Where Do the Misfits Fit?

This is a strange world we live in where a person can get arrested for having a beard. I don’t have a beard, and I wasn’t arrested, but a relative was. Or maybe it wasn’t his beard that got him arrested. It could be that because of his sciatica, he was walking with a lurch, and that’s what attracted attention.

He was walking down a non-residential street about a block from where I am staying, and the cops stopped him. He told them he was on his way here and to call me and I would vouch for him. Instead, they took him to jail way out in a talkingpart of town I would never want to visit in the day, let alone at 10:00 at night. (I had to go back again at 12:30am because they wouldn’t release him.) The arrest report lists his crime as being intoxicated in a public place, and he might have had something to drink, I don’t know — but he wasn’t unruly or doing anything but lurching down the street, his white beard like a beacon.

He’d also been arrested a couple of weeks before that for jaywalking.

Cripes. I jaywalk all the time — the crosswalks around here are about a mile apart, and so if I am on foot, generally I have to go way out of my way to get anywhere. And there is one intersection with a crosswalk that doesn’t have a walk signal. There are four different roads that converge on that spot, and considering turning cars and such, I take my life in my hands every time I step off a curb. Since that crosswalk is way out of my way, I generally jaywalk in the middle of the block where there is no traffic. I’ve been lucky so far about not getting a jaywalking ticket, but since I can’t afford a sheaf of $186 tickets, I’ve been doing the dangerous thing and using the crosswalk.

These and other episodes have made me wonder about people who don’t fit in our homogenized world. If you have a few drinks in a bar, and then go outside, you are breaking the law because you are intoxicated in a public place. But of course, the cops don’t hang around outside bars waiting for customers to emerge and arrest these lawbreakers. Instead, they arrest those who don’t fit in with the bar crowd, such as the intoxicated homeless.  So basically, it’s being homeless that is the real crime.

What are people supposed to do who don’t fit? Our world is getting narrower and narrower, where we don’t want to deal with anything or anyone who is a nuisance or who doesn’t add glamour to our plastic world. In fact, there is a law currently being considered in the UK that could criminalize behavior deemed capable of causing a “nuisance or annoyance.” We don’t need such laws in the US — we have plenty of annoying laws on the books that can be used to criminalize the nuisances.

But it’s not just the armies of derelicts twho don’t fit in our world. A woman with two masters degrees was crying to me the other day because she doesn’t fit. She can’t find a job to fit her, doesn’t have the energy to work forty hours a week even if she did, has maxed out her credit cards, and has no place to stay but couches in friends’ houses.

In the larger sense, no matter who or what we are, we fit in with the world because we are all part of the whole. But in a more localized cultural context, not everyone fits. (Everyone thinks they are misfits because they might not be comfortable with their fit or they wish to do something else, but still, they are a cog in machinery of society. But there are some people who lack the ability to make the necessary compromises or to hold their tongue when it is politic to be silent, and so the machinery grinds them to dust.)

I don’t fit in the cultural world at large, either, and neither did my now deceased life mate/soul mate, but we did fit with each other. Currently, I have a place looking after my father. And then . . . I’ll have to figure out how to fit into the world (or figure out a way to make the world fit me), because a misfit in the twenty-first century is a precarious thing to be.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

18 Responses to “Where Do the Misfits Fit?”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    The best writers are misfits. That’s what I like about them. The m ore crowded our world becomes the more violent it becomes. People look for ways of preventing the violence. One way that never works is getting the odd out of your neighborhood. Everyone is odd is some way or another even those who make a super effort to fit in. Can you imagine a woman going through lots and lots of plastic surgery just to look like a Barbie doll? I am odd in that I have no interest in football. This is very strange where I live. I make up for it in some ways by having a passing interest in cricket (We got the ashes back off the Poms) and a greater interest in fishing. I also rarely visit pubs. I haven’t been drunk in decades. Odd? You bet. But that’s me.

  2. Juliet Waldron Says:

    Good lord! Which western police state do you live in? A limp and a beard–ends up in jail–I’ve combative friends who would be hiring a lawyer at this point. (I shudder to think what might have happened if he’d had brown or black skin into the bargain.)

  3. Sue Says:

    Not fitting is huge in our society. Law enforcement does not either serve or protect, and that is particularly true when there are problems related to mental illness or disability. If a person appears to be impaired, they are most likely going to be hauled off to jail, and not taken to any sort of medical or psychiatric facility. The fundamentalist religious crazies of our world, in league with the right wing, rigidly judgmental, top of the heap, one percent-ers have designed and built a world where those of us who do not fit will never be safe.


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve heard some jail wardens brag/complain that they run the biggest mental institutes in the country. Too many mentally impaired people end up in jail for long periods of time. That is so wrong!!! I’ve had a terrible feeling of unease all day.

    • Paula Kaye Says:

      I have a son who is a member of law enforcement and I take issue with your remark that they are not either serving or protecting. Cops are paid a horrible wage to walk out of their house every day heavily laden down with bullet proof everything to protect them from the world of ‘crazies’ that live out there. A person who is drunk and lurching down a non-residential street at the very least deserves ‘a looking into’. I am sorry that he was a relative of yours Pat and was treated poorly by the police. But if he had killed someone and they had found out that the cops had just driven by and done nothing, then the cops are the ones that are attacked. It is we ‘the people’, liberal or not, who do not want to pay for the mental institutes that are necessary to house the mentally disabled that no one else wants to take care of. Sue, the medical and psychiatric facilities are FULL. Jail is at least better than leaving them on the streets. Sorry for my rant but I hate it when everything is blamed on the cops. Every time I hug my son good-bye it could be the last time I ever hug him just so he can go out onto the streets and be accused of not serving or protecting.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        The point is he wasn’t drunk. He walks with a limp. Why is that a matter of concern for anyone? And the cops I dealt with yesterday were not nice at all — and I wasn’t drunk, didn’t walk with a limp, or cause any sort of problem. I understand that cops don’t have an easy job, but not everyone is an enemy.

        • Paula Kaye Says:

          I think the cops DO have to look as everyone as an enemy, first and foremost. I am sorry that you were not treated nicely by those cops! I guess I misunderstood you when you said that the arrest report listed him as intoxicated, and that he might have had a drink or two. But I wasn’t taking offense with you or your relative, Pat, just with the comment that the police DO NOT SERVE OR PROTECT! Knowing what my son goes through every single day seems to bring the same out in this mama bear that was brought out in you when they arrested your relative. Have a good night!

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            The arrest report did list him as intoxicated, but they didn’t do any kind of test, so it’s his word against theirs. Have a good night, both you and your son. Hope he comes home safely.

  4. rami ungar the writer Says:

    How dare they arrest your relative for walking a little differently! Did they even give him a breathalyzer test? There should really be an investigation of the police department where this happened, or at least a complaint should be filled.

  5. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    Your friend’s situation sounds suspiciously like profiling. And I hear what you are saying about the homeless. Some cities try to chase them out rather than reaching out to solve the problem. (I just got a parking ticket for leaving my car parked in front of my own house overnight. I have to pay because the city doesn’t want homeless people sleeping in their cars.) You hear a lot about being tolerant and celebrating diversity but the real tolerance is sometimes very limited, as is the definition of what is acceptable diversity.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s a conundrum. I know people don’t want the homeless hanging around their neighborhoods, especially the more upscale neighborhoods, but where can the homeless go? There are not nearly enough beds, and many prefer not to have to deal with the bureaucracy or the religious leanings of such places. It does seem strange that the more people talk about tolerance, the less there is.

  6. Sonia Says:

    This sucks a man does limping and is put in jail and arrested without any tests that is ludicrous overall these cops need support for preying on the misfortunate bloke.

  7. All Is Calm, All Is Bright | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] no storms in my life in the past few days, neither internal nor environmental. There have been no midnight trips to jail to pick up an errant sibling, no recent trips to the hospital to admit my aged father. Nothing has […]

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