My one and only night in the Berkeley drunk tank

In case you’re wondering, after several decades of drinking in public, I’ve only been arrested for “public drunkenness” once. And, oddly, I wasn’t even drunk at the time (had barely finished my first cup of beer). A particular cop happened to have a vendetta against me, and was looking for any excuse to fuck with me. Hence the arrest.

It was a particularly surreal experience. It’s only the third time in my life when I’ve been handcuffed and hauled off to the hoose-gow (I’ve been lucky in that regard considering my lifestyle). It’s such a weird experience. It was almost sexual, like S&M. Bondage and Discipline. One moment you’re sitting there, experiencing total freedom of movement to do and say anything you like. And the next moment you’re bound and constrained by this total stranger who has total control over you and is whisking you off to some unknown fate and destination. . .

I spent the night in the drunk tank at the Berkeley police station — in the dungeon in this dark little cell with a slab concrete bunk bed with a couple of blankets and a pillow. It was a mostly uneventful night. I couldn’t sleep so I spent most of the time sitting on my bed in lotus position meditating. I couldn’t SEE the booking area, but I could HEAR them. And over the course of the night they booked several other people into different cells. Only one of them caused a disturbance. He was loud, angry and belligerent — ranting and cursing and threatening the arresting officers (he was either drunk or stoned or nuts or a combination of the three). He raged in his cell for an hour before he finally fell asleep (I could hear him snoring all night).

The next morning one of the people that worked at the booking station came over and unlocked my cell. Returned my belongings to me, gave me some paperwork, and then released me. And I got to keep the little mugshot photo of me and the wristband as a memento. I told the booking person that the whole thing reminded me of an episode of the Barny Miller TV show. Which it did. She laughed at that (though I doubt it was the first time she heard that line). And then I stepped outside of the police station into the morning light (which never looked better). And that was the end of it. . .. Actually, even though the cop had been trying to fuck with me, he actually did me a favor by arresting me. If he had given me a ticket instead, I would have had to get up at 5 in the morning to go to court all the way in downtown Oakland, pay $40 in paperwork fees, and then have to work 25 hours of Community Service to pay off my ticket. Instead I just slept overnight in a nice warm cell and that was the end of it. Go figure.

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