Not all of my memories about the Metaline Falls Station of the Border Patrol are good...Eric Torres was on my shift and holy cow, if he hadn't have been Hispanic, I'm sure they would have fired him...


 

“Wisdom is created by promotion and once ignorant gibberish is morphed into respectable genius.”

About a year after opening the station in Metaline Falls, Manny, our Patrol Agent in Charge, advised we were getting a new troop, Eric Torres, whom he had worked with on the Southern Border.  I can’t remember exactly how he put it but Manny stressed that Eric was a great guy and a hard worker even if he was a bit quirky.

Eric arrived at our station without much fanfare.  Eric, a broad shouldered, barrel chested man in his early thirties, probably at or over 300 pounds who was possessed in his pursuit to transform the fat to muscle.  We all waited for the quirky part.

As time has a tendency to do, it quickly passed and a few weeks later I was at coffee with a few other agents and I heard them referring to the Gay Robot from Outer space.  Of course this perked my attention because I didn’t know who they were referring to.  I was soon enlightened that it was Eric to which they referred.  Obviously they had discovered the quirky.

At first Eric was alright and everyone seemed to like him and get along well with him.  But he didn’t take chiding too well. During his first winter, he decided to drive up Slate Creek which was covered with a foot or so of snow.  He made it about a half mile before getting hopelessly stuck. 

Three of us were able to get him unstuck but he was offended when the guys, myself included, wondered aloud what made him think he could drive up Slate Creek in the middle of winter.  His comment was that he was from California and hadn’t had any experience in the snow.  No big deal as we all get stuck once or five times(me!)

Eric’s persona was soon known by all.  Black and white and laser-focused on his workouts.  The addition of ‘roid-rage and inadaptability soon were added to his list of traits.

Snow and Eric didn’t seem to like each other much.  Another Agent went snowmobiling with Eric and described the event as a total nightmare-as Eric continued to get stuck and his anger continued to escalate.  As the months passed, no one doubted the story of Eric’s anger getting out of control.

Back to the beginning though-Eric was Manny’s boy.  And just as Don and Justin and Jason found out, if you were in the bad light of Manny, you could do no right but if you were in his graces you could do no wrong….Eric was in his graces….

I was Eric’s direct supervisor on evenings.  One of the Original 12 Agents, Jimmy Frackelton, often was working on collateral duties at the station.  I had no problem with this but Manny disliked Jimmy and therefore would tell me to keep Jimmy in the field.  Okay…what’s good for one is good for all-well not always.

Eric had a tendency not to leave the office for most of the night….

We had a policy that allowed agents to work out for three hours a week.  Well, Eric being Laser-focused on exercise would spend a good hour before his workout prepping(which consisted of having a timer set at regular intervals so that he would know when to hydrate (no I am not making this up), a lonnnngggg hour working out and then a good hour cooling down after the workout.  He seemed to do this about five days out of a five day workweek.   

 It was truly comical and many of the other agents found some humor in it.  They were allowed to only work out three times a week for an hour, they didn’t abuse the system even though there was a precedent being set.

As I said, I was Eric’s direct supervisor and thinking that Manny didn’t like Jimmy or others staying around the office would equate to Manny not liking Eric staying around the office.  So I informed Eric he should stay out of the office more and visit the border….

Poor assumption on my part.

Eric seemed more annoyed than anything at my recommendations.  He succinctly advised me that Manny was aware of his activities.

I advised Manny, who flat out agreed that Eric was doing his bidding.  I felt bad for Jimmy cause his work was just as important yet Manny constantly reminded me to get him out of the office.  

This wouldn’t be the last time I tried to persuade Eric to go out and patrol.  One time a few weeks or possibly months later, the guys were irritated that Eric didn’t know the border at all(it took only a few days to know it fairly well and Eric was there for years and still didn’t even know the major roads) and one openly stated ‘why should he have to get out of the office while Eric was always there.’

Again I went to Manny and again I was shut down.  I guess I was just supposed to humor Eric.

Eric soon garnered a reputation as Manny’s boy.  “Do as I say not as Eric does” should have been our motto.

As Eric's workouts progressed his temper began to get out of control. 

We all began to believe that he had Steroid-rage.  Most of us doubted that he actually used steroids but it would explain a lot!

He would often sit at a desk in front of his computer and yell at it…no, not kidding here at all!  He would then get angrier and angrier often culminating in him slamming his fist onto the desk or slamming the keyboard down.    He even had one of these episodes at the Port of Entry and Cassandra told me he scared both of the other CBP employees.

Our uniform contractor was a large corporation that supplied $800 worth of uniforms for each of the 15,000 plus Border Patrol Agents(now more than 21,000).  Not a small corporation and well wired into the Washington DC Border Patrol management. 

Eric didn’t take not getting prompt answers or putting up with “stupid” people very well.  His rage one day was targeted over the phone at a customer service representative of the uniform company.  m.  I remember the day fairly well because I was sure that consequences were inbound! 

Eric’s tirade at the customer service representatives ended up with them being so upset that they called the Border Patrol in Washington DC who called our management in Spokane who called us….mm.  Eric was NEVER to CALL the uniform company again!  No ifs, ands, or buts.  If he had a problem with a uniform he was to have his supervisor call. 

I was sure that dire consequences were coming his way now.  If this was Don or Justin or Jimmy, I would expect a severe suspension would be in the works and my work would be cut out just trying to keep them from getting fired. 

But no, Manny and HIS guardian angel, Assistant Chief Rudy Miranda, just laughed it off.  It was just Eric.

Eric would make plans on his calendar for weeks ahead of time-sometimes months and if things changed, it wasn’t a good thing.

Once Eric volunteered for a detail to Oroville for thirty days with a thirty day extension.  It was nice not having him around.  And it made him happy.   Twenty five days into the first thirty day detail, Spokane Sector changed their plans and decided to not extend Eric’s second thirty day detail and instead replace him with a horse patrol agent. 

Manny advised I contact Eric by phone and tell him of the changes.  No big deal, I was sure he would be tired of the detail anyhow.  Again I was wrong.

I remember our conversation almost verbatim. 

Me:  “Hey Eric, Spokane has decided to bring you home after the first thirty days and replace you with one of the horse patrol guys.”

Eric: “Why?”

Me: “I don’t know.  It’s sector, they didn’t ask for our opinion.  But anyhow, you’ll need to come back next week.”

Eric: “No!”

Me: “It’s not up to us.  Sector is cutting your detail.”

Eric: “This is bullshit!”

Me:  Yeah, I know but what can we do.  You have a few more days there at least.

Eric: No!

Click!

Me: Did he just hang up on me?  

I called him back. 

Me: Eric, did you just hang up on me?  Look. We don’t have a choice.  The second thirty days is cut for you.

Eric: Click.

I didn’t try to call him back but passed on the fit to Manny.  Manny just laughed and said He would talk with Eric.  

Eric’s temper didn’t ease much over time.  We began taking classes to become EMTs through the local fire district.  Eric was one of five of us who volunteered to take these classes. 

Scott Doughty was the Paramedic who taught the classes and Scott has a good if not warped sense of humor.  One day, Eric couldn’t find his keys(which happened way more often than any of us could imagine) and as his anger built, he began throwing things out of his government ride to the ground looking for them.  Oh, did I say that he was a bit of a packrat?  Well his ride was full of stuff and soon it was littering the parking lot. 

We, being slightly smarter than a mushroom, departed without Eric.   He soon found his keys and after reloading all of his crap into his G Ride, he joined us at the Fire Hall.  Except he forgot to allow his temper to dissipate and came into the group in a sour mood.  Scott joked with him but it didn’t go over well.  He commented later that Eric’s anger scared him.  m.

And so this cycle continued unabated by myself or by Manny who actually had the ability to control Eric. 

Eric did have his positive side, I must admit.  He was good to better at training and developed several training exercises for us to do which impressed the upper management.  Except his training collided with the Original 12’s modus operandi….in that we had always went to breakfast on training days.  It was no big deal but a bit of a ritual. 

Eric didn’t believe in coffee as I assume he thought it was a waste of time.  So, me being close to retirement and being completely astounded that Eric got away with what he did, I would lead the pack to Cathy’s for breakfast.  This bothered Eric as he was in charge on training days and he honestly complained that I was hurting his credibility by taking the guys to breakfast.  -had he forgotten about hanging up on me; about getting banned from the uniform company; about embarrassing everyone with his temper tantrums….


 

A supervisor slot opened up and Shannon Clift and I along with Manny worked on the possibilities.  Of course Eric had put in for it but I assured the worried onlookers that he had no chance what-so-ever of becoming a supervisor as Manny had informed us that he had put himself out of the running. 

After hours of debate over who should be the next supervisor, we took a break and I walked over to the Metaline Mini Mart to buy a coke.  When I came back, Manny called me into the office.  Shannon and I both were pushing for Don Cole while Manny was kind of pushing for Barry(another one of Manny’s pets-but that is another story in itself!)

Manny looked over at Shannon and I and said, “I talked with Rudy(Miranda) and he doesn’t want Cole.  But he told me to call Eric and see if I could talk him into being the next supervisor….”

I about fell out of my chair.  Honestly.  I couldn’t imagine this happening.  Not ever.  Nothing could be that absurd.  But it was.  Eric had reluctantly accepted, according to Manny, and was the new supervisor.  Great.

Eric’s supervisory soon collided with outspoken Justin Fox...I guess Justin didn’t get the word that once Eric became a supervisor, his word was like that of God….So Justin argued with Eric about some small item and being at least as smart and fairly articulate, he didn’t acquiesce to Eric. 

The next thing I knew, Justin was in the Negative Laser Focus of Manny.   About his shoes no less.  Justin wore a brand of slip ons called “crocs” to work and upon arrival would switch to his boots.  No big deal.  But it was the first of many items to be used against Justin.  Manny decided he didn’t like Justin and again, incorrectly, thought he was a poor agent.  I had to sit there and argue till I was pissed that he was just like Don Cole, a good, competent agent.  Of course my opinion meant nothing to Manny while Eric’s meant the world. 


 

 

 


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