Matthew Lickona 11:49 p.m., Dec. 10
The judge had sentenced me to many hours of grueling hard labor... He hadn't mentioned the complete lack of intelligence that I would be subjected to. It would be in the manner of 19 year old white kids talking about how "gangsta" they are; each word that followed would grow exponentially more ignorant, so much that they would have easily failed even a remedial class in Ebonics. Back breaking labor and all, I had no idea I was in for this kind of torture.
One of the faux-gangster kids had just finished telling another about his extensive collection of samurai swords and how he could use it to deal death up close and personal when the Caltrans work van we were riding in pulled over on the 125 south in between Navajo and the changeover to I-8. We were assigned the duties of pulling weeds and picking up trash for the stretch of highway. Although it was not as physically challenging as some things I had been assigned to in previous days it was ten times as monotonous. We spread out and started our chores.
There was an older gentleman that looked even more out of place than me and I attempted to break the ice with a remark about the naive youngsters, "Nice to hear from the future of America, I can tell that this country will be going places!” He made a nervous chuckle and quickly moved on to his duties and away from me. I think he had already judged and grouped me into a category lesser than himself.
"Was there no one here to relate with?” I thought to myself as I picked up half drank beer cans. There sure were a lot of them too and they were a constant reminder of how I had gotten here in the first place, and, although I may have endangered other drivers that fateful night, I despise litterbugs. Perhaps my hierarchy of social injustices is out of order, but usually only temporarily and because of intoxication. Heir in lies a major reason why you can find so many people on these work details day after day.
I couldn't believe the amount of disregard towards using a trash receptacle that existed here in San Diego. Besides the never-ending string of cigarette butts, condoms wrappers came in second place for most abundant on the side of the road and then gum wrappers. It hadn't occurred to me, until this point, that the highway would have been a major venue for drunken copulation while maintaining minty-fresh breath. I thought about it, but couldn't grasp the physics that would have to take place in order to facilitate such things. Perhaps my lack of temporary companionship was causing my mind to wonder about ridiculous things.
In previous days I had managed to relate to some of my fellow workers and hold on some decent and amusing conversations. Most of us were here for DUI's and would talk about the different programs we were prescribed in order to satisfy the conditions of our probation and reacquire our driver’s licenses. These programs consist of different groups and classes that we would have to attend coupled with varying amounts of AA meetings that one would have to show proof of attending. One guy had said he was in the 3 month program for his first offense, another the 9 month program for his first as well but with a higher BAC, but I was in it for the long haul. I was in the 18 month program for being a two time loser. One of the guys would jokingly add, starting with the 3 monther and ending with me, "Hey, we've got the good, the bad, and the ugly!” I laughed along but secretly felt ashamed.
Trading stories of how we were caught were prevalent as well. I would tell of my first experience back on St. Patrick’s Day in 2004. I had been drinking with some friends at a bar in Tierrasanta and two of us had made an inadequate gesture of responsibility by giving our keys to the bartender and telling him not to give them back in any instance. This particular bartender would later give me both sets of keys under the false pretense that my buddy and I, both, simultaneously had to obtain “something” from our cars. I guess an abundance of brainpower isn’t a prerequisite for working at that particular bar, but ultimately the responsibility was not his in the first place.
In my friend’s state, he had exited off the wrong exit at Aero Drive instead of Friars road on the 15 south. I, following in haste and believing that the exit was longer, would end up smashed into the back end of his car shortly after. I woke up a few minutes later spitting out pieces of my teeth with my car still running and the air bag deployed, and quickly drove up Aero to find a place to regroup.
After parking my car is some random parking lot I started to walk towards the road to in an attempt to regain my bearings, believing that I was somewhere on Friars Road. I called my friend to see about his situation, “Are you alright!?” “Huh!” he answered. My phone call had brought him from a black out back to reality. “I just crashed into the back of you, are you alright man?” He answered me completely surprised, “Huh…… that was you!?” I can’t recall where the conversation went from here, but he would make it home just in time for his car to die as he pulled into his parking spot at his apartment complex. I, on the other hand, would end up being spotted by the cops on the side of the road and spending the night in jail.
Jail wasn’t fun in any sense. I was surrounded by cold concrete with some bleacher seats to sit on and a stainless steel toilet/sink combo that some homeless man would later defecate into without the proper courtesy flush. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gave my bag lunch away to him, rousing his digestive tract into the act, but I had no desire to eat the rancid bologna, processed cheese, and soggy bread fusion that had probably been made no less than a week prior. I did, however, take full advantage of the grape juice they provided to quench my thirst which had bold black letters on it that said, “CONTAINS NO JUICE” It was purple colored sugar water, but it was far better than drinking out of the toilet-sink. I mean the sink part of it of course, but I’m sure it’s better than the toilet part as well.
Being St. Patrick’s Day, I was joined by many people who were in the same trouble I was, although most of them ended up there from being stopped at random checkpoints. Many explained how ridiculous it was that they were in this situation because they had only had one or two beers and hadn’t even felt intoxicated. I, not thinking about the consequences of being so truthful, described my actions that led me to this folly. They immediately vilified me describing that, “See, you deserve to be here!” and “You’re a real piece of crap aren’t you. If it weren’t for people like you they wouldn’t even have to set up checkpoints and I wouldn’t even be here.” ” Perhaps you’d be dead in some ditch instead?” I thought to myself and ignored everyone for the rest of the night.
Maybe my actions should’ve taught me to keep my mouth shut, but alas, there I was many years later describing the same events to some of my public work service workmates at our lunch break. On the contrary, they found the story and its observations to be amusing. I guess these were drunks of some higher order, that would never judge a man for something he was guilty of himself. That was on one of my luckier days when I was assigned to work with some pretty down to earth fellows.
I have many more days to do and I can only hope I have no more run-ins with the future of America, it could be too much to handle. It will be a long road to completing everything I have to do to get my life back it order and I’m not looking forward to it. All I can do is take it a day at a time and keep my promise to myself that I will never do anything to put myself in this situation again, and hopefully, if you’re reading this and you feel you could easily be in a similar situation; you make that promise and keep it too.