Know Your Rights
by Ami Sletteland
Since most of what I do is mediocre, my art has become leaving behind secret and confusing messages for people. Bacon in a tree, a blender full of shoelaces in a church parking lot, and for my old landlord, a flyer describing panic attack disorder tacked to the graffiti-covered wall and a coffeepot full of vomit. To me the messages are loud and clear. Shoelaces in a blender? Duh, there is no God. Panic attack flyer with coffeepot vomit? Hey, jerk, you should not have evicted me in such a manner.
I may get this from my father who, instead of leaving notes, behind leaves shoes to let you know he stopped by and you’ve missed him. I am the only one who can decipher his cryptic messages. If the shoe is upside down, he just got out of jail and wanted to say hello. Sideways shoe means he will stop back by in a few hours. Shoe with laces removed means when I see him I must refer to him only as Rich Kennedy, that being the alias he came up with to use while speaking to police officers. He believe it acts as a subliminal tool. No one wants to mess with a Rich Kennedy.
My aliases have been far less effective. I was going by Awesome McCoolrad when I was arrested, the arrest resulting in the aforementioned eviction. The arrest itself was pretty standard: Histrionic friend freaks out and calls an ambulance because she believes I have consumed too much alcohol mixed with too much Valium. Police show up, demand I accompany them outside, I remind them I am of age and drunk in my own home, they get me outside hogtied and deposit me in the back of the police car. After the event, I press charges and the harassment begins.
It started with officers spontaneously showing up at my house to “have a look around.” I incited their rage by politely refusing to let them in. After the fifth attempt to enter my apartment, an officer shouted through the door that he was coming back with a search warrant. I invited him to do so. In the meantime I turned my fog machine on full blast and sat waiting on the couch with my sunglasses on.
The officer came back saying he had obtained a search warrant—impossible in such a short period of time, but why waste a good bottle of fog juice? I let him in. When he asked what was going on, I told him that I had my fog machine going (by this time you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face), reminded him that it is perfectly legal to run a fog machine in one’s own home, and invited him to look around while I relaxed on the couch.
Later, the officer contacted my landlord to let her know I was running a “rat factory” out of the apartment and the unit should be quarantined. Having a pet rat apparently constitutes a “rat factory.”
I’m not even sure what one does with a rat factory, but I imagined rats with clipboards and goggles training other rats in the ways of factory work. “Here is where you punch your time card, this is where you hang your coat, and this is how you spread the plague.”
My landlord visited me a few days later and asked that I move within three days. My reaction was to flee to San Francisco. Leaving behind most my belongings, I tacked up the panic attack disorder pamphlet explaining my behavior, puked in a coffeepot and walked out the door. The police were coming at me full force for filing charges against one of their boys, and my old “Don’t you know who my father is?” line wasn’t working on them. They knew I was young, poor and probably didn’t know most of my rights.
Now I know that the next time the police come knocking on my door, it is well within my rights to respond with a lacquered copy of 1984 and a clip-on mustache pushed through the mail slot. They’ll know what I mean.