The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time 1973

Excerpt from the upcoming biography, Viking Funeral. Thank you for all your comments and love. Scroll down to start from the beginning around March 13. Or click here to read about Dave

Right before high school graduation Brian and Dave were out in the world on a Saturday afternoon. They were down the street from our house when some friends drove by and asked them if they wanted to hop in their car to cruise E Street. Day or night E Street in San Bernardino was the place to connect with people.

Brian and Dave shrugged at each other with an unspoken why the hell not? and hopped in the back seat of the station wagon, joining their friends. The back seat floorboards were littered with empty beer cans level with the hump of the transmission that separated the two sides of the car. There was no room for their feet and no way to avoid the crinkle of the cans as they got in.

The car reeked of a range of beer fresh and stale. The two guys in the front seat had been playing softball all day and subsequently had been drinking all day, pitching the empties over their shoulder into the backseat spilling the dribbles of beer at the bottom of each can in the process. Dave and Brian had had nothing to drink so far, but it was early, and they JUST got in the car.

The guys headed for E Street and cruised up and down the crowded street, socializing loudly out the windows at people they knew and people they didn’t but maybe hoped to know. At some point, they were side-by-side with a car full of people they knew. They were shouting and laughing as they went. The question of beer came up as in, “Ya got any beer?” shouted to the guys in the station wagon. The guys in the station wagon did, in fact, have beer. They had loads of beer in the cargo area in the way back.

Dave decided to crawl back there, all 230 pounds of him over the back seat into the way back of the station wagon where the beer was in an ice chest. Ever friendly, helpful, considerate, and generous as he was, through the open back window of the station wagon, he proceeded to lean out of the moving car as far as he could to hand the requested beer to the passengers in the also moving car beside them in the next lane.

That is when they all heard the distinct sound of a siren make a single WOOOooooo. The car in the lane beside them took off. The guys in the station wagon were stuck and busted.

The two guys in the front seat threw their half-full open containers of beer into the back seat, pouring their contents all over Brian, who this early in the cruising process had had NOTHING to drink. Yet, he was now saturated in beer and worried. He was very worried.

The officer got out of his car and approached the station wagon from behind. Dave was the first one ordered to step out of the vehicle, which he obliged by awkwardly climbing, again, 230 pounds of bulky him out the window. He was directed to stand by the side of the road. “Yes sir, Officer.” Next, the three other passengers were ordered to get out. The driver and front passenger obliged quickly and moved beside Dave in line at the side of the road.

When Brian opened his door, empty beer cans unavoidably crinkled and fell out as he moved his feet to get out, he stopped, panicked at what this specific noise ‘looked like.’ He froze in place in the car as he made first completely sober eye contact with the young cop who was watching intently. The cop motioned impatiently for him to continue out of the vehicle. The empties crinkled and clanked as they uncontrollably fell out in the gutter with his every move. The noise that only an empty beer can make when hitting the ground echoed around them, and the stench of beer specifically exuding off Brian was stinky and heavy in the air. Things were looking really bad for Brian, the only sober one in the group. He moved to his obligatory place in line at the side of the road with the other guys, practically regretting the day he was born.

The officer gave the field sobriety test to the driver. The other boys stood in a line waiting for their fate, whatever that was. There was only one officer, and there were four of them.

Brian’s thoughts began racing. ‘I wasn’t driving. I haven’t even had ONE beer. There is only ONE cop I can probably make it through the field on foot, and he probably wouldn’t be able to catch me.’ He was torn away from his thoughts by reality and the handcuffs being slapped on his wrists.

Back-up officers arrived. All four boys were arrested. The driver and passenger were legally drunk, had open containers in the car as well as illegal possession of alcohol. Dave was hanging out the rear window of a moving vehicle with an open container of alcohol. Brian, the self-described innocent lamb on this day of days, was charged with illegal possession of alcohol. He was totally in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was so unfair.

Brian and Dave had the same date for their court appearances for their violations and planned to go together. Brian got dressed in his suit at our house and had my dad help him tie his tie. My dad was the kind of dad who would help you tie your tie if you needed it.

Sidebar: Brian had my dad tie his tie for many years. It was very sweet. They both enjoyed the special connection between found dad and found son. I didn’t realize this was a thing until years later, Brian was walking through the house with a necktie, tied properly but on a hanger that he carried in front of him on his way out the door as he said “Bye” to my mom and me. He closed the door and left. I looked at my mom, pointed his general direction, and inquired “What was that?” My mom said, “What?” “The tie?” “Oh, your father ties his ties for him as needed.” “Brian can tie a tie can’t he?” “Pretty sure he can, but he likes to ask your father to do it, and your father likes to do it.” Brian was a little older than mid-twenties, but then again he didn’t wear a tie very often as a fireman. I thought it was the sweetest thing that showed the nature of his relationship with my dad with our family. His tie on a hanger was a physical representation of that relationship, I loved it and giggled.

Back to court: The boys were assigned different courtrooms. Understandably they were both very nervous. They were less than a month away from graduating High School, their whole lives stretched out ahead of them. This day felt ominous. They each went to their assigned courts. Dave awaited his fate meeting his ‘judge and jury’ which was actually just a judge. He received a simple fine. An 18-year-old, hanging out of the rear window of a moving vehicle passing alcohol to another moving vehicle. He got a $50 fine. Dave paid his fine and left the courtroom, feeling very relieved. He waited in the hall for Brian to finish.

Brian came out looking defeated. He asked Dave how it went. Dave told him he had to pay a fine. Brian was stunned, “You ONLY paid a fine?” “Ya, $50 bucks!” “Fifty Bucks? I had to pay a $75 fine, AND I got six months’ probation!” It was so unjust! He reminded Dave and anyone who would listen to this day of this travesty of justice, “And I didn’t even have one beer!”

When the boys returned home, they dragged themselves pitifully through the door, heads hung low with long pathetic faces. My mom took one look at them and just knew something was terribly wrong and asked, “How did it go?” In concert, the boys sputtered “TERRIBLE. (Pause here for dramatic effect…emphasis on dramatic) The judge sentenced us to jail!” My mom went into panic mode at this TERRIBLE information. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE TO GO TO JAIL? TO JAIL? JAIL??? WHAT ABOUT GRADUATION?” Her voice climbing in tember with each mounting question. “Did you tell him you are two weeks away from graduation?” Boys both nod without looking up, still with the long faces. “He said it doesn’t matter; we have to report to jail right away!” “Right away? What does right away mean?” “Today! We just came home to change clothes, and then we are off to jail. (pause again) Today.” My mom began to really panic at this point, so the boys finally burst out with a JUST KIDDING!!!

“OH MY GOD, DAMN IT, YOU TWO!!!”

Brian then had to tell her about his travesty of justice compared to Dave’s sentence for the very first time. It was the equivalent of being a five-year-old telling his mom about his skinned knee that he got at school at the end of the school day and animatedly reliving the pain all over again.

A few years later, Brian was a young Fireman on duty and ran into THE arresting officer. The officer remembered him clearly. They laughed about it at that point. If Brian had made a run for it at that moment he had fantasized about doing so; he probably would not be where he was, a fireman, the job, and career of his dreams. Good thing he only got probation.