As I sat down to finish the story, The Lovely Steph Leann was headed upstairs to lay that pretty little head to sleep. I mentioned that I had to finish my blog story, which she had not read yet. She asked which story, I told her it was the 2003 arrest, and she rolled her eyes. "I cannot believe you are telling that story." Then she disappeared upstairs.
Back to the story...
The Ford Explorer slowed down as it past the motel parking lot. I watched it turn right onto Highway 31, disappear for a few seconds, then reappear in the shopping center parking lot. I could see in the windows a very confused looking Wookiee behind the wheel, with Mikey and Tom and Shawn with him. The Explorer pulled to the front of the motel, almost looking like they were checking in.
My wrists were a little pained, by the way. Officer Tennessee Titan running back Eddie George had slapped on the handcuffs a little tight, so when Eddie George came back to the car, I asked if he would loosen them a little. I leaned over with my hands out, he obliged, uncuffed and then re-locked them.
Eddie George then turned around to see none other than Deucemate Tom Johnson headed walking towards them. They conversed for a minute or so, apparently with Tom asking permission to take my car back to The Deuce, which was denied, and then asking some questions about my situation... my best guess some years later would be him asking first, "Why is my roommate handcuffed in the back seat of a police car?"
This is different from the question Mikey would have asked, which would be, "Is he going to be deported, and if so, can I get him to sign his rent check real quick?"
Tom came over to the police car, under the watchful eye of Eddie George, looked in the window with a grin and said, "Hey d$." I nodded, "'sup Tom?"
We then chatted for a moment about the weather, about the prospects of Auburn and Alabama this coming fall, the possibility of you know, posting bail and I'm sure Tom made some remark about the soap being dropped and how that was a bad idea.
With Eddie George's permission, Tom was able to go to my car and pull out my debit card. I told Tom to go get about $200 cash out of my account, gave him my pin number, asked him to call Starbucks to let them know I've been delayed (re: detained) and sent him on his way.
About this time, with the fresh smell of bacon in the air, the Vestavia Hill Popo showed up. An old, gruff officer got out, had some words with Eddie George, and just like that, Officer Tennessee Titan running back Eddie George opened the back car door, asked me to step out, and then turned me over to Officer Grumpsalot. Without a word, Officer Grumpsalot opened the back door to his Vestavia Hills Police Cruiser and motioned me inside, which I did with little reaction.
He got behind the wheel, then began the drive up the hill to the Vestavia Hills Police Department. Unlike Eddie George, Officer Grumpsalot didn't say anything. He actually lowered his window about an inch or so, and lit up a smoke. Part of me was bothered by this, because really, I didn't pay a speeding ticket, and had an expired tag... sure that was wrong, and yeah, I need to pay some fines and such, but here I was, sitting in the back of a police car and now the Officer who isn't likely to win any congeniality awards is inhaling a cig, with smoke wafting back to me. There was a cage between us, not glass.
However, another part of me was quite amused by this. I don't feel sorry for anyone in the back of a police car, because whether the punishment fits the crime, the law is what it is, and here's an old school police officer lighting up a Marlboro, and I'm sure if I had said anything about it, he probably would have not only told me where to stick it, whatever "it" might be, he might tell me to go perform bad things on my own accord. So I kept quiet, slowly developing second hand cancer from the ride to the station.
I sighed and half-smiled as we passed Starbucks, the same one that I was supposed to be working at, by now a good 30 minutes. Keep in mind, I'm still wearing my Starbucks hat and my red shirt... and several of the officers frequent this Starbucks. Unfortunately, Eddie George nor Officer Grumpsalot were one of those.
We pulled into the station, he got out, pulled me out and led me inside, through a small lobby and into the booking room. That's right, I said "booking room". I could see the camera set up at the far end, and in the next room, a small counter with a few pads of black ink--fingerprinting. Beyond that, a small doorless entry way leading to what I glimpsed and could only guess to be... jail cells. Two of them, one on each side.
Another man, a tall, heavyset guy who looks like he'd be completely comfortable sitting 1) on a Harley hog and 2) at a buffet, was getting his mugshot taken. Officer Grumpsalot uncuffed me, handed me over to a nice older lady who could have passed for my grandmother, were she not wearing a police uniform and about to take my mug shot. She instructed me to stand in front of the camera, and hold a small black board.
The black board read, in removable tile letters "D-A-V-I-D D-O-L-L-A-R", and had a series of numbers under it. I held it, faced the camera, and it flashed. "Turn to the side, sweetie," she instructed, as if she were offering me a glass of tea to go with my cookies. I turned, held the sign beside me and the camera flashed again.
She led me over to the fingerprinting area, where Philo Beddoe the Biker was standing. She told me to just have a seat until Philo was done. I sat, sighing, leaning back in the chair. Really, I could have been upset... but why? It is what it is. I messed up, I was careless, and I got caught. I honestly found the entire episode more funny than anything else, though I was little worried about missing my shift at Starbucks, and there still was the issue of The Girlfriend Steph Leann, though by now, I had decided to just not tell her.
As I sat, a few of the police officers that I recognized walked in. One, who we called Officer Spill due to his propensity for knocking over drinks on our Starbucks counter (he'd done it twice by this time), saw me, looked bewildered, then smiled. "Well, guess we had better be careful that you don't spit in our drinks, huh?" I smiled back, thinking to myself, "Yep, and you no longer are going to receive quality drinks from my hand."
Remember that scene in "Con Air", when Cyrus the Virus asks Guard Falzon, "Oh, stewardess? Stewardess? What's the in-flight movie today?" and Guard Falzon says,"Well, I think you'll like it, Cyrus. It's called "I'll Never Make Love to a Woman on the Beach Again", and it's preceded by the award-winning short, "No More Steak for Me, Ever". He laughs and walks away, and Cyrus the Virus throws out a fake laugh before saying, "Funny f($**@+, aren't ya?"
I felt like that.
Philo Beddoe was done with his fingerprinting, and the officer led him into the small adjacent room. I heard the groan, followed a few seconds later by the clanging of a jail cell door closing. I was led to the fingerprinting counter, and the older lady with me gently took my left hand, then put my index finger on the ink pad. She rolled it onto the black ink, then moved it over to a large card.
My finger was placed and rolled on a square marked "Left Index". A few seconds later, the square marked "Left Middle" was marred by a black fingerprint, followed by the ring, the pinky, then the thumb.
Philo Beddoe, from inside his cell, called out, "Can I call my brother again?" One of the officers responded, "Yeah, just give me a minute and I'll get you the phone." I asked, "What are you in for?" and Philo Beddoe responded, "Funny thing, really. I got a speeding ticket about five years ago, right before I was moving to Florida. Forgot that I got it. I haven't been back to Birmingham in five years, and I came this weekend to see my parents. Got pulled over for some routine traffic stop, and here I am. What about you?"
"Dude, that sucks. Yeah, kinda the same. Got a ticket I forgot to pay, so here I am."
"Tell you one thing, man. When my brother gets here and gets me out, I ain't never coming back to Birmingham again. That's for dang sure."
I looked at the officer who was finishing up inking and rolling my right hand and asked, "Am I going to be in the jail cell?"
She nodded and said, "Yes."
What was jail like, you ask? Well, all I can say is, the first night's the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing crap they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell, when those bars slam home, that's when you know it's for real. Old life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it. Most new fish come close to madness the first night. Somebody always breaks down crying. Happens every time. The only question is, who's it gonna be? I remember my first night. Seems like a long time ago.
Fortunately for me, The Deuce saved the day. A police officer came in and saw me, red shirt, black Starbucks hat, black inked fingers and nodded. "Your d$, right?" I nodded. "You got an entourage out here."
I followed him out into the main lobby, and there stood Mikey, Shawn, the honorable Rev'rn Ty, Tom, Wookiee and my buddy Demastus, Atty at Law, and as I walked in, the applauded. I nodded my head, smiled, and bowed.
"So, uh... can I get a ride to work?" I asked into the crowd.
The aftermath started by getting my car out of impound, which cost me about $110. I had to pay my fines, which strangely enough wasn't as much as I thought. Because I had such an old speeding ticket, my license was suspended unbeknownst to me. So when I was stopped, it was taken from me, and I was given a "driving with a suspended license" fine, in addition to my expired tag fine, and of course, the cost of the original ticket. However, I paid $155 the night I was sprung from prison, and subsequently, that was it. I called later, and was told that it was now paid up with my previous payment.
To this day, I'm not sure if the $155 I paid was for the tag, the license or the ticket, or maybe it was discounted because I'm a member in good standing of The Deuce, and truly, The Deuce Abides.
Now... The Girlfriend Steph Leann was another story. I went on to work, and caught much ribbing from the fellow baristas about being a convicted felon in their midst. Bummed a ride home, and the next morning, I got a phone call. It was Stephanie.
"Hey baby, how are ya?" she asked.
"I'm great," I responded. I had gone back and forth on whether to tell her or not, and had decided that I would just keep quiet, for now. Perhaps one day, when we were married, sitting on our front porch just covered in grandchildren and saying things like "No!" and "Stop that!", I would pipe up and say, "Hey, let me tell you a funny story about a time before we were engaged."
I never had that chance.
"So how was your night last night? Anything in particular you want to tell me?" she asked. She knew. Somehow, some way, she knew.
"Nothing really. Worked. Came home."
"Well, yeah, that too."
"Yeah, Ty called me last night. I was eating dinner with my parents, and got this phone call, and had to fake it with them like it was nothing. YOU'D BETTER BE GLAD YOU DIDN'T CALL ME, OR I WOULD HAVE LEFT YOUR (@**# A#($** IN JAIL!!!" (she didn't really say curse words or use punctuation in her comments, but it was rather strong). To this day she still contends that she would have left me there. And to this day, I still remember that Rev'rn Ty sold me out.
All these years later, the whole thing still resonates. Sometimes people ask me if I'm rehabilitated. Well, there's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I was in jail, or because you think I should be. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a crap word. So you go on and make your judgements, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a rip.
So there it is. The story that was never told has now been told. Perhaps Mikey, Tom, Wookiee, Shawn-Fu, Ty and The Lovely Steph Leann will remember it differently, but that's how it happened in my mind. Hope you enjoyed my tale of lawlessness, reckless abandon and appreciate the fact I left out the gangster wars and rape from my time in the joint.
Thank you again for reading the blog, and here's to the next 500 posts, to getting to 50,000 hits in the next two years and I'll have you to thank for it all. You guys rock.