Lydia expected to spend the rest of Friday night being twirled around a wood paneled hotel bar by a cultured and well-dressed businessman. What she did not expect was red and blue lights in her rearview mirror as she turned onto Woodway. The police cruiser had been sitting in the dark with its lights off. Lydia never even saw it until it was too late.
Lydia’s heart pounded as the dark figure approached the driver’s side window. While she knew she had never met a man she couldn’t charm, she also knew Houston had been cracking down on drunk driving. Lydia cursed her luck at being pulled over by HPD and not the lesser, more forgiving Village police. Lydia got out her driver’s license and insurance, quickly propped up her breasts, and put on her best pout. And then as the Mag flashlight lowered, she realized the police officer was not a he but a she. A stern she, at that.
What started bad, got worse. “Ma’am, do you know why we pulled you over?”
“Ma’am? You make me sound so old. I’m Lydia. I’m on my to see a friend in from out of town at the Omni Hotel.”
“Ma’am, have you been drinking?”
“Oh, just a glass of wine with dinner. I would never drink and drive. It’s abhorrent. I can’t believe that people would put their and other people’s lives at risk and drive in all sorts of crazy manners.” As much as Lydia knew she had to stop taking, words kept falling out of her mouth. “I actually saw a news report not long ago that said people driving to work the next morning are sometimes still legally drunk from the night before. Can you believe that? Imagine drinking that much.”
“Ma’am, can you step out of the car?”
“No, I would rather not. I have a friend. He is just up the street.”
“Ma’am, step out of the car…” The rest of the memory was a blur. In a flash, panic welled up and unleashed itself in a flurry of excuses and locked doors. Lydia refused to get out. A second and then a third cruiser pulled up. A scene was starting and Lydia was the star. Finally, a sergeant joined the scene. He was older than the rest. Somehow, he managed to get Lydia out of the car through promises of driving her home. But they did not drive her home. They drove her to the police station.
Harris County Jail is not a nice place. A solid concrete fortress on the outskirts of downtown, the jailhouse is intimidating in the light of day. On a dark, inebriated night, the jail is akin to a nightmare. Lydia got booked in the way she had only seen on TV. They took her heels, her purse, her phone. Then they took her picture.
The first cell was sparse. The entire room, ceiling to floor was concrete and white tile. A single toilet, without any type of privacy, stood off to the side. Lydia suspected this was a holding cell. The women were of various ages and ethnicities, but all looked equally intimidating to the middle aged, stumbling woman in a cocktail dress and booties.
After that, lack of sleep mixed with her sky-high blood alcohol level made for a blurry day. There would be three more cells, an orange jumpsuit, and a court appearance before the dirty and demeaning experience would be over early on Tuesday morning. Lydia stood outside the jail and watched determined suits hustling to work. On the city streets, the aroma of greasy diner food mingled with the smell of exhaust.
As she was about to step into a cab that would take her home, Lydia turned her face up at the beginning of another gloriously humid and bright summer day and silently wished she were dead.