Price of Pizza:
This week while in Paris, Liliana Hart and I took off on the city in a series of pedicab driven adventures. To say the experience was anything less than epic would be an understatement.
But at what price?
I’m always talking with her and our kids about situational awareness. The boys think it’s funny, while the girls think I’m trying to make the junior high boys afraid of them (maybe both.)
After a lift to the Tour Eiffel, we looked down upon an enchanted city filled with lights and people and noise and life. Just below us was a watching station for fans of the Euro semifinals soccer match between Wales and Portugal. I’d never experienced crowd energy like that before. It was like 10 Mardi Gras combined.
As we headed back to the suite, we were instantly caught up in thousands of fanatic supporters of the soccer match. Unable to get back to the room, we ducked into a pizza joint for a late supper.
We were stopped at the door by a tough looking guy wearing a black jacket with an armband that read Security. Seriously, for pizza?
Facing the door as all good cops do, I watched the crowds inside and out. I suddenly felt less for wanting pizza and more for escaping the scene. November 13, 2015 was there. Always there in my mind as we carted around in a beautifully free-moving environment. The 130 victims of that night’s coordinated terror attacks weighed heavily upon my heart as I choked down the first but only slice of pizza.
I was fixated on the tough guy at the door, as well as the hundreds of riot squad special police lining the avenues with body armor and machine guns ready to respond.
It wasn’t nervousness that had stricken me. It was a wash of grief for those people sitting in a cafe just like us, and the revelers whose only care was for the score of a well-played game, and the many others who just wanted to “kick it” across Paris like we did.
Our waiter was an older man who watched the streets as much as he watched his customers. We didn’t mind the delays in service. I’m sure it was all he could do to focus on just doing his job.
But it’s just a pizza place.
I’m never at ease. I watch the lighthearted videos we do on facebook and I’m amazed that when we’re in a public place how my head is constantly scanning back and forth. I can’t help it or want to change it. It’s what I was trained to do–I watch and observe, so I can react and protect if needed.
I sat up straight as a crowd jammed into the door’s threshold. Angry shouts in languages I didn’t understand came clear into the small cafe. The tough looking guy pitted himself against the aggressive few.
I have to admit, my gut dropped. But immediately, I was coming out of my chair to help that tough guy, who suddenly, with fists slamming against his face, didn’t seem tough enough.
My thoughts weren’t about my safety, or even to stay there for Liliana. My heart leapt so hard from my chest that whether it was a repeat terror attack the day after July 4th or just hungry customers pissed about being denied access, I knew the line that tough guy had committed to standing.
Almost a year since retirement, but I know that having a heart for serving others is something that never retires. I also now know that the French Police are much faster than I ever could’ve been. Before my butt left the seat, or Liliana even realized I was leaving, officers snatched the attackers from the door and whisked them away.
I watched the tough guy rub the red whelps across his face. I knew the feelings of taking licks for something having nothing to do with you other than making a choice to stand for something or someone else. I wanted to tell him that although battered, he did a good job protecting the customers in the cafe.
When it was time to head back to the suite, I led us through a rowdy crowd of thousands who jumped and screamed and lit fires and raced cars along the avenue. The mood was degrading fast. I swung and swayed with Liliana in tow and tried my best to avoid contact with anyone, but inevitably times came to bulldoze the drunks and just plain stupid for the sake of getting us out of that situation.
Finally back in the room, I showered off the grime of getting us back. and it was then that I allowed myself to relax, and the emotions came crashing over me as I showered.
Those poor, innocent people along the magical streets of Paris who only wanted to enjoy the mystique of this city. What makes them different than us, if for only by the day on a calendar.
What is the price of pizza? It gets much more costly as fear, anxiety and violence are piled upon the pepperoni and cheese. Those feelings are foreign to me, but this week they became a very real reminder of the reality of our world.
Do we forgo the pizza for the sake of comfort? No. Not as long as there are good people willing to stand in the gap. Those good people are us. The cafe chef, the customers, and yes, even the tough guy in the door.