I need to go shopping for a frying pan.
Maybe the dollar store has something. If not, we can check Big Lots and Wal-Mart. I hope it doesn’t cost more than ten dollars, because that’s what I have in my wallet. We can pay the tax out of our change cup.
That’s how I paid to mail out four résumés to prospective employers last week: In quarters. I counted twenty of them carefully out of a little plastic bag at the post office counter and pretended I didn’t see the disgusted look on the face of the clerk. I wish more employers would accept résumés via email.
So, I visited our homeless friend in jail on Sunday. I was delighted when my tender-hearted wife suggested that we put some money on his books so that he could get a bag of crisps and a soda from the canteen. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
Turns out it wasn’t necessary. I had no idea that he was being sprung from the pokey on Monday morning. Duh!
This was my first visit to a jail and I can report that it wasn’t much different than what you see on TV. You sign in, they key your ID into their computer, then they tell you to go to window #7. After a few minutes, they bring out the prisoner and you get to have a cozy little chat over telephones on either side of the Plexiglas.
Apparently, Sunday is Baby Mama Day. Everyone else on my side of the long row of windows was of the female persuasion. Most of them had very young children along for the visit. All of my compadres spoke Spanish to the prisoners and among themselves. I couldn’t understand a thing any of them was saying.
If you’re lucky, you can get up to an hour to visit your boyfriend or husband or, in my case, your local homeless guy. However, I only stayed about ten minutes. This was partially due to my own shortcomings in running out of things to say and partly due to my sheepishness upon learning that he’d likely be showing up at our door next day. Oh, and it may also have something to do with those uncomfortable round metal stools you get to sit on. A wooden beam, located at crotch level, is positioned at dead center of the stool, so your legs get to straddle it. Or if, as in my case, you’re too fat to lift your leg over, you get to perch on the edge of the seat and drag the short phone cord out to its limit, thereby straining your neck and your arm. Ten minutes was about all the fun I could stand. I know, no one said jail visits were supposed to be pleasant.
When our homeless friend appeared at the window in his stylish burgundy county-issued jumpsuit, he was grinning from ear to ear. He was shocked to hear that he had a visitor. Even though his mother, sister and brother-in-law live just across the fence from us, none of them bothered to go. The word “friendless” came to mind.
The first thing he asked me was whether anyone had messed with his tent in his absence. I apologized, telling him that I hadn’t thought to check. He told me that he was supposed to be in for ten days, but his probation officer had the sentence knocked down to five. He was going to see her as soon as he was released in the morning; the P.O. would give him bus passes to get home and to get back and forth to his mandatory weekly appointments in Marysville. I asked him what he was going to do to make sure that he appeared at his Wednesday probation appointments so he didn’t end up back in here. He shrugged. I asked if he needed a calendar. “Somethin’,” was his reply.
I am the farthest thing from a mental health professional, but it appears to me that this 43 year old man has the mind of a child. I suspect that he is of limited intelligence and has multiple emotional issues, anger being but one of them.
I asked him how the food was in jail; he replied that it wasn’t bad but they didn’t give you much. “I’m down to 170 pounds!” he exclaimed, pointing to himself as if to say “look how skinny I am!”
That’s when he told me that he managed to acquire a Coleman stove “off a guy,” complete with two tanks of propane, which he uses to heat Ramen noodles in his tent. What he really needs, he informed me, is a frying pan so that he can start making himself egg sandwiches when he gets his Food Stamps.
I told him we’ll see what we can do.
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” –Matthew 25:36 (NIV)
Update: Our homeless friend has a frying pan now. We gave him one of ours.