And the judge bellows: “Mary Purdy, you are charged with ‘disturbing the peace’. How do you plead?” A soft chirp is all I can muster. “Guilty”.
Now, I have never been someone who has gotten into trouble nor did I have the desire for engaging in harmful mischievous activity in my youth. I still suffer a twinge of guilt when reminded that, I, at 6 years old once covertly covered a large pile of dog poop with pebbles and then suggested to my afternoon playmate that jumping into the “pile of pebbles” would be a fun game for which she should definitely go first.
I was a “model student”- polite, courteous, never obsequious, but very respectful of others. I managed to always have a bit of an angelic reputation and was voted “The nicest” in my grade. Aside from that poop pebble aberration, I wasn’t really one to test the test the boundaries, and I soon came to realize that if I were to do something wrong, no one would ever suspect me. I remember my freshman year, I had eaten an orange in the school library - a major no no but I was hungry. Ms. McCormick, the fierce librarian, came scurrying around the corner, led by the obvious smell.
“Who is eating an orange in here?” She shrieked. (At that point, the orange was in my stomach, the rind in the trash) She looked around at the silent students. Then she looked at me.
“Well, I know it wasn’t YOU, Mary.”
Disturbing the peace. There IS no peace in Panama City Florida during Spring Break. It is its own battleground of booze, bimbos and brawn. Nature and all things natural seem to have packed their bags and left permanently. Everyone there is half drunk, half intelligent, half naked (even in 45 degree weather) and shouting obscenities to each other from car to car on the main drag and interrupted only by the call and response “Woo!” “Woo!” And music blasts and blares out of every vehicle at every hour of the night. There is no peace in Panama City. None.
I was there filming footage for All True.com, a website that made a business out of pranking people on hidden cameras. The company figured that in a place where judgment might be slightly questionable, or chemically altered to the point of being questionable and inhibitions non existent, they might be able to capture some jaw dropping moments on film that would bring smiles to the faces of those who googled “videos of idiots doing stupid shit”.
One group from All True Website was staging a fake porno whereby some innocent college stud was propositioned by a film crew to join a porn film with the promise of an unforgettable joyride. Once the fellow was in the hotel room and ½ undressed on the bed, the bathroom door would open and a hefty African American guy, who resembled Mr. T, in only a small hand towel would enter the room seemingly ready for his close up. The college student would run, visions of the bodacious babe he had envisioned melting away with each footstep. And yes, they got people to sign release forms.
Being a bit more of a good girl, my role was slightly different. I was one half of a made up phony foreign couple from the non existent country, “Belukajar”. My husband, Vilnish and I, there to understand American culture, would interact with these Spring Breakers, asking naive and inappropriate questions under the guise of not speaking the language properly, and inquire about the Panama Canal which we presumed to be in Panama City This was before Borat had blessed us with his cringe theatre films and this was before I had the good sense to leave show business which had a heartbreak and disappointment around every corner
I admit that at the time, this was one of my pursuits of glory- the chance to maybe get seen on the internet by someone who would then catapult me to the level of fame of which I dreamt. I could be on the Daily Show, SNL, Mad TV or maybe do a commercial for Bounty! But the gods would see it otherwise.
How was I to know that this experience would expose me to a world of morally delinquent partiers whose own pursuit of glory that week involved procuring an extra set of Mardi Gras beads in exchange for flashing us their privates. Who would have thought that when we innocently questioned a band of teen boys about a wrapped unused condom we had found on the strip and which we claimed was foreign to our country, we were met with the response “Yeah, you see this? Well, you take this thing and you put it on and then you just fuck her from behind”. These kinds of daily interactions speckled our week there and provided new insight into how the next generation of
might lead us into the future. America
It was the last day of filming, thankfully, and we were trying to find a button for our story. We decided that I, Belinya, was going to leave my husband, Vilnish, for an adventurous new life there in Panama City
It was to be sudden, spontaneous and climactic. Since the main pastime was cruising the strip,
the plan was that I would jump on the back of a pick up truck filled with
Spring Breakers (not an odd thing to do there) and wave goodbye to my husband
forever as I got carried off by a bunch of scantily clad intoxicated teens.
So there I am that Friday afternoon on the side of the traffic that is stopping and starting. Alas….. The perfect pick up truck we had envisioned is not appearing. Then, I see a large Bud light truck with a convenient handle right on the back that beckons me, luring me. “Jump on me,” it says. Yes! What a perfect shot! Belinya dodges her husband by leaping onto a Bud light truck and disappears forever. Ideal.
“I’m going to jump on that truck” I yell to the camera man. I do. I am on it, grabbing onto the handle with one arm, and waving to my husband with the other. “Goodbye Vilnish.” I shout. “I am escape you forever! This is new life for me!” And to the passersby in their trucks and cars I holler “Woo!!!!” The camera man is capturing it all. I am on the back of a Bud light truck in
heart quivering with the success of the scene. I plan to hop off as soon as the
truck slows down. But it doesn’t. In
fact, it speeds up. It goes further down
the street. I peek around the side of it
and see two cop cars up ahead. My brain and stomach do a sudden back flip. Shit!
Is what I am doing illegal?? I entertain
doing a drop and roll. I think that’s the
term. They do it in the adventure movies. Heroes and villains leap off moving trains,
cars and buses and spool to safety. With
a quick dusting, they are free. But I am wearing a skirt and sandals and I
envision myself cracking a rib during my cylindrical tumble. So I stay.
I ride past one police car trying to look inconspicuous and casual in my
babushka and bright purple skirt as if riding unprotected on a moving vehicle
is something I’ve been doing my whole life. Finally Bud light slows. I glide off
non-chalantly. No big deal. Just getting off a truck. This is my stop. I walk briskly in the opposite direction. Panama
I’m almost getting away when I hear “HEY!” from behind me and in front of me flashing police car lights. I am suddenly surrounded. A Police Officer who looks like a rabid basset hound exits out of his car
“Hold it right there.” He barks. “What do you think you are doing?” My heart is pounding, my palms sweating, my oral cavity, a barren desert, but I vow to stay calm, mature, and affable even. I’m there to be of assistance to their inquiry.
“I’m sorry,” (I glance at his name tag), “Officer Davison. I’m with ALLTRUE networks and we have been filming here this week.”
“Oh, so you got this on film???” the officer quips” SHIT!
“That’s right” I offer.
“Where’s the film” His forehead vein begins to bulge.
“Uh, it’s in the camera of the camera man,” who is scampering towards us, face fuchsia with effort, wheezing.
“Hi Sir, we’re with All True networks. We’ve been filming footage for a TV show.” Actually, this was a lie. It was only a website, not a TV show. But what cared we for truths when an arrest was at stake?
Officer Davison isn’t impressed. “I’m sick of you guys filming all over the place. Give me the tape.”
“But” stammers our camera man, beads of sweat dripping down his jowls.
“Take the tape out of the camera and give it to me.” Davison continues. “It’s evidence”.
Evidence?! I am involved in a situation where there is “EVIDENCE” against me? I think back to that orange rind in the garbage can in 9th grade, the poop smeared foot of my playmate, and now this. The tape (yes- this was before digital film) is handed to the officer and placed in a plastic bag as if it’s OJ’s glove or Jon Benay’s hair. Davison turns to me.
“You are under arrest. Put your hands behind your back”. In shock, I comply and the handcuffs go on. Now, I’ve been handcuffed before; I was just lying down at the time and they were plastic and I knew my Officer a lot more intimately. But these are weighty and cold and constraining. They are not a turn on. Besides handcuffs are for thieves, and muggers, killers, abusers. I’m just a girl who once covered a pile of dog poop in pebbles and made her friend jump on it.
Onlookers are stopping now. I, babushka ½ way down my head, arms smeared with Bud light truck grease, have become a spectacle. My phony foreign husband is mouthing “Oh my God, I’m sorry,” from the street corner. I see two members of the porno sting operation near by. They wave and I lift one shoulder up in response. I smile to avoid tears.
I turn to officer Davison “You know, sir, people here have done a lot worse than this.” “And you’re right up there with them, missie.” he snaps.
He orders me to sit on the Ground.
“I can’t.” I say.
“Why not?” The big vein in his forehead looks like a squiggling worm underneath his epithelial layer.
“I’m wearing a skirt.” I continue. I don’t want to expose myself”. He says nothing. Yes! I get points for being one of the few women in this place who DOESN’T want to expose herself.
Instead, his grasp around my arm stiffens.
“You can let go of me,” I offer. “I’m not going to run off.” But Davison grips firmer.
“I have to hold your arm because if you lose your balance you won’t be able to break your fall.”
‘Oh, how thoughtful,’ I think. Officer Davison cares! So I stand there with one of his hands wrapped around my arm and the other adeptly filling out papers. He has clearly done this before. In my mind I muse “This is war. I’m going to do what I can to take Officer Davison Down”. No one should be treated this way. The gods of justice are cringing above.
Then, “Get into the car”. I comply. And there I sit in the back seat- my handcuffed hands behind me. I’m uncomfortable. I ‘m scared. And the smell of donuts and coffee is making me nauseous. Or maybe I’m nauseous because I’m uncomfortable and scared. I want to call my mom. I want to be home. I want to bolt from the car. Yet I am powerless, and fear that any grave act of defiance is only going to dig my hole deeper.
Then I remember a trick I had seen in a movie where you can swing your handcuffed arms from around your back and under your legs so that they will be in front of you, allowing for scratching, door unlocking, paper grabbing etc. Well, Davison comes back, takes one look at me and wow, it was as if I had peed on the back seat.
“I didn’t tell you could do that with your hands.” He spouts.
“Well,” I sputter, “I have a bad back and it was starting to hurt”. His eyes give me the once over.
“You didn’t mention anything about that when I cuffed you.”
“Well it didn’t start hurting until I sat here.” He looks satisfied with that answer. But truth is my back is fine. It is a lie. Another lie from ALL TRUE networks
I peer outside the window and see that my employers have been summoned and are now negotiating with the other cops. I am praying silently for my release, holding back tears and seeking out ways to practice some sort of respectful insolence. Officer Davison then asks for my stats- weight, height.
“134 pounds”, I mutter. “Except right before my period when I’m slightly bloated- then it’s more like 136#.” Not even an eyebrow is raised. Then he asks me what I do.
“I’m an actor” He looks confused.
“An actor or an ACTRESS”
At that time I was an advocate for non-gender specific labeling of my craft.
" An actor,” I repeat.
“Would I have seen you in anything?” he smirks. “No, I guess not.”
“ Well," I shoot back at him, “If you had seen Chicks with Shticks at Caroline’s Comedy Club or the All-female version of “ The Rover” at Columbia University’s black box theatre, you would have.” He doesn’t answer. I surmise that he is not a fan of Fringe Theater or all female casts of Restoration Plays.
He tells me I have a court date the next day. I tell him I am scheduled to leave at 6am that morning to fly back to
. New York
“No you’re not. You gotta go to court or you can spend the night in the county jail.”
“You’ll have to speak with my employers about that,” I say.
“Ma’am, you’re a grown woman, you should be able to make your own adult decisions.”
“Well, they have my plane ticket, so I actually cannot just make that decision on my own.” Again- this is an untruth. I have my ticket, but I’m getting good at making shit up and I am relishing this newfound insubordination. He slams the door shut and struts over to the others. About 5 minutes later he returns with the news that I have a non-negotiable court date the following day at 8am. My employers will just have to switch the plane tickets. He roughly pulls me out of the Dunkin' Donut-mobile, removes the handcuffs, makes me sign some papers and takes my photo with a Polaroid. Very official. I give the biggest grin I can muster, the kind that I have flashed to casting directors when auditioning for a commercial. to which he says “Oh, the judge is going to love this”.
Then he claims that my signature does not look the same as the one on my passport, which has been procured from my hotel room. I insist that it is. He makes me write it again.
“My passport is from almost 10 years ago,” I say. “I think my signature has probably changed a bit!” He accepts that answer. And for the first time it is actually the truth. I don’t mention the fact that my hand is also shaking as I write. And I am released.
I am up the next day at 7am to go to what they call “
SPRING BREAK COURT”. I dress in my corporate power suit with the
hope that maybe they’ll take one look at me and say “Oh, I’m sorry there must
be some kind of mistake. You don’t look
like a peace disturber. Go home to your
The courtroom turns out to be a GYMNASIUM. It’s like the Panama City YMCA except that someone has set up folding chairs and a table. I walk in. There are 50 other “Criminals”- all young kids in tie dyes, tanks and Tivas. They are 18, 19 years old. I am.....not. Several still look drunk and I can spot a few hickeys on more than one neck. Most of them are there for either underage drinking or indecent exposure. I am there for the sake of my ART. I sit in the back of the room and pull out my Kurt Vonnegut. I’ll be damned if’ I’m not going to make good use of my time in court, I’m sorry, I mean, in “GYMNASIUM.” But moments later, a policeman walks up to me.
“No reading in the courtroom, ma’am”. The courtroom? There’s a basketball hoop in back of me. And wouldn’t reading be encouraged to help us delinquents better ourselves? I sit for an hour doing nothing waiting for the State of Florida Vs. Mary Purdy. We have been given 2 options:a $300 fine or volunteer work for 8 hours cleaning garbage or moving cement blocks from one end of a park to the other. I have opted for the fine.
When my name is called, I step up to the judge’s makeshift podium- which is someone’s picnic table or something.
“Mary Purdy- you are charged with ‘disturbing the peace’. How do you plead?” “Guilty.” And I hand over my $300.
I’m not sure how riding on the back of a Budlight Truck was disturbing the peace. Perpetuating the chaos, perhaps, but the peace in
disturbed by me? I’m afraid the peace
was very disturbed long before my arrival. I still have some kind of record in Panama City . I could have filled out all this paperwork
and paid $75 to have it expunged but somehow I never got around to it. Perhaps there is an air of pride about my
brush with the law after never expecting to get into any trouble the majority
of my life. The record makes it real and reminds me of my folly as well as my
rebellious spirit in the face of what I perceive to be a minor injustice. Florida
Our tape of about 4 hours of footage ( aka the evidence) was also never returned and I have an image of Officer Davison playing it at the station or at home telling his kids, “Yup, so that’s “actor” I arrested.
“What did she do wrong, Dad”? His wide eyed kids would ask.
“What did she do wrong, Dad”? His wide eyed kids would ask.
“Well,” He’d begin. “She put the citizens of this town into danger and compromised our community’s integrity by riding on the back of a Bud light Truck”. And he’d give each of them a pat on the head, take a sip of Snapple tea and feel a sense of pride that Panama City was a little safer with my $300 in the local bank.