Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Jailhouse blues

“We’re just going to pop you in a jail cell for a little bit, until your paperwork is processed,” said the lady cop. “Sorry about this.”

Golly, they were all so apologetic and nice. “You mean you were just here for the weekend? And friends just gave you a little ‘do’? How.... how very VERY unlucky!”

Yes, that’s it... how unlucky. Or how incredibly, mind-blowingly stupid!

So, down the hall, turn the corner, and here’s your cell. Enjoy.

It wasn’t half bad really. About 15 x 15 feet, with a built in bunk bed with a gymnasium type foam mattress pad on it, waterproof and vomitproof, by the looks of it. Didn’t feel any temptation to lie down though. A toilet without a seat. No problem there, I wasn’t using THAT. A button to flush the toilet with, and a button to call for help. And a sliding door in the center of the cell door, which, surprise, you couldn’t slide open from inside. Oh well. I guess that’s where the tin plate and tin cup come through if you’re going to be boarding for a while.

And absolutely no obvious place to tie my shoelaces to, for hanging myself. I was surprised they let me keep my shoelaces, in fact, because they were awfully long and dangerous. But unless you’d tied the laces around your neck and then bashed yourself unconscious against the porcelain toilet bowl and drowned, there really wasn’t much in it. I decided to stand there until I was released.

After about an hour, the guy in the next cell was getting on my nerves just a little bit. He spent all his time screaming, and pounding on the cell door with his feet. Constantly.

“Let me the f------g bl------dy h----- OUT OF HERE! I mean it! Let me out! You b------ds!”

On and on and on. Pound pound pound pound pound. Pound-POUND. Pound-POUND. Pound-POUND! POUND POUND POUND POUND POUND!

He could take up African drumming if he ever gets out, he’s really got potential.

After another half hour or so, I decided that maybe I would sing, partly to calm him down, and partly since the acoustics in this cell were clearly just SO excellent. Maybe some... yes, some jailhouse blues.... that would be GREAT! But of course, since I am lyrically challenged, I can never remember more than one-half a stanza of any song (except for the Star Spangled Banner, which seemed inappropriate). So I gave it up as a total loss, and kept quiet. Which was fortunate probably, or they might have booked me again, for singing off-key, or for acting like a weirdo.

After another half hour, I was starting to wonder if they’d forgotten me. I tentatively poked the buzzer button. Five minutes later, the kindly officer came along and opened the small sliding door. “Yes, Madam. Are you all right?”

“Oh, I was just wondering how much longer it might be. I really need to get my daughter to her exams in the morning.”

“Sorry it’s taking so long, Madam. It should be soon. And I’m really awfully sorry about that ridiculous idjit in the next cell. Would you like to move to a quieter cell on the other side?”

Yes, that’s it, I would, and I’d like a room with a balcony and a river view and ... oh never mind.

“No thank you, Officer. This is fine.”

“And Madam, would you like a blanket?” Awww, so sweet. I declined.

Now the guy next door had calmed down, but had begun vomiting. And since he didn’t seem to be able to do ANYthing quietly and discreetly, it was exactly as you’d imagine. I think he finally threw up his toenails AND his gizzard and then collapsed, because at the very last, it got quiet. Bummer of a job to be on the janitorial staff at the jail house. Remind me not to apply. I know I was complaining before, about not having a job, but.....

Finally, the door opened, and they escorted me out to the front desk, where my personal belongings were returned. They had already called a taxi for me (what lovely people!) and after I signed off about 50 pages of forms, I was free to leave.

“Your taxi is waiting for you, Madam.” Why, how civilized! Now, why hadn’t I thought of a taxi four hours ago, in Bracknell? Dumb bunny!

“Since you’re leaving the country on Monday evening, going to Johannesburg, you’ll need to go to court tomorrow, Saturday, in Reigate. Be there at 9:45 am. Good night, Madam.”

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