be described as hysterical. I was good at temper tantrums; fearful hysteria is a cousin of tantrums.

My recollection is that he turned the car around and took us back to Levy’s. I don’t think I ever saw him again. I didn’t tell anyone for decades.

I am either one of the luckiest people alive or something happened that is buried so deep I cannot find it.