Episode 16: A Brief Timeout

The Last Chance Democracy Café:
Episode 16: A Brief Timeout

by Steven C. Day

This is a true story, by the way.

Back before I opened The Last Chance Democracy Café, I made my living practicing law. My specialty was civil litigation, mostly cases involving disputes worth millions of dollars. I figured I was a pretty important guy. One day I was running late for the deposition of a doctor at a hospital — I was always running late back then. But by bending a few of the rules of the road, I was able to make it to the parking garage with a couple minutes to spare.

Then I saw her.

I couldn’t be sure, given my limited range of vision from the back, but my best guess was that she was somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 to 135 years old, give or take a year. She was slowly inching her way up the parking garage ramp, traveling at a speed that would have embarrassed Yertle the Turtle. And there I was, stuck behind her — and livid. Cursing under my breath, I started mumbling things I didn’t mean, but felt some need to privately vent anyhow: “God damn it, are you blind? If you’re too old to drive, then take the bus! But get the hell out of my way!”

Well, eventually — seven or eight hours later, I think — she did find a parking spot (although it took her three tries to make the turn). I zoomed past, grabbing the next open stall 50 feet away. As I hurriedly grabbed my briefcase out of the trunk, out of the corner of my eye I noticed my protagonist slowly climbing out of her car and beginning to inch toward the exit. Then, suddenly, she tripped over a curb and fell forward on the concrete, cutting a gash in her forehead.

I ran over, of course, and helped her up. I picked up her purse and her papers and then helped her to the emergency room to be checked out. Along the way, I learned that she was going to the hospital to begin working as a volunteer. I also learned that she did lots of other volunteer work in the community and that she was an extremely nice person. Being unaware, obviously, of my tirade in my car, she thanked me profusely for helping. “The world needs more kind, generous people like you,” she said.

And, yes, since you asked — I did feel like an incredible shit.

So I’ve tried to have more patience since then — which is a good thing, given that last Monday evening I had to spend six long hours at the county jail waiting to bail out Horace, Tom and Winston.

They were arrested during a protest against the Iraq War. Some of the protestors staged an unplanned sit-in — with the clear intention of being arrested. It worked like a charm and they were promptly hauled off. Overcome by the passion of the moment, I suppose, my three friends had joined in the festivities. I got the call at the café and immediately went down to post bail. But given the insistence to show solidarity with their jailbird brethren, all three refused to leave until the whole group was released. Thus, the six hour wait.

And just in case you’re interested, the reading material in the waiting area outside a jail sucks.

I’m told that just before placing Winston under arrest the police officer, who knew him from his days on the bench, asked him, “Judge, are you sure you want to do this?”

Winston responded, “You are doing yourself honor, Sir, by carrying out your duty of enforcing the law you swore to uphold, just as I believe I am doing myself honor by following the duty I see to disobey that same law.”

Crap. Six miserable hours spent waiting at a county jail and I didn’t even get to enjoy being mad. Instead, I couldn’t help but feel proud of the bastards.

Two days later they were sentenced. Forty-five days unsupervised probation.

Pretty light sentence, huh? But there was a catch. One of the terms of their probation — it’s a term of all probations in this county — was that they could consume no alcoholic beverages during its term. In other words, no booze, and, thus, no Wednesday nights at the Last Chance Democracy Café.


This wasn’t Horace’s first time in the poky. In his younger days, he marched with Martin Luther King. So I guess It’s not surprising that after the sentence was imposed, he quoted Reverend King:

“In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law . . . That would lead to anarchy. An individual who breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

“Great words,” said Tom.

“Great man,” said Horace.

“All true,” said Winston. “But I could still use a drink!”

* * *

When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at .

© Copyright Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001

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