Arrested Development

The cards were on the table when the law came bustin' in;
the road goes on forever and the party never ends

-Robert Earl Keen, The Road Goes on Forever

It's probably a sad commentary on my social circle when I'm the one who grew up to be the designated responsible adult in our crew, but my mother insists I should think of it as an honor. That was right before she added, "and so what if you have to be heavily medicated to pull it off?"

My life does seem filled with drama these days, but it's always the vicarious kind-contrary to rumor, I'm almost always in a supporting, never a starring, role.

Yeah. I was livin' the wild life all right when my girlfriends called me last Saturday night for bail.

I'd had the craziest evening: forcing everyone to leave the ball game with me at the half, so we could go to Target for an entertainment center, when I was sure there'd be no traffic and no customers. (Let me pause here to share a shopping tip. Target? It's the new Ikea.)

By the time the phone rang, I was home alone, in bed, under the covers in my pink jammies, eagerly anticipating the viewing of my very first DVD, and the only chick flick I've ever truly loved, Sweet Home Alabama.

Assuming most calls after 10pm indicate a genuine emergency, I retrieved the phone from the charger, and the first sentence was, "We're in trouble."

I was out of bed, and into my Stuart Weitzmans in half a second (which are always conveniently positioned at the foot of my bed, much like the boots of a firefighter who's always ready for the next drill).

"Jail or hospital?" I asked (since it would determine both my choice of wardrobe and whether or not I would need a date).

Jail and bail for one; a ride for another. (Basic black. No date. Minimal makeup.)

Because while pink pajamas are fine for a garden-variety trip to the ER (I could tell you more about that, from two weekends ago, but that's another column entirely-I can tell you that any visit to the ER will be expedited if you take along a doctor as your date, and that the staff may well talk to you like you're a dumbass until he arrives).

Any encounter with the criminal justice system definitely calls for Calvin Klein. I also selected a kitten heel because I knew I'd be doin' a lot of walking. You need to be taken seriously, and in some quarters, it will help if you're mistaken for legal counsel (in others, that will work against you).

Luckily, my game clothes were readily accessible from their position on the Magic Chair (which is where you throw clothing at the end of the day, and it miraculously becomes clean again a few days later, after more clothes have been piled on top of it-a little trick I picked up when I had fraternity roommates).

In no time at all, I had converted my truck to a mobile command center, and even with a slowly-dying cell, had established contact with everyone I knew in the field of corrections-along with everyone I knew who'd ever been arrested (not necessarily a mutually exclusive group).

I wasn't asking for any favors, I just needed to know how the process worked. I was a novice, a veritable virgin, in that my only real experience had been on the OTHER side of the bars. (I had no idea of the emotional and financial rigors I put my friends through while I was stuck in the big house watchin' TNT's Prime Time in the Daytime.)

Eventually we landed at district court, and I came by a few more tips that might come in handy for the general populace.

When leaving the house, assume that you are subject to arrest, and plan accordingly. For example, try to cultivate friendships with wealthy people. Sure that pothead bass player may be the life of every party, but he will be of zero assistance in any emergency, unless the emergency is that you need more weed. A staunch egalitarian, I firmly believe you should never judge people based on their moneyunless you anticipate a circumstance that might involve bail and court costs. Forget artists and musicians for the moment, and instead cozy up to a few trust-fund babies.

Also, populate your social circle with a couple token non-drinkers. Assembling a bunch of drunks to manage any task beyond unzipping your dress is like herdin' cats.

MEMORIZE your friends' numbers instead of relying on your cell rolodex. Especially their land lines (cell phones won't accept calls from a detention center-and whichever provider figures out a way to overcome that is gonna have a helluva sales tool on their hands, "Can you hear me NOW?").

If, at any point, you are arrested, immediately surrender a few vital possessions to a responsible, sober friend (wallet, purse, ATM card, phone-anything they might need to access to help you.) Here again, the elusive bass player will prove to be of limited assistance, as he will probably use your spare cash to buy pot.

When "the bulls" tell you to sit in the front row, do it. Passive intake is preferable to a cell, and the wife beaters and drunks you'll encounter will be a treasure trove of valuable information. This is not the time to be close-minded about making new friends.

Other points worth remembering are that it's NEVER a good idea to smart off to a cop. While many can and do possess a fine sense of humor and sparkling wit if observed in their natural habitat, it's not a trait that's generally considered an on-the-job asset.

If you think cleavage is going to get you out of a ticket or a trip to the pokey, you've been watching too many movies, like say, Bad Lieutenant, or maybe the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct. In real life, they are impervious to your charms. (Yes, that IS a Glock in their pocket, and No, they are not happy to see you. Regardless of how hot you are.)

And finally, familiarize yourself with the local court system in a non-stressful situation (drop by to pay a parking ticket or something). If you arrive there for your first time on a Saturday night, when the air is already redolent with bourbon, regret, and recriminations, your finely-honed sense of irony will be severely imposed upon. n