Eight years ago I walked out of jail for the last time.
I had an infant at home and I looked forward to the challenges and the excitement that lay ahead. Because I was prematurely put on bed rest before having Stevie, I made the decision to go back to work long enough to work out a two week notice. Mostly because that’s how I roll, but also because I needed closure that could only be brought about by a last day. Still I knew a part of me would miss the place. For five years I roamed the halls – walkie-talkie in hand – amongst the crazy people.
The daily unknown.
The clanging of the metal bars as I entered the secured area.
And most of all THE CRAZY.
Have I ever mentioned how CRAZY jail is? The inmates. The employees. All of it. Every single bit of it was crazy. Fights broke out. Grown men cried. Grown women started fights over something as simple as a biscuit. I saw blood. And death. There were shakedowns. And uprisings. There were bets on the gender of my unborn baby (2 packs of ramen noodles said it was a boy!), movies on the weekends, haircuts on Mondays, and commissary one day a week. I saw grown men confined to a stokes basket in the booking department because they were a whole new brand of crazy. Kitchen trustees paused their daily push-ups in the kitchen floor long enough to stir the beans. Mothers called to inquire about the treatment of their angels. Girlfriends showed up to visit, only to find out there was also a wife.
Like I said. Crazy.
As you might imagine, I fit in perfectly there for five years.
Now, um, I’m not so sure. You know, because I am a refined stay-at-home-self-proclaimed-princess.
I haven’t made mention of it yet here on the blog, but last Tuesday? Um, last Tuesday, I was there all over again.
As I approached the counter, I was assigned a number. That number would be my number, and for the remainder of my time there, I would be known simply, by that number.
It was hot and muggy. Rows and rows of people glared at me.
Anxious people were all around me.
All of them waiting.
Waiting to hear their number called signaling their time is done.
All of them thinking there are few places worse than where they are right now. And I would have to say I completely agree with them.
I take a seat and I quickly survey the room.
It is there.
In all of its unfound glory, it is there.
The wringing of hands.
Even I, myself am jittery.
I hear people pleading.
One man is pleading about paperwork and I shake my head hoping against all hope that it doesn’t come to that for me. The pleading does not stop. It gets on my nerve because I know that I am stuck here. Powerless.
I look up to see a man having his picture taken. He has a scowl on his face and I can surely understand why. This place stinks and these folks couldn’t care less how your picture turns out. They are here to do a job. Period. Each person is but another number.
Each and every individual approaches the door with fear and apprehension because they are trying to come to terms with the fact that short of a miracle, they will most likely be here awhile. Many of them wonder if they’ll make it out alive. They are skeptical.
And they have reason to be.
There are crazy people here.
Crazy people with lots of attitude.
Scores to settle.
I am bored. Bored of being packed in here like a sardine. Bored of the time I am wasting because after all I do not belong here. I am here because they said I had to be.
I am not crazy, yet I am here amongst the crazy.
It is hot.
Did I mention it was hot? So hot, in fact, a bead of sweat dropped from my brow. I quickly wipe it and attempt to stay focused. I keep to myself thinking it might make things easier for me. I do not make eye contact with anyone. I do not want to look crazy in the eye. I have enough crazy at my own place. Plus, you never know when one of these jokers might snap. They arrived here long before I did, so their crazy meters are off the charts. I see all walks of life. Each with a different story. All of them wishing they were somewhere else.
Anywhere but this hot, cramped, crazy place.
I’m the new girl in town. If there is a seat I will get one. If not, I will stand. That’s just the way the pecking order works in a place like this. I focus on the flashing light. I wonder when my time will come. When the light will flash with my number. The number they gave me when I arrived. I have not forgotten the number. I will NOT forget the number. The number is mine and mine only.
Must stay focused.
I need water.
My mouth is parched. My throat is dry. I break out in a sweat. I wonder if I’ll ever get out of this place. I wonder if I’ll still be here at lunch time. I can’t imagine the thought, but in this place anything is possible. I’m at their mercy. The mercy of these people who say I must. be. here. at this time.
I see more hand wringing.
I squirm in my chair and pray that it will be over soon.
I’ve had all the crazy I can handle.
And finally, just before noon, my number is called.
I step to the window, receive my walking papers, and get released from jail the D. M. V. just before lunchtime.
Whew. For a minute I wondered if I’d make it out alive.
Try to keep yourself out of jail AND the D.M.V.
Happy Thursday, y’all!
(Originally posted in 2010, this one was pulled from the archives.)