November 13, 2014

'There Is a Warrant Out for Your Arrest'


I was almost arrested yesterday. Or at least I thought I was going to be.

At about 4 in the afternoon, I get a message to call a policeman, a Lieutenant Johnson, right away. And so I dial the number.

“Hello, this is Tamara Linse,” I say. “You wanted me to return your call?”

“Yes,” the man says, “thank you for returning my call.”  He sounds like a young man, with a slight southern drawl, and he forms his words like policemen do: formal, precise, deep-voiced.

“Is there something I can help you with?” I say.

“Yes, there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”

Adrenalin shoots through me. What?!  What?!

“You were called to jury duty and you did not appear, and therefore the judge ruled you in contempt of court.”

“I was supposed to be in jury duty?!”  All this while I’m thinking, in my heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted to be on jury duty. Something about the access to secrets, the drama, everything.  It’s the same reason I read Ann Landers. I’m a fiction writer after all, and we’re evesdroppers and purveyors of horrible crimes.  But, alas, no, I’ve never been called.

“Yes. You should have received a written notice in the mail last week.  It was definitely sent, and the post office is really good about these things.”

“But I did not receive it.” At this point I’m totally freaked out. I want to protest my innocence.  I never received it! I’m innocent, I swear!  How can it be legal for a warrant to be out for my arrest if I did not receive the summons?!

“Well, you’re lucky,” he says. “It’s just a misdemeanor, but …”

At this point, my self-preservation brain kicks in. Everything doesn’t seem to be adding up. Would I be arrested for not showing up for jury duty? I mean, how many people probably miss those summons?  Lots, I’m sure.  And now that I think about it, it was not local number. And he just answered without a “this is a police officer” until I said something.

And so I interrupt him: “I’m sorry. There’s been a lot of scams going on lately. I’ll call you back.  I’ll call the number for the police department and they’ll transfer me back to you.”

“Uh, oh, okay,” he says.

I’m shaking as I call the police department. I ask for Lieutenant Johnson, and the lady dispatcher transfers me back. I get voice mail. That nails it for me: the voice on the message who identifies himself as Officer Johnson has no southern accent and is not the same voice.

I want to confirm, so I call back again a bit later.  The dispatcher transfers me to another person who will know where Officer Johnson is.  At first he says that there is no Lieutenant Johnson, just an Officer Johnson. I explain what happened.  He confirms: “Yes, it’s a scam, and it’s been going around for a while.” He’s really nice and tells me I did just the right thing. And the reason I thought to call them back? Because the police department had posted a notice in the paper a couple weeks back saying that’s what to do if you suspect a scam.  The system works.

After I get off the call, a coworker says she’s gotten the scam a couple of times in the last couple months too. And so it’s all over, but the shadow of adrenalin is rushing through my body. Plus, all during this, my daughter has missed the daycare van, and I have to run out to get her.

And my takeaway from this?  There are many parts of the world, for many people, where this would be real.  They are justified in believing that they are going to be arrested ~ because they are arrested, if not killed, for “driving while black” or because the guy in authority wants a bribe. 

I am aware of my many privileges that I get just because I am who I am and I live where I live.  And all my life, since I was a little girl up to this very day, all I’ve wished for was that everyone got along and loved everyone else. I say this without shame.

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