2008-07-11 / On Second Thought

How not to use a siren

This is a true story of self- embarrassment. My good friend, Hugh Munn, then a spokesman for SLED, was riding with me in my Lexington County Sheriff's car. We planned to visit Johnny Evans, media spokesman for Wildlife, who had just gotten a heart valve replacement. His own valve was replaced with a pig valve. "And they won't even let me eat pork anymore," Johnny complained.

Hugh and I were on our way to pick up Thom Berry, media spokesman for DHEC. We were in the back of the DHEC parking lot on Bull Street when we saw Thom at the rear door waiting for us.

Hugh suggested I lightly tap the siren to alert Thom. It's important to understand that I hardly ever used my siren. I was Sheriff Metts' media guy - not a regular street cop. My emergencies were news reporters, not bad guys.

I gently touched the button on the dashboard to activate the siren. Then came the expected WAIL of the siren. Hugh yelled, "That's enough, Bob, turn it off!"

Believe me I tried, but there was no OFF button, so the siren continued its attention- grabbing WAIL. Finally, I found a switch on a power control box that shut the siren down.

By the time we reached Thom, his face was purple with embarrassment. He was trying to decide whether to get into the car with us or just pretend we were total strangers in his life.

By the time we finally got to Providence Hospital, we'd decided not to tell Johnny about the siren incident, because it might put too much strain on his new pig valve.

We later learned from Johnny that our visit had saved him lots of money. He said two insurance claim adjusters were in his hospital room discussing benefit coverage when the three of us walked in.

Johnny said later, "You guys - in your fancy suits, white shirts and ties - looked like New York lawyers and the insurance guys were ready to settle my claim right then and there."


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