I asked him to cast his mind back to the events of that evening to see if he could shed any light on the whereabouts of my driver's license.
In the process of being ejaculated out of the county jail system in the wee small hours of Thursday, Aug. 6, the very last thing that happened, after handing back prison clothing and putting on the traditional shorts and wifebeater I had been arrested in, was the formal handing back of my personal property, which must be signed for without opening the sealed plastic bag in which it has been stored.
But, here's the thing, there are signs all over the room (at this final point of the labyrinthine path out of the belly of the beast) and those signs clearly state that it is forbidden to open the sealed bag before you are out of the building.
Looking back, I suppose there might have been a way for me to carefully verify (through the clear plastic) that all my cards were present in the little metal wallet thing I had bought, many years ago, from the shopping channel.
So I signed for my bag of wallets (I also carry a small leather wallet that holds such things as medical insurance IDs and the sort of cards that might qualify me for a free cup of coffee if sufficient holes are punched in it for all my cups of coffee that yearn to be free).
You know where this is going. It was only when I was standing under the street lights on the sidewalk of Front Street, enjoying the fresh night air, that I discovered my driver's license was not in the bag.
I had my bank debit card. And the first thing I did was stroll into a 7-Eleven for the biggest cup of black coffee and the most exotic pack of cigarettes. It turns out the 7 Eleven sells non-filtered Turkish cigarettes, which were fairly satisfying. And then I started walking to the downtown Police Station to lodge an official complaint.
I felt a little like Terence Stamp in The Limey (1999) as I strode past the huddled masses of homeless Americans. San Diego's main polices station was, at that time of night, still closed to the public. But I found my way into the employee parking lot and accosted a sergeant who was working in his car.
Why would I wish to lodge a formal complaint against my arresting officer? Well, a funny thing happened, back on July 31, on our way to the downtown police station. This was after I had been placed, handcuffed, in the back of his car. We left the rented townhouse that had been my home and we turned right into Imperial Avenue. I wondered, at the time, why he stopped opposite the main entrance to Greenwood Cemetery and then doubled back. He parked in the middle of the road, next to the median, opposite the 24-Hour Fitness. We were safe enough from passing traffic, because all those pretty lights on the roof were flashing, but without the siren. Officer Downing was rushing up and down the street with a flashlight, looking for something.
When, at last, he got into back into the car, I asked him what was up. He was quite embarrassed to tell me he had made a mistake. Most police officers are accustomed to using the hood of a police car as a convenient desk. And Downing had spread my belongings on the hood, before we set off, and then forgotten about them when we drove away. He told me he had seen my cards falling off as we accelerated along Imperial.
In the back seat, my hands locked behind my back, I had been unable to see much. He checked off that he had all the items that were loose in that metal wallet thing I had bought from QVC. He had my EBT card, my worthless Unemployment Insurance Card, my Fresh & Easy customer loyalty card, my bank debit card and MY DRIVER'S LICENSE. It was only when we were certain all those items were in his possession, that we drove to the downtown police station, in the basement garage of which, he finished off all his official report writing, prior to driving me to the UCSD Hospital, where my right hand was x-rayed for a suspected fracture of the pinky finger.
And, at that time, Downing who, in many ways, is a decent man and a considerate man, possibly also a brave man (ex USMC, two tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq) confirmed to me that his report would have to include the whole embarrassing story of how he scattered my belongings along the highway after having left them on the hood of his police car.
Well, standing outside that basement garage of the downtown police station nearly a week after the fact, I told the story to several sergeants. And they all agreed there was no need to make a formal complaint, considering how simple it is to go to the DMV and be issued with a duplicate driver's license. Also, this was the wrong place to lodge such a complaint, because Officer Downing doesn't work out of that police station. He's based out on Skyline and we only dropped by the downtown location because that's what every cop does when he's taking a prisoner to the downtown county jail.
But I do recall there was a moment when Downing mentioned to me that he had my driver's license separate from my other property. I'm just not entirely sure whether that was in the car, at the police station, in the hospital waiting room or at the jail. At all of those junctures, he would have needed to look at it so he could enter my personal details into whatever part of the system he was committing me to at that point.
As it turns out, the DMV is not about to issue me with a duplicate license very easily. So I'll just hope the license turns up in a drawer at the jail or in the laundry of Officer Downing. Stranger things have happened.