They Didn’t Arrest Me

I’ve overnighted dozens of times in Starbuck’s parking lots with permission, but I’ve never had anything like this happen. I had worked on my computer until closing time the night before at a Starbucks just outside of Sarasota.

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Like I often do, I asked for permission from a cheerful barista to park overnight in the parking lot. Diane didn’t grant my wish immediately. “I think it will be O.K., but let me call the assistant manager to be sure.” She disappeared to the back somewhere, apparently made the call, and returned. “The assistant manager said it was O.K.” After humbly thanking Diane for her extra effort, I proceeded to get some quality shuteye in the comfort of my traveling home.

Now, I have no idea why Diane called the assistant manager instead of the manager. But that might have led to the encounter with the deputies. Around 5:15 the next morning I heard a loud tapping on the Roadtrek’s rear side window, about 6 inches from my ears. No problem waking up to that. Especially since the tapping was accompanied by someone shouting “Get up, get up!”

So I got up in a stupor. It’s not like I could sleep anyway with all the commotion. The stupor quickly subsided and I noticed some blue lights flashing through my curtains. When I opened the side door, two sheriff’s deputies were kindly at the door to greet me, guns undrawn.

That’s when I noticed they came in two separate patrol cars. “Two cars — I must be important,” I thought. But then again, if I were really important, the guns would not still be in the holsters.

The officers were nice. “Sir, I’m afraid you have to leave, you can’t park here overnight.” At that point I already had.

“Ok, no problem, but just so you’ll know, I got permission to park here overnight,” I said with a slight smile that probably looked forced. Because it was.

Open hearing that, the older deputy inquired about the details. I silently congratulated myself on getting the barista’s name the night before. After the deputy heard the details, complete with an actual name of the person who granted me permission, he said “Ok, I’ll be right back.” He walks to the entrance of the Starbucks, and I can see he is having a conversation with someone inside, through the partly open door.

While that was happening, I asked the younger deputy if I had broken any laws. “Oh, no, no, no, you haven’t broken any laws, he said apologetically. “The manager who came in this morning was just concerned, so she called us.”

When the senior deputy returned, he too had his apology hat on tight. “I’m so sorry there has been a misunderstanding. Apparently the assistant manager didn’t tell the manager.” Then, instead of telling me I shouldn’t be such a vagrant bum, as I might have expected, they proceeded to give me advice on better options for overnight parking. The senior deputy was particularly fond of those 24-hour McDonalds.

“O.K, just give me a few minutes and I’ll be out of here,” I said to wrap up the conversation. Then the deputies left, perhaps for their next call in the line of duty, without waiting from me to vacate the premises.

I had expected something like this to happen eventually — I just didn’t know when. Would I park overnight at a Starbucks again? Well, I already have — just not that Starbucks.

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