The Time I Got Arrested On Christmas: Essay

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When I was 17 my Christmas present was a moderately priced lawyer

Editor’s Note – The following is a true story. Bleh.

I was 17 when I got my first job selling Christmas trees at a mega-chain grocery store. Most of my friends were already gainfully employed, but their jobs involved throwing hunks of things into deep fryers. I had to stand outside in the cold but at least I wasn’t nursing grease burns.

On my first day my coworker gave me the rundown: let the customer pick out a tree, give them the tag so that they could go in and pay for it and then give them the tree when they came back with a receipt. Easy stuff. He left and I stood around, feeling goofy but uneasy. Later that evening I realized I wasn’t given a key to lock up with. I panicked and used a tree branch to wedge the gate shut. I was kept awake the rest of the evening from nightmares of getting fired from my first job. On Christmas.

As my shift came to a close without confrontation from an authority figure it seemed less likely that I was going to have to unload a steaming pile of stress diarrhea behind a balsam fir

The next night at work I expected my boss to come out and fire me on the spot. My gut churned with worry, which in turn added another layer of stress due to not having a toilet or an outhouse nearby. But as my shift came to a close without confrontation from an authority figure it seemed less likely that I was going to have to unload a steaming pile of stress diarrhea behind a balsam fir.

The rest of my week at work continued like this, unmolested. It began to occur to me that if anyone had noticed my fuck up it was likely undocumented for a very specific reason – no one cared about me as an employee.

Besides, the job itself was easy. I wasn’t expected to do anything other than rip tags off of trees. I got free cola and doughnuts from the employees lounge. And my interactions with the public were kept to a minimum, most likely because no one believed I was an expert in all things coniferous.

And then I got arrested.

One night a skeezy-looking dude wandered in and stared at me for a few minutes. He then went and picked out a tree and marched up to me.

“I’m taking this tree,” he said angrily.

“You should pay inside,” I said meekly. Ugh. Confrontation.

“No,” he said. He glared as he handed me a wadded up $20 bill before marching off into the night. I stared at the money dismayed – why me? Why indeed.

Approximately five minutes later the dude came back.

“You’re under arrest,” he growled. “For theft under $5000.”

Merry Christmas.

The store detective took me to a holding cell, where I was kept for roughly three hours. Then the cops came and got me. I was put in another holding cell downtown, where I got to call a lawyer. He never told me his name, and hung up after literally one minute of expert legal council. The cops took down all my information and gave me a court date. Then they let me go.

Merry Christmas.

My parents came to pick me up from the police station. They were silent the entire ride home. Syrupy holiday-themed music wafted in on the radio. There wasn’t much to say other than “I didn’t do it.”

“Did you do it?” asked Dad.

I thought about it for a bit.

“No.”

My present that year was a moderately priced lawyer. He presented an appeal to the judge, and made a case of entrapment, calling the charges against me “ludicrous.”

The judge agreed, and the charges were dropped.

Merry Christmas.