Yo dog, you ever get busted….for not filling out a jury questionnaire?
That’s right, mofos, I keep it 100 on the mean streets of Adrian, MI. On the…erm…*checks google maps*…South Side. Yeah buoy. Anyone know how to make an S with their hands?
I was having a pretty good day on Friday. I was wearing my new wrestling shirt. I got a lot of writing stuff done and off my docket. I got a couple of positive emails (no acceptances but a good ad placement for Detroit 2020 and a “your story made it out of our slush pile” email). DOOM came out and it was as good a video-game throwback as I hoped it’d be. I was chopping demons to shreds with a chainsaw when I heard the rat-tat-tat on my door. “Who’s here?” I asked, not taking my head away from DOOM. I deserved to just selfishly play this game, I thought, I did like 3 things today.
My buddy looked out the keyhole. “It’s a cop.”
“I wish I was joking.”
I didn’t stop killing demons. Lord knows why. I guess I was processing the information. There was another knock at the door and my buddy hastily opened it.
“Are you Jeffrey Conolly?” I heard a voice say.
I paused the game and walked to the door while I heard my buddy say (with some relief) no he wasn’t Jeffrey Conolly.
I got to the doorway and my buddy backed away to let me through. He didn’t want to not hear what was happening but also didn’t want to be in the way, so he sort of stood to the side like a kid who hopes no one notices it’s past their bed time and adult conversation is happening. I had no clue what to say to the police officer, so I said, “Hi.”
“Are you Jeffrey Conolly?”
“Are you doing anything on Monday?”
What the fuck kind of question is that? Is he hitting on me? Am I throwing off a gay, into-cops vibe? It must be the wrestling shirt.
“Not that I can think of,” I said.
“Well, there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”
Talk about burying the lead.
“You forgot to fill out a jury questionnaire,” he said.
“A jury questionnaire?”
“Well, it would have been hard for you to fill it out. It was sent to your old apartment address.”
Side Note: We’ve lived at our house for two years.
“I don’t know why the judge is doing this, but I’m supposed to take you in tonight. You’d be in jail all weekend because nothing can be done till Monday. That’s really stupid, so how about you report to the Sheriff’s office Monday morning at 8am? Then we will arrest you and bring you to court.”
I’ve read a lot of accounts of this stuff going down. Also, I’ve had personal conversations with others that have gone through it. The evidence seems to hint that this cop was being overwhelmingly cool. As ridiculous as it seems, it’s not uncommon to get locked up overnight for this. Lame and unjust, but not rare. I’m not sure if it was that it would have been over the weekend that saved me or if the deputy saw all of the kid bikes in my open garage. Regardless, I didn’t spend the weekend in jail. I wish I knew that cops name. I owe him a case of beer.
“I have to take my kids to school on Monday, is it okay if it’s after that?” I managed to ask as he was walking away. My head was just transferring from shock to actually calculating logistics.
“Yeah, that’s fine,” he said and got into his car. I shut the door.
“What happened?” My wife said. She had been reading the kids a bed time story and tucking them in, but came out immediately after. That perfect timing, like all of this, was comically absurd. My friend and I looked at each other and had psychic bro-munication:
Him: Do we tell her or make up a lie so she doesn’t freak?
Me: I don’t know. Do we even have a lie that she’d buy?
Me: The cop car is still in our driveway.
Him: Mormon Police?
“What happened?” she repeated.
We told her. Well, mostly him. I poured a glass and settled back into playing DOOM. It was easier than talking or thinking about the reality of what just happened. Obviously, it could have gone way worse, but I was dealing with stuff in the super healthy way that I deal with stuff. I was drinking whiskey and pretending it didn’t happen. Jameson’s actually. It was delicious.
Adding to the surrealism of the weekend, the next day I experienced a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony. I’ll save that interesting experience for another blog-post or maybe a short story, but know that my wife and in-laws delighted in pointing out every cop on the highway and joking that I should duck as we passed. It was actually pretty funny the first time.
By Sunday, my pretend-it-wasn’t happening plan was starting to unravel. One, as off-the-rails as my substance abuse can get, I hate being not sober in sunlight. It’s like fooling around in public—that is to say, I know it revs other people’s engines but it freaks me the fuck out. So that morning I could see what was coming without any useful fog.
Two, I was less than one night’s sleep from facing the music and getting pretty paranoid. Authority and me just had a way of going wrong—ever since I was a kid—so I was worried I might say some dumb, smart-ass thing and make a bad situation worse.
Probably not an unfounded fear.
Three, all that not-dealing-with it had bottled up. It’s lucky that it didn’t burst with me yelling at my kids or my wife. Instead, it was a Walmart employee. I bought a couple of bookshelves, because I decided that the best way to not think about it was to go buy things. It made sense at the time. 30 seconds after paying for two bookshelves I was wheeling them out the door when I saw the Walmart greeter consider me for a moment, look over the cart with the two large boxes sticking out of it, then say, “Sir, can I see a receipt?”
“Thanks for making me feel like a fucking criminal. I appreciate it,” I said.
“That’s exactly how a customer wants to feel about themselves after they spend money in your store. Like they’re potentially a criminal.”
“Sir, it’s just—”
“And not even a smart criminal. Like what idiot thief just throws two bookshelves in a cart and tries to waltz out the front door? But no, lady. You caught me. You Nancy Drewed this motherfucker. Good thing too. I would have gotten away with it.”
Okay, so in reality she asked for my receipt, I showed it to her, and then like a coward I said the “Thanks for making me feel like a criminal” bit while walking away, loud enough so that she heard it. I was perhaps a touch sensitive about being treated like a deviant when I’d done nothing wrong.
Later, I tried to vent about it to my wife and we started fighting. She couldn’t help but see the story not from my perspective, but from the viewpoint of the poor Walmart greeter who I had verbally accosted. “She was just doing her job.”
“We decided at the Nuremberg trials that ‘I was just doing my job’ isn’t a defense,” I said.
“I’m sorry, did you just compare being a Walmart greeter to Nazism?” she asked.
“No, I’m just saying that we as a society decided that morals need to surpass authority.”
“Yeah, for Nazis. Not minimum wage employees that will lose their job if they don’t do what they’re told.”
“Just because we used the end of the spectrum to test and prove the rule doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to the spectrum as a whole.”
“You’re such a dick.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m not right!”
I repeat, I was perhaps a bit sensitive about being treated like a criminal when I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
In the end, the blowup at the Walmart worker and the resulting fight was probably a good thing. It stirred the pot enough that I was able to finally communicate that I was starting to freak out about what was to come. She was able to communicate that she sort of was to, that she’d read that the harshest penalty was three days in jail and that she was worried I might talk my way into it (she’d seen me around authority way too many times to count on me reserving my smart mouth). We made up.
I don’t recommend getting a warrant out for your arrest. I had a really mild case and it messed everything up for a weekend. That said, if you have a chance to have you-might-be-going-to-jail sex, I highly suggest it.
This is getting lengthy, so I’m going to make it a two part blog. In part two, I’ll go into submitting to being arrested and sitting through a days worth of court cases waiting to find out my fate.
Before I close this one, though, let me admit that these posts are probably the most white boy whining that ever white boyed. I realize that me bitching about all of this doesn’t hold a candle to how this or any other experience would have gone had I been a black man. That said, it’s my experience, and I feel I have a right to write about it. Could I keep it in better perspective? Probably. But you might have noticed from the Walmart greeter section I’m not always the best person.