09 November 2007

Why I was Late To Work Wednesday (Sorry!)

I was awfully late in getting to work on Wednesday. I’m not trying to make excuses, but there are a few mitigating factors. See, I got up a little later than I had planned and so I had Pod-Man iron a shirt for me while I took a shower. This probably saved me seven minutes, but it slowed me down on the way to work because, since I usually say my morning prayers while ironing my shirt, instead I had to say them while I bicycled to work. Naturally, praying cannot be combined with my usual high-speed method of cycling, and so I was, frankly, just poking along in the bike lane on Wells Street, praying for the health of a friend of mine with lupus, when I noticed that an SUV was cruising me.

That is to say, this huge SUV had slowed down to my extra-slow pace, and was keeping it’s windshield just parallel with my back wheel. Slowly becoming aware of this, I glanced back and saw two red-necks in full paramilitary olive drab gesturing wildly at me. (Why did I call them “red necks?” Think about it: who else but a pair red-necked gun-nut crackers would be wearing full dress BDU’s on any day except Halloween? Even bona fide hunters wear camo’, not olive drab.) To me this said trouble.

These were just the kind of jokers who would sneak up behind you and then shock-the-shit out of you by honking, or would pull an un-signaled right turn directly in front of you and then blame you for scratching their precious car, or would try to run you onto the sidewalk for fun: TROUBLE.

So, naturally, I took evasive action.

I waited until we were almost through the intersection at Wells and Institute, then I cut right on Institute, raced to wards the alley, and ducked in there. The alley is L-shaped, and I really hustled until I made the turn and then I ducked into the loading dock behind a large building. I figured if they were following me, I would
double back, but if there was no sign of them, then I would continue on to work. No sign of the red-necks but, just my luck, there was a police car with its siren blaring at the Franklin end of the alley. I figured this must be an accident, or a traffic stop, or just some kind of mess, and I thought I would wait a few minutes and double-back to Wells street and then get to work.

But just then, someone came running down the alley at me. It was one of the fellows in the olive-drab jump suits, pointing a hand-gun at me, yelling, “Get your hands over your head!”

Not that I’m a coward, or feel intimidated large-caliber fire-arms, but instead, being a naturally coöperative sort of fellow, naturally, I complied. No sooner had I done this, however, when a booming voice came from right behind me (no more than a dozen feet away): “Put your hands on your head!”

This presented quite a conundrum. Do I keep my hands over my head, and risk getting shot in the back, or do I place my hands on my head and risk the ire of the BDU commando to my front. A bit of quick thinking resolved this for me: if I put my hands directly on the top of my head they would be both over and on my head! [The moral of this dilemma is never to lose your head, but always to think logically!]

By this time I could not only see at least two sets of flashing lights at the end of the alley, but could hear several sirens in the distance. “Get off the bike!”

I got off the bike and let it fall.

“Get down on the ground!”

I sat down, but before I could lay fully back, the fellow pushed my chest with his foot. My head hit down with a thump and my glasses flew over my head to the cobblestones. One of the fellows then held a gun to my temple while the other searched me, grasping roughly at all the places where I might have concealed a weapon. By now I was aware of at least half-a-dozen uniformed (as opposed to BDU’ed) police officers, the flashing light of at least three squad cars right there in the alley, and at least two other guns pointed at me.

I was then rolled over. One of the fellows dropped his knee into the middle of my back, yanked my hands down to my waist, and put cuffs on them. He put them on very tightly, as every policeman has always put them on me, so that my fingers immediately began to tingle. At this point I got the nice homoerotic going over, with fingers around my balls and up my ass crack.

I was then yanked to my feet and the officers tried to find out who could take me to the station.

EXCURSUS: What they were discussing was who among them had a squad car with a “cage.” That is, had a squad car with the plexi-glass shield between passenger and driver’s seats, so that I could be transported “safely.” By inference, it occurs to me that this must mean that some police cars do not have this shield and are thus ostensibly useless for making arrests. Presumably they are okay for making dough-nut runs however, so the taxpayers’ money hasn’t been utterly squandered!

An older fellow, a sergeant with glasses, rusty hair around a bald pate, said that he had a “cage” and so he made me walk back to his SUV. The back seat was made of hard plastic, narrow, and offered very little leg room. I got in and sat down on the edge of the seat, so that the cuffs wouldn’t dig into my back. I was immediately told to sit back, so that I could be belted in. The belt was short, the officer made no attempt to lengthen it, and so I sat there braced in with the cuffs wedged against my back and my wrists turned into contortions by the twist of the cuffs. Even without my glasses on, I could see that the alley was crowded with people. Very soon I recognized Matt Wagner, a business associate for the last twenty years, and then I saw, just over my shoulder, Wife-Mate. She, evidently, could not see me through the tinted windows ofthe SUV. She appeared to be arguing with a cop over my bike. After a few minutes of this the cop went around to the back of the SUV to put my bike into the back. I yelled out her name, but evidently she couldn’t hear over the din in the alley.

Suddenly, one of the fellows in the BDU’s opened the door and shoved his face in. I could see now that the patch over his pocket read SWAT. (Yes! It took the SWAT team to get me ...) He barked, “Why did you run?”

Calmly (and I mean it, I’d been thinking this over ever since they bolted me in, so I was calm and ready) I asked, “Am I under arrest?”

“No!” he barked, “Why did you run?”

“Am I free to go?”

“Answer the question!”

“If I’m under arrest, then I want to call my lawyer. If I’m not under arrest then I want to go.”

“You’re in police custody; answer the question!”

“Am I under arrest or not?”

He slammed the door and walked away.

About ten minutes later, the sergeant with the rusty balding hair opened the front door and got in. He explained that I was suspected of being a bank robber who had been seen leaving the scene on a bicycle. They were going to drive me down to the bank and let them look me over. At this point they didn’t think I was the guy, but they had to be sure.

I asked if I were under arrest. He tried to dodge the question by telling me again what they were going to do. But then I told him that he wasn’t taking me anywhere unless I was under arrest. He admitted that, yes, I was under arrest. [Legal note: after this point nothing I said to them was admissible in court. Up until then I was just a witness, whose statements were admissible, but as of that moment I was under arrest and, until they read me my Miranda rights (either in front of witnesses or making me sign a form), NOTHING I said would be admissible. Just the same, I resolved to say nothing.]

I asked if he couldn’t loosen the cuffs because my hands had gone numb.

He explained that to loosen the cuffs he’d have to let me out of the van and that “there’s media here, and if you’re innocent it would be better if they didn’t film you.”

At that point I could indeed see a man video-taping our van. I replied, “I’m not ashamed! Let me out and loosen the cuffs!”

He ignored this, backed and filed until he was facing out of the alley, and left.

[IF I had been taken out and filmed, I would have faced the camera and said: “We live in a police state: no one is safe!” I would have repeated this simple message as long as I was on camera.]

So we got to the bank at Kinzie and Wells.

[Think about it: I was heading towards the bank when I was apprehended. Does this constitute ordinary criminal behavior, or do most fleeing malefactors attempt to get away from the scene of the crime?]

The BDU commandos from the SWAT team were there first and, as soon as we showed up, they headed into the bank. The sergeant got me out and, quite considerately, loosened the cuffs, commenting as he did so that the SWAT guys were rookies who had put the cuffs on upside down, making it harder for him to unlock them. [Question: whose idea was it to put the ROOKIES on the SWAT team?]

Nobody from the bank came out to look at me.


We just stood there, me in cuffs, plainly in “police custody,” out in the open, there at Kinzie and Wells, where any passerby could draw his own conclusions.

During this time a few other squad cars came up and the guys milled about or went in to the bank. Finally, the nice balding sergeant told me that he was going to take me to the station, book me, and release me. He said they were pretty sure now that I wasn’t the bank robber but, since “they had to take me down,” a full arrest report had to be made. If they had just stopped me to ask questions, then they could just let me go without a report.

I pointed out that the did not need to take me down, as I was coöperating fully, but chose to do so.

“All the same — they took you down, so now we have to make a full arrest report.”

[As I understand this then: if they make a small mistake, they need not detain you further, but can let you go right away. But if they make a BIG mistake, then they are forced to compound this mistake and punish you further by taking you to the station and wasting more of your time. So — the more right you are, the more you are made to suffer.]

So — off to the eighteenth district station we went. It was only marginally more comfortable than the drive down because, despite the cuffs being loser, I was still strapped tight against them. There were quite elaborate procedures for getting me inside the station, including the sergeant leaving his gun in a locker in the garage.

I was taken through several sets of doors into some kind of holding area. On one wall there were several “Interrogation Rooms” and running down the center of the room was a sort of double line of study carrels. The bottom of these three-sided stations was made of cinder-block, and the tops were thick lucite. I was put into one of these cubbyholes, sat on a steel stool that was bolted to the floor, one of my hands released, and the other cuffed to a steel handle on the wall. In the facing carrel was a computer where, presumably, my interrogator would sit.

Immediately upon being freed from the cuffs I pulled out my rosary and began to pray. You may scoff, but I ALWAYS say the rosary when I am arrested. By that time, I had already said it on my fingers in the squad car, and now I set about saying it again. Do not scoff. The battle of Lepanto was won by the rosary and Marshal Foch never neglected it for a day, even during the dark days at Verdun. It brings countless blessings to say the rosary, it clears the mind marvelously, and it infuriates the cops. DO IT!

Mr. BDU-SWAT sat in the carrel opposite me. He said they had many forms to fill out and that if I coöperated it would go faster. [Don’t let them fool you: coöperation = “talking”] He asked for basic information and I told him that he already had my wallet, which had complete identification in it. He gave me back my wallet and told me to give him back the ID, which I did.

“Is this address current.”

“All information on that card is, to the best of my knowledge, current and complete.”

“Social security number?”

“On the ID.”

“No it’s not.”

“Then you don’t get it.”

“Look, the sooner I get that number, the sooner you get out of here.”

“The sooner you let me call my lawyer, the sooner I get out of here!”

“All I want is your social security number!”

“By act of Congress in 1941 social security numbers shall only be used for the computation and disbursement of social security benefits. They do not and shall not constitute any form of national identification number and thus it is illegal for you to ask me that question!”

“If you don’t want to coöperate then this will take a lot longer.”

I am convinced that this was the single most important decision that I made. All records these days are kept under your S.S.# and by refusing to give them this, they probably never got to my records and were probably not able to file this.

“Are you married?”

“Am I under arrest?”

The SWAT guy might have been trained in weapons, but he was no better a typist than a detective. He used two fingers and, being a rookie and having never filled out an arrest report before, had to ask a b-zillion questions about “codes.”

At one point another fellow was brought in. A Negro fellow about thirty years of age, dragged right past me. He saw my rosary, pointed to it, and asked, “Is that Jesus!”

“Yes, sir, it is!”

“That’s righteous, brother!” he said as he passed me by, then as they dragged him further on he yelled, “You a righteous dude!”

More questions, and they went like this:

[question asked]

“Am I under arrest?”

“Yes, you are under arrest! Answer the question!”

“May I speak with my lawyer?”

“The sooner you answer me, the sooner you will be let go!”

“I would like to talk to my lawyer.”

The only question I answered eagerly was when he asked for my phone number. “Area code eight-four-seven!” I stated, “Three-three-six seven-eight-eight-eight!”

“Thanks!” he said, suddenly hopeful.

He wouldn’t have been so up-beat if he had known that was my lawyer's phone number.

Just then they brought in a very distraught looking Negress of about eighteen years. They put her in the “Interrogation Room” right behind me, but left the door open.

“Is that a cross?” she whispered to me.

I held it up and nodded.

“I wish I could pray now — but I can’t!”

“I’ll pray for you,” I said. I prayed my second rosary for her and have mentioned her in my prayers since then. I suppose I should mention the “righteous” dude as well and will try to remember to do so in the future.

At some point, while Mr. two-finger-typist was trying to fill out a simple form, the rusty haired sergeant came behind the carols with another sergeant with a profound double-chin. The sergeant who drove me there, unlocked my wrist, asking “Does that feel better?”

They told me that they no longer suspected me of being the bank robber and if the F.B.I. was satisfied that I was not the culprit, I would soon be released. The double-chin sergeant added that the Watch Commander wanted to talk to me before I was release, and the rusty-haired fellow, who had heard my numerous refusals to say anything, added that, of course, I was not obliged to say anything.

The double-chin sergeant came back even before the SWAT cowboy was finished with the form, and said we were going to see the Watch Commander. We went out into the “nice” part of the station to a conference room that was plain and institutional. He said the Watch Commander would be along in a few minute and asked if he could ask a few questions, “just to make conversation.”

I said sure, and he asked if I were married. I told him that I was married with three kids and we got into a discussion. I made sure that I got in that I have been married for more than twenty years, that my oldest daughter is on full scholarship at Vassar, that I owned my own house and business, and that my boy was a lot of trouble, even though he likes grand opera and works as an extra at the Lyric. I also managed to work in, when he mentioned that his kids had gone to Catholic school, that my son and I were both ushers at a Catholic church where we attended mass every week. And I did not neglect the officer, but drew him out. He has two kids. A daughter whom he is especially proud of, as she graduated from the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) and is a CPA, and a son who is a union electrician. This is was somewhat less eager to confide to me, but just the same I heartily approved, adding that I worked with my
hands myself. He is on his second marriage and is going through a divorce as we speak. He expressed great relief at not having children with his second wife.

Long before the Watch Commander got to us, the sergeant said, “I’d like to apologize for what happened. You know, everyone in every line of work makes mistakes and I guess this is one of ours. I’d really like to say I’m sorry that this has happened to you. I hope you feel better.”

“Well, I don’t feel any better about it, but I like you better for saying it.”

He smiled, “Thanx.”

The Watch Commander was a white haired man of about sixty years. He came in, and sat down. I knew immediately that he had been chosen for command because he was reasonable, wanted to work things out, and had good judgement. He wanted me to give my side of the story.

I considered the matter. Here I had a reasonable Watch Commander, a sergeant who had thought enough of me to apologize, I was under arrest yet had not been read my rights so anything I said was off the record, and so this was the perfect opportunity to tell my story. I began right where I did with you: absentmindedly saying prayers, cycle ride, yahoos cruising me, just trying to avoid trouble, taken down for no reason...

They looked at each other.

The Watch Commander said he would be right back.

The sergeant said, “You know, you hear the officers’ report and it sounds okay, but then we hear your version and we can see why you did what you did. I’m really sorry.”

I shrugged.

Pretty soon the Watch Commander came back and said, “Make sure he has all of his stuff and let him go.”

The sergeant and I had already ascertained that I had everything except for my chap-stick and nail-clippers (which we both figured were there on the cobblestones in the alley) and so we got my bike and he let me loose.

I got to work at about 3:10, about thee hours after I had planned.