As I sat in the back of the police car with Kevin, my head was swimming. My friends Ashton and Peter were seated in the back of another squad car directly in front of us. Peter’s car was directly behind the one in which Kevin and I were currently “detained”, as the flashing blue lights were bouncing off his windshield.
It was surreal, almost like an out of body experience which I can still recall with crystal clear clarity even to this day.
Kevin was pretty freaked out. I was too, but his was a little more expressive in nature. I was trying to remain calm, as I felt one of us needed to.
Kevin, with growing volume, kept repeating, “we are going to jail. . . we are going to jail!” In my infinite wisdom, I kept reassuring him with the fact that there was no way this would happen. My reason was that we were in one of the violent crime centers of the southeast (DeKalb County in Atlanta) and our group was ONLY doing “kids’ stuff” in comparison. In my mind, the cops were simply trying to scare us for our slight maleficence. I reasoned that they had much bigger fish to fry than a group of harmless teenagers.
Kevin, still with a look of panic in his eyes, glanced back only to say, “they are towing Peter’s car!” It was then it finally hit me; “Kevin, we are being arrested.” Panic was now justified. We both complied.
It was October 31st of my senior year in high school; Halloween Night. My friends and I had a tradition of using this “holiday” to go out and generally look for what we perceived to be innocent fun. I won’t go into details, but it involved “borrowing” pumpkins from random houses, Peter’s paint pellet guns, and, of course, water balloons.
Like the TV character Dexter, we had our code. No kids. Halloween was a time for children to have fun. We didn’t want to ruin it for any of them. However, teenagers and adults were fair game.
There was no alcohol or drugs involved, so we felt we were pretty harmless. In our minds, we were all “good kids” who just wanted to have a little clean fun.
The police disagreed.
Upon towing Peter’s car, the cops then put all four of us in the back of one car. It was tight. Mind you, we were all football players. Peter and Ashton were offensive linemen. I was clearly the runt of the group. To this day, I think the cops put us all together as a form of humiliation. It worked.
By the time the police car set off for the prison on Memorial Drive, a fairly sizable crowd had gathered to see why two cop cars were parked with flashing lights on their street. It was 11:15pm. My curfew was 11pm. Dad took curfew very seriously. Very, very seriously.
We had mug shots taken, were finger printed, and then placed in a “holding tank” with about 10 other men. Two of the men were in for being armed at a gang fight, one for attempted armed robbery, one for attempted rape, and another old man for driving under the influence. He was still highly inebriated.
Peter, Kevin, Ashton, and I were quite out of place, to say the least. To make things worse, we had dressed in either cameo or all black so that we could launch ground attacks clandestinely that night. I had black sweat pants and a black long-sleeve tee on. We looked like complete morons.
The cell had benches running the length of the three walls. The fourth wall had the cell door. There was one toilet in the middle of the cell. No walls or toilet paper, just a solitary commode in the middle of the room. I would have gone in my pants before going in the midst of the present company. Due to what was surely a historic case of “stage fright”, I never even thought about going.
A fellow inmate offered everyone cigarettes. Kevin and I both declined. I immediately regretted this, feeling like this was some sort of an initiation or something.
One of the other inmates, I think the armed robbery guy, suddenly snatched the cigarette out of the mouth of the old drunk man and began to smoke it. A fight almost ensued. I’m certain I know who would have ultimately lost had everyone started punching each other (as it looked like I was going to happen). Order was restored and my heart rate dropped back to a manageable pace.
Around 3:30am, a guard came to usher the four of us out. I was in a daze. We had to call parents to bail us out. Everyone agreed that it should be mine.
Jail was unnerving and a bit stressful. However, I was terrified of calling my parents.
Mom picked up, clearly shaken. She knew something was up.
I did the best to explain in three minutes what had happened. Though they were angry, they trusted me to the point of feeling like I must have a good explanation. I will always deeply appreciate their trust in me at 4am when they picked us up from the DeKalb County police station.
The next day at school was brutal. Dad insisted I not be late for school. Just because I was a paint pellet shooting, pumpkin smashing idiot didn’t mean I was allowed to sleep in and miss a few classes. I was off to school on maybe an hour of sleep.
EVERYONE at school seemed to know exactly what had happened. I hated facing my teachers and explaining a thousand times that day what had happened. Even in my high school buffoonery, I was not excited to tell my friends.
This was not my finest moment.