Down East 2013 ©
Thanks to utterly unrealistic television shows, movies and mystery novels, you’re probably all familiar with the “ten code” used by police  departments nationwide.
Whenever fictional cops talk on their radios, they don’t say stuff like, “OK, I understood your ignorant and ill-advised orders and will proceed to ignore them.” If they did, criminals and little old ladies with police scanners would know what they were discussing. Also, there’d be more disciplinary hearings for insubordination.
To preserve their important law-enforcement secrets (the chief is an idiot), officers respond with a simple but cryptic “10-4.” (Or if they still haven’t gotten over the citizen-band craze, they say, “10-4, good buddy.”)
(Either way, please don’t let this posting fall into the hands of any criminals or little old ladies. For the public’s safety, it’s best to keep them in the dark. 10-4, good buddy?)
There’s a “ten code” for everything. Cruiser accident? That’s a 10-50. Bomb threat? Call in a 10-79. Order a cheeseburger loaded and a Coke? 10-230. Hold the onions on that burger? 10-231. Need antacid even without the onions? 10-232. Send reinforcements and a SWAT unit because a blogger is considering making cop-doughnut jokes? 10-450.
Obviously, it’s not easy keeping track of all these obscure designations. New recruits spend years in police academy (motto: 10-916) undergoing rigorous testing to see if they know what a 10-590 is (wedgie in progress) or what steps to take when the radio screams 10-333 (giant radioactive reptile emerging from Tokyo harbor). That time devoted to studying the 10s is, in the opinions of some law enforcement experts, wasted and could be better spent walking a beat on the mean streets of Machias.
To that end, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department (motto: Damn, I think it’s 10-112, but it could be 10-221) has decided to do away with the “ten code” and replace it with commonly used expressions , except translated into Serbo-Croatian.
Have fun trying to figure out what they’re talking about, criminals and little old ladies. With the exception of criminals and little old ladies of Serbo-Croatian descent.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the Maine State Police have been “slowly reverting to plain language for nearly a year.” So far, the staties have evolved from saying things like “10-874 in progress” to the more dialectically comfortable, “He’s got his 10 caught in an 874, and we need a surgeon, a plumber, a horse wrangler and an experienced jet-fighter pilot to get it out. Also, doughnuts.”
Another problem with the “ten code” is that not all police departments agree on what each set of number stands for. In Portland, for instance, 10-524 means, “The regular Saturday night riot in the Old Port is underway.” In Somerset County, it means, “Relax, Skowhegan always looks like that.” This sort of confusion could easily result in erroneous lunch orders and random Tasering.
While our public-safety officials are sorting that out, let’s turn our attention to a group in Portland called “JFK for ME.”
Apparently, no one has told them the 1960 election is over, and Kennedy didn’t carry Maine.
Actually, what this group is seeking – aside from convincing Maine’s secretary of state to count a bunch of ballots it just discovered under a bridge – is to bring the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy to Portland Harbor , where it would become a floating museum (that’s a 10-334 in police talk).
The JFK was decommissioned in 2007 and is currently being stored in someplace like Kansas, so dragging it all the way to Maine won’t be cheap. But once it got here, what a spectacle it would be .
The carrier is 320 meters long, which translates in “ten code” into 1,050 feet. That’s longer than three football fields or the wait to clear security at Portland Jetport.
It’s also 81.4 meters wide, has four aircraft elevators (five if you use the metric system) and four catapults – in case you want to storm any castles.
When it’s not being used as a museum, it would make a perfect tool of intimidation for the next time Peaks Island starts griping about seceding from Portland .
The only problem with the city acquiring an aircraft carrier is the cost of fixing it up and maintaining it (to avoid frightening the more fiscally conservative among you, I’ll put that figure in ten code: 10-189974563291. And that’s metric).
How could they ever raise that kind of cash?
It’s simple really. Just set up what police call a 10-658 or, in plain language, a Ponzi scheme. In no time at all, the JFK would be as bright and gleaming as the day she (Wait, “she”? Wasn’t JFK a guy? I mean, you always hear about him and Marilyn Monroe and stuff like that) was launched. Even after the lawsuits, jail sentences and made-for-TV movies, it would still be worth it.
Or perhaps not, particularly since there’s a simpler way. Every winter, charitable organizations hold fundraisers where they convince seemingly normal people to jump into the ocean, lakes, rivers and ponds. I’ve never really understood how that generates money, but somehow it does.
Anyway, it seems obvious that if people splashing around and getting hypothermia is good for a few thousand bucks, doing the same thing with machines would make millions. And the Portland parks department already has extensive experience dunking its trucks, plows and decommissioned naval vessels in the icy drink .
Several times in recent history, the city – whose actual motto is “Resurgam” (no, that isn’t Latin for “barf,” it’s Serbo-Croatian for “aircraft carrier”) – while attempting to clear snow on Deering Oaks pond for skaters, has managed to send a vehicle or two through the ice.
Imagine how much cash could be raised if Portland opened that tiny body of H2O (metric: H1.5O) up for one day each year to everyone who wanted to file insurance claims for water damage to their cars. The city would soon be able to afford an entire fleet of aircraft carriers, not to mention squadrons of planes, mercenary troops and old Russian nuclear weapons.
You paying attention, Peaks Island?
That’ll be a big 10-4, good buddy.
Al Diamon responds to e-mails in plain English sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .