As is my habit, I stopped for coffee at the Cumberland Farms ½ block from my house on the way to teach my first class of the day. I parked in the not-really-a-parking-space spot, as usual, and waltzed through the door, bee-lining for my first caffeine of the day. A rather shortish man with a Central Falls Police Department uniform looked at me, walked to the front door, looked out at my car and accosted me: “That’s not a parking space.” I was not to be deterred from my coffee and I thought I was well within my rights to ignore the man and maybe even suggest that the Cumberland Farms parking lot was not his jurisdiction. So I was perhaps a tad sarcastic when I briskly said: “Good to know” and went on about my business. The man left the store. I paid up while rolling my eyes at the counter clerk as if to say, “What a power-hungry little prick.” The counterista nodded with recognition. He probably sees more of this man than I do.
I went outside and there was this man, now parked in a Central Falls Police car right in the middle of the parking lot. I sensed he was up to something. I sensed that he was waiting for me. Waiting until I drove my car into his jurisdiction (otherwise known as the street). So I hung back, parked my car in a totally-a-parking-space spot and thought about waiting him out. But I had students to teach! So I pulled out of the Cumberland Farms parking lot and as soon as I did so he pulled out of the lot as well, lights and sirens on. I drove back down the ½ block to my driveway and pulled in. I figured if I was going to get into it in any way with this man in uniform, I would prefer to be off a public street.
Long story short: he announced that the car was not properly registered and that he was going to have it towed. I retorted that he had no right to run my plates on Cumberland Farms property. I am not sure what happened after that, exactly, but it definitely involved me being threatened with an arrest for disorderly conduct (I was still buckled into the car so I am not sure how disorderly I possibly could have been), me calling 911 to report to the police that I was being harassed by the police (go ahead, laugh here . . . it was indeed one of my more ridiculous ideas), me refusing to get out of my car or give up my car key because I did not want to be arrested in my own driveway nor did I want to have my car towed from my own driveway, me being accused by another police officer of trying to flee, me finally surrendering and getting out of my car, me watching my car being put on the flatbed and towed away, me bawling hysterically and me being consoled by a different Central Falls Police officer, Patrolman DeLande. Officer DeLande steered me away from the other cop and whispered secret instructions on how he could help me out if I just stayed away from the other cop and gave him a call later. This was awesome, but probably would have been even more awesome if I had talked to him before my car was hauled off to King’s Service Center. I am not looking a gift officer in the mouth here: had it not been for Officer DeLande’s intervention, I am pretty sure I would be typing this from the Central Falls lock-up. (Metaphorically, of course, because I would certainly not have my laptop with me in jail).
I missed my 9:20 am class entirely. I cancelled the other two. I am worried that this might lead to me losing this job since I am an adjunct and I have a new boss and her whims are unknown to me. After losing my job at the Rhode Island School of Design (after 8 years) for what I can only guess was my boss not liking me (I don’t know because no reason was given because she didn’t have to give a reason because the law did not require her to do so), I try especially hard to remain in my bosses’ good favor. We shall see. In the meantime, I was convinced that I was also going to be fired from my Home Depot job because it is clear that tomorrow, I will be dealing with the RI Division of Motor Vehicles and King’s Service Center and not reporting for my 6:00 a.m. shift. Of course, I could take the 5:20 AM bus to work at the Home Depot. But then I could not get my car until Friday, which would mean cancelling another day’s worth of classes and cost me a day and a half’s Home Depot wages in storage at the towing garage. I could use Uber to get to classes on Thursday, but that would be another day’s wages. There is no public transportation that goes to the college where I work.
So I sucked it up and got my friend to help me. He did so, bless his heart, at the expense of leaving his partner/mother of his child and his infant son to get to a semi-emergency pediatrician’s appointment on their own.
Then I took a leap of faith and called Officer DeLande and he made good on his promise: he told me exactly what to do, urged me to get to the station before 4:00 pm because he wanted to personally handle this situation, and he released my car from impound with nary a fuss made nor a ticket issued. I had this gut feeling that this was not Officer DeLande’s first experience with cleaning up a heavy-handed mess initiated by his colleague.
Then I called the Home Depot repeatedly to try and get a manager who would pick up the phone so I could address this situation as soon as possible. Luckily, when someone did pick up, it was one of the two humane store managers who answered. Although it took me a while for me to explain the gravity of my situation, he came through.
So it was with gratitude and exhaustion that I slid into the bathtub this evening to take stock. As soon as I was immersed, a visceral sense of anger and powerlessness overcame me. I pushed back a little and then just gave up: I let it all run though my body without thinking, as I cried, heavily and deeply.
As the intensity of my emotions mellowed, I came to understand something about power, powerlessness and the middle way.
But I will type that out later, maybe tomorrow . . . after I get my car back.