I have been arrested on three continents. Sort of.
Arrest 1 – Hamilton, NY, June, 1967.
The charge was moving a park bench. The story is when and how and why.
It was my brother’s graduation from Hamilton College (located in Clinton, NY, about 20 miles from Hamilton, NY where I went to college at Colgate University. Confusing, isn’t it?) He was one year ahead of me, and after a day of family and friends celebrations, my friend and I drove the 20 miles to my apartment in Hamilton. Which was, of course, closed for the summer and the electricity turned off.
We had been drinking a bit, and I substituted an tire iron for a key and broke into my own home. Since we’d only drunk a bit, there was a bit more to be drunk, so we sat in the second story bay window overlooking the main street and finished our beers. Disposal of the empties was quite easy – there was a trash can on the sidewalk below my window, so we just launched the cans, hitting some, missing others.
When we tired of this, and of sitting in a dark apartment, we went outside to the park across the street to finish our last cans. The park was boring, so we took the bench and set it in the middle of Route 12B and sat there. The first car that came by was, of course, the town cop, who was also a classmate of mine at Colgate whom we fondly referred to as The Shrew. He was quite patient with us and told us to put the bench back and go to bed. Cops did that kind of thing back in 1967.
We complied, and then spent some time laughing about the experience, and exchanging good-natured jokes about The Shrew. Next to the open window. The one The Shrew was standing under while he examined the debris around the trash can, and determined our names by the cursive urine trails in the street. Turns out The Shrew didn’t have the sense of humor I’d given him credit for.
Next thing we know, The Shrew and his partner are clomping up the stairs to my apartment and banging on the door and shouting – I swear this is the truth – “Come out! We know you’re in there!”
We didn’t come out. Instead we feigned sleep, and heard one of the cops say to the other, “You wait here while I get a warrant.” Not fully understanding the seriousness of that statement, we did go to sleep, only to be awakened later by two angry cops and my landlord in his bathrobe.
The Shrew took us to the cop station, really an old house on the other side of the park, unoccupied at 4 AM on a Sunday morning. When he went to unlock the door to take us in and book us, he was so angry that he twisted the key too hard and snapped it off, locking all of us out of the station. That did nothing to improve his attitude.
So instead, we went to the lobby of the very nice Colgate Inn and were booked there. I guess he decided misery loves company because he woke the Justice of the Peace and took us to his home to try us on the spot. The JP, also in his bathrobe, fined us $40 each, a lot of money for two college students in 1967.
Fortunately, my friend had just cashed his paycheck and had a $100 bill in his wallet, another very unusual sight at that time. He casually took it out, tossed it on the JP’s desk, and asked, “Got change?”
I never said we were mature. Or even very nice.