Menace II Society

Anyone who watches even the slightest amount of TV is familiar with the scene: the door opens, and the person holding the knob is asked to identify himself. The agent then says, 'I'm going to ask you to come with me.' The suspect then chooses between doing things the hard way and doing things the easy way, and the scene ends with either gunfire or the gentlemanly application of handcuffs. When it comes time to decide who gets the bottom bunk, I think anyone would agree that there's a lot to be said for doing things the hard way.

-David Sedaris

After making it to the age of 37 without ever being handcuffed, I gotta admit, it wasn't at all how I thought it would be.

For one thing, I was fully clothed. For another, I was under arrest.

It didn't help that I had no idea why a small-ish riot squad had spontaneously surrounded me in traffic or why my rearview mirror had suddenly turned into a scene out of The Blues Brothers.

Lawyers will frequently tell you to play dumb, but believe me when I say I wasn't actin'.

If you'd had to measure my coherence as I tried to make sense to half a SWAT team, it would've been roughly equivalent to the moment where Sean Penn gets busted for soliciting a prostitute in I Am Sam. (He spends all his time trying to explain the "jumble" on the iHop menu.)

I spent the ride to the jail reflecting on the prior evening's episode of Oz.

First, I would need to acquire a BIG girlfriend. Whose bitch would I be?

I was also going to need protection. How could I fashion a crude shiv from a tampon, a cellphone, and a pair of Anne Klein sunglasses (the only tools at my disposal)? I had no idea. I don't watch MacGyver.

In truth, the police were remarkably kind to me-especially given the disinformation they had been supplied about some sort of ridiculously outrageous Halle Berry-style vehicular encounter-which they seemed to realize was "suspect" at best.

Please. If I had ever in my life exhibited the slightest propensity toward violence of any kind, everyone knows the remains of one (long-ago) ex-boyfriend would still be clinging to the grille of my truck. The fact that he's still breathing speaks volumes about my capacity for unmitigated restraint and respect for the law.

I can't say what the cops were thinking, but my indignant opinon was: Serpico almost died for this? So these poor guys could get screwed into wasting their morning as glorified process servers?-a gig some might characterize as one step up (or down) in responsibility and importance from those enjoyed by Wal-Mart rent-a-cops?

But I didn't really begin to deteriorate until we arrived at the euphemistically named "detention center" (with the big oxymoronic WELCOME sign outside).

The first real "Welcome" you get is a pat-down. That didn't go well.

Even under voluntary circumstances, I am not someone anybody would characterize as "affectionate." I don't even enjoy being hugged by people I know and like. In fact, it makes me a little tense.

As I was flashing back to scenes from Born Innocent (starring Linda Blair, which I was scarred by as an adolescent) and nervously anticipating a full-body cavity search, I had never in my life so desperately fantasized about a discreet, military-issue cyanide capsule I could bite down on.

That's about the time "the bulls" started askin' me a LOT of questions on the topic of suicide. Had I ever tried it? Ever planned one? Ever thought about it?

My first thought was, of course, "Uhh duh. Not until NOW," but something in me held back-dimly aware that sarcasm and irony are wasted on corrections officers (and airline officials). I found out later an ill-timed joke would've promptly landed me a paper gown and padded cell.

I pride myself on maintaining a sense of humor at all times, but I had enough sense to know this was a tough room.

Thank God, the place they put you after booking (passive intake) had two things I instantly recognized: phones and cable TV (although it was none too subtly tuned to TNT's Prime Time in the Daytime: Law and Order, NYPD Blue, another NYPD Blue, and In the Heat of the Night; the latter DOES qualify as "cruel and unusal" if you check the Geneva convention.)

But I still had two big problems (ok, yeah: aside from being falsely accused and wrongly INCARCERATED.)

First, I was wearing the aforementioned Anne Klein (prescription) sunglasses ('cause that's what I had on in the smoke wagon y'know). And you can't wear sunglasses in jail. I don't know why. It's not like I was going to shank anybody with them. And once those were confiscated, I was, effectively, blind.

Second, once they took my cellphone (and its rolodex), I was helpless. I don't know anyone's phone number from memory (even if I COULD've seen the phone) except the one here at the office.

Of course, I've always said I work with the most highly skilled, ingenious, and knowledgeable staff this side of NASA-and the way they pulled together that morning is definitely a testament to my faith. In a matter of hours, they activated some (heretofore unknown to me) phone tree and database-masterfully assembling a disparate group of friends, family, clergy, and a legal dream team, and enough bail to free Al Capone.

They even managed to smuggle in my REAL glasses (though they forgot the carton of smokes, which I told them I'd be needin', in case I had to, you know, bargain with the screws).

One of my friends in law enforcement told me that night I'd be the only person he knew to get four books and a movie out of four hours in jail (or at least an E! True Hollywood Story). He just wants Denzel Washington to play him.

I'm just relieved I didn't have time to get a tattoo.