GET SET

Upstate is a maximum facility so things are run pretty tightly. We file everywhere we go, accompanied by at least one, if not two CO’s. We march outside and down about a quarter mile to the reception dorm. It is a very large, open room with dividers between some bunks, but not all. The resident CO calls out bunk numbers for us and an inmate escorts us to our respective new home. Since I do not have a change of clothes or even a towel, I am not sure how I will get cleaned up. But since it is a little more than an hour till supper, I have time to figure it out.
Fortunately I have a divider between me and others, though it is open across the isle way. I estimate probably 50 beds here though not all are occupied. I ask the guy across the isle if he is also a transient. No, he replies, just coming in on his second bid. I inquire what he knows about transports the next day, figuring he ought to know something as he has been on this corrections merry-go-round before. He says don’t get your hopes up, no buses on Wednesdays.
Great. How could this happen to me? Was I wrong in planning for a visit and package? How could I be the only one going upstate that did not get on the bus? Where was my God in all this? Had He forgotten me too? So many thoughts swirling through my head it was difficult for me to sort them all out. Would I be able to call my wife and alert her to the new plans?
Count time. All rise and stand by your bunk, no talking we’re told. Finally the count is announced “clear” and we can resume whatever it was we were doing prior. So I immediately return to my fretting about my situation. I decide to attempt a phone call to see if I can call home, only to find out the phones are shut off until the evening. So I return to my bunk and just stare. What am I to do? Panic is setting in, and I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs, but that has never gotten me anywhere so I abandon the idea.
“On the chow” the CO bellows. Everyone files toward the door, most grabbing their coats since it is late November and cold outside. I go back and fetch mine then get in line, again, no talking we are cautioned. We file outside (it is cold!) and walk single file up the road toward the dining hall. As we enter I see many men already inside in various stages of dining. It seems everyone is checking the new guys out so I make an effort to avert my eyes. I do not want any trouble so there will be any reason to keep me here longer than necessary. I have heard of guys risking even time in the box to thwart another’s fortune of going home or being transferred somewhere – even another dorm. I try to remember how many guys I mentioned I wanted to get out of here and on with my journey to the next facility. Would I become someone’s target?
Another meal with rice. I am not really sure what it is with it – some type of stew, probably soy made to look like beef – a prison staple, overcooked beans and jello again. Hey, at least I’ll have strong fingernails. I eat swiftly, something I have become accustomed to inside corrections because you never know how much time you will be allotted to eat. Sure enough, I barely finish when our escort CO barks “pick it up”, which means take your trays up, show the CO your silverware, then place them in the pan and line up to leave. I comply as all do, thank goodness, no need for trouble now.
It’s already dark as we file back to the dorm. I ask when the phones are turned on and find they already are, though there is a line of course. After I don’t know how long I get to the phone. To my delight it goes through and my wife actually picks up, a crap shoot really when not planned in advance. It is difficult after all I have been through not to completely break down and ball the whole 20 minutes but I capsule the situation for her and tell her I most likely will be stuck there till Friday, as there are no buses on holidays either. She sympathizes, though I hear some relief in her voice, especially when she says she has not had time to even think about a package for me. “You have 30 seconds” comes all too quickly as it usually does on these calls, but I relax now a tad having made the necessary connection with someone other than the guys here who couldn’t care less.
Now comes trying to figure out how to get cleaned up with no soap or towel, and of course no razor. They are only issued on Fridays to guys staying in the facility, not transients. I approach the CO, who has a house porter, one of the guys who maintains the dorm, get me a towel. To my surprise, it is only a hand towel. My protests are met with a blank stare and a undecipherable remark, something about no gots. So I guess I will spin dry. Of course, that is only part of my dilemma. I have no other clothes to wear than what I have on. Besides, I do not know how long I am going to be kept here, so maybe I should save it to shower another time. Finally I decide to go for it and hope my boxers dry by the AM. You see, the shower room is visible to most through a large glass window so the CO’s can make sure there is no hanky panky going on in there, and everyone showers in their boxers, briefs or whatever else they wear as underwear, no “free ballin’” as they call it, showering wearing nothing. I figure I will wring them out best I can, go with the summer trousers till I find out what’s what in the morning.
At bedtime, I ponder what has happened to me today. Up early, long trip, being denied a transport to my destination, and the angst of not knowing what will happen next. I try to read my Bible, but my mind is so unsettled I cannot concentrate on any passage. I turn to the Psalms again, as I feel like David did so often, that God has forgotten him and lets all these bad things happen to him. That is exactly how I feel.
Then I get to the end of his writing, like Psalm 13, and find a familiar refrain for David, one echoed in many of his writings. God is good, he is sovereign, basically he will worship Him and trust Him. He knows what He is doing and we need to still worship Him throughout the pain and suffering. Easy for him to say, I think. But then, he went through great deal of difficulty and threatening situations and still turned to God. Does that mean I am a bad Christian because I so easily give up? Is my faith in Him solely determined if I get to Mid-State on time and get my visit and package? Or do I, like David says in Psalm 34, “bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be on my lips.”? Doubtful. I wrestle with these thoughts as I start to drift off to sleep.
Guess I am still too selfish and have a truckload to learn as I process these inside corrections.

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