Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do not pass "Go"

I go to jail almost every night. Sometimes more than once. It sucks. Every time. I’ve never left there and said to myself, “Hell yeah. That was kickass.” Now, I’m simply delivering there. I usually wait next to the metal detectors and try to avoid conversation with the guard sitting behind the table who’s alternating between reading a magazine, staring at the wall, or making a joke along the lines of, “They won’t notice one wing missing from that box!” That joke wasn’t funny the first time I heard it, and it’s still not funny after the thousandth time. Also, I don’t carry around extra food with me, which is another question that seems like common knowledge but apparently is not since I get asked all the time.

The funniest part about going to the Fulton County Jail is the electronic sign in the area that people wait for their family/friends to be released. It’s the same sign that might tell you balloons are on sale at the grocery store, or to inform you that you have just entered Spencer’s Gifts at the mall. It has the multi-colored letters that sometimes scroll from the left, sometimes from both sides, sometimes appearing pixel-by-pixel, sometimes exploding after the message is fully formed, etc. spelling out messages such as “Welcome to the Fulton County Jail.” The point being, it’s really festive. It’s supposed to portray a “fun” mood which is juxtaposed with one of the most oppressive atmospheres in our society.

My first delivery tonight went to 901 Rice Street. The jail. A great way to start a night because you know you’re going to have to wait a long time for them to show up and you know you aren’t getting tipped. This is just the way it works there. As I parked my car, I noticed the CNN van sitting in one of the parking stalls. As I got inside I asked the guard what was going on. He told me this crazy story and proceeded to tell everyone who came within earshot the exact same story. He told the story to a guy who worked for the jail that was eating a HoneyBun (or whatever they’re called). When the first guy was done with the incinerated children story, the second guy asked him about another gentleman standing outside. The guy outside had been there since I showed up and hadn’t moved more than ten feet from the front of the jail. He was smiling, swinging his arms, and talking to people as they walked past him, at one point he clapped the rhythm to the start of the car wash song while slowly dancing back and forth.

The guard told the HoneyBun guy that the dude outside had been released earlier that day and was waiting for a ride.

“He’s intimidating people out there, man,” said HoneyBun.

“Yeah, I’ve already told him he needs to go. I’ve been nice. If he don’t leave soon I’ll call up the muscle. I’ll put it on him if he don’t leave. I’ve tried being nice,” responded the guard.

“Yeah, he said he was gonna snatch my HoneyBun,” he said as he crinkled the wrapper and shoved more in his mouth.

Eventually I found the person I was delivering to, but there was a problem and I had to call the restaurant. Since you can’t bring phones into the jail, I had to step outside to make the phone call. I was about six feet from the dude that wouldn’t leave.

I finished my phone call as a girl approached the jail with her cell phone in one hand and her I.D. in the other. The dude snatched her I.D. from her and started twisting it, trying to tear it.

“I know you. You live on Brookhaven. I know you,” he said as he bent the card without actually breaking it.

He did this for ten seconds or so while the girl stuck her head in the door and asked the security to help her out. The guard came out, as did HoneyBun and another guard that was standing around doing nothing.

“You gotta go. You gotta go,” said the guard as he pulled his can of pepper spray from his Batman utility belt.

The dude wouldn’t move until the pepper spray came out, and then they walked into the parking lot. I figured the show was over so I went back inside to finish the delivery, get my no-tip and carry on with my night. I walked inside, and waved for the guy to meet me by the metal detector since I couldn’t take my phone inside. He started walking towards me, then quickened his pace.

I turned around and saw the dude sprinting towards the jail. Towards the only door into the jail. Towards the door I was standing directly behind. The dude tried to open the door and come back into the jail as four security guards body checked him into the glass like hockey players and took him to the ground. The guy I was delivering to, another guard, ran outside just after the dude hit the ground.

I glanced around to see if it would be deemed inappropriate to take a picture of the ordeal with my cell phone. I turned to my right, towards the waiting room, and saw two different sets of gold teeth smiling and watching the fight. Two other jail workers sat safely behind the glass and watched with smiles. A woman walking up to the jail from the sidewalk stood a few paces from the brawl and watched it like a TV show. I felt like a cell phone picture would not bring resentment because of its lack of tact. The only resentment it might foster would be from the fact that I was the only person that had access to their cell phone to take such a picture and the resulting jealousy.

Now, this dude was strong. The guards had to fight him for over a minute to get his arms behind his back to handcuff him. When they first took him down, I saw the can of pepper spray roll away from the pile, obviously slipping from the hand of the guard during an attempt to use it.

Before he was tackled, I was nervous the dude was going to get into the door I stood next to, but after seeing how strong he was I realized how lucky I am that he didn’t get through. I have no reason to believe he was coming back inside to hurt me, but I also don’t have a reason to believe he wouldn’t. One punch from that maniac and I would have been a bloody, shitty Josh.

Eventually, they cuffed him, stood him up, and walked him back into the jail where I’m sure he’s sitting right now. It wasn’t until ten minutes later, when I finally got to leave, that I thought about what had just happened. The man got released from jail, banished from the premises because he wouldn’t leave, and then arrested as he tried to break back in. To jail. He got arrested because he tried to break back into jail. Think about that.

My first thought was that maybe he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He looked like he was out of his mind, and after the events I witnessed now have no doubt he was. It’s not like he was going to go back to work or anything now that he was out of jail. Maybe not being in jail is scarier for him than being in jail. At least you know you won’t get rained on and when you’re going to eat next when you’re in jail. That’s a strange thought, that normal society may have been more frightening to him than jail. And this isn’t a nice jail either. I’ve heard stories from coworkers about what goes on in there. It’s fucking horrifying.

When I got back to the restaurant, I told my coworkers what had happened.

“He didn’t want to be out.”

“Yeah, he wanted to be right back in there.”

They raised another good possibility: People could be looking for him. People that are obviously worse to get caught by than the police. Perhaps he owes someone money. Perhaps whatever he got arrested for in the first place has earned him a beating, or worse, by whomever he committed the crime against.

Or it could just be that he has severe mental problems without the resources to take care of it. Maybe he’s just off his meds and didn’t know what to do/what was going on and ran towards a familiar place. I was looking into his eyes as he tried tearing up that girl’s I.D. He was nuts. For sure. There’s this vacant look I’ve come to recognize in many homeless people that are either fucked up on drugs, mentally insane, or a mix of the two. It’s not a good look. This man had it.

Either way, he’s in a reality I can’t even begin to understand. It’s funny to watch a dude getting taken down by the cops when it’s obvious that it needs to happen. It’s a little depressing to think of what might be going on inside the dude’s head as he struggles with all of his strength to keep his arms from being forced behind his back to be handcuffed.

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