Most of you know that I’ve been working on a memoir about my trip to India for five years now. Well I’m happy to report that I only have two sections left before I pass it on to my editor.
I thought I’d give you a preview of the first chapter. This is going to be long for a blog post, five pages total. So you might not want to read it now. But when you get a chance, take a look at it and tell me what you think.
If I could have picked any place in the world to visit, India would have been one of the last places on my list. Who wants to see a Feed the Children commercial in real life? But my wife’s parents are from India. So when they asked me and my wife Tejal if we wanted to go with them, I lied and said, “Yes, of course we want to go.”
“Well it’s all set. I’m going to India for three weeks. The Colonel approved my two weeks vacation plus he gave me one week leave of absence,” I said to a group of my co-workers working back in the booking area in the St. Charles County jail.
“Wow,” Cpl. Johnson said almost under his breath. “In the 14 years I’ve worked here, I’ve never heard of the Colonel giving a leave of absence for a vacation.”
“Me neither,” replied Crosby, an old-timer who they built the jail around when they opened the place. “How long were you on your knees kissing his ass?”
“Up yours Crosby! You’re just mad because they won’t give you a leave of absence for your broken foot. You old crippled bastard,” I said.
“Well I don’t know why you’d want to go hang out with those towel headed, camel jockeys anyways,” he snapped back. “They all stink! Bastards never take a shower. I smell’em everyday when I walk into the gas station to get my coffee before I come to work. Mother-fuckers need to use some of that deodorant they sell in there, that’s what they need to do.”
“Don’t make me kick your ass Crosby. Besides, I’m going with my wife and her parents for two weddings. Her cousin and her niece are getting married.”
“To each other?” replied Wilson, a smart ass crony of Crosby’s.
“No dumb-ass, two separate weddings,” I said.
“I thought your wife was Indian?” Wilson said.
“She is Indian,” I said looking at him puzzled.
“Then why are you going to India?” he said.
“Because,” pausing to let the information process, “Her. Family. Is. From. India. You fucking idiot!”
“Ohhhhh! I thought she was Indian, like American Indian. You know, feathers, not dots,” Wilson said.
“Wilson, you’re the poster child for why birth control should be encouraged. Remind me to bitch-slap your mother when I see her.”
That’s how most of the conversations went when I worked at the County jail. You had to be thick-skinned and quick witted in order to survive there. If not they would eat you alive. They, being the Officers of course.
Oh sure, the Inmates could be hell too, but they were nothing compared to other Officers. See we had one thing over most Inmates and that one thing was intelligence. Contrary to popular belief, most criminals are not the geniuses you see on TV. In the criminal world, the people who are in jail are the unsuccessful criminals. When you pick crime as a career path, getting caught and going to jail is like being fired and unemployed in the real world.
Even the best citizens go to jail every once in a while. Some guys get a DWI or maybe get into an argument with their wife and the police get called for being too loud. But these guys learn from their mistakes and don’t do it again.
When you work at a county jail, there’s Inmates that you deal with all the time. They’re the one’s who get arrested, get out, get rearrested again and repeat the process over and over again. These are the guys who were last in line when God was handing out brains. No, it was definitely the Officers you had to worry about more.
Wilson then said, “Hey Wallace, why don’t we keep mamas out of this? And I’ll keep this,” gyrating his hips back and forth, doing pelvic thrusts, “out’cha mama!”
“Wilson, your dick’s so small that if you even showed it to my mama, she’d think you were offering her a little cocktail weenie. She’d probably even ask you where’s the toothpick at?”
“Weak! That was weak Wallace,” Wilson said.
“Not as weak as your wife was last night after I left her ass in your bed,” I said. “By the way, how’s your wife and my two kids doing?”
“Alright now! That shit’s not funny! Don’t start with that wife thing again,” Wilson yelled.
“Oh shut the fuck up!” Crosby jumped in the discussion. “You sensitive little pussy. Grow a dick for God’s sake! You work at a fucking jail! Inmates are going to say shit like that all the time. You better learn to let it roll off you. You don’t see Wallace getting all upset when I tell him he writes like shit do ya?”
“Hey! I thought you like my stories?” I said a little hurt.
“Eh! I just said that so you wouldn’t go off crying like a little girl,” Crosby said.
“Yeah right! I heard you laughing when you read them,” I snapped back.
“I was laughing at you, and how you write like a five year old. My little grand-daughter can write better than you,” Crosby said playfully.
“Crobsy your grand-daughter is forty-five years old and has a law degree; you old crow!”
“Well that’s true,” Crosby said matter-of-factly, “But I’m not lying right? She can write better than you.”
And that’s how we passed the time working in the jail; honing our cut-down skills, each one of us trying to top the other. Swearing and spewing insults like a river, never letting up and never really trying either. It just came naturally. That is if you were a good Officer.
If you weren’t a good Officer you kept things pent up. You used what little power you were given to take things out on the Inmates. You lost you temper constantly. You yelled and screamed at everyone. You were a target for ridicule. And you took your day home with you, which was rule number one for being a good Officer—leave your day at the door when you walk out. Otherwise you’d turn into a cynical, hard, sloppy drunk.
Whether you were a good or bad Officer, most of us wanted to do something else. But for some reason, we couldn’t leave. We were stuck in a trap. Broken in some way. And after 25 years of working in this crazy environment you didn’t want to end up like so may other broken Officers, with your own gun barrel stuck in your mouth. Sucking on the steel right before you blew your brains out, like so many other Officers have done.
But that wasn’t us. That wasn’t our, “little family”. We all had dreams. This was just our, “transition job,” even if we had been there for six years, or twenty six, as in some cases. And we made sure that anyone around our little, “circle of trust,” was like us: fun, thick-skinned, quick witted, unmotivated, unapologetic and not afraid to fight. That was our definition of being a good Officer.