Now, I’m not proud of the fact that I was picked up for driving under the influence but, it happens to the best of us as well as the worst. It was just my turn in the barrel, so-to-speak.
I was at a place in San Juan Capistrano called The Swallows Inn. It’s a country western bar on the main street in town just a couple blocks from the freeway. I really didn’t have that much to drink. Three scotch and water tall and I didn’t even finish the last one. Plus, I had been dancing most of the night.
About an hour before closing, I decided I had had enough fun for one night and packed it in. I got in my wifes car, we were still living together but we were spliting up so, why pretend. I drove across the bridge over the freeway and turned into the Denney’s parking lot thinking I might get something to eat before driving back to Huntington Beach. Once in the parking lot, I changed my mind and reversed course. Mistake number one.
When I got to the exit, I noticed a sign that read “NO LEFT TURN”. There were two Highway Patrol cruisers sitting in the gas station directly across the street and the guy in front of me was going to make a left turn right in front of them. Instead of paying attention to my right turn, I watched his left turn. In-so-doing, I ran over the edge of the driveway and dropped the right front tire off the curb causing a loud bang as the bottom of the car hit the pavement. Mistake number two.
Instead of continuing on, I pulled into the Chevron station right next door and got out to check for damage. The Highway Patrol, being curious, came over to check and see if everything was okay. Mistake number three.
The first patrolman asked if I needed assistance and I told him what had happened and that it was my wifes car and the story behind that, etc, etc. He said, “Do I smell alcohol on your breath sir?” I had to say yes. I mean, what else could I say?
He made me say the alphabet, do the numbers thing, walk the line and blow. I registered .o8, right on the legal limit. He said, “You know, a couple three months earlier and we’d had to let you go. It just changed from point one to point oh eight a few months ago.” “Plus, I gotta admit, if you hadn’t pulled in here and stopped, we never would have stopped you. Funny, huh?” Yeah, I was thinking, hilarious.
They cuffed me and stuffed me in the back of the cruiser but they didn’t have my wife’s car towed. They figured I had enough to explain all ready. They moved the car behind the station and put the keys with the rest of my belongings. Honestly, that was quite decent of them and I told them so.
On the ride back to the jail, they spotted another drunk that was way worse off than me. He was driving half on the curb and half on the street. He was only a few blocks from the jail as it was so, the Highway Patrol decided to give him a ride as well. Might as well go with a full load if your going at all, right?
The officers wrote on their reports that I was fully conversant and was a complete gentleman throughout the whole process. They wished me a short stay and said that I would probably be released OR (on my own recognisance) shortly. This, I would soon find out, was not to happen. We three shook hands and they wished me well. I wished they would have let me go but, that was not to happen either. The hand shake would have to suffice.
The jail, itself, was staffed by what appeared to be ex-Marines on steroids. All seemed to be around five foot ten inches with arms and chests bulging under their custom fit uniform shirts. They all looked cookie cutter the same. It’s like they all came out of the same mold. And, they all had attitudes and I understand that. It comes with the territory but, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And, I’m pretty sure that’s the way they want it.
Getting booked into the Orange County Jail is nothing like you see on TV. It’s a long drawn out process that literally takes hours to accomplish. Not to mention the constant shuffle from one glass cage to another. They give you two slips, one pink and one yellow. They bang on the glass and yell, “When we call your name, hold your yellow slip in your left hand, move into the hallway and place your right shoulder against the wall. No moving unless we say so and no talking.”
This went on once every hour or so. Just when you might be getting comfortable, or maybe just numb, they would start the banging on the window thing again. It was hard enough to sit in one of those all concrete cells without the constant harassment by the guards banging their big brass keys on the glass walls and doors. I’m pretty sure they didn’t want you to go to sleep. They keep you tired so you won’t cause problems. You can always sleep when they place you in the general population. Oh joy, something to look forward to.
I was on my second cage shuffle when a young Mexican, I presume a gang member because of the various tattoos he sported, asked if this was my first time. I said, “Is it that obvious?” He told me not to worry. I’d be getting out soon enough. His advice was just follow his lead and do what they told me to do and I would be fine. I couldn’t understand why this young man was being so kind to me but, I was sure grateful for the friendly advice and, someone to talk to.
On our third or fourth move, one of the prisoners fell on the floor, curled up in the fetal position and started moaning. The inmate that worked in the mess hall had delivered the midnight snack which included a flattened ham and processed cheese sandwich, a small carton of milk and an orange. My new found friend said that the guy on the floor was a junkie and was going into withdrawls. Doing what was called the fish because they looked like a fish out of water flopping around on a pier. He told me that the juice from the orange helped with the pain until they could get medicine to counteract the let down from the drugs. Something the guards were supposed to have given him hours ago but didn’t. A little game of control they like to play. Sadistic bastards. I’ve never seen anyone eat an orange as fast as that junkie did. He downed three or four in no time at all. Amazing.
Up to this time, we had been in smaller eight to ten man cells in between getting mug shot and finger printed. Now, we were going to the larger detention cell that held twenty to thirty men. Still all concrete and just enough seating for everyone if no one tried to lay down. The bigger and the tougher did lay down so, some had to stand or get their asses kicked.
There was one guy who everyone seemed to know and left alone. He was a biker and was laying down occupying four or five spaces. no one seemed to mind as I recall. The only thing was, he was using the only roll of toilet paper for a pillow. Now, going potty in jail is an experience in itself with a four foot cinder block wall around a solid stainless steel commode with no seat. Not much privacy and clean, well, I think not.
Now, I’m a vet and the privacy thing is not an issue but the cleanliness thing is. I went to the window of the big cell and asked one of the guards for an additional roll of toilet paper. He said, “What for? You got one in there and I can see it right over there.” He pointed to the biker and his pillow. “Go ahead and ask him to borrow it. I’m sure he won’t mind.” He walked away laughing. I decided I could wait.
It was going on seven or eight hours since I got there and I was starting to wonder why I wasn’t getting out. I asked one of the guards to check for me which, much to my surprise, he did. He came back and informed me that I had two active warrants out for me and I wasn’t going anywhere soon.
Two active warrants? I was never in trouble before. How could this be? I flagged him down again and asked what the warrants were for. He said, “Expired dog licenses.” Expired dog licenses, he has to be kidding. I’m stuck in the Orange Country Jail with druggies, bikers and gangsters because I failed to pay for a dog license or two? What next?
More shifting from cell to cell. No sleep at all up to this point but, I was assured that once I made it into the general population, a big barracks type set-up that housed around a hundred inmates in one huge room, I could get some sleep then. Fat chance of that. I could all ready feel my life slipping away.
Next was the showers. A large room with tile floors and four or five stainless steel showers in a row. There were no curtains and a guard would stand outside the showers so he could see inside all of them at once. After the shower, which was quite refreshing after twelve long hours in those hellishly hard cells, I was one more stop away from the general population. They gave me the orange jumpsuit and the county issue tennies and put me into a holding room. Not a cell but a room with a chair that had a cushioned seat. Heaven.
A guard, much nicer than those I had met up to this point, told me that my wife was here and had paid the fine. As soon as I could get dressed in my own clothes, I be free to leave. For the first time in many years I didn’t worry about not being shaved or that my hair was a mess or that my clothes were wrinkled and dirty. I just wanted out.
I found out from my wife that she had paid the fine hours ago. Apparently the Orange County Jail wasn’t quite ready to let me go any earlier. Well, that was July 3, 1993. I have not been back to any jail since then. Not even for a visit. Oh, did I mention, I was a Military Policeman in the service. I didn’t like jails then either.
Have a nice day!