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What to Expect When You’re Expecting… To Get Arrested!

2 Feb

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I don’t know how you honored Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy in January, but I got arrested for civil disobedience on Wednesday while protesting the Senate’s refusal to call witnesses in the Impeachment Trial. Obviously I have a LOT to share on the topic, but since this blog is called pithypants, I’ll start with the lighter stuff first.

So here’s a quick primer on what to expect if you decide to take your outrage to the next level this year…

Lesson 1: If you’ve not yet been arrested (I hadn’t!) I highly recommend coming to DC and letting your first experience unfold with the US Capitol Police. They are professionals. While the experience isn’t exactly pleasant (I mean, it’s uncomfortable having your hands cuffed for hours), I didn’t encounter a single officer who seemed to be on a power trip. They were friendly, civil, and – if I’m being honest – entirely deserving of the salaries we pay them. In fact, when I learned that they probably wouldn’t be able to make change when I paid my fine, I suggested that they take the extra $10 and buy a six pack of beer.

Lesson 2: You shouldn’t offer unsolicited money to the police. Turns out, even if you’re being funny, they will get big eyes and respond seriously, “We can’t take that! We don’t do bribes!” Um… oops? Sorry about that. I wasn’t looking for a second charge!

Lesson 3: When you’re arrested in a “mass arrest,” you will be processed as a group. Which means: you’re only as fast as the slowest member of your group. The larger the group, the longer you’ll be in custody, because everyone has to go through all the steps before they start releasing people.

In a nutshell, the process consists of getting:

  • cuffed
  • patted down
  • having all your personal property (except clothes, ID and cash for the fine) removed and placed in a plastic bag
  • photographed
  • loaded in a paddywagon and transported to a processing area (in our case, a drafty warehouse over near the Navy Yard)
  • searched again (more thoroughly but still with your clothes on, thankfully!);
  • your cuffs moved from behind your back to in front of you
  • read your Miranda Rights
  • to sign your arrest certificate (after they run your ID through their database to check for priors)
  • fingerprinted
  • to pay your fine
  • your stuff back
  • released!

In our case, it took about four hours.

Lesson 4: Consider your clothing carefully if you think there’s a chance you might get arrested. I say this because most of my regrets were around aspects of my clothing. I was grateful to have my big winter coat for the hours that we were sitting in the cold warehouse. I was also glad to have worn a sports bra rather than a regular under-wire bra because it made the bra checks (performed by a female officer) easier. (In case you’re wondering, for a bra check, they ask you to lean forward slightly and they grab and shake the band of your bra so that if you have anything there, it will fall out.) Conversely, I kicked myself for wearing skinny jeans. Had I known my stomach would be exposed, I probably would not have worn something that showcased my tubby muffin top. Next time I might wear a dress. 🙂

Lesson 5: Know what you’ll be charged with. In my case, I learned a new vocabulary word: incommoding. Look it up.

Lesson 6: If there’s a chance you’ll get arrested, be sure to carry cash (to pay your fine) and a valid ID in your pocket. If possible, ditch anything else because it just slows the whole process down (see Lesson 3). In our case, our fines were $50, payable in cash, so for the people who didn’t have cash on them, we pooled our money to cover them.

Lesson 7: When possible, team up with an organized group that knows the ropes. I was fortunate enough to have been with a group that was familiar with the process. They let us know what actions might lead to arrest, made it clear what consequences we might face if we were arrested, and provided forms for us to complete before protesting to secure legal representation in the event that we got arrested.

After I was released from custody, I walked out the back door of the station, completely disoriented and unsure how I’d get home. As I was fishing my phone out of my plastic bag of belongings, I heard a small group of people cheering and chanting, “Thank you, we love you!” from a hotel parking lot across the street. I had not expected a welcome committee, but it was incredibly nice to be met by a lawyer who made a copy of my arrest record, asked how I’d been treated, and verified how many people were still awaiting release, while another person brought me food and asked if I needed to use a bathroom. They planned to stay there until the last person was released so that if anyone hit any hiccups or needed help paying the fine, they would be covered.

Lesson 8: Be sure you have an Uber/Lyft app on your phone so you have an easy way to get home. I was one of the few people from the DC area who got arrested. The others were from Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and even California. Which is to say: I’m probably one of the only people who had a remote sense of where I was in the city. And even so, it was after dark and I didn’t know how close a metro was, so I was grateful to grab an Uber.

Lesson 9: Even if you’re tempted, don’t tell your Uber driver, “I just got out of jail!” unless you want him to go silent, drive quickly, and look at you suspiciously in the rearview mirror. On second thought: definitely tell your driver you were arrested. Way better than making small talk for 20 minutes.

Lesson 10: Listen to the stories of the people who took the leap with you. (Not that it’s difficult – without a phone or any other source of entertainment, all you have to pass the time is each other.) You’ll be inspired by the retired Army Colonel who has been in town from New York protesting every day since January 6; by the soft-spoken college student who came out from Wisconsin because she doesn’t see the point of a college degree if our country continues on the path it’s on; by the young nurse from California who flew in that morning just to protest, knowing she might miss her return flight back because she got arrested; by the Marine running for US Congress, whose uncle was the regional president of the NAACP in Mississippi; or by the man who now wears a body camera to protests after losing multiple teeth in the violence at Charlottesville in 2017. These people made me proud to be an American.

And finally, if you want to see what we did that led to arrest, here’s a link to a pretty thorough video from that day.

 

 

Something I didn’t think to be thankful for – until today.

29 Nov

There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Bob Dylan that goes something like, “Be grateful for what you don’t have that you don’t want.” I’ve always appreciated that twist on gratitude because when you think about it, we dodge a LOT of bullets in life.

This morning I was reminded of that quote shortly after Alan and I set out for a post-Thanksgiving walk. As we stepped out onto the street, the air smelled delicious, like someone was grilling a pile of hamburgers over an open flame, which is a bit odd for 10am on a Friday. I speculated that it was probably the bar down the alley behind my place, which often smokes brisket on its back patio on game days. Alan, unwilling to take my word for it (and perpetually curious), decided to investigate.

So I stood on the sidewalk, patiently waiting while he walked down the alley. I saw him approach the pub’s patio and pull himself up to the tall wooden fence, trying to look over. And then I saw him slowly moonwalk away from the fence, dragging his left foot as if he’d survived polio, until he got to a pile of leaves. Then he started wiping and stamping both feet. Clearly he’d stepped in something.

As he approached me with a grimace, I asked, “Did you step in dog poop?”

He shook his head, looking shell-shocked. “More like human poop.” He paused. “That was clearly a homeless person’s bathroom. Don’t ask me how I know.”

I nodded, shoved my hands down in my pockets, and silently gave thanks for NOT being ruled by my curiosity for once and NOT having to contemplate burning my sneakers on Black Friday. And with that, we walked away, one foot dragging with every step.

#gratitude

Not quite how I imagined it.

3 Aug
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What I thought I’d look like. (Clearly NOT me.)

I tried aerial yoga for the first time this week. I’ve been practicing regular yoga for almost 15 years, so I didn’t spare a thought for how challenging aerial yoga might be. It’s especially easy to under-estimate because the prop basically looks like a hammock. I envisioned myself doing a few Cirque du Soleil tricks, then basically taking a 45 minute nap, swaddled in the folds of silk.

Alas. I couldn’t have had it more wrong.

For starters, it’s PAINFUL. With the exception of when you’re in corpse pose (when you actually ARE all cocooned in it), your silk is almost always gathered up so it functions more like a rope than a hammock. And since you’re hanging from it, climbing up it, or twisted in it, that rope feels like a boa constrictor, hungry for its next meal. In fact, the day after my first class, I woke to find a series of purple bruises across my hips and around my shoulders.

Also? If you’re not precise in following instructions, there is a good chance you will end up toppling to the floor, breaking your nose or knocking out your teeth – or at least that’s what I kept imagining. The instructor would take us through these complex maneuvers to ensure we had the silk wrapped around our arms and legs in a way that would lock us in, then tell us to basically let go and topple face-first toward the floor. It felt like bungee jumping with a rig that had been prepped by a carnival worker.

I never quite trusted that I’d gotten the wraps correct, so I’d cautiously lower myself into position, despite the instructor’s admonishments to, “Let go and fly like Peter Pan” or “hang like a bumblebee!” But then, even if I did it correctly, the scarves would be cutting into my legs/arms/hips to such an extent that I’d try to walk myself back up to a place where I wasn’t in pain – but exiting the pose was often more complicated than entering, so you could probably characterize that portion of my effort as “general flailing.”

In fact, that’s probably the best way to summarize my foray into aerial yoga: general flailing. Had it been a Cirque du Soleil performance, they might not have had to issue refunds to the audience, but they may have had to offer counseling after.

So of course I’m going again.

At least one of us is thoughtful…

4 May

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Alan and I are in California for a friend’s wedding. On the flight out this morning, we started talking about flight attendants and what perks come with seniority. In the midst of this discussion, Alan said, “We should pick up something for our flight attendant on the way home.”

“Like a gift?” I asked.

“Just a little something – like a chocolate bar or something. I read an article that talked about how something like that goes a long way toward brightening their day. You know, something where you say, I was thinking of you!”

My cynical response was, “Because that’s not creepy at all. That comes across like, ‘I’ve been anticipating this flight and thinking about you,’” (at this point I was kind of rubbing my arms in a pervy kind of way), “’and I decided to bring you a chocolate bar.’”

Alan, seeing how his thoughtfulness could be misconstrued, latched on to the idea. “And instead of a chocolate bar, I’ll just bring her a single latex glove.”

At which point we both completely lost it. I’m not sure if we reached consensus on the whole gift thing for our return flight, or if I’m going to need to take my window seat and pretend I don’t know him.

Vacation! Part 2: Tanks, Horses & Hot Dogs

4 Nov

 

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I find nothing says, “Welcome, Americans” like a tank in front of the Parliament Building.

We arrived Vienna on Wednesday, after exploring Budapest for 3.5 days. People had cautioned us that Vienna was really expensive and the least interesting of the three cities we had on our itinerary, so we entered with low expectations… and were pleasantly surprised!

Our first full day in town was their big state holiday: National Day. Having googled it, I now know that they’re celebrating their declaration of permanent neutrality and regained status as an independent and sovereign nation in 1955. Before googling, I would’ve thought that it was a celebration of all uniformed professions, with an emphasis on the military, because we woke up to a town swimming in soldiers. Ironically, with troops marching in formation everywhere around town, it made it pretty easy to imagine Nazi-occupied Vienna.

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In an attempt to get our bearings (and fill in the gaps in our knowledge of Austrian history), we took a free walking tour. Maybe on another day, it would’ve been a superb tour, but on this day our guide (named Franz Joseph, like the former Austrian emperor) seemed to be phoning it in. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he may have overdone his patriotic celebrations the night before and was nursing a monster hangover; he offered little by way of historical facts and instead spent the tour making cracks about the Austrian military’s ineffectiveness and the inbreeding habits of the royal families.

While we’re usually not quitters, with a limited amount of time to explore this grand city, we decided to cut our losses and ghosted mid-way through the tour. We used the money we would’ve tipped a good guide to instead get fancy coffees and Kaiserschmarrn (an Austrian tradition!) on the patio of Café Mozart. Perhaps the best decision we made in Austria!* 

I couldn’t talk Alan into seeing an opera (I KNOW, right?!) but he was interested in seeing the famous Lippanzer horses, so we grabbed tickets and took in a practice session, which, as it turns out, should more accurately be named, “Horse Walking.” The practice consists of four 30 minute blocks featuring six different horses and riders in the ring at a time. A few horses were actually working on tricks (like weird little dance steps or balancing on their rear legs) but most of them seemed to be tasked with the basics, like walking close to a wall. While it certainly wasn’t riveting theatre, it was still interesting to learn about the Spanish Riding School and the training process. And it was raining outside, so… not the worst way to spend the morning.

Speaking of rain: on our way to the flea market (Naschmarkt) for lunch, the skies opened up and dumped on us. We arrived at the market just as the rain started falling in sheets, and took shelter under the awning of a fish stand where we ordered a basket of fried shrimp. Our intention was to lazily eat our way through the market, but there’s nothing relaxing about eating in the middle of a downpour where hurricane-force winds are driving the rain sideways at you. On another day, it would’ve been a great plan. Instead we ended up bailing and running in a restaurant across the street to dry off and split a plate of fish and chips. So much for channeling Anthony Bourdain.

Speaking of plans gone bust: I’d read that heurigers (quaint little estates where they have weingartens that also serve food) are a uniquely Austrian experience. I thought hitting one on our last day in town would give us a reason to check out a different part of the area, since some are a tram ride about an hour outside the heart of the city. After navigating a tram-line under construction (which called for a partial detour using the subway), we arrived in Nussdorf with high hopes.

Alas, the first one we went to had a sign on its gate indicating that it was closed all day for a private event. Boo. Fortunately, there was a second heuriger in town (and on the same street) so we shuffled along. Unfortunately, it ALSO had a sign on its gate, but we couldn’t figure out what it meant. I tried using Google Translate’s photo app on my phone, and the resulting (obviously incorrect) translation had us raising our eyebrows: “Nazis – attending – pay – listen.”

I was like, “Whelp. I think that means we probably should just keep walking.” Alan was undeterred, so he opened the gate. We found ourselves walking through what appeared to be the backyard of a home, which lead to a room that looked like a restaurant. The back door to the apparent restaurant was open and a woman was washing tables. It seemed pretty obvious that whatever the sign said, they weren’t open for business. Alan cheerfully proceeded, not at all concerned that we might be intruding on a Nazi lair. I pointed my toes toward the gate, ready to take off.

Turns out, it wasn’t a Nazi lair, but it also was closed for the day. We cut our losses and instead found a quaint local restaurant where we were able to split a delicious pork roast with a single potato dumpling the size of a tennis ball (weird) and a bowl of cabbage with bacon.

A word on food: If you are a fan of meat and potatoes, central Europe is your friend. Our trip featured multiple meals of schnitzel, sausages, goulash, and stroganoff. My pick for the best hot dog: Vienna. The street vendors will drill a hole in a baguette and drop a foot-long sausage down the hole with either ketchup or mustard, then put the tip of the loaf back on top like the sausage is wearing a hat. Delicious!

 

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This is where the magic happens. 

 

It was ambitious to try to hit three cities in 10 days, but I’m glad we took the time to stop in Vienna. On Saturday we said, “Auf Wiedersehen” and headed to the train station for our four hour trek to Prague.

*Clarification: I would’ve said that the best decision we made in Austria was asking a stranger to verify that we were at the correct train station when we had only 3 minutes to make a connecting train to Prague, but technically that happened in Breclav, which was just across the border, in the Czech Republic. More on that – and the frantic tossing of baggage off the train – later.