Once in a while a tutor-learner match happens that seems far too good to be true. Today newly matched ESL tutor Scott Reitmeier met his learner Esteban Patiño for the first time in the Literacy Network Library. As people usually do in first meetings, Esteban asked Scott what he did for a living. Scott is currently a Madison police officer. On hearing this the normally calm Esteban may have widened his eyes a little. He, it turns out, was a police officer, himself, in a district near Mexico City in the 1980s and 90s.
Scott described the moment immediately after they learned what they had in common. “Police language is a lot more universal than I thought. He lifted up his shirt to show his scar.” Esteban had been shot in the line of duty during a gas station robbery. Though he continued to serve in the police force, the experience ended his time as an officer on the street.
Scott, 33, who had needed to reschedule their first meeting appointment because he had been summoned to testify in court, shared a tense experience of his own, in which he had needed to fire his own weapon in the line of duty. Actual discharges of weapons by police in the U.S. are rare. The New York Times reported in 1998 that “nearly 95 percent of New York City's 38,000 officers have never fired their weapons while fighting crime.”*
Esteban, 50, is relatively new to Madison. From experience, he said, he knows that there are good, professional cops and bad ones everywhere in the world, but he has a high opinion of the Madison Police Department. He works at a meat packaging factory in New Glarus. One reason he wants to learn English is to find a better job closer to where he lives. Previously he lived in Los Angeles for four years, where he said it was very possible to get by with limited English because of the city’s omnipresent Latino culture. On the day he arrived in Madison, however, he was dismayed to find he could not find anyone in his neighborhood who spoke Spanish. Today the two of them agreed to work on his English together for two hours a week for at least six months.
Both Esteban and Scott agreed that there was a kind of instant bond between them, a shared experience that comes with a particular worldview. If a movie is to be made about Scott and Esteban, it will not be anything like “Lethal Weapon.” It does, however, call to mind the last line of “Casablanca,” where Humphrey Bogart says, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
*http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/11/weekinreview/ideas-trends-don-t-shoot-the-culture-of-cops-and-guns.html ''I could probably count the cop shootings on one hand,'' said Officer Tom Snyder of the 325-officer police department in Madison, Wis. And then he did: three in 1995, none in 1996, two in 1997.”