It’s not much of a secret that cops have an off-color sense of humor. It’s actually a critical emotional survival mechanism for us, and the irony should give us pause: the guy with the most developed Gallows Humor has likely sustained the most emotional damage and is probably at the greatest risk for mental collapse.
Our sense of humor allows us to emotionally distance ourselves from the grave tragedies and reprehensible atrocities humans commit against one another. Spent much time around corpses as a civilian? You will as a cop, so you better find a way to process that. Cops can cry, sure, but not when the public or the victim’s family is looking to us for strength, leadership, and direction. Cry on your own time, rookie, you’re on the clock now. Who does the family expect to be stoic and glued together? The cop. Who do they expect to be rational and in-control? The cop. Who do they expect to look to when they can’t find the words to tell their siblings what happened? The cop. If the cop’s a blubbering mess, no one at that scene has a chance to be anything else.
But, that’s not fun or funny, so let’s skip ahead to that part. I can generally keep my ability to laugh at death and tragedy to myself, but, periodically, something squeaks past my filters. Alcohol is usually involved, and it’s almost always around people outside my really trusted circle. So, like, my wife’s coworkers. The neighbors we just met. Extended family who know I’m a cop but we aren’t close enough for me to really share personal stories with them. Then, the PTA folks. Not the most humorous group around, which works out because I’m not invited to meetings anymore.
My wife and I know a guy with brain disease (which we call ‘Frank’), and we know him really well. His fiancé is also a friend, so, it’s fair to say we’re close. He and I LOVE to joke about his early demise. LOVE IT. Every time he makes a mistake, it’s gotta be Frank’s fault. He forgot to bring hotdog buns to the BBQ. Fuckin’ Frank. He sent a belated birthday card. Stupid Frank! Then, Frank also gets to be his eventual killer, unless, of course, a city bus gets him sooner. Eat shit, Frank, he’s gonna jump off a cliff and cheat you! Frank is the Grim Reaper that’s draggin’ him into an early grave, brain-first. It’s how I deal with the horrible tragedy that someone I love and care about might not live to meet my grandkids. That’s sad, depressing, and out of my control. Frank, though, that guy gives me a personified entity to blame, to hate, and to avoid processing some of my anger about it. I appreciate my buddy has the same sense of humor, because that’d really make me look like a heel if he didn’t.