One of These Days . . .
When Lawsuits Cross the Line

Gettin' WYSIWYGy

I had a great time performing at WYSIWYG last night, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on video when it's up, so I can get the audience perspective.  Thanks to Mom and everyone else who made it out to the show.  For those of you who couldn't make it, here's the story I read about my rather innocuous run-in with the law (I am a lawyer after all -- how bad could it be?):

    I was much cooler in high school than I am now.  Hard to believe, right?  You look at me now, and I blend into the crowd, just another thirty-something semi-professional, somewhat mainstream, but back in 1985, I was sooo much cooler.  In fact, I was at a party recently where there were several relics from my past floating around.  Someone introduced me to a young woman, who, upon hearing my name said – oh my god, I thought I recognized you.  You were one of the cool girls in high school.  I so looked up to you.  She was in 8th grade when I was a senior – I had no clue who she was, but it boosted the hell out of my ego that night, that’s for sure.

    So yeah, I was one of the cool girls, and I fancied myself a bit of a wild child – I had short spiky hair, streaked every now and again with a strip of blond across my forehead, I wore short black miniskirts, ripped white t-shirts, and doc martens.  Yeah, I was a bad ass -- or at least I thought I was.  I was always trying to push the envelope.  Not much of a challenge in my little suburban town of Pelham NY, where merely being a girl without an aqua-net shellacked wall of bangs was considered radical. 

    Despite my imaginary bad-girl persona, I was actually, at least when it came to schoolwork, a very good girl.  I was in all honors classes, and frankly, although they provided stimulation of an academic nature, they provided little hormonal stimulation.  The boys in my honors classes were preppy, and nice, and sweet, but I was looking for the bad boys.  Some things never change.  My friend Emily and I decided to go on a mission to find them in their natural habitat.   And one day, hearing the strains of Joe Strummer coming down a hallway, we found them.  We turned the corner to see the lovely sight of asses hugged by well-worn Levis 501 button flys.  They were outside the auditorium, building sets as part of the stage crew for the upcoming play.  Bingo!  So, Emily and I signed right up.  We spent hours every week getting to know these boys, flirting shamelessly over power tools and paint. 

    The object of the majority of my flirtation that particular year was one James Black.  James was a tall lanky guy, and he looked strikingly like John Cusack -- so much so that I snipped a picture of Mr. Cusack out of some magazine and kept it tucked away in the back of my wallet.  It was my way of having James Black to myself, since the odds of him looking at me as anything more than a tagalong stage crew sidekick were slim to none.  Strange, I admit, but we won’t digress about my stalker tendencies tonight.  Back to the story.   

    One day, over the break between Christmas and New Years, the gossip mill had brought to our attention the exciting news that the bad boys (among others) would be “hangin’ at the trestle” later that night.  Now let me explain – there were only a few places to “hang” as a teenager in Pelham, NY.  First, Four Corners, which was basically a mini-strip mall of sorts.  It housed a great pizza parlor, a greasy Chinese take out joint, and the pharmacy where I worked after school and from which I would later pilfer prophylactics to give to my friends.  Second, the Woods behind OLPH (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) church.  This was the site of my first official run in with the law – the result of a group of junior high students stealing jelly-jars full of liquor from their parents liquor cabinets – a night we fondly refer to as “the OLPH incident.”  And finally, the trestle.  The trestle was literally that – a spot under a bridge trestle on the golf course at the Pelham Country Club.  Word on the street that night was that we should bring beer and that there would be a bonfire.  The beer was no problem back then – we knew exactly which deli we could go to to score a six pack.  But we couldn’t just tell our parents we were going to hang out and get drunk on a golf course, so Emily and I hatched what we thought was a clever alibi.  We agreed to tell our parents we were going to the movies, carefully selecting a movie that Emily had already seen.  She gave me a plot summary and we were good to go.  So off we were, to the trestle, ready for another night of flirting. 

    Now it’s important to mention at this point that it was my birthday.  I turned 15 that day.  As we walked down to the trestle, I remember thinking to myself that maybe this would be the night that James would finally realize that I wasn’t just a 14 year old sophomore, but I was 15 now, and that 15 was almost 16, certainly fair game for making out.  As we approached the glow of the bonfire in the darkness under the bridge, we saw our favorite stage crew boys among the crowd.  I did a quick scan and, sure enough, there he was. 
    “Hey,” said James. 
    “Hey,” I replied coyly.
Oh my god.  He said hey!  This would definitely be the night I make out with him!  What a perfect birthday!

    For a while we hung out around the bonfire, chatting, flirting, drinking and laughing.  At one point, James turned to me. 
    “You look cold.  C’mere.”
He wrapped his army-jacket clad arm around me and pulled me close beside him.   Between his body heat and the tipsy flush from the beer, I was instantly much warmer.  My heart was all a-flutter.  I couldn’t have been happier.  Content, I leaned against him and sighed.  (sigh)

    Suddenly, a flash of light came from above.  A voice rang out: “Hold it right there!”
My heartbeat quickly shifted from flutter mode to hard, fast panic mode.  Someone yelled, “cops!” and everyone scattered. 

    Now, I may have been cooler in high school than I am now, but I was much less athletic.  Every year I dreaded that presidential physical fitness test more than any other part of my high school experience.  Those mother fucking squat thrusts.  And the pull-ups?  Forget it.  So needless to say that I probably ran at my normal, snail-like pace for about 10 yards in the dark before I tripped.  I have always been a klutz.  That hasn’t changed either, I’m afraid.  Hands came out of nowhere, grabbed my shoulders, and lifted me off the ground. 

    “Gotcha!” said the voice in my ear.  My heart was pounding madly. 
    “Where do you think you’re going, young lady?  You’re coming with me.” 
He ushered me to a nearby golf cart with police lights on the top.  Oh my god.  Cops!  As I sat in the back of the golf cart my mind was going in a million different directions.  Oh my god, oh my god, the cops!  Did they get anyone else?  Where’s James?  Hey, wait a minute, nobody read me my rights! Do I even have any rights?  I’m only 15.  Shit!

    We pulled into the driveway of the Pelham Country Club main building.  Wait a minute, I thought, my family belongs to this club.  What if they kick us out?  There I was, worrying about our country club membership status as we walked into the building, when the uniformed guy turned to me and said, “we’ll wait here for the cops.” 

    Huh?  Wasn’t he the cops?  A few minutes later, through the window I saw the police cruiser pull up.  Holy shit.  They’re going to arrest me!  I can’t get arrested; James will think I’m such a loser!  What about college?  Panic took hold.  The cop looked over at me and turned to the security guard.
    “What’ve we got here?”
    “Trespassing with some of her friends.”
    “Alright, young lady, lemme take down some information.  What’s your name?”
    “Laren Spirer.”
    “Lauren?”
    “No.  Laren.  Like Karen, but with an L.”  Nobody ever gets it right the first time.
    “And what’s your address?
I told him. 
    “Date of birth?”
    “December 26th.”
A pause as the light bulb went off.  “Hey, that’s today – happy birthday!”

    I felt my lip start to quiver.  This wasn’t how my fifteenth birthday was supposed to go.  One minute I was warm and cozy, basking in James Black’s almost undivided attention, and the next, here I was being interrogated by the cops.  I started to cry. 

    “Hey now, don’t cry.  It’s okay.  Let’s just finish up here and I’ll take you home.”
Oh great, like that was supposed to make me feel better.  I thought of my dad, seeing the police car through the window as he went to answer the doorbell.  He is going to kill me. I started to sob even harder.  Someone handed me a tissue. 

    “Okay, okay, we’re almost done.  Why don’t you tell me who you were with tonight.”
    “Friends.”
    “Okay.  Well, what are your friends’ names?”
I glared at him.  No. Way.  Did he think I was stupid or something?  There was no way in hell I was going to narc on my friends.  Back at the OLPH incident when we all got drunk in the woods, Ian Gallagher told his parents who was there, and someone wrote NARC on his locker in permanent marker – he didn’t have friends for the rest of the school year.  No fucking way.  If I told on anyone, James Black would definitely never talk to me again. 

    “I can’t tell you.  I can’t!” I sobbed.
    “Okay, okay.  It’ll be okay.”
The officer guided me to his car, placing me not in the back seat (thankfully), but in the passenger seat.  As we pulled out of the country club driveway I was struck with a paralyzing thought – my dad thinks I’m at the movies.  How the hell can I explain this one?  My sobs started anew. 

    “Are you okay?” the cop asked.
    “No.  I told my dad I was going to the movies.”
    “Huh?”
    “I told him I was going to the movies, and now I’m coming home in a cop car – how am I supposed to explain this?”  I asked exasperatedly. 

    I don’t know what happened at that moment.  Perhaps the cop took a look at my tear-streaked 15 year old face and felt my pain, perhaps he remembered it was my birthday and took pity upon me, or perhaps he was reminded suddenly of the trouble that I’m sure he got into when he was 15, but for whatever reason, he turned right, away from my house.

    “Where are you going?”  I sniffled.  He sighed.
    “Let’s figure out a story for you to tell your dad,” he said.
And so the cop and I drove around the streets of Pelham, and we made up at least a semi-plausible explanation for how I got from the movie to the trestle.  It went like this:  Emily and I were walking home from the movies and we knew people were going to be at the trestle, so we wanted to just stop by on the way home.  We were only there for about 5 minutes when the cops came -- I was basically just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But here I was, safe and sound, and the country club people didn’t seem to want to press charges, so everything was okay.  I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening.  I know that my dad was walking our dog when we pulled up in the cop car – coincidentally he was turning onto our walkway.  I remember the look of concern and fear when he saw me emerge from the cop car.  And I remember the first question he asked:
    “Are you okay, Lar?” 
    “I’m fine, dad.”
    “She’s fine sir.”
    The cop explained that I had been trespassing and the country club security guards had brought me down to the office, holding me there until the cops came.  They had no plans to press charges.  My father listed carefully and attentively, with his arm protectively around my shoulders. 
“Thank you for bringing her home, officer.”

    When we got into the house, I told him the story that the cop and I had concocted, and thankfully, he bought it.  He didn’t really ask any questions, and said that we’d talk in the morning. 

    My dad, brilliant man that he is, came up with the perfect punishment for me.  In addition to being grounded (which I completely expected), he sat me down the next morning. 
    “Laren, I’d like you to make an appointment with Mr. McNally, the President of the country club, and go apologize to him.” 
    “What?!”
    “Apologize to him.”
    “In person?!”  I was flabbergasted. 
    “Yes.” 
    “Dad, no – can I please just write a letter.  I’ll write him a letter – that’ll be okay.”
    “No, Laren.  I want you to apologize in person.”
    “Please, dad, don’t make me.” 
    “I’m sorry, Laren, but you have to face up to what you’ve done.” 
More tears and protests followed, but it didn’t prevent my dad from hauling me over there one Saturday afternoon.

    I walked into the plush office, and plopped down in a chair across a large wooden desk from Mr. McNally.
    “So, young lady, what can I do for you today?”
For Christ’s sake, I growled to myself.  You know exactly why I’m here and thank you oh so much for making this all the more difficult for me. 
    “I wanted to apologize for trespassing on country club property,” I mumbled sheepishly, “it won’t happen again.”
    “I accept your apology,” he pronounced regally, as if he were granting me some sort of fucking presidential pardon. 
    “Thank you.”
    I slunk back out of the office, out to the car, where my dad was waiting.  And I cried.  Again. I cried more out of humiliation than anything else, but I was grateful that nobody I knew had seen me there, especially James and the boys from stage crew.

    I learned some important lessons from the experience.  First, cops are your friends.  Be nice to them, because you never know when it’ll come in handy.  Second, never narc on your friends, because if you do, you’ll never get to make out with James Black at the next cast party.  And finally, there is a statute of limitations on lying to your parents.  Shortly after my 30th birthday, I was talking to my dad, reminiscing about high school.
    “Hey dad, remember that time the cop brought me home.”
    “Yeah.”
    “That cop helped me make up a story to tell you because I was so afraid I’d get into trouble.”
    “Really?”  He chuckled. 
    “I’m sorry I lied to you, dad.”
    “That’s okay Lar – I think 15 years is the statute of limitations on that sort of thing.”
Whew.

    Now I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that my adolescent run-in with the cops was the driving force behind my applying to law school umpteen million years later, but I will tell you this – since I was in law school, while I was there and all, I made sure I did really, really well in my criminal law and procedure classes and I took a criminal litigation class on top of my requirements.  You know -- keeping all the bases covered, just in case.  Thank you.

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