The punch had bad intentions—but I’d miscalculated the distance of my target, a bald bouncer wearing black-rimmed glasses who only seconds before must have done something to warrant what turned out to be one of the least-effective overhand-lefts in the history of street combat.

But what? The cops wanted to know.

My recollection of the alleged incident was spotty. Minutes had elapsed and I’d already distanced myself from the fray: in fact, they’d busted me just around the corner following an abbreviated, low-speed foot pursuit.

I was surrounded—and politely placed under arrest.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked an officer after he’d handcuffed me. An odd question since, outside of anyone who’s actually met me, there’s no reason why anybody should know who I am.

And he was holding my driver’s license.

I am not a criminal. Admittedly, there have been a handful of regrettable run-ins with police over the years, but the only time I’ve served behind bars has been at the horizontal variety.

No matter. I was charged with assault, read my rights and loaded into an idling police van.

I remained belligerently confident. After all, I was drunk, the punch had whiffed, the doorman had committed the more-egregious offense (what was it?), and I was mostly an upstanding citizen.

I demanded an immediate release.

The police van lurched into gear.

Going to jail—even for a night—is bad. But going the night my new girlfriend babysat my two-year-old son for the first time—was worse.

She’d be worried, since it was already well past my self-imposed curfew. Was I with another woman? Prone in a pool of blood? Dead in a ditch? One thing was clear: to get home soonest, I’d have to cooperate.

I refused to be fingerprinted. A burly guard twisted my arm. He also wrenched my thumb in a direction that, just moments before, had seemed physiologically impossible.

There’s only one way to enter a jail cell—weeping isn’t it. Mercifully, my new cellmate’s lack of consciousness precluded him from noticing. As the guard closed the heavy steel door behind me, I turned and pleaded for a phone call. “Just let me talk to my girlfriend,” I begged. “She’s babysitting my son.”

“Yeah, well, you shoulda thought of that earlier,” he replied.

CLANK—I was in the clink.

Every cell door had a small, square-shaped, reinforced-glass porthole, which seemed to be the hotspot for hurling insults at faceless fellow inmates. Inside, furnishings were sparse: two stainless-steel beds—one already occupied—and a matching toilet, which seemed perilously close to the open berth.

I sat down on the cold, vacant bed. And waited.

Minutes passed. Hours followed.

The cell door rattled open. “McRanor!” the guard barked.

I was escorted to a small room. Inside, a man—late-night legal counsel, it turned out—sat in a chair with dozens of case files fanned out on the table in front of him. Mine was open and included victim and witness statements, as well as the cop’s account of what had transpired after I was taken into custody.

The lawyer grunted disapprovingly at the lowlights. “You got kinda mouthy with the cops, huh? That’s never a good idea.”

“Yeah, but I apologized afterwards.”

“So why did you punch the guy?”

“Well, I didn’t really punch him. I—”

“He said you punched him. Witnesses said you punched him.”

“He was a jerk,” I countered.

“Maybe so,” he replied. “But being a jerk isn’t against the law.”

“Look—I just drank too much. How do I get out?”

“You’ve been charged with a crime. You’ve got to see a judge to get out.”

“When will that be?”

He checked his watch. “Well, it’s 2 a.m.—I wouldn’t make any plans today.”

“My son’s at home with my girlfriend. Can I at least call and let them know I’m okay?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

A guard brought me back to my cell.

By now, my roommate—an affable, self-described heroin junkie—was up and, after I’d bullet-pointed my night, graciously provided the name of an “honest and reasonable” lawyer, should I require one. “He’s a good guy,” he said, before drifting back to sleep.

Minutes passed. Hours followed.

The cell door rattled open. “McRanor!” the guard barked.

He escorted me to a wood-panelled phone booth. “Make your call.”

I stepped into the box, picked up the handset and … couldn’t remember my girlfriend Suzy’s seven-digit phone number, even though it’s only comprised of three different digits.

I asked the guard for my mobile phone, which he reluctantly retrieved.


“What number comes up from this phone?” I asked.

“Restricted,” he replied.

I called my mom.


“Hey, mom! What’s up?”

“Oh, well, your dad and I are just eating breakfast. What’s up with you?”

“Not much—just at a coffee shop and my phone died. Do you have Suzy’s number?”

I called Suzy.


“Hey. It’s me.”

“Where are you?”

“In jail.”

What—are you okay?”

“Fine. You?”

“Relieved. What happened?”

I don’t know. Booze. A fight. I’ll explain later—I don’t have much time. I just wanted to call and let you know that I’m alive.”

“When are you getting out?”

“No idea. They say I have to see a judge. Soon, I hope.”

A guard walked me back to my cell.

Minutes passed. Hours followed.

A guard brought lunch—though it might have been dinner. Either way, it was bologna.

The cell door rattled open. “McRanor!” the guard barked.

He walked me to a small booth with a video monitor on the wall. A judge appeared and went over the conditions of my release. “Try not to punch anyone on the way home,” she said.

A guard led me back to my cell.

Minutes passed. Hours followed.

The cell door rattled open. “McRanor!” the guard barked.

He escorted me to an elevator and motioned for me to step inside. A second guard arrived with another overnight guest and instructed him to do the same. “When the doors open, exit through the steel door to the street.”

The doors closed. The elevator went up. The guy next to me glanced over.

“Well—that sucked,” he said.

Succinct sentence.


The assault charge was stayed. Graeme lives in White Rock, British Columbia with his nine-year-old son, London, partner Suzy and their 15-month-old daughter, Dylan. He does not drink.

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