Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Saga of the Purse

The exterior of 401 Walton Way, Augusta, Ga.

I just wanted my purse back. It didn't seem like that much to ask. After someone smashed in my back passenger window (the side with Emerson's car seat. Awesome!) and stole it, they had my license, social security card, and other assorted important document-type things that I needed to get on with my life.

But, as fate would have it, the police found it... somewhere. I don't know. They have yet to return my telephone calls, and notified me that I could come and pick it up. That's another lovely story. But I digress. What should have been a 15-minute trip on my lunch break took me an hour-and-a-half to complete. And I didn't even get lunch!

First, I drove around trying to find an unreserved parking place at 401 Walton Way, what locals call "401," which is the combination jail, courthouse and records divisions of the sheriff's dept.

Then, I went through the metal detectors at the door. Keys and change in a basket. Wait in line. Hope no one who gets through the line in front of you steals keys and change. Wait some more. Get through the line. Finally.

Then, I asked directions to where I pick up stolen property from the officer at the other end of that line.

"Who stole yo' stuff?" he shouted. I cringed. I just need to know where to go.
"I - I, uh, well, if I knew that, I'd probably have my stuff back by now," I joked back to him.
"Oh, she told you!" the other officer cackled.
"Awright, awright! Records is upstairs at da end of da hall, ma'am. You be good, now," he said with an appraising stare at my boobs. Cliche of him, but at least people still look you know?
"Thanks, I will."

Upstairs, there is another line at the records department. It moves slowly. At the window, I explain what I need.
"You need that window," the lady points, not unkindly, to the window opposite hers. Oooookay.
I step over to the other window, where there is no line, but the woman is chewing gum and talking on the phone. There are a lot of "honey" and "darlin'"s going on.

When she gets off, I explain what I need. She sends me back to the first window for a case number. They send me back to the other window for an officer's name. Then I go back and get my case number. Then we do the hokey-pokey and turn ourselves about. That is, after all, what it is all about.

Finally, I get the number I need from First Window Lady, and the form I need from Second Window Lady.
"Where do I go now?" I asked SWL.

The exterior of the long building where I picked up my purse.

As it turns out, I get the hell out of her building, and go in search of a completely different building. I get in my car, drive down the street, find the garage, pull into the driveway, and am stopped by a large loud man.
"You can't come in here!" he barks. I wave my paper at him.
"I'm just picking up my purse," I smile broadly. Smiling is good. Smiling makes people happy. Smiling makes other people smile back.

This man is not an other people.
"You have to go over there." He points down the block.
I drive down the block, round the corner, and find the entrance to the fenced-in, razor wire topped parking lot. It is separated from where I need to go by another razor-topped fence.

I walk around the block to get back to the entrance where there are plenty of parking spaces with no cars in them, including mine, because apparently, though these spaces are unmarked, my car is not allowed to play their reindeer games.

The man that is not an other people greets me as though he did not just send to park at the other end of the earth, so far away that I was forced to take a time machine to get back here before they closed for the day.

"Where you goin'?" he demanded. I pulled out my form again. "I'm going - "
"No, you in the wrong place. You gotta go back to records."
"But I just came from records."
"Well, you gotta go back."

(sigh) I turn to leave and then...
"Excuse me, for what?"
He looks at me like I have two heads: "WHAT?"
"I said, what do I need from records?" I asked politely.
He continued to stare at me.
"I have the form, and the case number, and the officer name, and my drivers license. What else might I need from records?" I tried to look innocently confused.
He frowned. "Go on, then."

I walked down the row of heavy garage doors to a metal office door and pressed the buzzer.
"Yeah?" a woman's voice said.
"I'm here to pick up my purse."
"Come on in," she said as the lock clanked open.

An evidence window, much like the one I dealt with.

I approached the evidence window and pulled out my paperwork.
"Hi, I'm here to pick up my purse. The police found it."
She looked at the paperwork and typed into her computer. No luck. After a few minutes searching, she found my name under a different case number and up popped the purse.

"Here we go," she said. And plopped the purse down on the counter behind the window.
We looked at each other in silence. She made no move to hand me my purse, not that it would have fit through the tiny document window opening that separated us.
"Uh.... is there a pickup fee?" I asked.
"No, ma'am. Can I see your ID?"
We played document exchange and I joked that she could have just looked inside the purse for my ID. She grinned. I thanked her for her office's time. And then we looked at each other for another long moment.
"Is there something else I need to provide? Some other document?" I asked, uncertain.
"So... is that it? Do I get my purse back?" I ask, really confused as to why we were standing there. Again.
"No, but I can't just let you back here to get it," she said, indignant.
I thought about it. I hadn't considered that I might be a safety risk.
"Well, I don't think it will fit through the window," I said, looking for a way to get the purse out of the office. She rolled her eyes and fumbled at the door lock.
"Oh, just come on in," she said grumpily.

And 90 minutes after I parked my car, my quest was complete. The windmills did not defeat me, yet I did not slay the dragon. I'll leave that up to government reformers.


  1. i can relate.........i recently had to go down to the "401 Hilton" to get fingerprinted for a new job.......they only do it 3 days out of the week from 8:30 to took me 6 attempts to accomplish a simple 10 minute task.......most of the time i couldn't find parking within a mile of the place........what with court being in session and all........

    i suggest they change their name to "The Augusta Department of Extreme Pain and Inconvenience".....