Sunday, February 06, 2011

Land of the Free, Part V

Land of the Free, Part I
Land of the Free, Part II
Land of the Free, Part III
Land of the Free, Part IV

I was taken to the Putnam County Jail sometime during the evening of Saturday July 24, 2010. There's not much to say about this except that I was there for almost three full days. The dude who was responsible for scanning my fingerprints didn't even know how to use the scanning machine, even though it gave him clear instructions with every step. Since it took him at least three tries with each finger to get an acceptable print, I kept suggesting that he try it a different way (the way the machine kept telling him to do it), but he just didn't get it. It was a scene straight out of Idiocracy.

After two days in jail I was transported to the Putnam County Courthouse in shackles and cuffs, along with five other male prisoners and two female prisoners. Since all but one of the other male prisoners were frequent guests at the jail, these prisoners helped me get an idea of what to expect during court. Blown away by the ridiculousness of the charges I was facing, especially considering I was 2,600 miles into a coast-to-coast walk, these guys expected the judge to throw out my charges.

The judge didn't throw out my charges.

Instead, he accepted my 'innocent' plea and set my bail for $3,000, although I only had to come up with 10 percent of it (or $300) to be released. (I don't know the proper terminology here, and it's not very important, so if I got it wrong, just deal with it.) I was then given a piece of paper that contained information regarding my next court date, as well as the contact information for the public defender who had been assigned to my case.

As we were getting ready to leave the courtroom, our female jail guard began acting friendly and helpful to me and the other guy whose bail had been set. (Jail employees mostly get off on being assholes to the prisoners, so this was a shock.) Aside from asking questions about my walk, she also said when we get back to the jail she would let me use the office phone to arrange a Western Union money transfer to take care of my bail.

Upon returning to the jail, I waited patiently for someone to let me use the phone. There was a phone in the jail cell that I could have used to make a collect call whenever I wanted, but I didn't plan to use that phone because the guard had made it quite clear that she would let me use the office phone (which I assumed would be free). A few hours later, though, I realized no one was ever going to let me use the office phone. So eventually I used the phone in the cell to call my parents collect and let them know I had been in jail for the last two days. During that call I also told my mom what I thought she needed to know if she intended to bail me out. (My dad, of course, was very pissed off at me as soon as he found out I was in jail.)

The lady guard had also told me someone from the jail staff would take me to the Western Union at Kroger to receive the bail money if I could get someone to wire it there. This would have been a lot more convenient for my parents than driving four hours from central Ohio, which would be an expensive trip considering the costs of gas and a motel room. During our expensive phone call, in an attempt to save my folks some money and trouble, I informed my mom of the Western Union option.

It turns out that the guard lied to me about this stuff, too. So after wasting all that time waiting for the jail staff to let me use the phone, I unknowingly blew my chances of getting out of jail that night. It also caused me to spend a lot more time talking to my mom, making sure she had the details straight, thus leading to a much more expensive phone call than was necessary.

Shortly after noon the next day (July 27), someone called my name through the jail cell's PA speaker. When I responded, the voice informed me that my bail had been taken care of. A guard came to the door to escort me to the dressing room near the booking desk, where I changed out of the orange and white striped jail clothes and back into my own clothes. Since the jail staff had thoroughly sifted through my gear when I was booked three days earlier, leaving a total mess inside my pack, I had to spend a lot of time and effort re-organizing it all. While I organized everything, I had to try to account for at least a couple hundred different items I was carrying during my walk.

After I'd finished organizing my gear, all that seemed to be missing was my prescription medications. (Well, there were a couple other things missing, including the glass pipe I found in Arizona, as well as the peppercorn-sized nugget of weed that remained of the bud I found way back in California. Of course, I already knew I wasn't gonna get either of those things back.)

After I brought my missing prescriptions to the attention of the jail staff, someone indicated the pills were not where they were supposed to be, so it looked like I wasn't going to get my medication back. Needless to say, this pissed me off, so I made a smart-ass remark, directed to no one in particular, yet to everyone at the same time because I was kinda sick of being fucked with, which seemed to be the only thing they do in Putnam County, Indiana. Eventually my pills turned up and I was escorted to the front of the jail building, where I awkwardly met my parents.

Before leaving the building, I realized they had not returned my drivers' license. When I brought that to the attention of the receptionist, she told me the district attorney's office probably had it. So we drove to the courthouse in downtown Greencastle, where the district attorney's office is located. I then went to the DA's office and informed the receptionist that I was told my drivers' license would be here.

They didn't have it. (What a surprise!) They told me my public defender should have it, and I needed to talk to him if I wanted my license back.

See a trend here? Yeah, the justice system of Putnam County, Indiana exists just to fuck with people.

Unable to establish contact with my public defender, Scott Adams (who is very cool, by the way), my folks and I eventually went to a bank to try to cash a check the jail had given me in place of the cash I'd carried into the jail. (The check was written for $2 or $3 less than I carried into the jail because they charged me for the shitty quality bathroom supplies I never asked for.)

Even though my mom has accounts in Ohio with PNC bank, this branch of PNC Bank would not cash my check from the sheriff's department. Instead they gave us directions to the bank that issued the check, so we chased our tails to the check-issuing bank in another attempt to cash the check. This bank's teller cashed the check for me, but she gave the impression that she was breaking the bank's normal rules by doing it. (That oughtta tell you a little more about the Putnam County Sheriff's Department.)

After all the bullshit Putnam County had put us through since my parents arrived, it was not difficult for my dad to figure out that Putnam County had been putting me through even more bullshit almost since the moment I set foot in the county. Understandably, he was no longer pissed at me. Like me, he was now pissed off at the people who caused all this unnecessary trouble.

With everything finally taken care of (excluding the retrieval of my drivers' license and my return to court, of course), my folks and I stopped for lunch at a fast food joint before they finally dropped me off outside the speedway, where my walk had been so unlawfully interrupted three days earlier.

My mom suggested that maybe they should drop me off at the border of the next county, to eliminate any possibility of being victimized again by the Putnam County scumbag thugs, but that was not an option. My objective was to walk from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, not most of the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

I don't cheat, OK. I don't cheat when I walk, just as I don't cheat in any other aspect of life. Throughout this walk, I never allowed anyone to transport any of my gear for me, nor did I ever push my gear in a cart, nor did I skip even the shortest segment of my walking route. Whenever I needed to go out of the way, I walked out of the way and then I walked back, always carrying my gear. Had I made the decision to skip either ten miles or ten feet, I knew I would never be able to say, truthfully, that I walked from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

In case I haven't made it clear yet: I didn't walk every inch of 2,600 miles just to let a couple terrorist cops ruin everything.

The day I was released from jail, even though I didn't get started again until 4:30 pm, I still walked almost 14 miles, from the speedway to Stilesville. The next day I walked a little over 24 miles, to the eastern edge of the Indianapolis airport. (I walked a few miles out of my way that day to get an x-ray at an urgent care facility because my ribs constantly hurt like hell from being beaten up by Corporal Chadd and Sheriff Fenwick. My ribs continued to hurt for the next month.) The next few days I walked 26.4 miles, 30.3 miles, and another 30 miles, ending up about 5 miles into Ohio. The next day I walked another 20 miles by 6:00, stopping at my grandparents' house for a short, well-deserved break.

* * * * *

My next court date was set for September 16. Since I wasn't sure if I could finish the walk by then, the timing of the court date kept me pretty stressed out. About ten days after being released from jail, though, I was finally able to talk to Scott Adams, my public defender, who told me it shouldn't be any trouble to postpone the court date. His reassurance eased a little bit of my stress, but the Putnam County incident had me stressed out in about 15 other ways, none of which could be eased at least until my court date.

After what I endured in Putnam County, Indiana, I spent a lot of time thinking about cops. I even considered quitting the walk because I was so stressed out from constantly worrying about the next run-in with cops. You never know when the next cop is going to stop to harass you, and you worry about it every time you see a cop car. In fact, you worry every time you see a vehicle that even looks like it might be a cop car, especially in rural areas, where cops tend to be incredibly stupid.

As you should already know, I didn't quit. After walking to my parents' house in central Ohio, I rested for a week. Following my week off, I had still only taken about 20 days off since beginning the walk 174 days earlier and 2,829 miles away. When I started moving again on August 13, I had less than 600 miles left to go (or so I thought) and 30 days to do it. My goal was to finish by September 12 because that was the final day of the Coney Island Cyclone's operating season.

Judging by what Google Maps showed me before I left my parents' house, I thought I only had maybe 560-580 miles left to go. But extra miles add up quickly, especially in places like Pennsylvania, where there are about 200 possible routes to take, with none standing out as better than any other. Google Maps tells you one route one day, then it tells you some other route on another day, and Google Maps also doesn't take into consideration whether its best route takes you through enough towns.

As beat up as I already was when I left my parents' house, I really had to bust ass, averaging at least 20 miles a day over the next few weeks, if I could to expect to have any chance of finishing the walk by September 12. And I did bust ass, averaging about 22 miles a day when I pulled into State College, Pennsylvania on August 28, more than a day ahead of schedule.

Even though the distance from home to Coney Island ended up being 624 miles, rather than 560-580 miles, I still made it to Coney Island on September 12, as planned. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ride the Cyclone because it rained all day. I have no idea if the park even opened earlier in the day, but it was a ghost town by the time I arrived, as afternoon became evening.


The main reason I picked Coney Island as the walk's endpoint was so I could ride the classic coaster just before finishing. Having wanted to ride this coaster for years, I'd never had a chance. And now, my third visit to Coney Island, I still couldn't ride it. But hey, at least Totonno's was open, as was Nathan's, each of which constituted my final meal of the walk.

* * * * *

Walking around in Central Park on September 13, now finished with the walk, Scott Adams called me to check on my status. Even though I could have made it to Indiana for my scheduled court appearance three days later, I asked him to push it back a little to give me some time to recover from the walk. I figured it would only be set back a few weeks, but they ended up rescheduling my court appearance for January 21, 2011.

(Read the exciting conclusion of this story in Land of the Free, Part VI.)

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