Last week's Twitter IPO made a few people a lot of money, and made many more people wonder: What is that thing, anyway? Who tweets? Why should I care?

Well, you stumble across people who have lives far removed from your own. You're sitting at home on the sofa, paging through tweets, and there's an update from an L.A.P.D. cop who sends out amusing observations as he prowls the streets of Los Angeles. Then one day you notice that the cop — "Phil the Thrill," as he has called himself — now goes by "Phil the Civilian." You check his bio, and hold on: He just moved to St. Paul.

Welcome to winter, Phil Aldridge. How's it going?

"I'm enjoying it. The weather never changes in California; it's a climatological purgatory. I got to drive through a snowstorm …"

Ahem. That was not a snowstorm.

"Well, not a storm to you guys," he laughs. "I feel like I had more control in a police car with my gun and ballistic vest, and I can call for help. But when I can barely see and can't tell where the lanes are, it's a little nerve-racking.

"But I enjoyed it. I love driving over the Mississippi and seeing it change. It looks different every time."

Except, of course, no surfers. A Californian might miss that. What was the hardest part of the job, the part he might not miss?

"The child abuse calls. I never forget any of those. I've had to take some very young people into the hospital, and it's pretty traumatic for everyone involved. I was driving on my last day of work and went to places where I watched someone die in front of me — I've probably seen about 10 people die — they were living when I got there and stopped while I was there."

But the job had its lighter moments, too?

"One time we were in foot pursuit of a gang member, and he had a gun in his waistband. He throws it away and it hits the ground and fires. He thought we were shooting and stopped. Put his hands up and got down on his knees."

Did the job make it hard to trust people? Because, you know, we're a trusting sort of people up here.

He laughs. "A car got stolen or someone did a hit-and-run on their car, and I'm asking questions, and they say, 'What car?' " — as if suddenly they know nothing about it, at least in the presence of a cop. "It's your car. I'm trying to help you. It does make me study people a lot harder."

Phil says the vibe here is friendly, and people want you to feel like you're part of the community. "The guy at the dry cleaner called me by name," he says with slight amazement.

Come the long, hard winter, he'll work on his hobbies — fiction and music composition — and he is working for a company that does private drug screenings and other behavioral checks.

He'll also prepare for a wedding, which is the reason "Phil the Thrill" moved here. "My fiancée had no interest in moving to California, and I had many reasons for leaving. We met on Twitter, believe it or not."

And people wonder why it's worth $31 billion.

James Lileks