Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Book Him, Dano

I had already been in the holding tank for over two hours, but when I was officially booked into the Eastland County jail – for an unknown crime! – it was as if they were seeing me for the first time. I had to state my name and my address and social security number and all sorts of other information. The deputy was reading straight down a list of questions, and half of them didn’t pertain to my situation.

At this point, I was so mad and frustrated for having to stay overnight in jail that I could barely spit out the answers.

Deputy: Please remove your shoelaces and belt and put them in this receptacle. Your shoelaces and belt will be returned to you when you are released.

Me: I’m not wearing shoelaces or a belt.

My thought bubble: Do they really think I’m so distraught that I would try and end it all by hanging myself with my shoelaces or belt? Well, I AM pretty distraught… Do they make shoelaces that strong?

Deputy: Please state your occupation.

Me: I’m a Director at a very large television station in Austin, Texas.

My thought bubble: No need to tell him I’m a MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR at a medium-sized PUBLIC TELEVISION STATION. Just let him think that I have the force of an army of hard boiled investigative news room reporters at my disposal and we’re coming up to Eastland Texas to shine a bright light on this whole false arrest scam that’s bilking honest tax payers out of good money. This isn’t communist China - you can’t just stick an innocent person in jail for no reason. Be afraid, be very afraid! Wait a minute…I’M afraid, I’M VERY AFRAID. Apparently you CAN stick an innocent person in jail for no reason.

It went on and on and on.

During my interrogation, I almost jumped out of my skin when from out of no where I heard a man’s voice shriek, “THANK YOU JESUS!”. The deputy hadn’t moved a bit as he continued to type out my answers on a green form. Without looking up he said, “That’s Brother Parson. He and Sister Parson come to the jail on Saturday nights to witness to the inmates. Would you like to pray with Brother and Sister Parson this evening?”

Me: No.

My thought bubble: HELL NO!

After the green form was complete it was time for fingerprints. This was the most man-handled I had ever been. It’s not as simple as sticking your finger on an ink pad and pushing it down on a paper. The deputy has to do it for you. He has to hold your finger and forcibly push it into the ink and forcibly roll your finger 180 degrees on the paper. He has to do this 3 times per digit – for a two-hand total of 30 times. It’s really uncomfortable. If at any time I offered any “resistance” by tensing any muscles in my hand or arm, he would recite his memorized script, “Do not resist. Your arm should be completely dead weight”. Of the 30 prints he took, he said that line to me at least 20 times. My thought bubble: resistance is futile.

After the individual prints he needed a print of my entire hand. This is really gross as your hand is covered in ink and then he mashes down on the top of your hand really hard.

Then it was time for the infamous mug shots. The deputy wrote my number on an old chalk board and told me to hold it in front of me. “You shore are tall” he kept saying as he cranked the old camera to tilt up to get my picture. With my bad hair, sweaty, no make-up having, tear swollen face, I held that sign in front of me as he took pictures. I turned to the left – CLICK – I turned to the right – CLICK – and I looked straight ahead – CLICK. About half way through I burst into tears again, which just made Barney Fife nervous and twitchy. This was so ridiculous!

With the passing of time that has healed my anger and replaced it with humor, and a proclamation of innocence behind me, I would now give just about anything to have copies of those mug shots. Even though my record was eventually expunged, in some computer system or in some file tucked deeply away somewhere in the Texas criminal justice system, I have mug shots. Really, really ugly mug shots.

Because the booking station is in the center of the building, I could see all of the comings and goings that were happening around me throughout this inquisition. Men and women wearing orange jumpsuits and plastic prison flip flops were pushing carts around and mopping the hallway and sweeping with brooms. I could hear shouting and loud guffawing down where the men’s cells were located. Older plain-clothesed men were coming in and out of the building and shooting the shit with the couple of people who were on duty. Every now and then a deputy from some small town in Eastland County would bring someone in handcuffs where they’d be dropped off in the holding tank. And the random shouts of THANK YOU JESUS coming from the Parsons rounded out the whole surreal scene.

When I had been sufficiently booked and made an official inmate of the Eastland County Jail, Deputy Fife started rummaging around in a closet and started to pull out an orange jumpsuit. Uh uh, no way. I was not putting that thing on. And I told him that in a voice that was trembling and weak. “Please don’t make me put that on. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

For as prone to following the rules as this guy had been up to this point, I was thankfully shocked when he looked at me for a second and then put that atrocious orange horror back in the closet. Without acknowledging the jumpsuit in any way, he said that he was going to put me back in the holding tank for the night and dinner would be served shortly.

But the night was young and there was so much more to come.


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