Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Encounter With the Law

12 September 2011, original date of writing
Transcribed from travel journal

This morning I awoke to what I thought was bright sun breaking through my eyelids. I opened them to find not sun but the blinding beam of a flashlight shining through the car window, inches from my face. To say I was startled is an understatement. "Police" was called out, followed by an immediate attempt to open the driver's side door. You know that awful, sinking feeling you get when you're speeding down the highway and the lights of cop car suddenly show up in your rear-view? Multiply that by 10 and you'll get a small appreciation of what waking up to that feels like. My mind was still running sluggish from sleep, but if I didn't play this cool I'd end up in lock-up for the night. I've been there before, and while it was an eye-opening experience as long as I live I never want to go back there. Ever. I unlocked the door and opened it for the officer, passing over my driver's license as I did so.

"What are you doing out in your car"? The officer asked.
"Sleeping" I replied, putting as much annoyance into the word as I could to communicate the fact I didn't appreciate being suddenly woken up. I'd decided to get out of this I needed to play the part of the ignorant, pretending to have no idea sleeping in the car could wind me up in jail.
"Are you homeless"?
"No" I muttered. "Just kicked out"
"You've been evicted"? "When..."
"No, no.... not evicted. I have a place, my girlfriend kicked me out is all"
"She ok"?
"Yeah she's ok" I said, with a touch of unintentional sadness. "She's just going through a tough time right now".

They bought the story and let me off. Obviously I'm lucky on that front, but I created some serious new problems for myself. First off the cops now had my name on the computers, and the two officers who found me would likely recognize my car if they saw it in the future. Secondly I gave them my old address, a location over a mile down the street. I'm glad they didn't ask me why I wasn't parked near my own address, because I would not have been able to come up with a convincing answer. Lastly I was caught in a spot only two blocks away from the garage which I use to store all my stuff, a place I visit daily. My "home base" basically. All this together has forced me to adapt new strategies.

First off- no more sleeping in the car. It used to be on weekends my shift would end at 12am, and instead of wasting time hiking out and setting up camp, I'd find a quiet spot on the street and sleep in the back. No longer. If I'm ever caught in the car again there's a possibility an old report will come up, in which case it'll be the lock-up for me. Can't risk it.

Secondly I must now be careful where I park my car because my car is extremely distinguishable. There's no doubt those two officers who found me in my car will be able to recognize it in the future, and if it seems to be parked overnight by a certain city park often, they might put one and one together and do a sweep of the bushes. Not good.

Finally I should take care to limit my time in that area. Period. It's difficult because my base of operations is there, but it would cause questions if they notice that I tend to spend so much time over there, while my "address" is a mile away.

Yes I'm being a little paranoid with my precautions. Anyone in my situation has to be. It's really easy for me to see this "guerilla camping" stuff as a game, but I can't allow myself to forget there's real consequences if I allow myself to slip up. Suffice it to say if I screw up and end in jail my "guerilla" days will be over. It wouldn't be more than a slap on the wrist and one year of "no same or similar", but if I stayed the course and got picked up a second time the punishments would get real. I must keep my mind open to all scenarios and not allow myself to get lazy and take shortcuts. No more sleeping in cars. From now on I park my car away from wherever I'm camping and hike it the rest of the way. If I'm ever caught chances are it'll happen because I let my guard down. Staying alert, staying paranoid, means staying out of jail.

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