In jail you hear this movie quote over and over, there is really no getting away from this sentiment, it matters little whether you hear it, verbatim, running through your own mind, or variations of the message in every conversation which you have the misfortune of being caught up…it’s there. It is true you know…or, more to the point, it can be true–depending upon one’s definition of the word “that”. This may seem like Clintonian minutia, but we all quibble about what the definition of “is” is, we’re just not as critical of ourselves as we were of William Jefferson. La Motta repeated these words over and over as he beat the piss out of his hands on a brick wall, having found himself in a jail cell after several legal discrepancies that amounted to making some mistakes, none of which were motivated by any specific malice…he essentially was struggling with the arbitrary nature of what society refers to as “law and order” (bong, bong) (ubiquitous, ain’t it). This is an abstract idea with which one is confronted if one is lucky enough to be incarcerated. I was that lucky once…let me tell you about it.
It was a Friday morning, early…earlier than any unemployed man should be expected to greet the day. My in-laws came over to my wife’s and my house to watch our little LuLu so Kristy could take me to the jail house on her way to where she worked, next door. We carpooled. I was dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a green button-down; my shoes, Chucky Taylors–black. Beyond my clothing I wore a pair of black sunglasses and carried my punched Washington State driver’s license so that the jailer would see I was who I said I was. She saw. As we walked into the Kitsap County Jail I noticed that the lobby was decorated in a fashion that had a flair for the sparse; there was only one place to sit, it was a bench donated by the rotary club that doubled as a time capsule, I sat down and instantly realized it was primarily designed to be used as a time capsule. Note/Warning: Almost every, if not every, piece of furniture used to equip the Kitsap County Jail was chosen for its ability to make you wish you had no lower back…thats right, all of the furniture leaves you with the impression that life would be better sans the lumbar portion of your spine…I don’t know how that would work, but it is a fool who seeks logic in the chambers of the human heart (especially when that human has a bad back).
The clerk sat behind a sheet of lex-an with a chute beneath it meant to pass things back and forth; I gave her my paperwork that stated I was supposed to be turning myself in, and she called for some bell-hops to come and see me to my room. The bell-hops were dressed like cops, and saw to it that I turned over all of my earthly possessions (shades and ID) before showing me to the booking area. The place hadn’t changed much since last I graced the dismal halls; this time they showed to a changing room where I disrobed, was made to stand in positions that left nothing to the imagination (jail guards are not keen on imagination), and received the outfit I’d be sporting for the duration. I also received a bag with all of the supplies I would need to survive the visit, the kit included 1 toothbrush, 1 small tube of toothpaste, 1 small bar of “soap”, 1 towel, 1 washcloth, 1 spoon, 1 cup, some writing supplies, 2 pair of boxer shorts (brown), 2 pair of socks (gray…ill-fitting), a sheet, and a blanket. I was allowed to keep my white t-shirt to wear underneath my green O.R. scrubs (am I wrong, or is there some thinly veiled irony buried here?). For foot-wear, I received a pair of rubber sandals.
The next stop was a way-point between booking and processing, it was a place to stay while the powers that be determined with whom you should be held which was determined by the severity of your malfeasance. The room was a scaled-up version of a lemur cage; a large glass wall facing out to the main hub where the guards keep a watchful eye. The back wall was a collection of cells, around twenty-four of them on two levels. On both levels there were about five shower bays with doors designed to conceal ones wedding tackle. Each cell was a solid door cell, the doors had a small window that we were not allowed to look through, at the back of the cell there was another window that we were not able to see through. The cell was 8′ by 12′ give or take, and had 2 bunks, stacked on top of one another, one stainless steel desk with a stool of the same material, also there was a mirror, and a toilet-sink combination, which was for going potty and brushing your teeth, respectively. I felt this amenity amalgam deserved its own name, I came up with–disgusting (some might have said toink, or sinlet, but when one gets the opportunity to use this marvel of the miscreants, one tends to be drained of one’s wit). The schedule in this area was a twenty-two hour lock down which meant we stayed in our cells for twenty-two hours then we were able to eat our dinner in the common area on the main-floor, on the upper level we took our dinner there, the lower level were allowed breakfast there, we had two hours to eat, shoot the shine, and clean the area; we could also shower during this time. There was no television, and the only books available were bibles. I read and wrote quite a bit. I have a couple of great stories from this period with which I could not do justice in thirty words or less, (I am trying to stay below 1000 words) so we will revisit this next post.