Jail

Hey! YOU!!

Groggily I turned my head toward a squad car, parked adjacent to the barrier of the beach parking lot. Inside, a beefy patrolman with a head of hair like a hedgehog beckoned imperiously, his Rod Steiger sun glasses reflecting the sun directly into my eyes.....hmm. Maybe I should backtrack so the reader is not quite so bewildered as I was.


I had worked ten days straight at Bill Morton’s new seafood restaurant, Crustacean’s, on the inter-coastal, and I was exhausted. My plans for today were to do nothing at all: a mere state of being. Who was it that said “What a wonderful thing it is to have nothing to do, and all day to do it in.”? Sounds like Twain. And it probably is. Well - Carson, my roommate Scott’s friend who was visiting from Michigan, wanted to search for a present for Scott’s impending birthday. I suggested no vacancy signs for the roach motels, but nothing strenuous.


Upon awakening, my first move is to check the surf, habitually accompanied  by Scott’s labrador retriever, Rama - a Hindu reference, rather than the prefix to Lama Ding Dong. Even a Barbie doll would have scoffed at the tiny Atlantic on this day. Maybe I’d take a nap.


OK - that synopsis more or less brings us up to speed.


I sauntered up the the cop car, radiating innocence. “Yessir? Is something wrong?


Ignoring my question, he interrogated me. “What’s your name?” (Cal, I responded.) “Where do you live?” (I pointed to the house. Right there.) “What’s the address?” (I told him.) And - the clincher: “Why isn’t your dog on a leash?


Attempting unsuccessfully not to impersonate Inspector Clouseau, I replied “It’s not my dug.” He began writing in his citation book, and I choked back an expletive as he tore it out and handed it to me. “Yoik,” I remarked as I walked away. Several of my co-workers hailed from New Jersey, and this was a pejorative term they bandied about. The meaning was never explained, but I would guess it is a less than complimentary reference to people from New York. I guessed correctly - fortunately - the officer would be unable to interpret this.


His response confirmed. “What did you say?” he barked accusingly.


Emboldened, I repeated “Yoik,” without inflection, half expecting his eyes to roll up in his head, searching for an additional ticket-able transgression. He drove away, staring at me in his rear view mirror, and I walked back to the house. Disgusted, I balled up the ticket and sunk it for two points in the wastebasket, and flushed the incident.


And worked another ten days straight, obliterating any residual concept I may have had concerning the term weekend. Adhering to my routine on my next day off, I checked the nonexistent surf and grabbed breakfast at Silvers. Returning home, I found another of my myriad roommates - Dave McGuinn - having his morning beer in the living room. He glanced impishly at me and nodded. “A cop came by, looking for you. Said if you don’t go down to the station and sign a release form they’re gonna arrest you.


Throwing my hands skyward in supplication, I yelled at the veiling “What do I have to do to get a day off?” No answer was forthcoming, so I stormed into my baby blue, rusted out VW. In five minutes I was at the police station, miraculously without an additional ticket.


The voluminous woman behind the desk eyed me with flat indifference. When told I needed to sign a release, she motioned vaguely at a row of chairs against one wall. Easily the least comfortable chair I have ever experienced - left over from high school gymnasiums or concentration camps, perhaps. I leafed idly through a magazine till I saw the officer come through the front door. He exchanged glances with the woman at the desk, they glanced at me, and he strode to my chair.


I began to rise to shake his hand - an obsequious move which proved to be unnecessary. He pulled me bodily to my feet, whipped me around, slammed me against the wall and frisked me, and propelled me down a short corridor where I was fingerprinted for the first time. Since Boy Scouts. Then down a longer hallway to my first - and hopefully last and only - jail cell. I was stopped at the entrance and asked to remove my belt, to which I complied in a puzzled manner. “Why the belt?” I asked.


We don’t want any hangings,” was the terse reply.


Unexpectedly - for me, anyway - I began to laugh, visions of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree dancing in the remains of my brain. The thought that I might hang myself for being followed to the beach by my roommate’s dog was just too silly to take seriously. Still giggling, I lay down on a cot so thoughtfully provided. I have an ability to fall asleep unaffected by caffeine, stimulants or industrial narcotics, at any time or place. So several hours later I was awakened by two officers who trundled me into a paddy wagon and took me to downtown Jacksonville, where the serious criminals are apparently corralled.


I was again fingerprinted, had my big photographic opportunity, and was led to a large, circular room - holding tank, I would bet it’s called - with a mosaic tiled floor sloping to a centrally located drain. I flashed immediately to the purpose this could fulfill, sat down in what I knew was honest bewilderment, and gazed at my surroundings. A bearded fellow in his late thirties shambled over and proffered his hand.


Hey, man. I’m Rick, just in from Cleveland. They picked me up down at the bus station.” He examined me. “Wattaya in for?


Again, I started to laugh. This poor guy has been in town for a few hours, and he’s already in jail. What am I gonna do? Tell him my roommate’s dog followed me down to the beach? The truth was clearly out of the question, so - jaywalking? Hardly an improvement. “Public drunkenness” won the debate, which removed me from the cartoon category I truly inhabited. “And assaulting a nun,” I fortunately did not add. Rick regaled me with tales from the other side of the cage, as he called it, and it began to dawn on me I was not made of adequate material for a life of crime.


Eventually my roommates arrived in what must be termed a small mob. I was released on my own recognizance, just when I was hoping for anonymity. Out in the office, lobby, pound - whatever it’s called - I was reunited with my roomies. “Come on,” said Dave as he opened the door. “Let’s go get a beer. Oh - by the way - your mother is in town. I put her in the extra bedroom.


I shook my head. It was gonna be a long epic.


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Ten days later, immensely uncomfortable in slacks and a tie - and shoes, not slaps but shoes - I made my appearance before a judge. I knew he would use my first name, by which I have never been called, so I had to stay reasonably alert and respond. The judge read the charges aloud, snorting in amusement or disgust midway through. and fixed me in his gaze. He gave a long dissertation, very Ward Cleaverish, concerning the gravity of ignoring a city citation of any description. He finished, or quit speaking, and regarded me sternly. “Do you understand the seriousness of this?” he enquired.


Yes sir,” I replied. “This has not been a rewarding experience.” I was dismissed, the case dropped, and the learned lesson evaporated before I turned the key in my VW. I pulled in front of the Animal House and bounded up the stairs to my room, two at a time, shedding clothes like a Siberian Husky sheds hair in Florida. Grabbing my baggies and a shirt, I slid back down the stairs and threw a tee shirt at Dave, finishing his mid afternoon beer.


C’mon. Let’s go to Pete’s and get a lobe tan.”  










 
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