I wish, everyone always saw the put-together version of myself. The one that shows up confident, ready to work together, and well prepared for whatever twists the conversation takes.
Unfortunately, I think people are seeing more of my not-quite-put-together self lately, which I think happens as a result of my increasing rigidity in thought. Although I try and remain a very open person, I fear that I'm growing less tolerant of ideas that just do not make sense to me. And I am well aware that I'm becoming increasingly likely to fall under the description of "that out of touch crazy lady". I no longer think of all the twists a conversation might turn quickly enough, and at times, I'm so stunned that I just can't respond.
Take, for example, a recent conversation that happened at Connor and Helen's school. During the PTA meeting, the principal mentioned that Arlington had won some sort of grant, and as a result of that grant, police officers would now be stationed at the elementary schools, something that was apparently common practice 10 years ago (maybe as a result of 9/11?). An officer rotates between schools, so s/he is not a constant presence.
I asked whether there had been any discussion of asking the officer to hide his gun, and the principal correctly noted that it wasn't her business to tell a police officer what he could and could not wear. As I looked around the room, it was completely clear to me that everyone else in the room was stunned at my suggestion. Because of course we are happy that the officer is there and of course our children are safer with an officer packing heat that can be seen than any other type of officer.
So I followed up the PTA meeting by emailing the non-emergency address for Arlington County Police. I suggested that concealed carry may be more appropriate for an elementary school. I relayed the dinner table conversation at my home the previous night, which centered around Connor and Helen's deduction that someone very bad must be trying to get into the cafeteria, in order for a police officer with a gun to be needed. I received a call back the next day from the officer stationed at Connor and Helen's school, which in my mind was a complete mishandling of the issue.
For starters, the officer began his remarks to me stating that he understood I was against police officers carrying weapons at school. During the conversation, he made reference to the fact that having a gun locked in his car was simply not as effective as having it in his belt.
Of course, that wasn't my complaint. My complaint was that he ought to be able to conceal his weapon (hmm....are there other security forces that do that? the Secret Service, perhaps? probably many night club and hotel security guards?). Eventually, he changed tunes and his basic argument could be summed up as "I won't look like a real police officer if everyone can't see my gun". His arguments were worded slightly better than that, but barely. But the whole time I was listening to him, all I could think about was "he doesn't even hear me - and I really do think I'm the only person who is concerned that when her children see a gun in the cafeteria, they perceive they are less, not more safe." And I feel so strongly about this, that I have a hard time understanding the other side of the discussion. I hear arguments and I think "that person has no grasp of data and is crazy". And of course, they are almost guaranteed to be thinking "that is an old-out-of-touch-lady with no business bugging me, she is crazy".
Admittedly, I was caught off guard. Had the officer bother to share some sort of statistic or data with me, or some sort of rationale that made any sense at all, I think I would've been more prepared to talk. But instead, I was totally flat-footed in the conversation. I wish I'd had my put-together self present, rather than being tripped up by his only somewhat related discussion, because if I had? When I realized I was talking to the officer - someone who has little to no control over what he wears - I would've told him my complaint was forwarded incorrectly and asked him for the phone number of the person who handles policy questions. I also would've been able to boil his arguments down a lot sooner and point out that he was being ridiculous.