After midnight you can’t always let it all hang out


When you live on the streets you’re accutely aware that a different set of rules comes into play after the stroke of midnight. I’ll give you an example.

Last night at around 20 after midnight I headed up to my campsite in the Berkeley hills. Half-way there I decided to rest my drunken bones at this bench in front of the Campus Eye Clinic. I hadn’t even been sitting there for a minute — hadn’t even had time to take out my goddamn cellphone — when three cop cars suddenly come barreling towards me and three cops come rushing at me.

Even worse, one of the cops is this guy who hates me for some unknown reason. I had had an extremely unpleasant encounter with him a couple months ago in a similar after-midnight situation where he really gave me the third degree and tried his darnedest to come up with some reason — any reason — to slap the handcuffs on me and lock me up in the old hoose-gow for the night.

So my mind is racing to try and think of what I might have done wrong to get myself in trouble this time (after a beer or 12 I’m not always keenly aware of the fine line between decent, normal civilized behavior and criminally aberrant acts).

But when two of the cops went rushing by me and into the Eye Center I quickly guessed what the problem was. Somebody had probably accidentally set off the burglar alarm. And I just happened to be Suspect A sitting there like a chump in front of the joint.

The cop that hated me asked me a few questions, asked for my I.D., ran my name over the wire, and managed to contain his contempt to a reasonably professional level. And after about (a LONG) five minutes the cops signaled I was in the clear. So I grabbed my pack and made my exit stage-left up the road with a big sigh of relief.

Only to have the cops call after me “HEY YOU!! HEY YOU!!” and I’m thinking “Oh God NOW what??” The cop called out “You dropped one of your cards from your wallet when you took out your I.D.”

I trotted back, grabbed my card from the cop and said “Thanks men!!” Good law-abiding citizen that I am, and they, after all, are there to serve and protect and retrieve my cards.

But that’s the thing about after midnight. You can easily get in trouble simply by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And when you live on the streets, there are a LOT of wrong places and wrong times.