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My History of Idiocy (page 2)

 

To see the smiles on our faces, you’d think we’d unearthed a pot of gold. Looking down at our treasure I remember thinking “there might even be enough here to buy a whole ounce!” Unfortunately, in our excitement we managed to miss a very important development. A man had come out of the gym and was now looking right at us from the other side of the glass. I’d love to have a snapshot of our faces when we finally looked up and saw him.

Like a couple deer in the headlights, we froze. To our amazement (and relief) the man gave us an odd look, turned around, and walked back into the gym. Not wasting a second, we made a hasty exit from the office (money box in hand) and began what you might call a “brisk walk” down the long empty corridor toward our exit. We’d only made it about 75 feet when we heard what I’d always dreaded hearing at the wine store. From behind us a booming male voice yelled: “Hey, Get back here.”

Our brisk walk immediately turned into an all-out sprint and with our shift in velocity came an obscene “clanging” of quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies as they thrashed around in the money box. In an instant we’d gone from being as quiet and stealthy as we could (as to not get noticed) to involuntarily making as much noise as you could possibly imagine. With each step the change slammed from top to bottom as if to say: “Hey, look at us, we’re over here!”

Our would-be captor was probably within 15 feet of us by the time we kicked open the cafeteria’s emergency exit door. Even though he didn’t follow us out of the building, we continued to run as hard and fast as we could. I was running so hard in fact, I tripped over my own feet in the snow and the prized money box we’d worked so hard to get went flying and disappeared into a deep drift. Needless to say, we left it where it fell; not stopping for a second and not looking back all the way home.

When we finally made it home, we were a lot less disappointed than you might think. Even though we didn’t get the loot, the whole incident was extremely exciting. (Also known as extremely “fun” when you’re a couple young / dumb-ass kids.) Moreover, this was something we could talk about for years to come; how “We broke into Holly Lane Elementary School and didn’t get caught.” Or, so we thought. It turns out we were sadly mistaken on that latter point. The Police, being the slick dudes they were, tracked our footprints in the snow straight to each of our homes. The very next day, the cops came a knockin’.

When they showed up at my door, I just said I had nothing to do with it. My mother quickly believed me and my friend stuck to the same story with his folks. Once again, we thought we’d gotten away with it. After all, how could they possible know it was us? Just because our footprints lead them directly to our front door and the shoeprints in the snow matched the shoes on our feet…that didn’t mean anything, right? Still, they were persistent; as if they were sure we were lying. Worse, they had one more trick up their sleeve. It was a procedure called fingerprinting.

Apparently, this “fingerprinting” thing enabled police to prove whether a suspect was innocent or guilty (regardless of what the suspect claimed) by matching fingerprints left on items the guilty person had touched. (-Like cabinet drawers and a recovered money box for instance.) I had a hard time believing such a thing actually existed; but when they hauled me into Westlake Police department to take my prints, I’ve got to admit I was pretty nervous. (Keep in mind, I was 10 years old.)

“Listen here boys, if there’s a match” (and there would be) “you’re going to be in big trouble…Fess up now and we’ll go easy on you. Otherwise we’ll have no choice but charge you with a felony when the fingerprint analysis comes back positive.” Well, there was no way we could lie our way out of this one. Faced with the prospect of “BIG TROUBLE” we now had to admit what we (in our parent’s eyes) had been wrongly accused of. We now had to admit what the police had known all along was true. Yes, we did it.

Now we were busted (as busted as busted gets.) I remember wondering where it all went so terribly wrong. Rather than reaching into a hefty bag of pot to roll ourselves a big fat joint, we were sitting in the police station wondering whether or not we’d end up spending time in the joint. Our little ride had come to an end and all that was left to discover was our punishment. (Drum roll please.)

The police let us go without charges, I don’t think I was even grounded and although my friend was grounded, it meant nothing since he snuck out all the time anyway. And believe it or not, that was that. So if the question was: “What happens if you get caught stealing?” The answer was: “Nothing!” Because I was clear on that fact, I continued to steal the remainder of my drug career. (And what a career it was.)

Life consisted of: Get high before school, cause as much chaos as possible during school, cut for lunch, get high, go back for last few periods; throw all my books in my locker, meet up with my friends, party some more and figure out where to get money so I could (you guessed it) buy some weed and get high. For years, I scammed and stole and sold drugs to support my habit and along with my behavior, my life began to deteriorate rapidly. I’d gone from scoring in the upper 92% of kids my age on the brain sheets to a zero point grade average. My behavior at school was unacceptable (to say the least) and the severity and frequency of my illegal activity had gotten pretty ugly. Unfortunately, by the time anyone noticed my problem, I was too far gone.

That’s not to say nobody tried. Mom attempted (twice) to straighten me out by forcing me into treatment, but I wasn’t hearing any of it. I defended my lifestyle to the death and was thrown out both times for being a serious pain in the ass. Drugs and alcohol were all I knew. They were part of a lifestyle I’d sworn my allegiance to. They were, in a very real sense, a huge part of who I was.

When the counselors would say I was “on a one way street to either jail or death” I would just laugh. My theory was: “If these idiots could predict the future, they wouldn’t be working a crappy job like this.” I felt it was my life and nobody had any right to tell me how to live it. I couldn’t understand why everyone insisted on poking their nose where it didn’t belong. Why couldn’t they just leave me alone?

Of course, I now see it was my unacceptable behavior that prompted the ever-increasing instances of “intervention.” (This was impossible for me to see at the time. I was in such a fog; the “cause and effect” nature of my worsening situation was missed completely.) The constant pressure on me to “stop using” only drove me further in the other direction; it only strengthened my bond with those who embraced and encouraged my lifestyle. I really was on a one way street and, as predicted, it ended at one of the predetermined destinations.

Although I’d been to court for a few other things prior, it was my third felony conviction in 1985 (at the age of 15) that brought my first real jail time. The saying “three strikes and you’re out” fit perfectly. My Judge was a woman and I think, in her eyes, I’d finally done something there was no sweet talking my way out of. I stole $1,200 cash from my Mom. “Her Honor” expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms. She handed down a 1-6 year sentence to be served in a notoriously nasty “21 and under” felony detention center. –Damn right I was scared, but it was too late for that to do me any good. 

When I stole the $1,200, I had huge plans. I was going to buy a pound of premium weed and before I knew it, I’d have my own big time business selling drugs. I actually did the math on my wall with a pencil; I was going to be a millionaire in under a year. Instead, I got busted red handed with the cash by the cops and went straight to jail that day.

Up to this point, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again from the adults in my life. They insisted that I had to stop doing drugs and it was because of drugs that I was always in so much trouble. Now because I’d never been caught buying or selling or even possessing drugs by the Police, I couldn’t understand for the life of me why everyone (my probation officer, the Judge, my Mom, the School, etc.) kept saying drugs were the cause of all my problems. It seemed ridiculous to me. Again, the “cause and effect” relationship was impossible for me to see.

It wasn’t until a few months after they’d locked me up that I came out of the fog I’d been in and there it was staring me in the face….All the trouble I’d been in had a common denominator. In every instance I was either stoned, looking for money to get stoned, or hanging out with a crowd that was trouble and (logically enough) liked to get stoned. From minor to major problems, if I removed “getting wasted” from the equation, NONE of the problems would have ever existed. Up to and including the 1-6 years I was now serving behind bars.

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