On our way to sunbathe in the park, my girlfriend and I chanced across three uniformed policemen enthusiastically singing ‘Jingle Bells’ by the roadside.
One of the officers was even keeping their rhythm with a set of sleigh bells, adding quite the festive vibe to an already merry scene. I’m not sure which was the biggest juxtaposition: singing policemen or the sound of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the 30°C Montreal sunshine.
My first thought was that the carolers weren’t real policemen but surely some sort of performance art troupe. Such would be typical in the public spaces of Montreal, so this would explain the strange out-of-season caroling to which we were bearing witness.
I then noticed that the uniforms of the cops – complete with night sticks and firearms – were pretty authentic. What was going on?
My girlfriend pointed out that the nearest car to the trio of festive policemen contained a woman seemingly sleeping in the passenger seat. Ah, now it was clear. The cops, perhaps concerned that she might suffer heat stroke behind the car’s windscreen, were in the process of waking her up through the medium of Christmas songs. They were being civil-minded but also playing a joke: when the woman woke up, she would disorientatedly think she had slept until December.
Even to a curmudgeon like me who hates all acts of merriment or human happiness, this was pretty funny. I watched on for a while and enjoyed seeing the expression on the dozing passenger’s face as she awoke to this slightly bizarre spectacle.
I wondered for half a second where the cops could possibly have found sleigh bells at such short notice. The park is always full of creative buskers though so maybe the cops had formed an alliance with one of these musicians and borrowed the sleigh bells to complete the charade.
It was a quite brilliant and lovely scene. The policemen of England might be savage and humourless meat-heads but it became clear to me that their Canadian counterparts were not so bad.
We set down our beach towel and settled down for an afternoon in the sunshine. No more than ten minutes had passed when the chorus of Jingle Bells once again picked up from the location of the three policemen. Strange.
Ten minutes later it happened again. And again. And again. What the fuck was going on?
It soon became apparent that my impression of cops waking a sleeping woman in a jovial fashion was to overestimate the value of their joke. They hadn’t been trying to wake the woman in the car.
This had not been a spontaneous or well-meaning prank. The cops had been in the park all afternoon on some slack duty and had decided somewhere along the way that Christmas caroling in the 30°C sunshine would be amusing enough a joke to perform repeatedly in public. Drunk from the attention that the public (sadly including myself) had been giving them, this would continue ad-nauseum until the sun went down.
Or possibly until it went Nova and destroyed all life on the Earth.
But what about the sleigh bells with which one of the officers had been keeping festive rhythm? God, the bells were the damning evidence of a further level of preparation. They hadn’t quick-wittedly borrowed them from a busker at all. One of the cops must have planned this in advance and brought the bloody things along with him from home.
Not only was this not a spontaneous act of impromptu wit, it wasn’t even something they’d connived suddenly by way of passing the time. It had been planned at least a day previously. Perhaps it is an annual tradition they have. Perhaps they do this every day.
Comedy should really be left in the hands of experts. It’s a dangerous commodity and shouldn’t be tossed around by just anyone. In fact, I’d be willing to volunteer for some sort of comedy police force who go around arresting people who dare to make poor, dim-witted or laboured jokes in public.
The Plain People of Cyberspace: “Ah, but don’t you see that by being a humourist dabbling in the policing business, you’re committing the same sin as the cops were but the other way around?”