Unfortunately, this story didn’t end quite as well as the first one, probably because it involved the “big city” Milwaukee police department instead of our local small-town suburban police. Things started out innocently enough with my girlfriend and I and another couple chilling out in a local city park in a place called Brown Deer, WI. I was 17, she was 16, and the drinking age at the time was 18. Not that it mattered a hell of a lot in Wisconsin at the time, and the park was literally deserted on a weekday afternoon in the summer around 1:00. The other couple wasn’t drinking, but my girlfriend and I decided to share a six-pack of beer. No big deal, we thought…
After we were about halfway through our beers, we noticed a couple of middle-aged guys in jeans and T-shirts tossing a football around about 100 yards away from us and didn’t really think anything of it. They gradually got closer, and pretty soon they were pretty much right on top of us in a giant empty park. Just as I was thinking how weird this was, one of the guys whips out his badge and tells us they are cops. I really wasn’t too nervous at this point—In Wisconsin in the 1970s, the cops were pretty lax about alcohol, and I honestly thought they would probably check our IDs, make us dump the beer, and kick us out of the park. But, alas—It was not to be. It turns out these clowns were “detectives” who were busy slacking off in the park, tossing a football around, and busting harmless kids for having a few beers (and getting waaaaaay overpaid to do it!). They carded us all and then started searching our pockets and looking for a reason to arrest us. Well, the beer was technically enough to arrest my girlfriend and I, but I had the misfortune to have the princely sum of about $3 worth of weed in my pocket. Officer Slacker immediately slapped the cuffs on us and radioed for (get this!) an old-school paddy wagon to cart us all the way downtown to the main county jail!
As the cops made us do the proverbial “walk of shame” handcuffed together (I kind of liked that part-wink!) through the park to the paddy wagon, my girlfriend was crying thinking about her parents punishing her (even though they knew full well that she drank beer like many other kids in that era!) In contrast, I was actually pretty pissed off at the hyperbolic response by these two “undercover detectives” looking for an easy day at work on the taxpayers’ dime rather than looking for any real criminals (who existed in large quantities only a few miles from the park!) Of course…Yours truly could not resist offering the cops exactly that opinion of their “work” that day pretty much from the moment they slapped the cuffs on us to when they sat me down in the station for what they thought would be their lecture to me. I expressed my annoyance at their lame lecture and gave them a piece of my mind about “harmless kids” versus “real criminals” and told them that two guys spending 6 hours each busting two kids for drinking beer was a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money!
The detectives did not take kindly to my diatribe and thought they would teach me a lesson by locking me in a real jail cell in the room behind them. I just shook my head and peacefully complied of course, and I spent the only three hours of my life I would ever spend inside a real jail cell. (And it was the old-school kind with rusty pale green bars, etc.—Kind of like this one.)
The jail was nearly empty on a weekday afternoon of course, so I had my own cell (probably because I was a minor I would guess). But there were two other people in nearby cells, and one of them gave me a friendly greeting as the cop led me past him into my cell. He was a white guy a few years older than me, and we started talking for a while about why we were there, etc. He was in the cell beside me so I couldn’t really see him. What I did notice for the first time in my life though was a black dude dressed in drag passed out on his bunk in the cell directly across from me! Being a suburban white dude, I had never seen anything like that before! I asked the other guy what the hell was up with that, and he explained that the passed out drag dude was probably a heroin addict they caught trying to turn tricks in exchange for his H.
I said something like, “Damn—I’m never doing that shit. I’ll stick to beer and weed!” The guy immediately replied, “Oh, you smoke weed?” I reiterated that I did and he surprised the hell out of me by asking if I wanted to smoke with him!!! I said: “You mean here? INSIDE THE MILWAUKEE COUNTY JAIL?!!!” He replied that that was exactly what he meant, and I asked him how he managed to get his weed inside the jail. I told him they took mine from my front pocket during my arrest, and he said: “Well, you should have put a doobie in your sock like I did!” It turns out he even had a pack of matches in there, so I can honestly say that the only time I ever went to jail, I arrived sober and left high. Talk about something that is very unusual to be grateful for—Hahahaha!!! Fortunately, the cops let me cool my heels in there for about three hours before my Mom showed up to get me. They told my Mom I seemed like a good kid who just had a problem with authority (you think?!) and that if I stayed out of trouble for a few more months until I was 18 my record would be expunged. I don’t happen to believe that “expunged records” really exist—Someone probably scanned them into a computer at some point in 1995 just in case… If not, they can read my blog about it!
Needless to say, my Mom was none too pleased as we left the station; she explained that my father was furious and that I would be grounded for a long time to come. Of course I can’t blame someone from her generation from being mortified at having to pick her son up from the police station, but I was still hopping mad about the way the whole thing went down and what I maintained was the cops’ huge overreaction. My Mom and I were on opposite sides of this authoritarian issue (and remain so to this day!), so I received an indefinite grounding as punishment. But a friend of mine was having a party that night (her parents were out of town—imagine that!), so I decided that I was simply not going to accept my punishment.
In my mind, I had done nothing wrong to anyone; I was behaving nicely and minding my own business drinking beer with my girlfriend, and it was the cops who were in the wrong for arresting me rather than simply dumping my beer and booting us out of the park. In that spirit, I went into the basement of our house, walked out the door, snagged my bike from the garage (couldn’t risk Mom & Dad hearing my car start!) and rode my bike to the party in about 20 minutes. To my credit, I called my parents immediately when I arrived so they wouldn’t worry about where I was and told them I did not agree with their punishment and simply refused to accept it. I didn’t want them to worry about me or be an asshole about it, but I had to be true to myself and honest with them. After getting over their initial anger, I think my parents understood that I had a point, and the next day we agreed on a 2-week grounding to keep peace in the household. Hey, even we anarchist libertarians can compromise for love…