The Time I Impersonated an Officer
Thoughts of Michael
There were hundreds of people scattered around, strolling about, looking at old outdated machinery. Ancient steam engines starting up.
Building, squeezing, compressing BOOM!
Building, squeezing, compressing BOOM!
Billows of steam released from giant pistons. The rhythm entrancing.
Kids jumping with excitement, anxious to get a good look at what their great grandparents might’ve used to plow fields or harvest wheat or power the great trains that traveled the great plains, of Canada.
The volunteers wear their badges with pride and honour while children hop joyfully from display to display.
A city police officer stands watch, a shorter man keeping an eye out for any mischief at the festival. I eye him up, then walk over.
“I’m Constable Mike Mulligan1”, I say as I reach out my hand to shake his. He smiles. The talk between strangers.
“I’m Constable Brown2.” He seems to almost look up to me, it’s weird. I feel special.
We talk briefly about the weather. We speak the same language.
He asks, “So? How long have you been with the force?”
I tell him I’m not a real police officer.
We laugh. See, I’m an historical interpreter at a museum and it’s a summer festival called Pioneera. It’s at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, and the year is 1997.
I was representing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or it’s precursor - the Royal North West Mounted Police (R.N.W.M.P). It was an intriguing position in the sense that most people who saw me thought I was a real police officer.
The museum had to acquire special permission from the R.C.M.P. to grant me the position. They even had retired officers come in and train me on how to wear the red serge (the Mountie uniform), press my hat, how to spit polish my boots (I actually did this), and how to represent the police force in a professional manner. I had great posture that summer! The job was fascinating in many respects.
I even had my own station, an outpost in a town. It was a fictitious town, but a town no less. 1910 Boomtown was the name. It was housed inside a giant building.
The highlight was talking to visitors and explaining the heroic deeds these fine individuals carried out throughout the history of Canada (and still continue to carry out).
However, during quiet times it was an extremely lonely job, being one of the few real humans in Boomtown. Similarly, officers posted in small towns often felt isolated. I hung out in or around my outpost, and once in a while I’d get tired and lean against my very large plastic horse waiting to talk or connect with another human being.
My plastic horse made me feel like a real man.
The intensely piercing fluorescent lights often gave me headaches and I sometimes felt a bit down. I’m not sure if it was the lights or being around antiques all day, or maybe it was the fact I spent the whole summer pretending to be someone I wasn’t. In a weird way, it was hard.
One time a very elderly woman came in, slowly shuffled over, and looked over at me with complete disdain. I thought she was going to spit at me. She muttered something about how she hated the police and I couldn’t help but feel personally attacked.
I almost wrote her a ticket for disrespect, but then realized I had no authority to do so.
I have incredible respect for the R.C.M.P. They do not have an easy job. I can’t imagine doing this job for real, especially with a real horse.3
For the most part, I enjoyed chatting with people about the history, sharing stories, smiles and just connecting with the public. Inevitably I usually ended up divulging the fact I was not a real officer. Some were surprised while others were not.
But the biggest highlight of that summer was when family would come and visit me while ‘on duty’. My little nephews would look up at me, with beaming eyes of admiration. Constable Mike Mulligan or not, I was real to them.
This was actually my fictitious name for the position.
I don’t actually remember his name but he did say he was also a constable.
I would never have pretended to be a real police officer (with the city officer at the festival) in a current day scenario, especially after the tragic events that took place in N.S. May all those who suffered a loss, find peace.