Lose Your License – Sweat Some Toxins
by Andrew Sorenson
Thursday 11:26 am
So I was at work and having another one of those bad days.
I was sitting in my car at the mall parking lot and noticed a Circle K gas station several hundred meters away. The clientele at this particular store was impoverished, so I immediately became very doubtful of any opportunity at a profitable week. Unfortunately, I decided to walk over and buy two cocktails in a can (8% ABV) to waste the work day sitting in my car to catch a buzz, chain smoke, and listen to music. What boggles me to this day is how all of this completely defies my natural work ethic – that I would knock off at three-thirty in the afternoon without a single sale under my belt and just give up and drive home, but for some reason – that's what I did. Alcohol brings on a whole lotta irrational behavior – work productivity included to this ever growing dirty laundry list.
About three miles or so from home, I pulled onto the exit ramp and bumped a sheriff's patrol car in the left turning lane. No structural damage of any kind – sort of like those gentle bumper taps you give to one of your buddies after burgers in your hometown on Main St. Just another harmless practical joke. Right? But this wasn't your buddy unless you were also being robbed at gunpoint. This ladies and gentlemen, was your local sheriff, and I was the time clock. He inched his way slowly to my car with this half-smile/grimace on his face – right out of a canceled cop sitcom. I knew he'd be calling for back up within twenty seconds or less. When the state trooper arrived I was given the standard one-foot-in-front-of-the-other field sobriety test that I failed miserably. Handcuffed and put in the cruiser, I can still see the red bruises they had left even as I write this.
“They're not supposed to be comfortable,” said the trooper. “Do you need me to have your car towed?”
“I didn't see any other viable option, so I said yes. It was a fifteen-minute drive to the county jail.
Thursday 6:32 pm
Intake took my phone and keys and sealed them up airtight in an industrial strength plastic bag as I was taken to a private room by the trooper who had me arrested. I blew a .18, but answered all his questions in a courteous, coherent, and some might say even professional manner. He told me he appreciated the cooperation.
Shortly thereafter, another guard rounded up about the eight or so of us – those of us who couldn't get a hold of a sober family member or friend to bond us out. So off to the next granite box. Everyone was asked to strip down to their underwear and given the standard orange jumpsuits. One by one they called us to the counter. I sat quietly waiting for my name to be called. I started some small talk with a scrawny Latino guy in his forties and asked him what he was in for. He didn't say but a few phrases. It sounded like domestic abuse.
When I'm in a strange and uncomfortable situation, my brain moves like sonar to find the humor, or even trivialize the gravity of the situation if I'm pushed to the brink of despair. Still in disbelief that this was happening to me, I turned to the Latino guy and said, “You know what I do when shit like this goes down?”
“No? What?” he asked.
“I write about it. Good thing I'm a writer. I should be pissed, but I choose to be observant. Hmph...The life and times of Robert Downey Jr. In all seriousness...this would be a great “waiting in line exhibit” at Universal Studios Theme Park... really get the full experience before you board Iron Man: The Ride.” A few inmates chuckled. Sadly the guards didn't find any of it funny. They put me in a private holding cell for ten minutes.
Thursday 7:05 pm
After everyone was dressed, and all personal clothing was turned over to the clerk, we were led down the cold granite hallway to our respective pod and personal cell. This is infinitely worse than being led to your room in the psyche ward. If you have the mental fortitude, getting out of those places are about as difficult as the original Zelda on NES. This is not the case in jail unless you have a silver-tongued attorney at your every beck and call.
We were all now lined up in front of our prescribed cell number and then instructed to enter them immediately after role call. The cell was smaller than an entry level walk in closet, and touching both sides simultaneously was all too easy. A tiny twin size bed was welded to the wall with a painfully thin plastic mattress, two linen sheets, some jail safe toiletries, and a plastic stool for reading or feeling remorse I assume. I'm fairly claustrophobic, so it was a relief I had freedom to use the restroom or get a drink of water from the common area and be able to stretch for a minute.
Friday 4:30 am
Breakfast was served – and what a spread it was! The guard on duty made everyone stand in front of our cell door to wait for our name to be called and retrieve our tray of deliciosity. The main course this morning was referred to as a substance called oatmeal, but it tasted like and adhesive we used in 2nd grade to construct paper mache molds in art class. We also indulged in Sahara Rocks and a 4oz bag of orange juice with no corners. I never considered Hi-C juice boxes a deadly weapon until that moment. I carried some quiet conversation with a couple of the inmates since much wasn't being eaten. One of the guys was a twenty-two-year-old Xanax head – an addiction that drove him to a life of felonious crime.
“I fucked up man,” the kid whispered. “I don't know what I was thinking. Did too many bars – straight peepin' through cars.”
“And what do you do for work?” I asked.
“I'm a cook at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I'm stuck here for at least another two weeks. It sucks, cause I was about to get promoted to management.”
Lunch was served promptly at 11:00 am. This banquet was comprised of one thin slice of warmed and discolored bologna, atop potato's au vomit, and one fresh apple for desert – imported from the Holiday Inn Express lobby across the street. Surprisingly, I was able to get a few winks in before the video arraignment that afternoon.
Friday 1:02 PM
We were then all lined up once again like cattle for the slaughterhouse and taken to a room for our tag-team judge/magistrate video trial. “Do you have legal counsel?” “Any questions about your pending case?” and other questions like these were asked along with information regarding the date and time of each inmate's court hearing. One right after the other, we all took turns sitting in front of that monitor with a “The Price Is Right” microphone extending from the top of the monitor to your chair. “Yes Your Honor” was the phrase of the hour, and the process went quicker than I had originally anticipated. When it was my turn, I was told I would be released on a $2000 unsecured bond. So I did feel a sense of relief after speaking with some of the other inmates who informed me I would be free to leave at some point after dinner.
Friday 4:45 PM
Jail dinners. I've never been able to understand why most jails, rehabs, and institutions serve meals an hour or more before the typical American meal times, but I'm sure there has to be some bureaucratic reasoning behind it somewhere. But nauseating food, just like the steel handcuffs that cut and bruise your wrists are all a part of the so-called rehabilitation process that changes inmates into model citizens upon their release. It's pure negative reinforcement in every sense of the word. It's the criminal justice system's way of saying, “Hey – I know you're a convict. At this point, no company in their corporate right mind will ever hire you till the day you die, but this wheel needs to keep turning, and you're fully aware that even semi-palatable food will only prompt you to do something stupid while you're under incarceration just so you can take up permanent residency.
Saturday 1:53 AM
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK on my cell door.
I leaped out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I knew my discharge paperwork had been completed and they were about to turn me loose to the public very soon. I was returned the clothes I came in with, along with my keys and phone. I dressed in a tiny stall and was released in a matter of minutes. There were several people sitting in the courtyard, and I asked a young woman for a cigarette. I smoked half and put the other half behind my ear for the trek home. Pulling the phone out of my pocket, I realized that I now had a completely dead battery. Fortunately, I knew my way around town. The trooper had written the name of the 24-hour towing company on a yellow sticky note along with the address to where my car had been impounded. I assumed my money clip and laptop were left in the passenger seat, but I wasn't 100% sure. Realizing it would be a seven-mile walk home, I started to move pretty quickly. Quality exercise would be the evening's silver lining.
Saturday 4:18 am
When I finally made it home, my shirt was completely drenched in sweat. I plugged my phone into its charger and gathered some suspicion about a few text messages that I had apparently made minutes before my arrest. After drinking what seemed like a gallon of water, I put on a mindless Adam Sandler flick, and had no problem falling fast asleep.
Saturday 8:03 am
When I woke up, I immediately contacted my co-worker. Obviously, he had been wondering why and how I had gone M.I.A., and I did my best to explain the situation as truthfully as possible. He told me he'd call the owner of the company and discuss the issue on my behalf, but being that it was the weekend, I wasn't expecting a response any time soon. Once we hung up, I called the towing company and a very genial southern belle on the other end said if I could make it down before midnight, I'd only have to pay $235 to get my car out of impound.
“Do you have someone you can call to get you over here?” she asked.
“No,” I laughed. “No one that I WANT to call.”
“I hear ya. Well, why don't you catch an Uber on over?”
“My debit card is in the car.”
“Take the bus. It's only a few bucks.”
“I never carry cash,” I said, “and none of my roommates are home. Listen, I'll just walk. It'll only take me two to three hours tops. My phone has GPS,” I assured her.
“OK sweetie... you be careful now.”
I hopped in the shower and got dressed. I packed about twenty-five cigarette tubes with OHM pipe tobacco on my Top-O-Matic and slowly limped downstairs. I was out of coffee, so that was also agitating. Still, I forced my rubber legs to take me to the towing company, to backtrack those same seven miles, as the business was only several blocks from the jail. By the second mile, I was soaked in sweat all over again. While walking through the ghetto, a black guy in his early fifties approached me from across the street.
“This the way uptown?” he asked.
“You bet,” I said motioning to the skyscrapers on the horizon. “That where you're headed? What part?”
“UP-town,” he said smiling, taking a gulp from his one-liter bottle of Lipton green tea.
“Well I could use some traveling company – that's where I'm headed.”
About a minute later he found a nice size Pall Mall butt on the curb. Clearly he was a veteran at homelessness, but strangely enough, I was the one doing all the complaining. I could personally relate to his plight.
“Here,” I said handing him two smokes.
“Preciate cha',” he said. “Look like you needing a sip now.”
“Sure do,” I said taking the bottle. “There ain't any alcohol in here is there?”
The bottle had been in the freezer overnight, so that first swig was nothing short of arctic euphoria.
“Drink up man,” he laughed.
“Thanks again,” I said handing the bottle back. “You from around here?”
Come to find out, he was a convicted felon. I didn't ask what for – wanting to keep our conversation as light, topical, and innocent as a greyhound bus ride to Madison, Wisconsin.
By the time we were a couple of blocks away from Time Warner Arena, we kindly parted ways. I had only two miles left to go, but my thighs and calf muscles were just about shot. I kept telling myself it didn't hurt nearly as much as unemployment without a car. Press on. Feel that burn.
Saturday 12:03 pm
Finally at the towing company, one of the co-workers escorted me to my car to find my money clip. The credit cards were there, but no license. I was prohibited from touching any article while he rummaged around the passenger seat and center console, all the while myself asking the Lord that he not rifle through my duffel bag to uncover my pipe, plastic grinder, and stash of some very decent herb.
“I'm not seeing your registration,” he said going through the glove box.
“Do state troopers confiscate your license and registration card if you get smacked with a DWI?”
“Couldn't tell you. Never had one before.”
Back in the very air-conditioned office, I joked around with the southern belle I had spoken with hours before, trying to remain positive and solution oriented as humanly possible.
“Call 311 and find out the name of the trooper who nabbed ya... that's what I'd do,” she laughed.
“Great idea,” I said proceeding to drink what seemed like three gallons of ice cold water from the fountain in the corner, right next to a machine that contained all the free popcorn you could eat. Then I took a seat with pad, pen, and droid and mazed around in a litany of voice prompts and bar room instrumental rock 'n roll tracks while on hold. Zero progress.
“Any photo ID will work. You have anything? Credit card? Library Card?” she asked.
“Nope,” I said, “but what if I could get a photocopy of my license?” I asked her and her co-worker husband.
“At'll work,” he said flipping on the TV. “'Cept it's the weekend. DMV's closed. Good luck with that. What you should try is walking over there to see if they can print something off for you.”
“Worth a shot,” I said, taking another long gulp of water from the fountain. “Be right back,” I said leaving the office.
The last mile on my raw leg muscles really challenged the day's agenda for the better. The officer at the police station couldn't print me anything, but he directed me to the official sheriff's arrest website that had my photo, physical description, and offense.
“See if that will work for them,” he said handing me the phone back.
The slow hobble back to the towing company didn't seem all the bad at that moment then. There was not a visible light at the end of this tunnel. They did accept that website photo as ID as well as a two year old state inspection report with my VIN number for proof of registration.
Quite a weekend ending on a positive note – despite the red tape and jumpsuit song and dance in the jailhouse. That was enough for anyone. So calling it a day, I hit the freeway two blocks away from the towing company and drove those seven miles back home.
First Court Date - One Month Later
Monday 7:35 am
Waking up was especially easy this morning. I usually set my snooze bar at one-hour intervals, because I require a longer period of time to wake up than most. I didn't need those extra two hours this morning, though. There would be ample time to get a pack of cigarettes at 7-11, drink a pot of coffee, read the news, meditate, study pertinent documents, shower, laugh at some top ten YouTube videos, consider smoking up but not, lay out my best pressed shirt, tie, belt, and shoes, shine said shoes, check, double check, and triple check the bus schedule on my phone, make and drink another pot of coffee, listen to some music, shave, get completely dressed and nap in a chair twenty minutes or so before catching the bus. You know – wake up.
Monday 12:24 am
I hopped on the bus at the corner that would take about twenty plus minutes to arrive at the main terminal uptown. Sitting quietly off to the side, I surfed the web and quadruple checked some facts on my papers. It was a three minute or so walk to the courthouse, and security was beefed up just like the TSA. The guard found a paring knife in my leather bag that I had forgotten to take out. Good thing I didn't smoke up that morning or a streak of paranoia might have come over me thinking they were going to put me in cuffs again for an attempt on the DA or some other court official. Fortunately, she just confiscated it.
Monday 1:15 pm
The entire judicial squad did make the situation easy going considering numerous speeding tickets, drug charges, and other alcohol-related matters on the docket. All the public defenders stood in line like voters at a ballot box, walking in and out of the courtroom, motioning to their clients one by one for a chit chat out in the hall. As I sat quietly, I realized I was one of the best-dressed defendants in the room. I didn't feel I was over doing it, just dressed appropriately for the day. Alan Owsley, my attorney smiled and waved. I wasn't sure it was him at first because the one photo I could find of him on Google Images made him appear much older. He mouthed the phrase, “just a minute” in silence, walking with the state trooper through that tonsil swallowing back door. Three or so agonizingly slow minutes later they both re-appeared, the trooper sitting in his chair next to the other law enforcement officers smiling with his co-workers like the big game was about to start. Popcorn anyone? The judge was a breath of fresh air. She reminded me instantly of that kind, soft-spoken, middle school algebra teacher who was naturally spunky – bubbly – making math not suck quite so bad at that moment right before the big first quiz of the semester. Five or so minutes later, Alan motioned for me to follow him out in the hall. We shook hands for the first time and took a seat on the bench right outside the courtroom door.
“There are a couple of things in your case that I think can work to your benefit,” said Alan pointing at a few things on my paperwork with a nice ink pen securely fastened to a clipboard. “First off, your keys weren't in the ignition and the sheriff had taken them from you. This means that the keys weren't in the car. I want to try and fight with this. If the sheriff doesn't show up to your next appearance, this will also work in our favor.”
“Well that's good,” I said.
“And when you arrived at jail, you filled out this form, but you didn't check off this box saying entitling you to a call to a sober friend or relative. Were you aware of that?”
“Some of it was confusing.”
“That's something else I wanted to look into, but I'll know more once I'm able to do some research, study the tape from the patrol car, and build our case. The state motioned for a continuance, but the best I could do was two months from now. This is good. The longer we can postpone and kick your case down the road are less points on your license if I can't get this thrown out. It's sort of a roulette wheel, but I've got things I can work with.”
Tuesday 1:15 pm
I wasn't having a bad or frustrating day. I wasn't sad or depressed when it happened – but my own mental trickery combined with a bedrock of unqualified leads for the work day DID get the better of me. Time to stock up. It must've been the first time being carded since my DWI arrest earlier that month, because those Yuengling twenty ouncers, L&M kings, or hot dogs at this particular Shell station were a no go from the check out clerk on duty. Angry for being refused service, having no documentation for proof of age, I regret at LEAST not paying for the hot dogs that in turn, only led me to the ABC next door (and my buddy from India who didn't ask for ID) only to spend $10.35 on two-fifths of Platinum Vodka and $5.47 on a KFC chicken strip meal.
Time to camp out.
Before too long, I was greeted at my car by two patrolling police officers. Was this vagrancy? No. My car is my office just like many other law abiding citizens in this great country. Vagrancy watch must have been on duty that week, because I remember being taken from my car, put in yet another cruiser, and driven to the drunk tank at the jail a half a mile down the street. I was thumb-printed at the station and given a bum's blanket in a holding cell, only to sleep for the next 5 hours.
Tuesday 10:55 pm
“You can make that phone call if you want,” said the officer on duty.
He let me out of my cell only to hand me my citations for public intoxication and an open container in my car. “But you're free to go.”
I almost asked him for a ride back to my car, but changed my mind in a flash.
“I'm good,” I replied. “How far is the mall from here?”
“Bout a half a mile. Left at the first light right,” he pointed. “Just up the road on the left.”
I smiled, took all my belongings, kept smiling and waved as he let me out the front door.
Dead Cell Phone: Part II?
Still no license in tow?
Does bacon ever really turn given it's high sodium content?
I took yet another sweaty walk to my car which was now parked in a different area. Warm bottle of Yuengling? A twenty ouncer?
Still, I smelled a dirty rats nest in this community. Maybe I should be guilty, because here I was walking a similar walk to my car, questioning the sky about why the world seemed to be crashing down on me, down the county road, sweating, comparing apples and oranges cloaked in badges and civil uniforms. What if I really am a raging alcoholic and don't even know it, I thought. I was after all the one rationalizing all my poor decisions. Had my rights been violated? Was this civil justice in action? Why? For what reason? Granted, I am a public figure of sorts – like one of Vonnegut Jr's traveling little sales bunnies or rabbits. I won't deny notions such as those. So am I being held to a higher standard of living than I can handle because of it? I don't feel as though I can answer any of those types questions at this juncture, but I'll shoot for rational any day of the week. Here goes: Hey officer, I'll gladly walk a mile in your boots right now. Isn't banging your head to a thrash metal band at a dingy dive at one in the morning next to a huge cornfield somewhere selling one dollar drafts to teenagers considered public intoxication and disorderly conduct? Wanna give those youngins' a lift home? Have a few words with their folks about morals and ethics? Rough night? OK officer, I thought - we all see what you're up to around here. I was up to no such hostile or aggravated hedonism during this second arrest. Hmph. What I was up to was what most of academia might call The Antithesis of Contemporary Pop Culture Tom Foolery. I mean, if sitting in your car listening to David Foster Wallace podcast/lectures on lobster and cruise ship life, nipping on Vodka, dipping the Grizz, and eating chicken strips is grounds for public drunkenness/O.C./disorderly – or whatever the fuck they charged me with at the time to be considered activity of any sort of civil disobedience, then you know what? Maybe I am in hell. Maybe I have died and went to The Twilight Zone where writer's wrong and wronger's right - or worse yet - some never-ending live Clive Barker prose. Hey, I'm no angel, but I'd like to think I am a functioning member of society with plenty of literary and musical contributions on record. The American system has run amok, and I've been caught in the crossfire somewhere. James L Brooks anyone?
Wednesday 12:03 am
There was a motorcade of police SUV'S lined in a very empty parking lot. Two semi trucks and a couple of sedans scattered throughout. I drove home, and surprisingly, no patrol car followed me. Hey fellas, it's kind of hard for me to help pay your salary if you keep me locked up... isn't it? I wanted to write all of this down when I got home, but this particular run in was still shocked, and not fresh in my head yet, so when I finally made it to my bedroom, I put on a Thomas Wolfe documentary and went to sleep. Being the helpful and generous public servants they are, the arresting officers opted not to steal my drugs or eat any of my KFC. Time served? No sir. Cold chicken tenders and mashed potatoes for breakfast. I hope my attorney is just very busy with other cases and not ignoring my phone calls or e-mails, and remain as such so he can assist me with this 'what am I being charged with again?' onslaught of public violation into some sort of rational, logical sense. And Sooner = Better.