WHILE RIDING IN A PADDY WAGON ON THE WAY TO JAIL ….

At the end of Chapter One, I had just exited a Miami Beach hotel lobby after preventing a mob from looting the stores inside of the lobby. It was New Year’s Eve and Collins Avenue was one continuous party from the north end to the south end. This section of Miami Beach is a long narrow strip of land just off the eastern shore of Miami. Collins Avenue, the main route, running from north to south is crossed by short side streets stretching a single block in each direction, east and west. On the east side, the side streets end at the beach looking out over the open Atlantic Ocean.

Leaving the scene of the near-riot that I had just thwarted, I continued to wander southward down Collins Avenue looking for some recreational excitement. I had thwarted the riot by suggesting to a temporary companion, who had sought to provoke a looting spree, that we look for some “hot chicks.” That was enough to distract him as he was about to shatter a window in order to provoke the mob to begin a looting spree.

I don’t know whether my companion succeeded in finding any “hot chicks” since he and I parted ways after exiting the hotel. I, on the other hand, actually did encounter a pleasant and attractive young woman and it was an enjoyable encounter.

Ultimately, the time came for her and me to part ways. The crowds along the sidewalks were beginning to thin. The traffic on Collins, which had been at a bumper-to-bumper standstill, was beginning to move. The crowd’s drunken revelry was becoming drunken sluggishness. Midnight had passed and New Year’s Eve had become New Year’s Day.

My southward wandering became a return northward as I headed back to the motel where I was stationed.

On the way home I had to pass the intersection where the near-riot had occurred. As I approached that intersection, hours after the incident, I observed a police presence.

Out of curiosity, I asked a man who happened to be walking in the same direction as I, “What’s going on here?”

Of course, having been there, I was aware of the earlier disturbance that was likely responsible for the police presence, but I was curious to learn the rumors behind the news and I thought this random stranger might have heard them. I don’t actually remember whether my newfound companion answered my question, for as we were about to step off the curb to cross the side street we were intercepted by an officer who said, “You can’t cross here, you’ll have to cross over on the other side.”

We turned to our left and, after checking traffic, stepped off the curb intending to cross Collins Avenue as we had been instructed. Immediately another officer stepped in front of us and said, “You’re under arrest — jaywalking.”

At first, I was too stunned to think; then I realized we had been set up. The police were making random arrests and for some reason we had been chosen.

My companion started to protest, “We have rights,” he began. “You can’t do this to us!” he continued.

I nudged him and forcefully whispered, “Shut up! Shut up!”

I presumed that the officer was aware of our “rights” and had chosen to ignore them. Rather than becoming verbally confrontational, I surmised that initiating a more casually toned conversation might work to our advantage; but it was too late, my companion had already preempted that opportunity.

We were led to a squad car and placed in the back seat. Curiously, we were neither frisked nor cuffed. The officer left for a few moments, then returned. He told us to exit the car, escorted us to a waiting paddy wagon and ordered us to enter through the open rear doors.

The “cargo” section of the wagon was box-shaped with benches around the edges. There were a few other individuals already inside and my companion and I each took a seat on an empty area of a bench. As we waited, more detainees were brought to the wagon and the benches began to fill. Soon, the wagon was full and the rear doors were closed. There was a small open window on each door, probably to allow ventilation.

The wagon began to roll. We passengers began to converse with each other and determined that we had all been set up in a similar manner. Unlike myself, most of them had been unaware of the earlier disturbance that had occurred, and was likely what led to the police presence and our arrests.

As the conversation proceeded there was an abrupt interruption. “Uh-oh!” said a loud voice from the seat along the front (cab) end of the wagon. “I just realized, I have a joint in my pocket.”

In those days, possession of marijuana was a serious felony in every state in the USA.

There was a moment of general silence. Then the man said, “Pass this towards the back and someone toss it out the window, please.”

The item was passed from hand to hand towards the rear of the wagon until it reached someone who was seated on a side bench halfway between the front and rear. “Throw it out the window!?” he exclaimed. “The h*ll with that. Let’s smoke it.”

He removed a book of matches from his pocket and took a deep draw as he lit the end of the joint, then passed it to his immediate neighbor. There we were, smoking a joint, committing a serious felony, while riding in a paddy wagon on the way to jail.

A short time later, the wagon arrived at the Dade County Jail. It would be difficult to believe that when an officer opened the rear doors to let us out he did not smell the distinct odor of residual weed smoke. If so, he said nothing to indicate that he did.

There we were, smoking a joint while riding in a paddy wagon on the way to jail.

We were processed into the jail and led to a large dormitory-style cell that held a couple of dozen prisoners. It was about 3AM. At about 6AM we were fed breakfast. Because I was traveling on a very tight budget, that breakfast was the most substantial meal that I had eaten in a week.

Dormitory style cell

Around 8AM we were led to an adjoining courtroom. The judge entered and announced, “I will read each of your names and ask you how you plead. If you plead guilty, I will sentence you to time served and you can go home.”

He proceeded to read each name in turn, and each defendant pled guilty to whatever minor offense it was that we were ultimately charged with. Afterward, we were led to an exit and released to the street.

Miami-Dade pre trial detention center

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Estwald

Estwald

A bastion of defensiveness. Bringing you all the Gish Gallop that’s fit to print (and some that isn’t). — Which reality is the real reality?

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