Professional Courtesy

By Caleb Smith


It is during the siesta periods of Spain that you can really find the time to sit and talk to some of the locals. What surprised me the most is just how many locals are willing to talk to foreigners.


During our stay in Astorga, while most everyone else was taking a nap, I decided to walk around and explore a bit. I strolled from plaza to plaza, stopping here and there, just seeing the town. After about an hour or so, I entered a small corner cafe and sat down for a cafe con leche, the local go-to blend of coffee and milk. While the barista took my order, two local police officers walked in, both younger guys, perhaps in their late 20’s. I noticed them looking around the small barroom and then, to my surprise, sit down next to me.


The older-looking of the two was the closest to me, and in a purposefully-slow accent asked me where I was from. I answered that and the usual barrage of questions that come from the locals; why am I here, who am I with, what school do I go to, all of that. However, one answer I gave seemed to interest them the most. The younger-looking one asked what I am planning on doing now that I am out of school, and without hesitation I answered, “Policia.” Both of them seemed shocked, and asked again as if they had heard incorrectly. I responded again with “Si, policia.” Now the conversation took a completely different turn. We talked about why I want to do law enforcement at a local level, what it’s like being an officer in the U.S., about our fathers who are all police officers. After around 15 minutes or so of this, I realized that we were really all the same. A thousand miles away from home, I was just like these two young officers. The thin blue line wraps around this entire planet, and every law enforcer has to fight the same fight.


After a few more minutes, I excused myself to use the bathroom. When I came back, they had already left. Figuring that they had to go out to a call somewhere, I paid no mind to it and went to close my coffee tab. I asked the barista for la cuenta (the bill) and she simply said, “No tienes una cuenta. Gracias los policias.” The two officers had paid my tab while I had been in the bathroom.


They say that law enforcement is a brotherhood that connects every officer in the world. That moment I realized how true that was.

Caleb flashes the VT sign at a early rest stop on the Camino.

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