My Date With Kafka: T. SHER SINGH
Monday, August 20, 2012
I was young then, with no grey in my beard and lots of hair under my turban. I wasn’t a lawyer then -- I hadn’t even thought about being one yet.
I was an average immigrant in Toronto.
Keen. Energetic. Optimistic. Willing to try anything. The future was wide open before me. Disillusionment was only a word one had to learn to spell. Cynicism and sarcasm were yet unknown dishes, not to be tasted for a few more years.
My spirits were soaring, even though I just couldn’t get a proper job. I had six years of university under my belt - both in Canada and abroad. Yet, there were no jobs: I was either “over-qualified” or did not have enough “Canadian experience.”
So, I worked as a courier. I delivered letters and parcels in and around Toronto. Drove around for a dozen hours every day and made a decent living.
I was at Bloor and Church Streets one day - right in the heart of downtown. Parked in an alley just east of Church, running south from Bloor. Ran out and up the stairs, delivered a parcel, got a signature, ran down the stairs, back behind the wheel and proceeded to back out onto Bloor Street.
I couldn’t. Standing right behind me were two young women, their thumbs stuck out, oblivious of me, trying to hitch a ride. I waited a minute. They did not notice me. I honked my horn. One of them strolled over to my side, and asked me to lower my window.
She asked me what my problem was. I asked if they could please move out of the way so that I could get back on to Bloor Street. She told me to get lost -- unless, she added, I was willing to give them a ride to Scarborough.
I said I couldn’t: I was doing deliveries, my car was full, and I was heading west, not east.
“F--- you, then!” she said, “you can just sit there then.”
She walked back to behind my car, and the two of them continued to block the lane.
It was obvious she was either on drugs, or drunk, or something. From her eyes, her speech, her expression, her abuse, and their refusal to move off the roadway.
So I did not get into a shouting match: I just waited, honked my horn every 30 seconds or so, until about 30 minutes later, they relented, moved out of the way, and dismissed me with a wave and a parting curse in chorus.
That’s all that happened.
I saw them in my rear view mirror as I drove away. They were back on the spot, their thumbs out again, begging a ride from passers by.
I headed west on Bloor Street, towards Yonge, stopped briefly for three or four quick deliveries in the Hudson Bay Centre Office Tower, and then made my way west, past Bay. I turned right on the first street, a one-way street, where Harry Rosen’s stands today. It was about half-an-hour after I had left the two young women at Church and Bloor a few blocks away.
I had barely reached Cumberland, in fact just short of it, when three police cars converged on me and stopped me right in my tracks. It happened exactly the way it used to on TV, on Hawaii-Five-O every Wednesday night.
Several officers emerged, rushed towards my door, wrenched it open, pulled me out, threw me on the hood, searched me, hand-cuffed me, and stuffed me into the back of a police car.
It happened with lightening speed -- I didn’t know what had hit me until I was securely ensconced in the police car, the door slammed and I left alone with my thoughts.
I knew I was under arrest but had no idea why. I desperately scoured through my memory: first everything I had done that day, then everything the previous day, then all of the week before. I just couldn’t figure out what I possibly might have done to warrant all of this.
For a few moments, I even imagined myself to be a criminal who genuinely couldn’t remember the crime he had committed only moments earlier. Amnesia? Psychopath? Na-aa-h … I don’t think so, I comforted myself.
I sat in the patrol car alone for what seemed an age. Finally, two officers came back to the police car I was in, and drove me to the police station.
On the way, I was told I was being charged for hit-and-run, that I had knocked down two women at Bloor and Church and disappeared from the scene.
I broke into a sweat.
“How’re the women?” I asked.
“We don’t know,” said the officer, “somebody called 911, reported the incident, gave a description and car plate number … and we got you. That’s all we know.”
It’s a mistake, I said half to myself, half to them. I gradually calmed down, knowing it was only a matter of time and everything would be cleared up. I knew it wasn’t me. It couldn’t be me! I knew there would be word waiting for us at the police station that they’d got the wrong guy.
I started worrying about the parcels sitting in my car, the dispatcher going hoarse trying to raise me on the radio, the commission I was going to lose because of the time lost, the impact it would have on my cheque that week ...
At the station, I was searched and taken into a cell. They took off my handcuffs, and left me there. For an hour or more.
I was calm and rested. I could imagine them talking in hushed tones somewhere in the building, embarrassed that they had got the wrong person, now trying to figure out how to let me go.
A sergeant appeared, took me to a desk, one of many placed at the end of a large locker room. He told me I could make a call.
I called my dispatcher - Claudette was her name, I still remember - and told her I had got delayed with something, but would be out shortly and would explain it all. I assured her I wasn’t goofing off, that I had a good explanation.
The officer sat me down and started questioning me. My name, address, age, etc., etc.
“Did you get the guy?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “We got you.”
That puzzled me, but I asked: “How are the two women, are they okay?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know anything. So just answer my questions.”
He asked me my “story”.
I told him, step by step, minute by minute, everything I had been doing for a full hour before they had stopped me, and before.
He said: “You need a lawyer, a good lawyer.”
“I said: “Why? I didn’t do anything.”
He shook his head for a long time, looked at me straight in the eye and said: “You’ll have to come up with a better story.”
That’s when it hit me, hard, right in the stomach. He did not believe a word I had said. He actually thought I had done it -- whatever I was supposed to have done.
I asked. He said: “Hit and Run.”
When I asked more - who, when, what, how, why - all he said was: “Get a lawyer; he’ll tell you everything.”
Throughout this session, every now and then, another officer or two would walk in and go to some locker. Three different officers, at three different times, said: “Touche!” as they walked by us. Each time my guy would respond with a slight grin and just say “Yeah.”
One yelled out from behind a locker: “That’s four ragheads this week.”
My interrogator smiled but did not reply. I had no idea what “raghead“ meant, but made a mental note to ask Claudette later.
I was charged with Hit & Run and released that afternoon.
* * * * *
My dispatcher told me I was in deep trouble, that I had to fight it or else I could lose my driver’s license. I told her I had done nothing. She said, “Good, then get a lawyer,“ and gave me a name and number.
She also laughed and told me what “raghead” meant.
* * * * *
I didn’t sleep that night. I sat with our baby in our rocker all night, rocking her as she slept in my arms, and wondered what the future held for her and me.
I couldn’t get a job which could use my talent or skills. Now, I had a job which permitted me to make a living and, for no fault of mine, I could lose it. What would I do?
I took the next morning off, went to the lawyer. He said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”
He asked for a retainer: $250.00. I gave him cash and suddenly felt good: everything would be taken care of. He said his secretary would call me in the next while or so and tell me where I had to appear in court, etc.
I didn’t hear from him for several weeks.
One day, I was in his neighbourhood making a delivery. I dropped into his office.
He wasn’t in. The secretary was.
She was puzzled by my enquiry. She didn’t know of my case, couldn’t find a file. She rifled through the pile on his desk, found my documents. Frantically phoned the courthouse.
Told me I had missed a court date, that there was a warrant issued in my name. That the police were looking for me.
Continued tomorrow …
Conversation about this article
1: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), August 20, 2012, 8:15 AM.
Blimey! I hardly had time to read any sikhchic.com articles in the past few days. Yet today, with my first article, and it's more suspense!
2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 20, 2012, 11:29 AM.
OMG. It was Alfred Hitchcock that I ran into and didn't know.
3: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, USA), August 20, 2012, 4:34 PM.
I don't have enough nail left on my fingers, so please post the next part soon. I know everything turned out okay, since we have you here. But still ...