Someone that I was chatting with used the phrase pain god to describe the supreme deity that dealt out his pain to him. I was not sure whether to laugh or cry at the phrase pain god. That god? That God you can prove exists, unlike all the other gods people talk about and believe in.
There was this time I was arrested:
I was out late, it was a busy night, the inspection sticker was a year out of date and the cop thought I was giving him sass when he flagged me down. It was two Austin bicycle cops in their ridiculous spandex outfits talking to two or three other cops that they’d just quelled a riot with, just standing on the side of the road. It’s dark, it’s just after midnight on a Friday in downtown Austin.
The Austin Film Festival is going on all over the city. These police were hyped up on adrenaline because of the riot they just broke up and the massive traffic snarls from the city-wide event. One cop spots the out of date sticker as he is scanning vehicles, joking about breaking heads with his buddies. He pulls out his flashlight, walks over to were I’m sitting in traffic and proceeds to harass me about the sticker.
It’s a rural Texas tradition to ignore your state inspection sticker. Who cares? Only the state cares, and rural Texas sneers at Austin and state government in general. Texas government has to enforce the safety laws they enact, and they did this by creating an inspection sticker that you had to jump through separate hoops to get in addition to the hoops you jump through to get your state tags.
When you are driving around on your own ranch or in the small towns that dot the wide expanse of Texas, you never see state actors that can give you crap about the sticker on your windshield. You just see local cops that you probably know by name, and they give you a warning and you go get your stupid sticker that doesn’t take into account the quality of the roads (or lack of roads) that you drive on in your daily life.
Then you move to the big city and suddenly being a scofflaw like everyone else out in the countryside is a problem that could cost you your life. The harassing police officer and three of his buddies pulled me out of the car and proceeded to sit on my back while they cuffed my hands. Then they arrested me and hauled me off to the drunk tank to spend some quality time negotiating with my Pain God.
Piriformis Syndrome causes me to be in constant pain while sitting; and being yanked out of my car and sat on aggravated that little problem. Have you ever seen a drunk tank at a city or county lockup? The one in Austin has concrete floors and baby-blue colored foam benches facing a TV covered in mesh that obscures the screen. The volume is so low on the TV that it is an annoying almost-audible whisper, not unlike the whispering among your fellow prisoners in the drunk tank.
You have to sit there until they process you and you can be released. Sometimes the sitting lasts for days. Sitting, not standing, not moving around at all. Without moving except to go in to the provided toilet room, also painted baby blue like the other walls in the tank. A baby blue that was probably calming some twenty or so years ago when the walls were painted, long before the accumulated puke and other bodily fluids mottled the color into something approaching a childhood nightmare. The toilet was a room that you’d rather not go into in the first place.
So I sat there. I sat unmoving in that one place for about 14 hours, in excruciating pain the entire time I was there. No one in authority was even the slightest bit interested in my pain or helping me with it. In extremis, I decided to take a crash course on meditating. I would meditate on the qualia of my pain all through those long hours of torture.
Staring at the floor through my tented fingers, elbows braced on knees, I contemplated the pain. I didn’t drink anything, didn’t use the restroom. I couldn’t have used the restroom even if I had needed to go desperately. It would have taken a catheter to get any body fluids out of me, I was that paranoid of being ambushed. Of being watched. I just sat and focused on the pain. I traced it up my leg to my lower back and then I became one with the agony. I inflicted my pain and endured my pain and I was my pain.
When The Wife figured out I had been arrested… As I mention in the linked article, I was where I was with a car in the state that one was in because I needed to pick her up and would never have been downtown in the first place without her need to be rescued. She was never rescued because the police decided she didn’t need rescuing. It was more important to punish the scofflaw for his out of date inspection sticker.
That one phone call thing? It’s complete bullshit in most of Texas. You can call if you’re calling a landline. If you’re calling a cellphone you have to give the private contractor that provides phone service to the jail a credit card number to charge for the call, and you better have that number memorized because you don’t have your wallet in jail to get access to the card itself. If you’ve done that homework ahead of time, you can call. If you haven’t done that homework you don’t get to make your one phone call.
So when The Wife finally got home and found I wasn’t there, when she figured out that my cellphone still working meant I probably wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere. When she remembered that there had been a riot downtown that night and wondered if I had been caught up in that, she came down to the jail and rescued me before I died of renal failure. That is, she came to rescue me after she had gotten a ride back downtown to get her car the next day, there being no way to get anywhere or do anything until morning the next day.
I think I was probably more glad to see her that morning than I had ever been before or since. So yeah. I’ve met the Pain God. I was him for a day. I would prefer not to be him again.
if you are not worthy of trust as police, as leaders, as the press, then you must be held to account by those whose confidence you have betrayed.Stonekettle