The Pittsburgh skyline and I-279 at night, in Pittsburgh. (c) –

I have four experiences with the Pittsburgh Police. I want to share them with you because I found a lesson. I’m going to share them from worst to best.

As a computer programmer, when I had to install changes, I had to be onsite at 4 a.m. On one of these nights, I was driving through a Pittsburgh snarl of underpasses and entrance ramps just before the Fort Pitt bridge when a car swooped onto the parkway and cut abruptly in front of me without signaling. I passed him on the right on the bridge ramp, staying in my lane, and signaled emphatically that he was number one in my book. He followed me off the bridge and, just as I was pulling into the Station Square back entrance, he flashed red lights and pulled me over. He got out wearing an attitude and a badge on a chain around his neck.

I was not inclined to pleasantries. He was offended at my opinion of his preeminence. I told him he cut me off. He said he did not. I said yes, he did and did not even have the decency to use his turn signal. I WAS MAD and I did not care about him or his badge. I was not in the yes-sir/no-sir frame of mind.

I was never invited out of my car. He went back to do whatever they do, and came back and let me go. I have not had a moving violation since I was 17. I’m sure he wanted to get home and was not going to pursue this. Things ended right there, and as it happens, several months later another person fought a ticket for voting an officer number one. (I don’t know if it was the same officer). That officer lost the case in court when it was determined that there is a free-speech right to let police know you think they are number one. I don’t generally do that. I was MAD that night though.

On another occasion, I was stuck in Pirate baseball traffic and an officer was on the corner watching the snarl. A lady wanting to make the light pulled into the intersection. And was stuck. Things did not move for her lane—or anyone else’s, because she was blocking all lanes. I indicated to the officer that he should cite her for her audacity. He went to discuss things with her. Then he turned to me and shrugged and did not pursue things. I was unhappy, but I did not feel that he was number one.

On a third occasion, I had stopped to get money on another wee-hour trip. On the way back to my car, someone crossing the street asked me for a cigarette. I don’t smoke, and I am of a size not many people will challenge physically, but it rattled me. I drove off in an agitated state. A few blocks away, I was stopped by an officer. I had neglected to turn my headlights on. I explained the situation. He just let it go. I was honest. If he had ticketed me, I would have had to accept it. I was wrong. It did not come to that. Nice guy.

The fourth occasion involves someone right here in the forest, a retired Pittsburgh police officer. There is good news, bad news, and lessons in this part of the story.

Here is the good news. Steve never struck me as a police officer. I don’t have negative expectations and very little (and somewhat mixed) experience personally with police, so I don’t know what to expect. Steve was not what I expected though. Steve is a property owner in the forest. He came here when he retired, living on property bought just after the 1985 hurricane. Steve retired to the forest.

At one of the Tuesday Talks, Steve told me he was going to be present for the next week’s presentation. He was a little concerned about making it though. He was volunteering at the food bank and might run a little late. Come time for the presentation, Steve was right there. And I swear I saw a wrap on his arm indicating that he had just given blood. I stopped by the Methodist church the other day. Guess who was there helping with the food bank.

Just before another Tuesday Talk, I was chatting with Steve and he mentioned a dinner being given at the Grange Hall. He was volunteering as a server. He also volunteers at rotational dinners given by a local group of churches.

Steve has made an impression on me. He seems to often be where good is done. Orbits can be quite consuming. In the middle of orbits, sometimes it is difficult to see beyond them to bigger things. Some people see farther. Focus on bigger things. Steve is one of those people. People who make me want to be one of those people. Steve does NOT call attention to his part of these things. People like Steve can be easy to miss because they do not call attention to themselves. They can be almost invisible. I think that is how they prefer things.

There is a lesson. There are many people like Steve. I see them wherever I go. (You usually have to REALLY look!) People running food pantries. People taking kids out to get winter coats. Collecting turkeys for Thanksgiving for people who might not have them otherwise. People with a worldview bigger than their own orbit. Hearts able to feel deeper. Arms able to reach farther. People willing to do more in service to larger causes.

The bad news is that this group of people does not get the credit they deserve. Their light shines on bigger things. I respect them. It is a quality to work on. I take a lesson from Steve. Apron on, elbow-deep in greater good. I hope Steve recognizes himself in this article. I hope you recognize him if you see him. You will have to look hard. He blends into the background. On purpose. If you see Steve, thank him. If you see anyone doing the kinds of things Steve does, thank them. They see the greater good. And serve it.