I made my way to the right shoulder of the highway and pulled over, grabbed my insurance card off of the visor, then got out of the truck. Trooper Buford T. Justice met me at the back bumper and informed me that I was doing 79mph in a 65mph zone. He asked me if I was in a big hurry to get somewhere. Rather than tell him that I was speeding to a bar to have a few beers with a bunch of drunken friends; I plead ignorance and confessed that I wasn’t really paying attention to how fast I was going.
He took my license and insurance card, and then politely excused himself as he went back to the patrol car to pass my information along to the dispatcher. After a few minutes, he got out of the car and came back. I was fully expecting a speeding ticket and was pleasantly surprised when the officer said he was going to issue me a warning.
About the time he started to explain that the form I was going to sign was not a citation, his radio chirped at him and a woman’s voice broadcast over the speaker; “552, your subject is wanted 21 out of Highland Park P.D. for EVH”. The Trooper asked me to sit tight and he went over to the side of his cruiser. He was sitting in the passenger seat, looking at something on the computer in his patrol car. After a few minutes, he came back.
“It seems that there is a warrant for your arrest out of Highland Park for an unpaid traffic ticket” he said.
“I haven’t received a ticket in a couple of years, and I've never been rung-up for speeding in Highland Park” I told him. “There's got to be a mistake.”
He informed me that the warrant was based on a citation for Expired Vehicle Registration and Failure to Appear. It was at that point I remembered what happened. Many years earlier, I was ticketed for expired license tags in Highland Park. I had the tags renewed, made a special return trip to Dallas to provide all of the documentation of the renewal to a Justice of the Peace, and had the ticket dismissed. I explained all of this to Johnny Law and he said that he would check on it and get back to me. He went back over the cruiser and talked more on the radio while typing on the computer. He came back shaking his head; I knew that was not good news.
“I have some bad news for you, but I do have a way that you can keep from going to jail.” He said.
I was informed that there indeed was a warrant for my arrest issued by Highland Park. The fine for the expired tags was $100 dollars and failure to appear was $250 dollars. The warrant was dated June 21, 1994. He informed me that even though the warrant was nine years old, it was still valid and enforceable. The good news was that on an “out of county” detainment, a DPS Trooper can collect the fine from the subject in the form of a money order to release the warrant.
“So what exactly does that mean?” I asked.
Roscoe P. Coaltrain told me that he could follow me to a convenience store and that I could purchase a $350 dollar money order payable to the Town of Highland Park, give it to him, sign a few forms, and I was out of trouble. Even though I had done what I was supposed to do and the ticket from many years earlier had been dismissed, $350 dollars is a small price to pay to avoid going to jail. I agreed to follow him to the truck stop two exits down to purchase my ticket to freedom.
When the cop and I arrived at the store, he gave me some devastating news. It seems that the Failure to Appear fine of $250 dollars was not a fine; it was a cash bond. He explained that a “cash bond” requires an arraignment, and to be arraigned, I would have to go to jail. My jaw dropped and my heart sunk.
"Jail? Are you serious?” I asked, “I have to go to jail for this?”
He said that it would be no big deal; I'd be in and out in no time and that all I'd have to do is pay the Sheriff’s Department and fill out their form instead of paying him. He said that he'd even let me drive my truck back to town and park it close to the jail so that it wouldn't get towed. Shamefully, I went into the store, withdrew $600 dollars from the ATM machine, and started my journey to Oz.
At 10:00 PM, I found myself being driven into the gates of hell by Barney Fife. We entered the Jail via a driveway in the rear of the building. We went down a ramp and through a huge overhead door into a garage area. We entered the booking area after passing through two sets of doors and a small room with nothing in it but an intercom speaker.
The booking desk had about 10 Sheriff’s Dept. people working diligently at computer terminals and talking on the phone. We walked up to the end of the desk and I was turned over to the custody of Parker County’s finest, a fat-ass Hispanic female Sheriff’s Dept. jailor who was as indignant and beaten down by her job as any person I've ever encountered. I was asked a series of questions in such a fast, low and monotone voice that I couldn’t understand her. When I asked her to repeat herself, it only fueled her distain for her me, her job, and life in general.
I was then required to remove the contents of my pockets, my boots, socks, belt and shirt. I was frisked while another brain-dead drone went through everything in my wallet. I had to sign forms stating that everything I had in my pockets, including $600 dollars cash, was being put into a plastic bag. After the bag was sealed, I had to sign a form verifying that everything on the previously mentioned list was sealed inside the bag. I was asked another series of questions by Senorita Fife and was shuttled to the other end of the desk for more processing. At the far end of the desk, I was transferred to another jailor, the Fingerprint Czar.
The Fingerprint Czar was a fat, old white guy who had more ink on his shirt than there was on the blotter. He gave me very stern instructions about “relaxing my hand” and “placing my index finger on the appropriate space”. He acted like he was pulling on the hand of Christopher Reeve, as if I was not capable of putting my own fucking hand on the ink blotter. After several admonishments to “relax my arm” and much smeared ink, I was done being printed. Then I had a private photography session with Deputy Olan Mills.
I was officially incarcerated.
I was instructed to walk with my hands behind my back at all times and to follow another jailor down the hall. I keep referring to them as “jailors” because there is no fucking way that these people are actually real, live peace officers that are licensed to carry guns. They're more like security guards who work for the county and get to wear brown uniforms with badges. Anyway, I followed this mongoloid “jailor” down the hall. He instructed me to stand behind the line on the floor and asked me what size shoe I wore. I responded, telling him that I wore a size 15.
“T-r-u-s-t-y-!!!” he yells at the top of his lungs. “T-r-u-s-t-y-!!!”
I was about to ask him why he was yelling “Trusty” when some inmate in an orange jumpsuit came jogging around the corner with his hands behind his back. “Bring me a bedroll and some 13’s,” the jailor told the inmate. The inmate promptly responded with, “Yes Sir, Boss”, turned and joged back down the hall. On the back of the orange jumpsuit, the word “TRUSTY” was stenciled in black directly under the Parker County Jail lettering. That dumbass was a trustee and the fucking guards call them “trusty”.
Trusty brought me a worn out pair of size 12 flip-flops and what appeared to be a blanket and a piece of ½ inch thick foam rubber rolled up into together. Trusty then said, “12 is as big as we got Boss”, and then jogged away. The Boss told me to put on the shoes and to follow him. We walked down the hall to a door marked “Holding C”. I was instructed to stand behind the line while the jailor pushed an intercom button.
“Control, open C-Charlie” he said, then a voice over the intercom repeated his command; a buzzer went off and the door opened. As I entered the cell, I turned and asked The Boss about what time the Judge started arraignments in the mornings; his response was, “Tomorrow sometime… now get your ass in the cell”.
The inside of Holding C-Charlie was littered with the sleeping bodies of approximately 15 to 20 of Parker County’s most upstanding citizens. I entered the cell and walked to one of the few empty spots left in the middle of the room. Hearing that big metal door close behind me was quite a disheartening sound.
As I unrolled my ½” thick foam bedroll and positioned it on the concrete floor, I noticed that the room was really cold; the temperature was probably 65 degrees or less. All of my fellow cellmates were covered in their blankets and were hunkered down on the floor for a great night’s sleep. Not wanting to buck the system, I decided to be a conformist and join them. I unrolled the blanket to discover that it was paper thin and well worn, about the size of a big beach towel and contained several holes where the material had just worn completely out. I laid my big ass down on the foam pad, covered up with the blanket-o-holes and reflected on just how fucking good my life was two hours earlier.
The cold air began to go to work on my feet. The blanket reached from my shoulders to my knees, leaving my sock-less feet exposed to the elements. I noticed that many of the other inmates had their heads covered by their blankets; I surmised that their ears must have been cold. I tried to position myself comfortably on the cold, hard concrete floor. While shifting around, trying to get a semi-comfortable, semi-covered position, I heard the first of many comments from my cellmates: “Shut the fuck up.”
All I heard for the next several minutes was the sound of my cow-heart beating, the snoring of my ethnically diverse cellmates, and “Shut the fuck up”. That was the noisiest silence that I have ever heard. Snoring in Spanish, English, Ebonics, every dialect that you could imagine; all coupled with the periodic “Shut the fuck up” from the peanut gallery. I knew that I was in for a relaxing evening of fellowship with my newly found roommates.
As I lay on the floor, freezing my ass off, I began to really examine my so-called “blanket”. There were some additional fibers present on the fabric that were obviously after-market additions. After a more in-depth examination of the fibers, I determined that quite certainly they were pubic hairs. I then began the process of removing the two-dozen or so hairs from my blanket, all the while envisioning how they got there to begin with. Who’s crotch had my blanket recently covered? How did the fabric really wear out anyway? When was the last time that this blanket saw the inside of a washing machine?
Pure disgust and hopelessness firmly set in. I was in jail, cold, lying on a concrete floor with 15 or 20 criminals of every ethnic background, and I had some unknown inmate’s pubic hairs touching my skin.
I lay there on the floor, freezing my as off for the longest undetermined period of time that I have ever experienced. All sense of time is gone in jail. You don’t have a watch and you can’t see outside, you don’t know if it is day or night. I tried to lay still and motionless so that another “Shut the fuck up” was not directed to me. I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep, but the snoring and constant commotions in the hallway outside of the cell were just as distracting as every “Shut the fuck up” that was issued in response.
After the longest night of my life, I heard a voice outside of the cell yell; “Control, open C-Charlie”. The cell door swung open and there stood a couple of Trustys, a guard and a cart full of trays. The Trustys immediately began getting trays off of the cart and started handing them to the inmates who sprung into motion at the sound of the door opening. It was breakfast, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Breakfast consisted of a cold microwaveable pancake, some dry cereal, a dollop of grape jelly, two sausage links and a tiny carton of skim milk. I grabbed my tray, just like every other inmate, and went back to my spot to eat. The pancake was chewy, but edible. The sausage links were not fried, but probably were boiled. They were kind of a pale gray in color. I opted not to eat them. The dry cereal was by far the tastiest item on the menu that day. Nothing like dry corn flakes to satisfy a man-sized hunger after a hard night of incarceration.
After we ate, everyone stacked their trays in a pile adjacent to the door and went back to bed. I then was laying on the cold concrete floor, freezing my ass off, with a raging case of heartburn. That's when all of the Mexicans decided it was time for their collective morning constitutional.
There were 4 toilets in the cell. All were constructed exclusively of Stainless steel and had no seat whatsoever. There was no handle for flushing, only a push button mounted inside of the masonry wall. Three of the toilets had sinks and water fountains attached to them. The remaining toilet did not; it had a sign that was painted on the masonry wall in stenciled letters above it that read; “FOR SHITTING”. I began to wonder, why was this really necessary? Had someone pissed in this toilet, they probably would have to stand tall in front of the man and face the wrath of Carl the Floorwalker. Who has a toilet with a sign painted above it telling you what it is for? Had someone tried to bathe in that toilet before; were people shitting on the floor before they painted directions on the wall?
The Mexicans rotated through the “for shitting” shitter like some sort of bathroom precision drill team; the Kilgore Rangerettes of the commode if you will. As the toilet flushed, another one rose from the floor to go take his amigo’s place on the throne. I swear that I heard one of them say “stick” as they executed the handoff. I dared not look in that direction, for fear of being tagged as a joto. I did however, get an earful of what was happening over there and let me tell you, it was horrific. There was more jet-powered Latino flatulence in that jail cell than there is on a 30-man roofing crew after a visit from the Roach Coach; podrido viento mis amigos, podrido viento indeed. The sound echoed throughout the concrete cell, an ever-present reminder that there was a grown man taking a shit in the middle of the room, less than 15 feet away from me.
After listening to much shitting, farting, snoring and the slamming of steel doors, I finally heard the sound that I had been waiting for. Someone outside of our cell yelled, “Control… Open C-Charlie” and shortly thereafter, the door swung open. A jailor then yelled out a list of names, thankfully, mine was one of the names he called.
We were told to get up and line up in the hallway with our hands behind our backs. We walked in a single file line down a hall, up a flight of stairs, down another hall and into a room that reminded me of a classroom on a junior college campus. There were chairs lined up in rows, similar to a lecture room, with a table and two chairs at the front of the room. The guard then instructed us to answer every question with respect and to refer to the judge as “Sir” or “Your Honor” only. As the rent-a-sheriff finished his instructions, an old man in a coat and tie entered the room and sat down at the table.
The old man was the Justice of the Peace. He read a pre-prepared statement explaining the arraignment process then read the group our collective Miranda Rights. Each individual in the group was then summoned to the table, his name and his charges were read and he was asked how he wished to plead. We were then given the option of paying the fine, posting bond or choosing to use time served as payment for our crimes. I was seated on the front row of chairs, so I got to hear everything that the rest of my fellow inmates were charged with. There were several DWI’s, a few possession of controlled substances and even an assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon. Everybody was getting their bonds set at $15,000 for DWI, $35,000 for possession of a controlled substance, $12,000 for domestic abuse and disturbance, even a $150,000 bond for the hard-ass who shot at a cop.
I got up and the Judge read my charge; “You are wanted out of Highland Park on a warrant for expired registration and failure to appear.” I felt like a pussy compared to the cool shit that all of my new room-dogs were charged with. The judge continued with; “Your bond has been set by Highland Park at $250 dollars cash. You also have a $100 fine for Expired Vehicle Registration. How do you wish to plead?” I told the Judge that I wanted to plead no contest and that I wanted to pay for the cash bond and the fine right then, that I had enough money in my belongings to pay cash for the entire amount. The judge noted my plea on the form, made a few notes, then told me that I would be released as soon as the paperwork could be processed.
All they had to do was process the paperwork…
They took all of us except the guy who shot at the cop back to good ‘ol C-Charlie. I saw a screensaver on a PC at the booking desk on the way back that said the time was 10:26 AM. I thought that surely I would be a free man within the hour. I sat back down on my foam pad and covered up with the pube-covered dishrag and began my wait.
The time seemed to drag on even slower once I knew that the end was near. The guards kept coming back to get other inmates in the cell for arraignments, others made bail and were processed for release. The guards opened and closed that damn door no less than a dozen times before one of them called my name. I exited the cell and was escorted back to the booking desk where I would have to sign another dozen or so forms to get my belongings back and to pay my fines. Finally, they brought me my stuff. I put on my socks, boots, and my shirt. After signing about 25 different forms, I was escorted down another hall and through a couple of offices and out into the lobby of the jail.
As the Lobby door opened, freedom was awaiting me in the form of my wife, who they had called to pick me up. Then I was shocked to see my 10-year-old son standing next to my wife. Then I realized that they weren’t smiling because they were glad to see me; they were laughing at me. My son cackled loudly and slumped over laughing as I made my way across the room. My wife just stood there grinning like a jackass, looking over at my son, who was hysterically laughing and pointing at me.
“Why are you laughing? This is not funny. And what is he doing here; this is no place for a kid?” I asked my wife.
She said that she decided to tell my son the truth about where I was so that I could be an example of what happens to people when they don’t take care of their responsibilities. She said that she thought my incarceration would scare him. She thought it would be a great life lesson that he would remember as a teenager. Instead, when she told my son where I was, he exploded in laughter and begged her to skip school so he could be at the jail with her when they let me out. She said that he'd been giggling all day and the anticipation of my release was killing him. She said that he’d come up with a list of questions he wanted to ask me about jail: Did you get a tattoo? Did you lift weights and play basketball in the yard? Did the Aryan Brotherhood make anyone dress up like a girl? Did you drop the soap? Could you escape like the guy in Shawshank did? etc…
Not only did I get thrown in jail and spend the night in the can for something that happened nine years ago that I actually took care of, but I had to be subjected to the ridicule of my wife and ten year old son upon my release. The price of freedom was high, very high.
Sometimes life just kicks you in the nuts…