I just got rousted by a cop. 8PM Friday night. I’m charging my cellphone at this outlet by this building on the Berkeley campus, drinking my beer. I figured it was cool. The campus is on lockdown. Plus it’s Christmas break. So I figure the campus is deserted and I can get away with hanging out at this spot.
But NOOO. For some reason there are people going in and out of the building. What they’re doing going in and out of the building on a Friday night on a lockdown campus on Christmas break when absolutely nothing is going on. Is beyond me. But one of the people going in and out of the building sees me sitting there charging my cellphone, and apparently calls the cops on me.
The cop shows up. Gets in my face. He’s a young guy. I can immediately tell he’s sympathetic to my situation. “I got a call from someone that you’re here so I came to check it out,” he says.
“No problem,” I said. “Let me put my mask on.” I reach into my pocket — you always want to alert a cop BEFORE you reach into your pockets (Street Tip 101) (they might fucking shoot you) and I put my mask on. That’s to convey to the cop that I’m a responsible citizen who is dealing appropriately with the pandemic.
“I was just charging my cellphone but I’ll get out of here if it’s a problem,” I said.
“No it’s OK,” said the cop. “It’s well before curfew and you can stay here and charge your cellphone if you want.” (the cop is letting me know that he’s just responding to a “complaint” — that’s a big part of the cop’s job after all and he’s not out to bust my balls). (The cops are usually the hapless middle-men called in to deal with complaints between two other parties)
“I understand,” I said. “Somebody going into the building saw me sitting here and thought some weirdo was hanging out here by the building so they called you.” (I’m letting the cop know I’m sympathetic to his perspective).
“Yeah but it’s well before curfew so you can hang out here and charge your cell phone if you want,” said the cop.
“Ahh no that’s OK,” I said. “My cellphone is just about charged so I’ll get out of here. If somebody is upset about me being here I’ll get out of here.” (That immediately relieves the cop. Because all he really wants is for me to get the fuck out of there.)
I quickly pack up my stuff — including my two 40s of Olde English Malt liquor (which could have caused me problems) and get my ass out of there. And the cop gets into his cop car and drives off (he’s done his job, he was called in to deal with a complaint, and he’s dealt with the complaint, and it ended happily with him not to have to sit at his desk later and deal with a lot of boring paperwork regarding tickets and/or arrests, so he’s relieved).
Some street people mis-play it at this juncture. They get belligerent and righteous: “WHY ARE FUCKING PIGS FUCKING WITH ME WHEN I HAVE AS MUCH A RIGHT AS ANY CALIFORNIA CITIZEN TO SIT HERE ON A CALIFORNIA CAMPUS BEFORE CURFEW AS ANYBODY ELSE!!! YOU’RE JUST OPPRESSING ME BECAUSE I’M HOMELESS AND ETC ETC!!”
Even as that approach is technically and legally correct. It can still get you in big trouble if you play it that way.
PS. I moved to another spot on the Berkeley campus a couple of buildings away and continued to drink my beer and babble on my cellphone. So we all lived Happily Ever After.