Chapter 10: My Brilliant Criminal Career
This chapter is probably going to be one of the hardest ones to write. The funny thing is, I could easily leave this part out, and you could just think that I'm simply a somewhat neurotic doofus who has had problems keeping a job. After this chapter, you'll probably think that I'm at best a total fuckwit, and possibly dangerously insane. I'm willing to take that chance, however. I think honesty is the best policy if we're going to come to some kind of understanding of my emotional state over the years.
The other reason I felt I should include this life episode is because it lead to two of the positions that I've included in this memoir – one directly and one indirectly. Neither were jobs in the traditional sense – they didn't pay anything, and I didn't really have a choice about doing either of them. The indirect one could have been easily explained for other reasons, or left out entirely. I've included the direct one because it actually was rather healing to my psyche after the events I'll soon describe.
But before we get into that grim stuff, let's do a quick recap. In the space of about my first 5 years in the workforce, I had 7 jobs (not counting the paper route gig). That's not so bad for a young fellow, is it? That's the equivalent of a new job about every 8.5 months. I don't think anyone expects great consistency and years-long commitment from someone still in their teens. At least that rate is a little better than my lifetime average of a different job every 5.25 months. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Getting back to the narrative, I now found myself back in my parent's home, and faced with the prospect of looking for work in the economically depressed seat of Butt County. However, I seemed to have stalled in my life plans (as if I had any in the first place). The threat of having to start attending college if I was still at home and not working was hanging heavily over me, but it seemed to do little to motivate me. Instead I recall being more interested in hanging out with my old high school friends, many of whom were still in high school.
At O-Town High School there was a math teacher – whom we shall call Mr. Schmossas. I had never been smart enough in mathematics to have had any classes with him. However, many of my smarter friends – including the future Mrs. Rimpington – had, and they told some tales of what a cruel and rude tyrant this fellow was. It really seemed like this guy needed to be taken down a notch, but of course, as mere students, my friends were in no position to do anything about it.
So I got the idea in my head that a former student might be just person to teach this cad a lesson. Don't worry, I'm not talking about murder or great physical violence. I'll admit that there is a scary little part of my personality that has made it easy for me to imagine that I could have been some kind of stone cold assassin or hit-man. After all, I sure showed those chickens who was boss, didn't I?
No, I just figured that something humiliating and perhaps a little uncomfortable would fit the bill. As I mentioned in the last chapter, I also seemed to be riding on some sort of high after my Alaskan adventure. It was probably completely unwarranted, but I was feeling pretty full of myself – as if I had accomplished something great. Unambitious as I was, I seemed to think I could do anything I put my mind to – and the wackier the idea, the better.
Mrs. Rimpington has a worthy theory about why I did what I did. She thinks my overweening sense of my own importance was compensation for feeling as though I had failed in my first quest for independence, and that I was unhappy about being back under the roof of my overbearing father, who certainly didn't share my high opinion of myself. I probably decided to take on the critical Mr. Schmossas as a substitute for the father I still couldn't yet stand up to. Smart lady, that wife o' mine. Lord knows why she married me.
Whatever my motivations, I decided to make a non-lethal hit upon the pride of the evil Schmossas. Remember that can of Halt! dog repellent from Chapter 8? Well, I still had that can. I also had a balaclava and some gloves from my recent life in Alaska. One December day just before Christmas break, with ski mask, gloves and weapon of choice in the pockets of a loose-fitting jacket, I ambled nonchalantly onto my former high school campus during class hours, at I time I had previously determined that Schmossas would be oppressing a room full of hapless students.
Amazingly, I was delusional enough to think that no one at the school would recognize me, even though I had graduated only the previous summer. Aiding me in my imagined anonymity was the fact that I had grown a nifty little beard in my absence (I had always been precociously hirsute). As it was, I had no close encounters with any of my former school mates or staff. In the empty hall outside Schmossas's classroom. I donned my gear, and with capsaicin cannon in hand, I pulled open the door and sauntered into the room. I kept my knees bent to try to confuse witnesses as to my height.
Schmossas was in front of the classroom, as teachers do. When he saw me coming he laughed, thinking it was some kind of joke, but he stopped laughing when he got a face full of mace. The classroom erupted in screams and yells and I turned tail and beat feet. As I exited the hallway, I threw the can of repellent into a trash can. I waited until I had cleared the school grounds and was sure that no one was in pursuit before I pulled off the mask and gloves, which I deposited – along with the jacket, for good measure – in a dumpster behind the supermarket a few blocks from my house. I then backtracked to my home via some side streets. When I came in, I was a little flushed from all the exertion and excitement. My mom asked what I had been doing. I gave her some lame story, then went to my former bedroom to contemplate my successful caper.
Or was it? A few hours later, I heard my mom answer the phone, and moments after that she came to my door and said that the police department had called and they wanted to know if I would be so kind as to come down to the station to talk with them. She of course wanted to know what was going on. I feigned innocent ignorance as to what the police could possibly want from little old me, and I set off with dread in my heart. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if I had decided to let the police come to me. I don't know how strong their case was against me at that point. But I was no hardened criminal, despite my daring escapade, and at that point I thought I would look more innocent by appearing to cooperate.
The O-Town constabulary was located in a dumpy trailer next to the municipal courthouse on the levee above the river. I sat down with a Detective Spumoni (not his real name, but the ethnicity is accurate). He was actually the father of a girl I had gone to school with, but I had never met him before. At the risk of sounding racist, Spumoni was the embodiment of some common stereotypes of Italian-American police detectives you've probably seen in many a cheesy movie or TV show. He was a portly, greasy loudmouth in a cheap suit. His sense of humor ran to sexist jokes toward the females in his department, and he alone thought he was very funny. I took an instant dislike to him, although, all in all, he treated me rather kindly.
Our conversation started out as you might expect. He asked me if I knew anything about what had happened at the high school that morning, to which I responded that I did not. He proceeded to tell me that some witnesses claimed to have seen me on the campus before the incident. He could have been making that part up, but I wasn't savvy enough to think of that at the time. As it was, I said that I was just passing through. Then he dropped his bomb. He pulled an evidence bag from his desk drawer. Inside it was the can of Halt! He said that it had been found by a janitor. He also said there were fingerprints on it, and he had a strong suspicion that if I were to agree to submit my own prints, that they would match. Now I think that the bit about the fingerprints may have been a lie. I had been careful to wipe the canister down with alcohol, and then not to handle it again with my bare hands before the “hit”. At the time, however, I figured I must have missed a couple of incriminating prints, and the jig was up. If it was a ploy on Spumoni's part, it worked. I broke down and tearfully admitted to my crime.
Spumoni then read me my rights, and I was officially under arrest for the first (and only) time in my life. He didn't cuff me. He could probably tell I had no threat of fight or flight in me. I decided that cooperation was my only hope for a light sentence. I agreed to show Spumoni where I had ditched the other accouterments of my crime. We drove down in his unmarked car, and I even climbed into the dumpster to retrieve the evidence against me. Spumoni certainly wasn't going to heft his fat, polyester-clad ass up into a dumpster.
We went back to the station. Spumoni called my mom and told her I was going to jail, and would she like to bring me anything for my stay. She drove down with my toothbrush and some clean underwear in a bag. I stood with my chin on my chest while my poor, confused, sad mother handed Spumoni the bag. He then drove me out to the jail. Since I was a cooperative suspect, and a first-time offender, he pulled some strings to get me a cell to myself, rather than putting me in with a bunch of real criminals. I was very thankful for that.
I traded my clothes for some rather butch jeans and a denim shirt with “Butt County Jail” stenciled on the back. No ugly orange back in those days. The guards found my homey bag of personal items amusing, and relieved me of it. There went my plans for making a shiv out of my toothbrush.
I only spent one night in the pokey, but it seemed like forever. I could hear the other inmates in a common cell watching TV, but I had nothing to distract me from my worries. I tried to nap on my cot, and was just about to succeed when some asshole who was passing my cell with a group of inmates yelled, “Wake up!” at the top of his lungs. He was probably envious of me and my luxurious private cell.
Eventually a kindly old trustee came by and asked me if I would like something to read, to which I eagerly agreed. He came back with a western novel by one of the famous authors of the genre - either Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey. This brand of fiction had never appealed to me before, but I fell to it in desperation. I didn't get to finish that book before I left, and I desperately wish I could remember the exact author and title. I still want to find out what varmint done it.
I had no way of knowing what time it was. I was still reading when I heard the Brady Bunch theme song coming from the far off TV. I knew that a local affiliate always reran the show at 10 PM. I was surprised it was so late. I had thought that the light which was shining from down the the hallway must be sunlight coming through a barred window, but I didn't notice that it hadn't moved. Soon it was lights out, and despite my anxiety, I drifted off to sleep.
The next day we were roused early, and those of us with appointments with a judge were handcuffed and herded into a paddy wagon-style vehicle for the trip to the courthouse. Back in those days, three of O-Town's more notorious scofflaws were these twin brothers and their nearly identical cousin. They were really something to see. They had no hair on their rather simian-looking heads, except for long, straggly goatees. I heard that the brothers had some kind of rare condition wherein they had no sweat glands. All three of them liked to boom around town on big Harleys, striking fear into the hearts of the more mild-mannered populace.
The cousin was one of my fellow passengers in the paddy wagon, and at first I was nervous to be in such close proximity to this infamous and frightening-looking outlaw. You know what they say about judging a book by its cover, though. It turns out the guy was really cool. He was obviously highly intelligent, and well-spoken. He was full of friendly advice for us other inmates. He chose to represent himself when he came before the judge, and he did so admirably. No doubt he'd had a lot of experience at it.
I don't remember all the legal details of my appearance in front of the judge. The important thing is that it was determined that I was fit to be released on my own recognizance. I had to return to the jail to get my street clothes back and get processed out. Most of the guards seemed pretty friendly, and were even joking with some of the inmates. I remember one guard laughingly telling a prisoner to always plead “innocent”, even if he were to be caught standing over the body with a smoking gun in his hand.
By the time I was able to leave, they were just starting to serve lunch, which was friend burritos, and they smelled pretty damned good. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't stay and partake. Jail had not been as bad as I thought it would be, but it's not something I wanted to ever repeat. I'm proud to say that I have avoided incarceration since then – with one minor exception, though I wasn't actually under arrest for anything then. We'll get to that later.
Of course, being out of jail was by no means the end of my new legal entanglements, but this has gone on rather longer than I intended. Next time I'll wrap up my criminal career, and we can get back to all those jobs.