I missed the count despite all my valiant efforts. I had taken all the measures to streamline the process. slip on shoes. pockets empty and out. no jewelry. plain and conservative clothing and a small bag with my keys, ID, money and train ticket. I got through the first visitor check in room fast. In the second one, I stood before the guard who held my ID. I felt like I waited longer than usual to be processed. Four people went through the other guard already. I said nothing. If I say something, I might as well just leave without trouble.
He held up my ID, and when I came to take it, he told me I had to go back. I got courageous and asked why when there was a long pause. Then he told me that I couldn’t wear the shirt I had on. My confused look must have been very convincing because he volunteered information which seems to be against protocol.
I was wearing an autumn orange turtleneck with small black polka dots, but there is one small button at the top back that closes an opening of one inch-on a turtleneck, I repeat. There are no open back shirts allowed and if it has a button, then it is open back even if the button is closed and it is at the top of the turtleneck – and should it fall – a divide of less than one -half inch will result – I am still way above my neckline should this misfortune befall me.
I went back to the first room. I waited on a long line where the person being helped was arguing with the guard. I didn’t want to get caught in the count. Then I saw a box with a sign: These are for visitor use. Please return.
In the box, everything was bright pink. I wondered if there was a women’s jail somewhere that wore pink. Everything was filthy, but I didn’t care. I was just grateful I wouldn’t have to turn around and go home. I had to wait in line to change into the dirty prison pinks. Then I had to wait in line to get to my locker.
Then I had to wait in the long line of people trying to beat the count in the second room. I had my photo taken, and scribbled an electronic signature. I don’t even know what I am signing nor do they tell or even post it somewhere.
Then I went into the third area, but they never gave me my pass. Instead, I saw the guard throw the pass off into a bin behind him. I have lost count of the number of times I have come here, but I have never seen a pass put in that bin. They go in the bin at the end of their area, accessible to the next security check.
My experience has been that if I say something or ask, I will wait even longer. Escalation is always a viable possibility. There are thousands of frustrated men in one place, the convicted and their wardens.
Then I got so worried that I will get caught in the count that. I softly meekly said to the guard at the next security check: How do I get my pass?
This started a chain of events that included a mock extensive search that excluded the bin he put it in. They were about to send me back to start the whole process over again when I said: oh what about that bin over there behind you? Another guard looks in the bin. and finds it.
The nice guard with dreads who is always at that door into the visiting room tried to console me: It’s okay. You were trying to look nice for your visit. He is the only guard that smiles.
I got caught in the count. When Lance comes down, we have two hours.