Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Night At The Opera, Part Two

After a full day of being herded through endless mazes of confusion, heat-induced delirium, and cyclic fatigue, the long journey through the basement of Cook County was nearing an end. It felt like it was midnight, but unfortunately, it was only 6pm, based on the spurious guesses of fellow incoming thugs. We entered the area where a strange, futuristic three dimensional x-ray machine scanned the body completely, presumably looking for stashed goods. It was an odd, plexiglass phone booth, in which several rings moved around the person and presented a live image of the body incarnate. Back to bullpen twelve. About two hours later, it was time to be entered into the computer system. We sat on the cold concrete floor, in a long line, while data entry personnel howled last names from our herd to be logged into the computer. The computers were, appropriately, frighteningly old and outdated, still using a DOS based system to enter newcomer's names, addresses, next of kin, and phone numbers. After the irritatingly redundant process of being entered into the system, we each received our "number", in black marker, on the forearm. The thoughts of being a Nazi concentration camp inductee unfortunately crossed my mind. If anyone takes exception to that comparison, first of all, fuck yourself, and second of all, remember (or find out) that many modern prison intake procedures were directly "learned" from Nazi methodology in this era. That said, we were physically branded with numbers.

We then were herded back to a bullpen, cramped shoulder to shoulder, until someone called a few of our names to check in our property. Mine was already checked in, but we all still had to get in line, confirm what we had, and suffer a few screams of "stand up straight, muthafucka!" from the stormtroopers patrolling the floor. After I confirmed my possessions, the guy stamped my arm with something else, some type of indiscernable symbol to show I'd been through this station. Back to the bullpen. I heard my name again, and was told by a dumpy, loud, near-sighted black guard, I need to see one of the people on the other side for "psychological evaluation". I found an empty booth, and sat down.

"Name?"

Gave it.

"Number?"

Gave it.

"Ok, do you have any psychological problems?"

"No, but I did get..."


"Ever try to commit suicide?"

"Well, not really but..."


"Ever think of doing it?"
"Well there had been times..."


"Ok, put your right arm out."
Faceless data entry person writes a "P" in marker on my now heavily branded forearm...
"You're done...go to the end of the room for a picture and your ID."


That was my psychological evaluation. I had now assured the fine bunch that I wouldn't harm myself or that I had any psychological problems in the past. I'm sure the virtual forms were filled out for me long before sitting down with this highly trained individual.

Off to get my picture taken for my formal ID, inasmuch as my entire identity, wallet-wise, was in the possession of some profanity obsessed asshole behind the protection of chain link fence and other similarly scourged co-workers. The picture taking was the easiest of steps...one, two, three, and very DMVish. I signed off on my picture and was directed back to the original bullpen stuffed with the usual hostile, hungry, vocal, thirsty, hungry, and fatigued mortal frames with which I had endured the previous multiple hours' journey.

At this point, I found out it was after 10pm, and we had been enduring this process for over 10 hours. Standing in cramped cages, enduring screamings and guard abuse, wishing for a drink of water and ultimately, a bunk in some cell to collapse. Fortunately, at this point, I had a comaraderie with many of the fellow incoming "monsters". 80% of them in our group were massive gang people, many who knew each other, and they all thrived in the roughest parts of the city. I had a pretty intelligent conversation with a guy about how I thought Obama was a fake, and he was leading the blacks on. His "posse" was right there with me, agreeing completely. Turns out two of those guys were picked up on warrants for murder, and another one just was given $750,000 bond for gun possession and armed robbery. These folks were my talk buddies. I didn't care - I was pretty scary looking myself, and had already earned the nickname "Big Man" during the process. Oddly it would stick. I was myself - not scared, just tired and pissed. This whole process would be a badge I'd have to earn, and I was gonna earn it. When I wanted a drink from the occasional functioning faucet in the bullpens, I'd line up and take my time. Nobody would mess with me because I had nothing to lose. I was super tired and desperate for a place to lie down.


We all found out, while stuffed into that caged bullpen, that it might be about three more hours before we get to the point of receiving uniforms and being assigned to a cell. That's all we wanted - a place to lie down - we wanted our cell.

Finally, fatigue got the best of me, and after midnight, I realized that I could lie down on the cold tile floor underneath one of the benches that lined the walls of the bullpen area. That said, I crawled under people's legs, who were sitting on the bench, and found my little dark solace underneath the bench. There was garbage, roaches, grime, and other debris underneath this bench, but now I had floor space on which to lie down. I took both of my shoes and used them to rest my head upon, and despite the noise, dirt, cold, and uncertainty, I was able to catch a nap.

3 comments:

Xoynx said...

First, best writing you've done in years. Gratz. Gripping, compelling, all that back-cover enquoted stuff. Way to make lemonade.

Second, unless you're masterfully manipulating the pacing, the fact that you've omitted the nature of the criminal offense is an elephant in the room (or cell). I know you're probably not proud of it, but you owe it to the readers to explain what happened, even if fictionally. Gotta put yourself in our collective place.

The Vapid Voice said...

Thank you sir! High praise from one of my lexographical Pat Moritas. I will duly note your...well, notes.

Uncle P. said...

Jaysus, that was ruff.