Monday, February 19, 2007

Serving Time

Central booking in the Eastland County Jail was the last place I expected to be that Saturday afternoon. It’s a small jail with about 20 cells, 10 on one side for men and 10 on the other side for women. In the middle is the main booking station and the holding cell. There was a moldy, old smell to the place and yellow lights that were bright enough to perform surgery. The picture I've posted is the older part of the jail I'm talking about.

I was terrified walking in to that place, mainly because I had no idea why I’d been arrested. I tried to collect myself, but it was hard because no one would talk to me. They sort of looked right through me, if that makes any sense. They kept saying that they would let me know more when I was booked in to the facility.

I knew my poor mom and dad were somewhere around, but they wouldn’t let me see or talk to them. I was able to reach them when I got my ONE PHONE CALL, and I don’t remember much of that conversation. I was less than composed. So mom and dad eventually had to leave and go to their friends’ house – the place they were staying while in town – and tell them THEIR DAUGHTER WAS IN THE EASTLAND JAIL! How humiliating. But I’m jumping ahead in the story.

I learned the law requires that the arresting officer be present when the prisoner is booked. Well, we’re talking about a town here that has one patrol officer. Right as I arrived at the jail, that officer was apparently called away to handle a domestic disturbance or some other such thing. So what did this mean for me? I had to wait to be booked and post bail. It was about 3:00 p.m. at this point. This is an important fact to remember. So the handcuffs came off and I was put in the holding cell. I walked in, and the huge metal door slammed behind me, making that huge metal jail-door slam sound you hear in the movies, and I was all along in an institutional pea-green 12’x12’ holding pen with an old dented stainless steel toilet in the corner. Dear God.

I waited, and waited, and waited there was no way I could sit still so I just walked in circles. Circle after circle, thinking. Crying and thinking. What had I done? I searched my memory. The only thing I figured it might be was an outstanding parking ticket that I hadn’t paid. I worked at a location on a busy campus where parking was virtually impossible and getting tickets was part of the deal for working there. I thought I had paid my ticket, but maybe I didn’t. Can you go to jail for an unpaid parking ticket?

My mind started freaking out. Maybe it was the still stinking heat in that holding pen making me sweat or the glint off the old toilet blinding me or the hum of the busted florescent light hurting my head, but I started getting paranoid. Maybe someone I know got busted for something and they needed a scapegoat and they used my name! What if I had been implemented in a serious crime? What kind of lousy friend would do that to me?

I walked in circle after circle after circle.

What seemed like forever later, the door swung open and Barney Fife, the one who had arrested me, told me to follow him.

We went to the old central booking desk. It looked 100 years old. I had huge swollen eyes from all the crying and my sinuses were so blocked I couldn’t breath. I was sweating, wearing my ratty shorts and an old blouse I wore when cleaning my house. Let’s just agree that I looked mighty fine, indeed.

Barney Fife was looking kind of sheepish, and he wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and all of a sudden he was calling me “Miss Holliday” and being MUCH nicer than he had been when he told me spread ‘em out on Highway 6 so he could frisk me.

He told me they had received word from Austin that the warrant for my arrest had stemmed from a speeding ticket I received when driving to San Marcos in 1996, five years earlier. I remembered exactly the ticket to which he was referring. But I had taken care of that ticket. I was absolutely sure of this. But before I could say anything, the deputy said that it looked like there might be a situation WHERE I HADN’T SUBMITTED THE PROPER PAPAERWORK when I made restitution for that ticket. (An explanation will be forthcoming). I had no idea what this meant. But at least I could stop falsely accusing people in my paranoid mind for setting me up to send me down the river!

Barney got even more fidgety and sheepish when he went on to tell me that it was 5:10 p.m. and one cannot post bail after 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays in the great state of Texas. “Uh, I shore am sorry bout that Miss Holliday.”

Then silence. I stood their blinking trying to figure out what Deputy Fife was telling me. At last it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. Like a swift kick to the gut. Like a rock ricocheted off my pickaxe in the chain gang I had earlier thought I was going to be sent to. He was saying that I couldn’t leave.

In a voice that bordered on sheer rage, I locked eyes with that guy and said, “Are you telling me that I have to SPEND THE NIGHT HERE?”

“Uh, yes ma’am. Since it’s after 5:00, you can’t be arraigned until 7:00 tomorrow morning when Judge Hubert gets here before he goes to church. I am sooooooooooo sorry.”



I was still confused about what I was charged with, but all this Simple Simon could tell me was that Judge Hubert would have more information in the morning and in the meantime I had to spend the night in jail.

My righteous indignation seethed out as I spoke in my I’m-really-pissed-and-am-trying-to-control-the-rage-inside-of-me-that-if-let-loose-would-blow-your-ridiculous-mullot-off, “SO YOU’RE TELLING ME, THAT I WAS ARRESTED AT 3:00 BUT BECAUSE YOU LEFT AND ARE JUST NOW RETURNING AT TEN MINUTES AFTER FREAKING FIVE, THAT I HAVE TO SPEND THE NIGHT HERE?”

“Yes ma’am. I’m real sorry. But we need to book you now.”

The ordeal was just beginning.

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