Drunk as a Skunk in the Trunk

© Jerry F. Couch

If you want to see the “less-ordinary” side of life, get a job in law enforcement.  In 1972, I had a part-time job as a dispatcher for the St. Paul Police Department.  The working hours were 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.  Sometimes, the things I saw and heard were highly instructive and entertaining.  Sometimes they weren’t.  Here’s one example.

October was well-advanced and cold weather had arrived.  One quiet afternoon I received a call from a woman who said there was an unconscious (euphemism for passed out drunk) man lying near the Riverside Drive underpass.  I thanked her for calling, then radioed the information to the officers on duty.

Underpass 1967
The old Riverside Drive underpass – X marks the spot where the officers found our guest…

The Town of St. Paul had recently purchased a new police cruiser – a brown Chevrolet sedan.  Police cars receive a lot of abuse, but this one was still clinging to its dignity.  About 10 minutes after I radioed the officers, they drove up in front of the police station.  Two officers were in the front seat, but no one was in the back seat.  Then I noticed the trunk lid wasn’t latched…

Bonanza Drive-In
The brown police cruiser parked at the Bonanza Drive-In

The officers walked around to the rear of the car and raised the trunk lid.  They extracted an unconscious man; one holding him under the arms, the other holding him by the legs.  They carried him into the building then locked him inside one of the jail cells.

Some paperwork was necessary for this transaction.  As the officers completed the paperwork, they told me what had happened.  The man they picked up had suffered a fulsome “accident.”  The officers had no intentions of riding around in the police cruiser for a week during cold weather with all the windows rolled down.  So…they made a very pragmatic decision to load our loaded guest into the car’s trunk.  While this may seem harsh to some, I’m sure they saved his life.  If this incident had occurred after dark, no passerby would have seen him.  He would have died of hypothermia during the night.

As it turned out, there were other customers in the town’s small jail that evening.  Things were getting intense back there and the guests were NOT happy about it.  They shouted their displeasure in graphic terms, but there was nothing I could do.  After all, you don’t get to choose your neighbors in jail.  It was probably one of the few times St. Paul prisoners were glad to be transferred to the county jail at Wise.

Later that evening, our guest revived.  I heard him shouting groggily, “Hey you!  Hey you out there!  Come back here!”  When I opened the door to the cell block (shew-EEE), the prisoner said, “I need some toilet paper.” 

I checked the supply closet and the office restroom.  Zip, zilch, nada.  No paper.  When I returned to confess the town’s inadequate hospitality, our guest became irate and yelled, “What the HELL am I supposed to do?”  I thought for a minute, then said, “By any chance are you wearing socks…?”

Aunt Bea always made sure Otis Campbell’s jail accommodations were in order.  Unfortunately for our guest, St. Paul had no Aunt Bea equivalent.  However, the town DID have several Otis Campbell equivalents. 

Substance abuse is a cruel master.  Moderation, folks.  Moderation.

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