Monday, May 9, 2011

The sounds of Crown Victoria

I have really good hearing. This helps me with a lot of things, like overhearing conversations, or diagnosing/recognizing mechanical problems. It's also annoying, as when I'm parked around noisy motors, power tools, etc.

But another useful thing is that I can recognize very clearly the sound of some vehicles. Crown Victorias, for example, with their police-outfitted engines, are very unique-sounding. Whenever I hear one, I know exactly what it is (and it almost always gets my heart rate up too) . A trip over to the window-- or the sound of a radio, or worse, a flashing light, a knock on the door, or a ticket on the windshield-- always confirms it (though I have occasionally confused a taxicab-- still a Crown Vic with the same kind of configuration).

I think the unique thing about those vehicles is the way they idle. They're powerful engines, and always well-maintained, but they sound like they're working hard at idle. They usually have either two alternators or a very heavy-duty alternator, to run all the police-related 12v equipment (laptop, sirens, radios, powerful lights, etc), so that's probably why the engine is pulling hard at idle. The loud whining/grinding of the alternator is an easy giveaway too.

So the past two days, in two completely different jurisdictions, I've heard cops idling near me. Very disconcerting, but apparently they weren't interested in me, which was a huge relief.

Two days ago, in the middle of the night, I heard one idling, for about 15-20 minutes. The cop got out of the car, walked around-- thankfully, not towards me. Then got back in. No radio sounds, no lights. I didn't hear the cop drive off, but all of a sudden the sound was gone. Huh? I went to the window and looked around-- nobody around. Wow, he drove off fast, and cleanly and SMOOTHLY too, no screeching tires. Just vaporized, from idling to gone in an instant. Then a few minutes later, off in the distance, I hear a siren, and some very serious guy talking at someone through a megaphone. Hmm, well maybe the cop was sitting around doing paperwork, or getting instructions, or something. Sounds like he got whomever he was looking for. I looked in the morning, and no tickets on my windsheild, no "friendly notices", nothing. So that was good.

Yesterday, in broad daylight, in a totally different city, I hear the same sound. This time I go right to the window, and sure enough, the cop is right there acrooss the street. He's parked on the opposite side of the street, which is a very good sign-- when they are after you they park behind you, so if you drive off they can run after you, or directly in front blocking you, or both. The cop doesn't get out of the car. About 20 minutes later, he drives off. Hmm, another paperwork moment? I have no idea.

I'm pretty sure none of them are interested in me or has any reason to be. I don't worry nearly as much as I used to, now that I have a bit more understanding of what they're about and what motivates them.

A few months ago I was parked in a huge shopping mall parking lot with 4 cop cars parked right next to me-- all of them hanging out-- while I was doing the same-- visiting with a friend in here--, and I had no fear at all, just said my goodbyes after a while and then drove off. They either didn't know or didn't care that I was there-- just another delivery truck serving one of the businesses in the mall.

So this cops-idling-around-me thing is probably coincidence, but if it keeps going on, then I'll have to try to figure out what's up and why.

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