Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dog, The Bounty Hunter, Has Nothing On Leta

My 19 hours as a prisoner in the Eastland County jail had been a cakewalk compared to the next 2 hours.

I had officially been arraigned in front of the judge and charged with noncompliance as an uninsured motorist because I hadn’t submitted the infamous form 1022. I had pled not guilty which meant that I had to go to court at some date in the future. In the meantime, I had to get out of jail and that meant coming up with the $1,000 bail.

After I was finished with the judge, a deputy came and got me and sat me down at a 100-year old desk and proceeded to explain my options for posting bail. The easiest would be to simply fork over $1,000, but given that my purse was in my car in some unknown impound lot in Cisco, Texas, it’s not like I could write a check, or anything. And it’s not like I had an extra grand on me, either. At this point, I could make phone calls.

So I called my mom and dad. They were relieved to hear from me and were anxious for news about what was going on. I’m so fortunate that they happened to be in town from Colorado that weekend and I’m equally fortunate that they didn’t ask a lot of questions over the phone. They said they would get the cash and I was to call them back in 30 minutes.

Luckily, the deputy didn’t make me go back into a holding cell. He let me wait at that desk. I called my folks back.

OF COURSE it wasn’t going to be easy…why should anything be easy at this point? It turns out that the ONE ATM machine in Cisco would only let them take out $300 cash a day. So they found the ONE ATM machine in Eastland, and it would only let them take out $500 cash a day. So they were able to get $800. I couldn’t get any cash out because I was in jail. They felt so badly, but because it was a Sunday there were no banks open so it was really hard to get money. For them to drive to another town meant me having to stay longer in jail and that option was not appealing at all.

We were left with no resort. I had to call…. A bail bondsman.

Nothing - and I mean nothing - prepared me for this experience. I explained the situation to the deputy and he handed over a sheet of phone numbers for bail bondsmen in the area. It was an old Xeroxed copy that was tattered and worn and was probably 30 years old. I sort of looked at him blankly and he said,…”start calling ‘em”.

I soon learned that all of these bondsmen were actually in their cars outside of the jail. Since it was Sunday morning business was good springing people out who had been arrested on Saturday night. They just circled the jail and waited for the calls. They wait like vultures circling over dead meat.

I’m sure this will offend some, and for that I’m sorry, but after my experience I have an incredibly low view of bail bondsmen. I would prefer the company of pond scum. Bail bondsmen are evil bullies who use scare and shame tactics to broker their deal with you.

And Leta was no exception.

Leta was my bail bondsmen and my ticket out. She was a hard looking, mean talking, toxic soul who made my skin crawl. I had to fill out form after form after form. She took references and phone numbers and addresses and spewed all sorts of venom about what would happen to me if I skipped out on my court appearance. I was to report in to her by phone every Friday by noon until my court date and if I was late by even one minute she wouldn’t hesitate to “hunt me down” and have me arrested. She took many Polaroid pictures of me and I had to sign all sorts of documents saying I wouldn’t alter my appearance in any way. It was the most unpleasant experience of this whole ordeal.

But finally, my piddly $1,000 bond was approved and I was a free woman once again. The deputy walked me to the big, locked door, apologizing right and left for this whole ordeal. I had one of those Billy Jack moments where I was felt so righteous that I just walked out without saying a word to him.

But my tough guy persona quickly crumbled into an ooey gooey mess of weeping little girlness when I saw my mom and dad waiting outside for me. To the end of time I will never forget the comfort they gave me at that moment. And the beauty? My mom grabbed me and hugged me as I was telling her not to touch me because I had jail stink all over me and she busted out in big, hearty laughter. This got my dad laughing. Big laughs of relief. And then I started laughing. It was a weird reaction but we stood there on the curb laughing and crying and laughing. This was the damndest situation that none of us had expected and our reaction was as crazy as everything else had been.

When we finally composed ourselves and I was able to stop weeping it got more serious as I explained the situation. Mom and dad were so mad. So mad that dad marched across the street to the first attorney’s office he came to. The Eastland jail is right near the courthouse, which is in the center of town, and there are a number of small law offices in that same area. But being Sunday, they were all closed. So instead of immediately talking to a lawyer we went and ate pancakes.

Afterwards, we had to figure out how to get my car. I’m going to spare you the blow by blow but this was hard because again, it was Sunday, and we had to scare someone up at the Sanford & Son impound lot on the outskirts of Cisco. There was the stereotypical rabid dog guarding the fortress and it cost a small fortune in cash, but I finally got my car and we drove back to the friends where mom and dad were staying. I showered for about three hours.

And how could I forget to tell you this minor detail? MY DRIVER’S LICENSE HAD BEEN REVOKED! They took it because until I filled out the form 1022, I was not allowed to drive. And OF COURSE I couldn’t fill out the form 1022 in Eastland, I had to fill it out in Austin where I had received the ticket. Again, if it wasn’t for my parents my paddleless journey up shit creek would have continued and I was pretty much at wit’s end by this point. But my sweet mom stayed in Texas instead of going home to Colorado and she drove me back to Austin.

I had to miss most of work that Monday as we drove from one DMV office to another trying to get the blessed form 1022 completed, notarized and submitted. Of course it was all complicated because the warrant for my arrest kept appearing on all of the computer systems and I had to explain at least a dozen times that I had already served my time. I was quickly sinking into a major depression, but we managed to get everything finished and my driver’s license was renewed.

May none of you ever be as stupid as I was and have to go through the massive amounts of bullshit that accompany the bureaucratic red tape of the form 1022.

I was pretty shaky that whole week but I had to get back into my work that was always busy and chaotic…and I didn’t say a word to anyone about any of this. For a while, at least.

Because the big cherry on top of this ugly sundae? A few days later one of our favorite family members, my dad’s sweet uncle, called my dad.

Uncle Fred: “Uh, Ronnie? Was Lori in town last weekend?”

Dad: “Uh….yes, she was.”

Uncle Fred: “Well, is she alright?”

Dad: “Well, uh, yes. Why do you ask?”


Dad: “…… uh…… well……yep….that’s her!”

So my little secret? It was total public knowledge in the town where I have relatives. In the town where my grand parents lived. In the town where mom and dad were going to retire in a few years. Everyone knew that I was a jailbird and I can only imagine what scenarios they concocted about why I was in the big house. It took a lot of explaining.

May God smite small town newspapers.

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