"Uhmm, I don't really know how to put this, officer. Last night, I was walking up the street with my Xbox 360, and then a ninja came and punched me in the face. He stole my Xbox!"
"Why were you walking around with an Xbox on a Friday night?" The fellow is about fifteen seconds into his statement.
Already, the officer taking the statement is desperately wishing he'd have stayed in the cafe for another five minutes, just so he wouldn't have to deal with this particular madman.
"Well, I was coming home from a company Christmas party. I was dressed in my Gi."
"What's a Gi?"
"It's a suit. Kind of like Pyjamas. You wear them in a Dojo, when you're competing in Judo."
"Do you do Judo?"
"Well, I used to do Judo. I used to be pretty good, actually."
"Right, well please do start from the beginning. Why were you wearing a Judo suit on a Friday night?"
"Well, it was a costume party. The company Christmas do, in fact, so I wore my gi."
"Right. And the Xbox?" the officer said, reaching the end of his tether.
When you draw the short straw during parade at the beginning of your shift, you end up manning the front office -- that's the office where MOPs (Members Of the Public) can come in to report incidents to the police in person. I'm not a huge fan of that job: for obvious reasons, the front office attracts a rather peculiar clientèle -- and I don't think I'm exaggerating if I'm saying that there's at least a dozen people that are a few pennies short of a pound coming through the front office every week. It's not that it's a bad job -- in the front office, you're warm at least, and you don't have to do a lot of running. But you do have to deal with all the nutters.
I hear you thinking: "So, apart from clearly being a bit nuts, what's so special about this particular fellow who had been attacked by a ninja?"
Well, he was me, before I became a police officer.
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
I was working for a large company, and we were having our annual Christmas party. As usual, there was a theme to the party, and this time -- due to a large deal that had gone down about a month before -- the party's theme was 'Asia'. Now, our Christmas parties weren't usually all that extravagant, but partially due to this huge deal, and partially because the company had had an absolute stonker of a year, the bosses decided to let some of the spoils of its endeavours roll downhill to the average wage slaves. There was a fancy-dress element to this party, but -- as per usual -- I hadn't actually gotten around to doing anything for it.
The day before the party, a couple of my mates from the office were talking about dressing up as kung-fu heroes. One of 'em had bought a bright yellow tracksuit, and intended to go as Bruce Lee. In a moment of inspiration, I figured it out: I could dust off my old martial arts gi, and go as a Judoka.
A plan so brilliant it outshines a thousand sun: it was tenaciously Asia-related, and carried the additional bonus of me not having to actually do or buy anything. I could simply throw the gi on, and then go to the party. Score.
I made a point of shaving my head that morning, just to look extra 'ard, and went to the office as usual. I had a couple of comments about looking like a skinhead, but I shrugged them off; I'd been called worse in the office. At the end of the day, I went for a quick dinner at the local sushi restaurant (we were continuing the theme; I'm not that big a fan of sushi) with a couple of colleagues, before changing into my Judo gi in the loos, and headed to the party.
I'll spare you the details of the party itself, but suffice to say there was an open bar, and my colleagues and I were going to be damned if we were going to let a single drop of booze go to waste. I was absolutely blotto by the end of the night, which was when they were handing out awards for the best costume etc. The winner was the PA to one of the executives; she was looking rather smouldering as a Geisha, so no surprise there. I have a vague recollection of offering her a quick wrestle, but I think she (wisely and politely) turned me down. What was a surprise, however, was that I heard my name over the PA system.
"Huh", I asked, the colleague who was standing closest to me, eloquently.
"Dude!" he said, swaying as if he was on an ocean liner in a storm. "You won closer of the year! Great stuff".
Through my alcohol-fuelled haze, it came back to me: I had, in fact, done a couple of shit-hot deals that year, and it did stand to reason that I would be recognised for some of the money I had earned for the company that year. I stumbled my way to the stage, and gratefully received an Xbox 360 (they had only just been launched, if I recall correctly) for my efforts.
Ace. A load of free booze, and a Xbox 360? Tonight was turning out to be a most bodacious evening.
A few hours later, my friends decided that I had had quite enough booze for the rest of the year, and sent me out the front door in the general direction of the row of waiting taxis. I don't recall putting up too much of a struggle, which probably was an indication that I had, indeed, had enough to drink for an evening.
I didn't live that far away from the venue, so I decided to walk home instead of taking the cab. I had my coat under one arm, my brand new Xbox 360 under the other, and was walking in my slightly red-wine-stained judo gi through the freezing cold of the mid-December night.
I nearly made it home. Nearly. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a guy dressed like a ninja appears. He's dressed in all black, wearing a hood. All you can see is his eyes. He squares up to me.
"Oi. Are you some sort of karate champion, then?", he says. In retrospect, I should have seen that for what it was: a threat.
Instead, I launched into a slurred explanation attempting to compare and contrast the differences between karate and judo. I get about six syllables into my diatribe, when he takes a step back, before clocking me square in the face.
I wake up a couple of minutes later. Blood is pouring from my nose. My Xbox 360 is gone, and I'm resting against a brick wall, my coat over me for warmth.
"An ambulance is on the way", a voice says. I look up at her. She's cute. I ask for her phone number, and she sighs, ignoring me. I tell her to cancel the ambulance, but as I do so, I can hear a siren coming closer. It's a police car.
"What happened to you?" asks the constable.
"I was attacked by a ninja." I say, fully in earnest. The constable looks at me.
"Riiiight. How about you come and tell us about it at the station tomorrow. You look like you could do with some sleep." The constable asks where I live, and I tell him.
"That's only up the road." he says, pointing at my house.
"Yeah, I know," I say, adding drily: "I live there."
The next morning, I go to the police station to report being mugged for my games console...
The main reason I'm telling you this story is to illustrate the kind of things we sometimes have reported to us when we're working in the front office of a police station; people come in with all sorts of grievances, spanning from robberies to petty theft, from the most inane, inconsequential complaints to the most serious of crimes.
It's extremely hard to keep a straight face some times, and I'll admit: if someone had walked into a police station and told me that they had been attacked by a ninja, I would probably have sighed rather deeply myself. "Not one of those again..."
I'll be honest; I'm not proud of this episode. I acted like a prat, I drank far too much, and I should have been more street-wise than walking down the streets in a dodgy part of town with an expensive, shiny piece of kit under my arm. However, I do enjoy telling this story to probationers when they're about to do their first shift in the front office however.
The moral of the story is that not everybody who sounds like a complete nutjob, is.
Only most of 'em, anyway
Matt Delito is a pseudonym for a policeman working for the Metropolitan Police. All Notes from the Frontline are not entirely “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” due to the sensitive nature of the business, but are all based on actual events. These days, he’s on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Matt has a book based on his Notes from the Front Line column out now - you can get it from Amazon, in paperback or on Kindle.
If you missed his previous columns on Giz UK, check them out over here.