It wasn’t long before the realization set in. I felt foolish. I was stupid. I could feel the weight of the handcuffs and of course, I could feel the discomfort of steel tightened and cinched to a tight setting around my wrist.
It wasn’t long before the nerves shook and the fear took hold. I could not show this however, else, it would be obvious that I was afraid and seen as either weak or timid.
Of all places, this was no place for me to appear either of the two. As it was, I had been picked up for a simple foolish mistake.
I was not heading in for any hard crime. No, I was in my pajamas, however, and picked up on a bench warrant after being pulled over with expired registration tags on my car.
I was on my way home from a girl’s house. The idea was really as simple as any. I knew my registration was expired but I took a shot and drove the car anyway. And I nearly made it too. I was blocks away from my Garden City home and cruising confidently down Clinton and about to turn left on Meadow Street.
Moments away from a clean sweep, I saw a police car driving towards me from the opposite direction. I knew that if that saw the color of my registration tag on my windshield, this would mean they would stop me.
I passed them with hopes that the red outdated sticker on my windshield went unnoticed but as soon as we passed each other, I looked up in the rearview mirror and noticed the police car turned around to pursue me.
I turned left before my intended street with hopes to evade them, but to no avail, as I pulled up in front of my home at the early morning hour, which was just before 7:00am, the police car pulled up behind me.
I knew I would have to explain why I was driving with an expired registration. I knew I was about to get a ticket for this and I also knew there was no way I could get around this problem; however, it was early on a Saturday morning in my quiet Long Island town. The automatic lawn sprinklers were chattering on neighboring lawns. The early sun was new to the sky and the sounds of summer took hold of the suburban landscape. I could hear the chatter sound of cicada bugs rattling from the trees.
The streets in my town were wide and the homes were well kept in this mainly white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant part of the world. There were newspapers on the patios of porches and an occasional jogger ran by with headphones over ears, music piped in, and a headband over the forehead to absorb the sweat of a man running towards is best stages of health.
There was wholesomeness to the morning in this town. And then there was me. I was standing in front of my Aunt’s home, which is where I lived at the time. Her’s was the house with a tile in front that advertised my Aunt Sondra’s Masters in Social Work. Ours was a house of help, understanding, caring, and wellness.
Our was a house intended for healing. And then there was me, standing in the early summer morning before two officers of the law, and hoping they would let e slide on this one, which they might have if certain things did not happen.
I expected they would pull me over when the saw me. I expected the ticket and I expected I would try to talk my way out of it, which I almost did. Unfortunately, I did not expect the news that I had a bench warrant on me.
This happens when someone fails to appear in court. And that was me, someone that did not make his appearance in court for a littering ticket four years prior to this very same morning.
I had no recollection of this problem. I had no idea there was a warrant on me. But regardless to whether I knew about this or not, I was about to learn the news in a quick, abrupt fashion.
“Why would you drive the car if you knew your registration was expired for almost a year,” asked one of the two officers.
“To get laid,” I explained.
“To do what,” asked the other officer.
I explained my situation. The girl I was seeing at the time had decided our interactions were unfair to her. She set a deadline for me. If did not go to see her on this night, she would never come over to my house again.
“So, I took a shot,” I explained.
“I was originally supposed to come home last night, but I fell asleep,” I told them.
At this point, officers were laughing at me. We laughed together as if were were friends enjoying an early morning visit.
“Look,” explained one of the officers. “I have to call your license in to make sure it’s clean because I called your plates in over the radio”
“But,” explained the officer. “As long as your license is clean, we’re gonna let you go on this one.”
I entertained the other officer while the first of the two went back to his car to run my driver’s license. He was in the car for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, his partner and I were talking about girls, strippers, hookers, firetrucks and guns. It was shortly after when the officer emerged from the squad car with concerned look of unfortunate curiosity that I knew something was wrong.
The young officer took his hat off and scratched his head with a facial expression that might translate to something like, “This one might sting a little bit.
Both officers were young, black-haired, blue-eyed, Irishmen with names like O’leary and Callahan. They were friendly though and not pushy.
Scratching his head, the officer was about to ask me a few interesting questions.
“I ran your license,” he said.
“Is everything okay,” I asked.
“Not really. Do you remember a ticket you received four years ago for littering at Jones Beach?”
With surprise, I asked, “Four years ago? Officer, to be honest, I have a hard enough time remembering what I did four days ago.”
“Yeah, well, see . . . apparently you received a littering ticket at Jones Beach four years ago,”
“But I just went to motor vehicle and cleared up all my tickets.”
“This would be for a moving violation,” informed the officer.
“This is not a moving violation.”
I asked, “So what does that mean?”
“It means you’re coming with us.”
It was Saturday morning and if I did not get to the courthouse on time, this meant I would have to spend the rest of the weekend in county jail until I could see a judge on Monday morning. I was wearing loose pajama pants and an oversized shirt. I literally looked as though I was taken out of bed.
“Can I go inside and change,” I asked.
“No,” responded the officer.
“Okay, well can we at least go around the block. I don’t want my neighbors seeing you take me away here. My Aunt is an important part of the town.
“We can’t do that,” said the cop.
“But just jump in fast and I will cuff you in the backseat.”
The two officers were good to me. Neither of them wanted to bring me in and one of them kindly reminded me, “Well, at least you got laid.”
He joked, “That’d be a real bitch if you went through all this shit and you didn’t get laid.”
Still though, I was about to go in for something so minimal and stupid. I was about to sit in a cell with people that were in for real reasons. I would be in there with the drunk-tank drunks, puking in the steel toilets and howling about their rights as a citizen. I was going to be in with drug offenders and violent offenders. And me, I was in my pajamas because I got picked up for a bench warrant from a littering ticket I failed to answer.
There was no way for me to look tough. What would this sound like in a conversation after someone told me they were in for a real crime and I had to respond, yeah, I’m here for littering?
I remember walking in. This was not the first time I had been handcuffed and arrested. However, this was certainly the first (and only) time I was taken in for littering.
I walked in and avoided eye contact. I kept to myself. I was trying to avoid conversation and trying to avoid the questions like, “Hey, why are you wearing pajamas?” or, “Hey, what are you in for?”
From the rear, right-hand side of the cell, I heard someone remark, “Kimmel?”
Of all places to know someone, this was not a place I wanted to be popular. He was someone from the old neighborhood and since I always change names to protect the less-than innocent, for this reason, I will call this man Franky.
The first question was the obvious one.
“What the hell are you doing here in your pajamas?” he asked.
And then he wanted to know, “What did they do? Did they come and get you out of bed?”
“I was pulled over,” I explained.
However, my answer caused a doubtful look on my old acquaintance’s face.
“I thought you were out of trouble,” asked Franky.
“I hear you were like, Mr. Squeeky clean now.”
Oddly enough Frank had seen me and a co-defendant years before in a holding cell for a previous arrest where I was facing an assault charge. He knew I had kicked the habit, but there were other habits that I entertained for a while that made me less than innocent.
I told Franky, “They pulled me over and found a bench warrant on me.”
“What was the warrant for,” asked Franky.
“Littering,” Franky questioned. “You expect me to believe they woke you up out of bed and pulled you in here for fucking littering?”
“I just told you they pulled me over,” I said
“Yeah, right.” argued Franky.
Unfortunately, Franky was in for a more serious offense. Apparently Franky was angry and decided to shoot at someone. He missed. And I was never sure exactly what the story was. I just knew that the entire time we waited in the holding cell, Franky kept asking me the same question.
“No, seriously, what did they pull you in here for?”
But there was no convincing him.
I was uncomfortable at best. I was afraid, There was a drunk sitting on the floor in one of the bullpens. He swore, he knew me too.
For those who’ve never heard this term, the bullpen are the cells below the court in Hempstead. One by one, they moved bodies like cattle in groups of several. And bullpen by bullpen, the groups moved closer to the door that lead upstairs to see the judge.
In my group, there was a familiar drunk sitting on the floor, retching into his hound with dry heaves.
“I know you,” growled the old white haired man.
“No, that ain’t me.” I told him
“I’m from Buffalo,” I said, using a line from an Eddie Murphy movie.
The room smelled from body and urine. The noise was a strange thing because it was not overly loud but still, somehow, the sounds from around me were enough to pierce my eardrums.
Everybody asked me why I was in my pajamas. And everybody asked me what I was in for. And no, nobody believed me when I told them I was in for littering.
“Littering,” they laughed.
I was so uncomfortable. I was worried that I would have to stay and that my group would miss the early Saturday morning deadline, which would mean that I would have to go over to county and spend the rest of my weekend, hemmed-up in the county jail.
I swear, you see a lot of things in the bullpens. I have stood before judges in previous dates for different charges that could have come with heavy sentences.
No one believed me or my story. They thought I was picked up on a big charge and I was trying to hide the truth. I was in my Pajamas for Christ’s sake!
No one believed me until I went on front of the judge.
Fortunately, I made it just in time. I walked up the stairs, handcuffed in my group. I awaited my turn and then there I stood before the judge.
Wanna know the first thing the judge said to me after reading the brief file?
With eyebrows folded downward, head cocked to the side, and with a look of disbelief on his face, the old judge asked the same question as everyone else.
“They got you out of bed for littering?”
I told him what happened. I told him why too
Such is the price men pay to feel the warmth of a woman.
What can I say?
I took a shot . . .