“Did I tell you I almost got arrested the other day?”
I have been picking through my salad, pursuing lumps of goat cheese and strawberries. I look up. “Arrested?” I say. “Why?”
“Oh, it was stupid,” George says.
I fish through my purse for the book and pen I keep there for just these occasions. “I love stupid,” I say.
From the paintings that line the walls of her one-room apartment to her gloriously funky wardrobe to her liquid eyeliner, everything about George screams “I am poor and talented. Please buy me a drink.”
Aside from painting portraits and illustrating the odd book or two, George has worked a variety of temp jobs, a hodge-podge of meaningless positions with predefined futures. As an artist, these sorts of jobs are appealing to her: it keeps her head in her art.
George’s money goes into art supplies, and she takes the bus everywhere.
“This opportunity comes up, right? A high-security kinda thing, requires a background check, high-level clearance. “
“More money?” I interject.
“Way more money.”
We grin at each other.
“So the day of the background check, I get all packed. I’m wearing layers upon layers of clothing, of course, plus I’m going to meet a friend that evening so I’m packed for that, too – which primarily means that I’ve got extra underwear and socks and that I’ve stashed a more-than-half-full bottle of vodka in my backpack.”
We raise our Diet Cokes to each other.
“So I go the police station for a background check. Only they don’t do background checks. The second station I take the bus to? They do it – but only until 12:00. By the time I arrive, it’s 12:30. I plead with them: please, I took the bus, I need this job.
“They’re pretty cool about it, actually, and they agree to do it.”
She shakes her head. “As it is, this police station is connected to the jail. Do you know what that means?”
I shake my head. I do not know what that means.
“It means I go in, they go through my backpack – and they pull out my bottle of vodka. The officer is astounded. He says to me, you can’t bring that in here!
“And I’m like, “What?
“You walked into the jail,” he says, “with a bottle of vodka. That’s against the law.”
“But --,” I say.
“Do you know that you can be arrested for this? You cannot bring liquor into this building!”
“But --,” I say.
“Sit over there,” the officer says. “I’ll get the sergeant.”
“So what happened? Did they throw you in jail?”
“No,” she says. “The sergeant was really nice about it, actually. I explained to him that I take the bus everywhere, that I had places to go later.” She smiles. “I think the socks and underwear did the trick.”
“But you got the job?”
“Nah,” she says. “After all that, the job wasn’t on a bus line,” she says. “And, of course, I had to replace the vodka.”
She sips her Coke, shakes her head sadly. “No new job and down one bottle of vodka. Some days, it’s best to just stay at home.”