We all remember Irving Kristol’s great line:
What do you call a liberal mugged by reality? A conservative.
But I’m already a conservative and I got mugged by reality last night.
Just after dinner there was a knock at the door. A very down on his luck looking African-American man stood there when I opened the door, expecting a package for my son. He explained he was looking for work. I offered to let him wash my car and planned on overpaying him. I told him to meet me in the backyard.
After I brought him a bucket, soap, rags, etc., he asked for a cold drink and to come in and use the bathroom. I was worried about letting him in to use the bathroom because he had a cough and I have a six month old and a three year old. I got him the drink and told him frankly about my concern with contagious illness. He said it was asthma. Didn’t sound like asthma to me, so I put him off and went back in the house to consult with my wife about it.
Looking out the window, I could see the man was beginning to wash the car. A flash of blue caught my eye out the side window and I noticed two police officers, one male and one female, walking into my backyard. When I got to the backyard, the man was talking to the cops. I approached and told the officers I had hired this man to wash the car. They explained a neighbor had called. He walked back to the car and began working again, but the officers didn’t leave.
The female officer talked on the radio, while the male officer told me I’d made a mistake. He said the odd jobs request was a common tactic for casing a house for later burglary. When I told him the man had asked to come inside, he said that was likely part of the plan. The female officer said something I didn’t quite catch and the male officer said, “It’s him.”
Meanwhile, a third officer walked up. At this point, I noticed all three were wearing bulletproof vests under their clothes. I asked if the man washing my car was wanted for a crime. The radio spoke up again, but I couldn’t understand it. One of the officers said the man had a felony warrant, probably for burglary. I half-wondered whether the man would attempt flight or resist arrest.
They approached the man I’d hired and put cuffs on him. He protested, but they said they couldn’t take a chance. He asked if he could finish the job. They said no. I felt terrible that he had worked while the police officers waited to hear whether they should arrest him. I told them I wanted to pay him. I offered the money and the policeman put it in the man’s pocket. He thanked me. They went off. The whole thing was very quiet and calm.
I stood there feeling like an idiot for possibly putting my family in danger, but my instinct was to give the man a job and try to help him. Had I done the wrong thing? I don’t know and still don’t.