Originally published in The Miami Herald March 4, 1990
It's 10:36 on a Thursday morning in downtown Miami. The suspect is standing at a bus stop on Biscayne Boulevard, smoking a cigarette. There's a tough-looking crowd around him. A street crowd. This could get sticky.
We're watching the suspect from a short distance away. We can see his every move, but he can't see us, because our limousine has very dark windows.
The suspect takes another drag on his cigarette. He's getting ready to make his move. We can feel it.
He flicks the cigarette butt onto the sidewalk. This is it.
"Let's do it, " says my sidekick.
We open the limousine door fast and hit the street running. As we race toward the suspect I feel a powerful adrenaline rush. Partly this is because of the feeling of danger, of not knowing what's going to happen next. Partly it's because this is broad daylight in a major metropolitan area and I'm wearing bright red women's tights.
"Hey!" says somebody in the crowd, looking at my uniform. "Captain Tidy!"
That's right, pal. Captain Tidy and his faithful sidekick Neatness Man. Mister Litterbug's worst nightmare. And this is one suspect who picked the wrong time to toss his butt.
The suspect is backing up, watching us. He may be tough, but a person automatically tends to be wary of men wearing tights and masks and capes made from large garbage bags.
"Sir!" says Captain Tidy. (Captain Tidy is always polite; it's Rule One of the Captain Tidy Code.) "Sir, you just threw your cigarette butt on the sidewalk."
The suspect tries to weasel out of it. He shrugs elaborately. "Where did I throw it?" he says, pretending to look around. "You say I threw it, so where is it?"
"Sir, you know you threw it, " says Captain Tidy, firmly.
"You don't want to throw it on the sidewalk, sir, " observes Neatness Man, who is quite large, for a sidekick. "You want to keep Miami clean."
"OK, " says the suspect, cracking. "I threw it." He picks up the cigarette butt. He's smiling now.
"Thank you, sir, " says Neatness Man, who then turns to the crowd and adds, "and thank you all, for keeping our city clean."
A few people actually applaud. This is Miami, a city where homicide is only a misdemeanor, and they're applauding us for chastising a litterer. Neatness Man and Captain Tidy are thrilled. We give super-hero-style wave/salutes to the crowd and leap back into the limousine, which ideally would at this point roar dramatically off, except that the traffic is heavy, so it just sits there for a while.
The crowd continues to stare at it. They are no doubt very impressed. They will probably mention this incident to their families and friends. "It is certainly a bad idea to litter!" they will probably say. Or: "We should all try to keep our city clean!" Or: "How would escaped mental patients get hold of a limousine?"
* * *
If you're like me, which I bet you are, there are certain acts of rudeness that just make you nuts. Telephone rudeness, for example. The phone rings, I drop whatever I'm doing to answer it, and it's a wrong number, which happens all the time in South Florida, where many people apparently operate the phone by dialing numbers at random in hopes of reaching somebody they know. Instead, they reach me, and they often act as though this is my fault.
"I'm sorry, " I'll say, "you have the wrong . . . "
"(Bad word) BANG" goes the phone. Then of course they dial the same number again, and when I have the gall to still be me, they become furious and hang up so hard that little pieces come shooting out of the earphone. I hope that some day I'll be able to avail myself of a convenient new phone-company feature called Caller Electrocution. But for now all I can do is seethe.