All in a Day’s Work: Cops, Slim Jims, and Saving Babies


When I first entered into the glamorous world of law enforcement I fully anticipated that I’d spend my days and nights racing through city streets and county roads on my way to save mankind from evil while simultaneously rescuing puppies, kittens, and small children from the dangers of the world. However, two days after raising my right hand and swearing to enforce the laws of my state and country, the level of my expectations reduced … greatly.

I began my career serving as a deputy sheriff in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our county sheriff, my boss, was a man who had one major goal, reelection. As a result, he believed in micromanaging his employees/appointees (deputies are appointed by the sheriff, not hired in the traditional sense).

I suppose keeping his deputies under his thumb was a means to control our actions, thereby ensuring that we’d not do a single thing that could cause a citizen to vote for an opposing candidate. Believe me, more than one deputy found themselves seeking other employment when they crossed the boss. Everyone, especially those who were magnets for trouble, basically walked on eggshells each and every day.

Some of us did our jobs well and were never called in on the “red carpet.” Others were not as fortunate. By the way, I used the term “red carpet” because walking into the boss’s office was like a visit to Elvis’s Graceland—black leather furniture, dark paneled walls, dark drapes (always pulled tightly closed), an overflowing ashtray on the walnut desk, and thick, blood-red shag carpeting. I’m talking velvet-painting hideous.

So yeah, being called to the high-sheriff’s office was indeed an experience, and it was typically not a good experience. Compliments were not his thing, so hearing his voice on the radio, “calling you in,” sent shivers down the spines of even the toughest of the tough.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t all that scary. Still …

Anyway, one of our keep-the-voters-happy duties included unlocking car doors for people who’d accidentally locked their keys inside. Well, this was an easy task back before carmakers decided to cram miles of wires and electronic thingies behind decorative door panels.

Before the introduction of electronic locks it was a simple matter of slipping a Slim Jim between the window glass and rubber weather strip, feel around until the tool hit the “lock rod,” and wiggle it around a tiny bit until the lock knob popped up.

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So preston, bingo, all was well and the happy citizen went about their daily routine, which included voting for the sheriff because his deputies were always there to save the day (not the type of day-saving I first had in mind).


Slim Jim


Notches used for “hooking” the lock rod and other mechanisms

After electronic locks replaced the simple, manual ones, things changed. No longer was unlocking a car door an easy task. In fact, it was quite the opposite and many officers, especially the old-timers, found themselves jabbing Slim Jims inside car doors while pushing and pulling and pumping the darn things in and up an down motion that brings to mind a frazzled grandma in the kitchen using a hand-mashing implement to frantically and wildly smash the heck out of a pot full of potatoes.


Grandma pounded out a week’s worth of frustrations using one of these things while preparing Sunday lunch.

Sometimes during a particularly violent Slim-Jimming session, the device became entangled in the nests of wiring, rods, gadgets, and connections, and it was simply impossible to remove it without damaging an entire network of electrical, well, car stuff. Therefore, it was not all that unusual for an officer to leave the device protruding from the door of a high-end vehicle while the owner called a professional locksmith to unlock the car. Then off they’d drive (the car owner), heading to the dealership with long, flat piece of metal flapping in the breeze. Not a pretty sight and not pretty the next day when the deputy was called on the red carpet.

Thankfully, after a few similar and costly incidents the sheriff stopped us from unlocking cars, or attempting to unlock them.

Finally, to wrap up up this rambling post, I’d also like to stress how important it was to check all doors before beginning an all out Slim Jim assault on a car door. Why? Well, for example, I was on patrol one night and received a call from another deputy who asked if I was available to help him with a door he was having a hard time unlocking. He’d been at it for quite a while and was having absolutely no luck at all. To make matters worse the driver had locked her baby inside with the car running.

So I show up and see the deputy working frantically to “save” the child. He’s sweating profusely and has a huge “HELP ME” look on his face. The mother was crying hysterically. A crowd of bystanders were, well, standing by. The baby, however, was in full goo-goo-gaga mode, as happy as could be.


I grabbed my own Slim Jim from my trunk and walked over to the car where I told my coworker I’d try the passenger door to see I could achieve any success. So, I step around to the other side and, believe it or not, simply reached in through the OPEN car window and hit the button to unlock all of the doors.

Everyone cheered and the mother/driver raced over to hug me before reaching inside the car to do the same to her baby.

The poor deputy who’d worked so hard and for so long to unlock a wide open car. He was a good sport and took the embarrassment well … sort of.