An Account of Being Arrested for 'Trespassing' NYU's Bookstore

Gawker once called the novelist Tao Lin "maybe perhaps the single most irritating person we've ever had to deal with." Times change. Here is Tao Lin's account of being arrested for trespassing at the NYU bookstore last week.

BACKSTORY

March 2008 I was banned from NYU stores when I was arrested for unsuccessfully shoplifting [something like "Sony ‘in-ear' earphones"] from NYU's computer store. June 2010 NYU's bookstore moved to a space on Broadway & Waverly that included a Think Coffee. One night I said "I'm banned from all NYU stores, I think, but I'm banned from Whole Foods and American Apparel and I've been in those places like 500 times" to someone.

I went in NYU's bookstore 10-20 times the next few weeks to buy iced coffee. After maybe 1-2 times I had "completely forgotten" that I was banned from NYU stores, I think.

NOTES

Dialogue is not 100% accurate (due to memory not fictionalization). Times/ages are approximate/estimated (I deleted "~" throughout and added this sentence). The following happened July 20 2010, a Tuesday.

1. MULTITASKING IN A "PEACEFULLY ‘ZOMBIE-LIKE'" MANNER

11:20 a.m. I was sitting alone at a table "idly ‘sipping'" Pellegrino while sometimes "napping" facedown on my arms, reading a novel manuscript, looking at my iPhone. I had a full iced coffee I was going to "chug" "soon." After 70-90 minutes someone [touched me or said my name] and I removed my earphones. "Tao?" said a 55-year-old man. "Are you Tao?"

"Yes," I said after a second.

"Tao Lin? Are you Tao Lin?"

"Yes," I said, weakly thinking he was maybe "a fan" of my books.

"You're Tao Lin?"

"Yes," I said, a little confused, and thought maybe he was here to deliver a message to me, like maybe [I stopped thinking at this point]. I noticed a suit-jacketed security guard. I noticed the Hispanic woman who "captured me" in 2008. I said things like "I didn't mean to" in a weak, probably inaudible monotone while thinking "I…um…" and "just…remain docile…" and maybe "just let me go" while they surrounded me and "led" me somewhere in a "posse"-like manner.

2. CONFIRMING "I WILL NOT RETURN TO THE STORE" REPEATEDLY

11:25 a.m. the 55-year-old man handcuffed my right wrist to something and I sat in a chair. I alternated between saying that I sort of forgot I was banned, that this was a new store, that their Think Coffee location was convenient. I focused on Think Coffee. I was honestly confused as to what degree I "forgot" I was banned. Both the 55-year-old man and the Hispanic woman seemed familiar with my writing in a manner like they "strongly agreed" with the "damning" review of Shoplifting from American Apparel on Bookslut. They told me 6-9 times that I was banned and each time asked, sort of rhetorically, but still "demanding" an answer, I felt, if I were going to return to the store. I had "resigned" to whatever was going to happen at this point. Security guards were entering/exiting the room in a steady, aimless-seeming manner. On average 4-5 people including me were in the room. Idly I signed "another" paper agreeing to be banned from their stores. When the NYPD officers arrived they "brandished" both papers, to some degree, I felt.

At one point the Hispanic woman said "I don't want [Tao Lin] to hear my contact info" and left the room. I imagined myself "tracking her down" and honestly felt "unable" to think of anything concrete and stopped thinking.

3. "SUCCESSFULLY" RESISTING VAGUE ATTEMPTS TO ENGAGE ME IN "SMALL TALK"

11:50 a.m., after I hadn't been spoken to for 2-4 minutes, the Hispanic woman said "are you still writing?" I was quiet then said "I'm always writing" in a depressed monotone, not looking in her direction, probably "accidentally" conveying something like "yes, I am stoically ‘enduring' my life of ‘having no choice' but to always be writing."

Later the 55-year-old man said "what was your first book called?" while not looking at me, vaguely in the manner of a father-son "strained relationship" scene in a day-time drama.

I thought "first, um," then, staring ahead, sort of unfocused my eyes and said "my first book is you are a little bit happier than i am" in an extreme monotone.

The 55-year-old man said "the one with ‘shoplifting' in the title, what was that called?" while walking in a slow, goalless manner that seemed to be "leading him" out of the room.

I was quiet then said "Shoplifting from American Apparel" in a reluctant, vaguely embarrassed, somehow slightly accusatory manner. Immediately an NYU officer I hadn't fully noticed said "oh, really" a bit loudly and walked quickly out of the room.

After some time I heard people talking outside the half-open door to my left as I stared ahead toward a wall. Someone said "we have batteries" in a tone like it was in response to "[Tao Lin] is known for stealing batteries." Someone said "laser surgery" and there seemed to be a laughing noise.

I imagined them "perusing" a copy of Shoplifting from American Apparel ("on display" on a rack near the front of the store) in an idly rapid, inattentive manner like I might with an electrical fan's instruction manual.

I think I was mostly aware of my head/body being "completely still," feeling that its "unmoving" quality seemed "vaguely intense," while maybe subconsciously thinking things like "god damn them…" or "god damn it…" with fluctuating amounts of unspecific embarrassment, sarcastic feelings of "disbelief" manifesting as vague sensations of "having fun," awareness that I would later feel fondness/amusement re [current situation] affecting me to begin to feel those things to some degree.

4. SENSING CONFLICT WITHIN MY ARRESTING OFFICER

12:30 p.m. in the precinct lobby, with other officers nearby, my arresting officer seemed to find something bad in one of my pockets. I wasn't sure if he did. I vaguely sensed in his movements an "almost imperceptible" change, like he was suddenly reassessing the situation while also calmly exerting effort at "seeming the same as before" and maybe discretely hiding what he found.

An Account of Being Arrested for 'Trespassing' NYU's Bookstore

5. "ACCIDENTALLY" CONFIRMING TO MY ARRESTING OFFICER THAT I DRANK ALCOHOL THAT MORNING

1:30 p.m. the officer unexpectedly said "have you been drinking?" in a vaguely non-sequitur manner while getting my fingerprints. I didn't comprehend what he said except that it seemed to be a yes/no question.

I said "yes" automatically for some reason.

"You seemed out of it," he said. "Back there."

"What did you say?" I said after a second. "Have I been drinking? No. No, I haven't. It's…morning."

"Been smoking, a little?" he said with an earnest facial expression.

"No," I said.

"It's alright if you have. I was just wondering, because you seem a little out of it."

"No," I said. "I mean…I'm not a morning person."

6. WIPING WINDEX ON MYSELF 60-90 TIMES

1:35 p.m. the officer was wiping my fingers/palms with Windex repeatedly because the machine wasn't "recognizing" my fingerprints/palmprints unless my skin was wet with Windex, it seemed. The machine wasn't working well. It said "PRINT OK" after 15-30 attempts for some fingers. At some point I said "I can do it myself, if you want, it will be easier" and began doing it myself. Normally I only use water or organic soap for [anything cleaning-related].

7. REMEMBERING/"WITNESSING THE RESOLUTION OF" MY ARRESTING OFFICER'S CONFLICT

2:45 p.m. the officer said "I found something in your pocket." I was alone in a cell and there were no other people nearby. I think I had forgotten about [what happened in the lobby]. I said something about calcium. He read "a, l, z, a, 2, 7" from the pill. He said he would throw it away as a favor. "Thank you," I said.

At some point I heard a female officer say "first name Lin, last name Tao."

Two new officers arrived and drove me to "central booking" in Chinatown.

8. CONFIRMING I'M HEALTHY AND DON'T HAVE TUBERCOLOSIS

6:30 p.m. in a hallway at "central booking" an officer said "someone's going to ask if you got a TB shot, tell them a month ago and that it was negative."

We went in a room and a person said "you got any allergies or health problems, you've been tested for TB, everything alright, alright" while I quietly said "no" and "yes" in a kind of syncopation.

I was put in a cell of 8-12 people, 1 toilet, 1 sink, 1 free phone, 2 payphones.

9. LYING ON MY BACK GRINNING WHILE THINKING "ILLUSION ASS"

9:30 p.m., during a quiet moment, without anyone focused specifically on him, a 45-year-old African-American idly said "that's what I call the ‘illusion ass'" with his head turned toward [one of 2-4 young women outside the cells exchanging Kit-Kat Bars and other candy for anonymous urine samples]. I only comprehended "that's what I call." I looked at people near the 45-year-old. They seemed bored. Then they were laughing loudly and one of them was "slapping hands" with the 45-year-old while bent over laughing. Someone said "you look at it from one angle and you're like ‘alright,' you look at it from another angle and you're like ‘damn.'" Someone said "I heard you say ‘illusion ass' and was like ‘what' and then I looked."

People laughed or smiled for 2-6 minutes. I thought things like "he said it idly…" and "seems creative." My name was called. I was put in the cell behind the courtroom where public attorneys talk to each person privately before they see the judge.

10. IDLY OBSERVING A GROUP DYNAMIC WHILE "ENERGIZED" BY "IMPENDING FREEDOM"

11:40 p.m. a 30-year-old African-American said his public attorney said the judge was offering him 7-days in jail or 3-years probation for driving with a suspended license. He said "jail-time for a driving violation…I was like ‘no.'" People said things expressing solidarity and injustice or disbelief. Someone said "who is this judge?"

After 2-4 minutes it was revealed that the 30-year-old had 16 license suspensions. People's facial expressions seemed to change immediately. There was "less ‘eye contact'" in the cell. After a few seconds someone said "16 suspensions." After 30-40 seconds someone asked what "probation" was exactly.

11. IDLY OBSERVING "COMPLEX, EMOTIONAL BEHAVIOR" WITH A NEUTRAL FACIAL EXPRESSON

11:50 p.m. in the courtroom a Caucasian who looked like a Calvin Klein model received 30-days in jail. While being "led" back to the cells to begin his sentence, less than 2 seconds before exiting the courtroom, he saluted the corner where 5-8 people including me were seated waiting for our sentences. I felt and thought "nothing," then felt surprised and a little confused, thinking "didn't seem like he would do that…did he even know…his face…" while "replaying" what I had seen: his body/head suddenly turning left, his right hand crossing up to his forehead, his face sort of "wincing," seeming a little confused maybe, as he moved quickly in a small space toward an opening door. Seemed like he could've easily fallen while saluting. Seemed like he had saluted uncontrollably, to some degree, in an aberrant reaction to "30-days in jail," that instead of "punching a wall" or "saying a bad word" his dissatisfaction had somehow manifested as "saluting [certain group of people] in a vaguely exaggerated, visibly confused, rhetorically indiscernible manner."

Everyone seemed to "stare ‘blankly'" at him and then not react until 2-4 seconds later, if at all, by making small noises. I felt that people were probably reacting mostly "internally." I think he was the only 100% Caucasian "arrested person" I had seen that day. My name was called and I received 1-day community service and a $120 fine.

Tao Lin lives in Brooklyn. His novel Richard Yates will be published September 7th by Melville House. His blog is here.