the Chair before the Drunk Tank

The chair I was handcuffed to was one of those straight-backed deals one encounters most frequently in elementary schools & AA meetings. The Irony struck me, since I’d been assured — in both elementary school and at AA meetings – that unless I cleaned up my act, some Ugly Fate like this awaited me.

Fuck Them. I thought to myself, and looked for a way out.

I’d already tried to run from the store security guard; an instinctively sound reaction to his charging at me, which seemed less smart, a few drunken steps later, when he tackled and held me in a choke-hold until I literally begged him not to kill me. This, within view of the two cops who happened to roll by at that inconveniently particular moment.

‘Now I got to tell ‘em what you done!’ The security guard barked resentfully, ‘Or else get an assault charge pinned on me!’

He grabbed me by the arm and hauled me out back. I got a good look at the guy; black, older – late 50’s or so, I’d guess – and gentlemanly, in his own way. He wasn’t handling me rough, but would if I gave him another reason.

Mostly I was struck by his seeming empathy. Like he’d been Fucked Around more than once, by police, and was genuinely sorry for having to help them haul off with me.

Sorry, yeah – but it pissed him off. He shook his head, while he handcuffed me to the chair, and explained that he’d never have called the cops on me if I hadn’t tried to run.

‘That’s the problem with the Youth these days,’ was the last thing he said, ‘Is you don’t know the Value of cooperation.’

Ok. I figured I’d have plenty of time to let that Lesson sink in…later. Maybe I’d discuss it with my Youthful coconspirators, in their apartment across the street, over the rest of that half-gallon of Jim Beam – if I could get back before they finished it off.

I could almost hear them, they were so close. Passing the bottle around, giving me Cheers and – I hoped – putting together some kind of cash collection, on my behalf, to bail me out in the morning.

Not that bail would be necessary, if I had my way. The chair wasn’t attached to the floor, but I was stubbornly attached to the chair. So I kind of half-hopped my way to the door. Then realized, with the door directly in front of me, and my hands cuffed securely behind, I’d need to swing the chair round 180 degrees to gain a clear reach on the knob. For the sake of expediency, I tried to pivot the chair on one leg, kicked too hard, and hung perilously for a moment, until the chair righted itself and landed, still facing the wrong way, but otherwise properly.

I hung my head in despair. Languished, for a moment, until I remembered: I am a Free-lance Jedi, who extricates myself from jams like this Professionally. I drew a deep breath, prepared to use the Force on the doorknob, when I was distracted by mean-looking black things on the floor. Boots. Black leather boots – most likely attached to cop’s feet.

Damn it. Foiled again. Oh well, maybe I can win the cops over with my Charm.

I fumbled for the right words to greet them, but they beat me to it.

‘Where are those friends of yours?’

I thought on it for a second, but plumb didn’t Get the question.

‘What friends?’ I asked, genuinely baffled.

I reached back with my brain, trying to make sense of all that transpired over the last, tumultuous half-hour. There had been friends. In an apartment across the street. There was a grocery store involved. And dog food, which didn’t explain anything. I was about to give up, plead innocent by reason of simple stupidity, and throw myself at their mercy.

It was one of the cops who finally shed light on my quandary. She crinkled her nose and turned away with revulsion, then said:

‘White Boy reeks like whiskey!’

‘That’s it!!’ I exclaimed, ‘My friend’s name is James Beam. Go find him – he’s guilty!’

I leaned back in my elementary-school chair, satisfied that I’d settled the matter. But the cops seemed un-amused.

‘We got your friends on store-video stealing beer!’ one shouted, ‘Now do yourself a favor and tell us where they are at!’

Now, I wondered to myself, Why would they do that? We were all broke – maybe that was partly why. But we had a Handle of Jim Beam with plenty left, I recall. Well, maybe not plenty, per se, but it was barely half gone.

So. We were broke, but we had booze – probably Enough, if not outright Plenty. Enough, at very least, to justify not stealing beer late at night from a near-empty grocery store.

Somebody could get In Trouble that way.

So why did my friends do that – and what did it have to do with me? I grappled mentally, but it didn’t add up – though something about the dog food was bugging me. Then I remembered:

The whole doomed escapade was my stinking idea!

It started a couple hours earlier, when my dog needed food. I had a few bucks, but I needed whiskey. Since there was no way I could justify spending my last money on liquor, with a hungry dog, I did the sensible thing: walked to the nearby store, slung 2 twenty-pound bags of Kibbles & Bits over my shoulders, and walked out.

Just like I happened to know precisely what the fuck I was doing.

Which I did, until the Jim Beam was about half gone. Then I had one if those two-thirds dunk but only half-bright Ideas that tend to get you handcuffed to chairs in nearby grocery stores.

‘You guys know what,’ I fatefully asked, ‘If I walked right out of there with 2 twenty-pound bags of dog food – well I sure don’t see why we can’t do that with a case of cold brews!!’

‘I ask you one more time,’ the cop screamed and – I thought a little rudely – held a can of Mace a few inches from my eyeballs.

‘Where are your FRIENDS AT?’

Now I don’t know how they do things in Memphis, Tennessee – but I guessed it’s a lot like back home, when a cop asks dumb questions about your friends who Got Away.

‘Yo I ain’t got no friends!!’

They say the worst thing to do is rub your eyes, when you’re maced. It just grinds the chemicals in excruciatingly deeper…so maybe I was lucky to be handcuffed to that chair. I couldn’t even reach my eyes with my shoulders, though I desperately tried.

The cops had to leave for a good ten minutes, until the heinous, burning stench dissipated from the tiny room’s limited supply of air.

There is no Moral to this story – but it’s got a bit of a Kicker.

There’s a special window, in the Processing Line of the jail at 901 Poplar in Memphis. Kinda like the complaint department; it’s where they send people who say they’ve been a victim of Police Brutality.

‘Were you a victim of Police Brutality?’ the woman behind the window asked.


‘Can you be more specific?’ She asked.

‘They maced me while I was handcuffed to a chair.’

‘Were you offered appropriate medical treatment?’


‘Ok. Handcuffed to a chair and maced,’ she repeated, ‘That right?’


She checked a box.

‘Denied medical treatment,’ she said, with an air of finality, then checked another box on her form and waved me along.

‘Thank you for your patronage,’ she said, ‘Next!’

2 Responses to “the Chair before the Drunk Tank”

  1. 1 david wang July 24, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    sure were some crazy times. Whacha doin’ ? “Not Shit” Whacha want to do “GET FUCKED UP”.

    Shoutout to those crazy fucken bunch of peeps. Live in memphis Die in memphis as the story goes.

  2. 2 Mike E July 25, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Yo Wang: You got emails for Jen or Hubcap or any of those kids?

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