It was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time — and when you live on the streets there are many such places

I just had a slightly humiliating experience. One of those experiences where you feel like a bum. I just got rousted by three different cops. You KNOW you could be in big trouble when three different cops cars pull up, specifically to deal with you and nobody but you.

I’m hanging out drinking beer and charging my cellphone at one of my favorite late-night hang-out spots on the campus when it’s raining. This little nook of space in the basement of Dwinelle Hall. I’ve been using it for years and I’ve never had any problems because it’s usually deserted in the evenings, and especially deserted on the weekends. At least until now.

So around 9 o’clock I notice this cop car pulls up right outside (I’m in this little lobby area). And doesn’t leave. So I’m starting to get a little nervous. Finally this cop — this young black woman — comes in and confronts me. “We got a complaint that you’ve been lodging in here.” So I just figured somebody had complained that some weirdo bum had been hanging out in the building (there’s at least a dozen other homeless people that regularly hole up in the building when it’s raining — several of whom are a bit peculiar — and I probably got caught in the cross-fire.)

So I give her my ID card and she runs my name across the wire. And I figure after I’m cleared for not having any outstanding warrants she’ll let me go.

But then a SECOND cop car pulls up and a second cop comes into the building. It’s this Asian cop who got really heavy with me this one night a couple years ago. So now I’m really squirming, thinking I might be in hot water (turns out he was very cool and friendly and didn’t have an attitude towards me this time, thankfully). So he asks me a few questions. Then asks to see my cellphone. I give it to him. And he asks me several questions about my cellphone. Which is weird. So I’m trying to figure out what’s going on.

And then a THIRD cop car pulls up. So now I’m really thinking I’m fucked. He’s a big young white guy. And as he enters the lobby and approaches me he puts on these blue plastic gloves. And I’m thinking: “Is he planning on doing a full body search here??” Like what the fuck is going on? I was just sitting here minding my own business. And now all this. He’s asks me a few questions. Then he asks me about the jacket I’m wearing. Which is dark blue. “Is that jacket reversible?” he says. “I don’t know, I’ve always worn it this way,” I says. “Could I take a photo of you with your jacket reversed?” he says. “Sure,” I says. The jacket is tan when it’s reversed. He takes a photo of me and my jacket. And then goes back outside to his cop car.

So now I’m standing there in the lobby with the Asian cop and the black woman cop, feeling like a criminal. FBI’s most wanted list. (I also have a 6-pack of beer by my stuff, hidden in a black bag, two beers already drunk, four to go — so they can bust me for public drinking and haul me off to jail at any moment if they spot that, so I am a bit nervous).

“Am I in trouble?” I said to the Asian cop. Still perplexed by what’s going on.

“A student got her cellphone stolen and you match the description of the suspects,” said the cop. “White male, about 50, 6 foot, wearing a tan jacket, slightly balding.” (that hurt)

“That would be me,” I said.

(I’m realizing it’s just one of those deals where “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Which can happen often when you live on the streets. Because you’re usually in the wrong place.)

The big white cop comes back in and says, “Can I search through your backpack?”

“Sure,” I says. He pulls everything out of my backpack one by one. And then puts it all back in.

“Can I search you?” he says.

“Sure,” I says. “Is this how you do it?” I turn around and put my arms out by my side (I haven’t had a lot of experience with this sort of thing, thankfully).

“No. Put your hands behind your back.” I comply and he gives me the old frisk. Finds nothing. “Can I look through your bag, too?”

“Sure,” I says. Now I figure I’m fucked. “Thats just my 6-pack of beer. I was going to drink it later. I surely wouldn’t drink it here on campus property.” (he lies)

“What kind of beer is it?” asks the Asian cop.

“Racer 5,” I says.

“That’s good beer,” he says with a friendly smile.

“7.5% alcohol content,” I says.

(Fortunately I had put the bottle caps back on the two empties, so it looked like a full six-pack as long as he didn’t look too close.)

After a bit more chit-chat they say:  “Thanks for your cooperation.” And I grab my stuff and get my ass out of there and off the campus as fast as I can. With a big sigh of relief. But humiliated too. And now this once great hang-out spot is burned-out and off limits. Sigh.

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