How to Become a Policeman When You’re a Writer at Heart (or Vice Versa): a Chat with Adam Plantinga

When you are about to fly to the U.S. and you seek help around to prepare for the language shock, everyone tells you not to worry, that British English and American English are just the same, apart from minor details like the pants that stop being underwear and turn into trousers (but would you even call this a minor detail, for God’s sake?!).

It’s not really a matter of the litter being called trash, or the primary school being named elementary school, it is also that, for example, if someone falls on you in the underground subway, they’ll say excuse me, and not sorry.Β  You stare at them wondering whether they needed road directions or anything, but no, they only meant sorry.

So, if it was only the gotten thing worrying you, then be prepared to get stuck in an array of shoulda gotta catcha, to be immediately labelled as British if you come up with things like cheers, bloody, rubbish or quid, and above all, be prepared to cope with a range of accents that would make Scottish sound like classical music.

If you really want to know the truth, British English and American Engish have nothing to do with each other, and no, I’ll never get why Americans call the toilet restroom, because you don’t really rest in a restroom, you don’t take a nap there, do you?

That said, I must admit that San Francisco is one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen in my life. You land there and you immediately feel like home for no reason. It’s like if anybody you randomly bump into has an incredible story to tell you. And believe me, man, this is often the case.

Take this policeman cop at the San Francisco Police Department, for example. His name is Adam Plantinga and he wrote a book called 400 Things Cops Know: Street-Smart Lessons from a Veteran Patrolman that is damn good and makes you laugh out loud as you get to know about a million things you ignored, ranging from how they exactly arrest a criminal to why and how fights between teenage girls happen.

I read this book cover to cover in one evening, and then I started wondering whether this guy was a policeman or a writer at heart, what his dream job as a child was, and so on. So I met him at Moraga Commons Park on a Sunday morning as plenty of children marketed stuff around for charity just like Lucy Van Pelt used to sell lemonade in the Peanuts comics.

So you’re a proper U.S.A. cop, Adam, aren’t you?

Well, I’m more actually a serjeant. But shouldn’t you have a recorder to… record the interview?

I’m a kind of human note-taking app. So, what was your dream job as a kid?

I wanted to be a police officer when I was a kid, or maybe an FBI agent, ’cause they seemed really cool. I also wanted to be a cowboy, but then when I went to college, I got interested in different things. My dad is a professor of theology, and he always told me to study what I loved, so I majored in English. You’re Italian, aren’t you? Then I get what you’re thinking: you speak English, and you majored in English, that’s dumb, isn’t it?

OK, I’m a fan of American humour now πŸ˜€ But how did you end up in the police then?

I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; I graduated there, then I moved to Houston, Texas, to work with homeless teenagers. After the social work, I came back to Milwaukee… I love the mid-west. People there are sturdy and unpretentious. The thing of being a cop never left me, so I got a second major in Criminology, and I then joined the Milwaukee Police Department. Apart from the adrenaline that comes with the job itself, it’s really good when you take violent criminals off the streets. You can’t do anything for the people that were already shot, but I least you are contributing to avoid that further people are put in danger.

What if being a cop was not a viable option for you?

I would have probably stayed in social work, maybe working as a teacher. I am very community-oriented.

Your book is amazing. Have I already said that?

My mum likes my book; my mum says I’m the best πŸ˜€

Was it hard to get published?

I pitched my book to 90 publishers and got rejected 90 times, then I tried to find an agent, and then I pitched it again, this time to an independent publisher, and I finally got the deal.

Will you send me the book pdf, please, so I can quickly extract a couple of quotes for the interview?

I will forward this request to my publicist for two reasons. First: I don’t have the book on pdf and he might. Second: it makes me sound like a bigshot when IΒ say I’ve forwarded something to my publicist.

πŸ˜€ Thank you for your time, Adam πŸ˜€

β˜…β˜…β˜… Top Three from 400 Things Cops Know by Adam Plantinga β˜…β˜…β˜…

Strictly speaking, it’s the job of the police to enforce the law, not to rehab kids. The rehabbing part is the responsibility of someone else like maybe their parents or Oprah Winfrey.

Fights between girls often start with one girl saying “Heard you’ve been talking about me”.

If you encounter kids selling lemonade or raffle tickets for their school or sports team, you shall buy some, and if you have no cash on you, you shall go to an ATM and procure some. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Adam Plantinga

Look at him. No, Adam is not an actor of NCIS. He’s a real COP.

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