On the Road
How we cite our quotes:
The cop who had been an Alcatraz guard was potbellied and about sixty, retired but unable to keep away from the atmospheres that had nourished his dry soul all his life. Every night he drove to work in his ‘35 Ford, punched the clock exactly on time, and sat down at the rolltop desk. He labored painfully over the simple form we all had to fill out every night - rounds, time, what happened, and so on. Then he leaned back and told stories. "You should have been here about two months ago when me and Sledge" (that was another cop, a youngster who wanted to be a Texas Ranger and had to be satisfied with his present lot) "arrested a drunk in Barrack G. Boy, you should have seen the blood fly. I’ll take you over there tonight and show you the stains on the wall. We had him bouncing from one wall to another. First Sledge hit him, and then me, and then he subsided andwent quietly. That fellow swore to kill us when he got out of jail - got thirty days. Here it is sixty days, and he ain’t showed up." And this was the big point of the story. They’d put such a fear in him that he was too yellow to come back and try to kill them.
The old cop went on, sweetly reminiscing about the horrors of Alcatraz. "We used to march ‘em like an Army platoon to breakfast. Wasn’t one man out of step. Everything went like clockwork. You should have seen it. I was a guard there for twenty-two years. Never had any trouble. Those boys knew we meant business. A lot of fellows get soft guarding prisoners, and they’re the ones that usually get in trouble. Now you take you - from what I’ve been observing about you, you seem to me a little bit too leenent with the men." He raised his pipe and looked at me sharp. "They take advantage of that, you know.»"
I knew that. I told him I wasn’t cut out to be a cop.
"Yes, but that’s the job that you applied for. Now you got to make up your mind one way or the other, or you’ll never get anywhere. It’s your duty. You’re sworn in. You can’t compromise with things like this. Law and order’s got to be kept."(I.11.37-I.11.40)
Police are portrayed in the most negative light possible in On the Road.
"I told some boys in there to keep quiet and they’re still making noise. I told them twice. I always give a man two chances. Not three. You come with me and I’m going back there and arrest them."
"Well, let me give them a third chance," I said. "I’ll talk to them."
"No, sir, I never gave a man more than two chances." I sighed. Here we go. We went to the offending room, and Sledge opened the door and told everybody to file out. It was embarrassing. Every single one of us was blushing. This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do. So what if a bunch of men talk in loud voices and drink the night? But Sledge wanted to prove something. He made sure to bring me along in case they jumped him. They might have. They were all brothers, all from Alabama. We strolled back to the station, Sledge in front and me in back. (I.11.43-I.11.45)
Sal’s empathetic nature emerges when he becomes a guard; he sympathizes with the plight of the drunken men, just as he later refuses to pass judgment on Dean.
But Remi Boncœur and I were on duty alone many a night, and that’s when everything jumped. We made our first round of the evening in a leisurely way, Remi trying all the doors to see if they were locked and hoping to find one unlocked. He’d say, "For years I’ve an idea to develop a dog into a super thief who’d go into these guys’ rooms and take dollars out of their pockets. I’d train him to take nothing but green money; I’d make him smell it all day long. If there was any humanly possible way, I’d train him to take only twenties." (I.11.50).
Remi’s criminality is what gets Sal thinking about theft. Why not Dean’s?