Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By some unknown quirk of nature, I often end up with lumps of exasperating people all scheduled together on the same day. Today is one of those days.
Thankfully, since it's also the day before a holiday, I didn't have all that many appointments. There's only so much you should have to endure in a day. I've had whiners, criers, and the purposefully infirm so far this morning.
And I've had Hannah Montana.
Hannah Montana is a short, chubby Hispanic woman. She's 54 but looks 64 if she's a day. She likes to wear revealing shirts which expose her cardiovascular misadventures to public scrutiny. The scar from her open heart surgery gleams up a you from between to floppy, wrinkly breasts. She favors Hannah Montana t-shirts with pleather (plastic leather) vests and yachting caps. She likes sparkles, too.
This morning she came in with her face covered by a paper towel. She explained that she had opted for the tissue-y burka so that I wouldn't catch any of her germs. She worked hard to punctuate each and every sentence with a cough throughout our visit. Sometimes she would forget to secure the bottom of the paper towel to her chin, and the germs escaped from beneath it to cavort across the surface of my desk.
But it wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday.
Yesterday I got a new case - a woman the jail wouldn't touch. She has a severe, oozing staph infection on her feet. I didn't even take her into my office. We talked in the reception area instead. I hoped that if we were surrounded by other people, in a more open-air environment, the various viruses and bacteria that she was sharing would find other, more winsome, hosts than myself.
She was a talker - hearing only the first two or three words of anything I said before formulating her own reply. She kept up an on-going stream of comment while I tried to explain the rules of probation. Some of it was entertaining, such as the bit where she pretended to be thunderstruck that she would have to pay $50 to the Crime Stoppers organization.
"You mean we gotta pay them to go out and hunt us down?!"
Three times - THREE TIMES - I told her I didn't want to see her feet. Three times. But she's not much of a listener. The goo was oozing through the white cotton socks that she wore to accentuate the black rubber flip flops. She pulled her foot up in the air and yanked down the sock.
I couldn't help it. It was like driving past a train wreck.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
But I feel a little guilty when driving past the itty-bitty store front church when I'm on my way home from teaching drug class. They are in there, trying to have a prayer meeting. They are bunched right up against the plate glass windows in the front, just feet from the street. So, I let off the gas and the noise subsides a bit.
And I feel a little guilty when I turn the key at 5:45 a.m. to go to the Y. Unfortunately, you can't coast past the cotton field, so my neighbors get an early morning wake-up call. You're welcome, guys. Really.
** If you were doing a sketchbook with the theme "It will be fun. I swear." and you'd already drawn a Ninja Vampire, what would you draw next?
*** Got a new girl on probation today. Ask Mindy about her, and she'll shrug and tell you "at least she's got good self-esteem." The girl's head is shaped like a stubby candy corn. Her eyes are set too far apart and look like they didn't finish drawing the eyeball. The white of the eye sort of runs over into the dull blue iris. Evidently, she attempted to embrace her general pallidness and dyed her hair vampire-black. Whether or not she saw the error of this choice is unknown, but it's now growing out, leaving a skull-cap of dirty blonde visible at the root.
She had many, many things to say. Among them: "I only drink on the weekends. I don't like to get belligerent-drunk because I don't like to puke." And "I would punch Jesus if he stood between me and my kids. I know he's God and all, but they mean everything to me." (These would be the kids that Child Protective Services took away from her and gave to someone else to raise.) My favorite, however, was this, uttered in response to my litany of ways she can violate this probation and end up in jail: "I know this sounds awful, but I just can't go to jail. I'm too pretty to go to jail."
**** Still appalled by the racism that has bubbled to the surface around here since the last presidential election. Jokes that would not have been uttered anywhere other than out behind the barn (because they've always been here, we've just tried to keep them somewhat hidden) are now being uttered in public. With zero expectation of repercussion. That just floors me. Seriously.
Anyway, I was in a restaurant this morning and the usual group of businessmen were there having their usual breakfast a few tables away. One of the men, a well-known local business owner, a deacon in his church, and an all around bastion of civic involvement, told an awful joke about the president. There were three other men at the table with him, one of them Hispanic, the other two white.
I was eavesdropping and trying to read my book at the same time. I didn't look up, so I don't know the reaction of the two silent table mates. But one of the men (who is also a leader in his church) told the joker, after a moment of what I assume was stunned silence, that his joke was "as racist as they come" and that it wasn't even remotely funny.
I wanted to applaud. Since I was eavesdropping, I refrained. heh.
***** As for the sketchbook, I think I'll draw a grave robber at night, with a shovel and a lantern, beckoning you to join him. That fits the theme pretty well, no?
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
You cannot imagine how badly I want to just lay my head down, just for a minute, and close my hot, itchy eyes. I'd do it, too, but I know the people I work with would either come along and poke me with sharp sticks to wake me up, or they'd do something really bad. Like painting my toenails pink. Or something.
So, I'm carrying on this little conversation with you, in order to maintain consciousness. I'd just give up and go home, but I did that yesterday. I went to the doctor today and I must, must, must be here to teach a class tonight. Dangit.
Speaking of little conversations, does anyone remember Richie Rich's girlfriend's name? You remember her - the little red-headed girl that was poor. As opposed to a poor little red-headed girl. We were debating this at lunch. None of us wanted to know badly enough to actually google it, but still, it would be nice to have the question settled.
Settling questions is a good thing. Sometimes. Sometimes it's better not to know. And better not to ask. I'm pretty much in favor of making apologies rather than asking permission. Its not always the best policy, but I think there are fewer apologies than there are permission denials.
That was a painfully constructed sentence. Especially what with this being my first language and all.
I'm listening to Ester on the phone next door. English is her first language, too. So is Spanish. She's being all bright and chipper and trying to convince this guy that the thing he wants to do most in the world is to go to the jail and turn himself in. Sounds like she's just about got him convinced. Stupid guy.
Not me, man. If Johnny Law wants me, he's gonna have to freakin' come and get me! I ain't makin' it easy for him. ~brandishes imaginary sword~
Well, that's not really true. I'd go quietly.
And they'd never make me talk. ~evil eye~
'Cause I know stuff.
Have I mentioned that I'm on drugs? Lots of drugs. And I got a shot. Not the kind that comes in a glass, but the kind that makes you glad you weren't wearing raggy underwear.
I need, need, need to be writing a report right now. But I sooooo don't want to. One of my most troublesome cases is going to court and I have to do a report telling the judge what I think outta happen with the guy.
He oughtta go to prison. End of story.
Accept, of course, that there is always more to the story. This reminds me of Ken, may he rest in peace. ~crosses self and wonders if it counts since I'm a protestant~ He used to end his reports with "The defendant would benefit from [insert service/program]and the Institutional Division is adequately staffed for that purpose."
We don't call it prison anymore. Its the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. As if that somehow seems better. And I haven't been a probation officer for the last 15 or so years. Rather, I am a Community Supervision Officer for the Community Supervision and Corrections Department which is a part of the Community Justice Assistance Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
I guess the thinking is that we are less accountable if the average citizen can't figure out what the hell it is we do, just by looking at our business cards.
We keep our true identity secret, it seems. But not for any sort of superheroish reasons or the greater good, or anything.
Tonight, in the class I'm teaching, we're gonna talk about secrets. Dysfunctional families are champion secret keepers. I am pretty darn good at that myself. Being an accomplished illusionist was a matter of self-preservation when I was growing up in a glass house.
It's also a hard habit to break.
And, truthfully, I don't even really try to break that habit. I still sorta like it.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I have not murdered anyone recently.
I also have not beaten anyone with a baseball bat, a tire iron or the grip end of a pistol.
Whole weeks have gone by without me tripping, choking or otherwise assaulting anyone I know. In fact, for the most part, I have totally refrained from all forms of violent behavior towards acquaintances and strangers alike.
I have not made any threatening phone calls.
I have, however, been threatening towards some people who called me. But that doesn't really count.
I have not run for office. Neither have I engaged in loan sharking, welfare fraud or prostitution.
I did run a red light. Mostly unintentionally.
I have not stalked anyone, not in person or on the internet. I have not smoked crack. Or meth. And I have not opened a new box of cereal without finishing the old box first.
I have not shoplifted or drawn flowers on my husband's tattoo while he slept. I haven't said the f-word all week. I have not set any fires except in places specifically dedicated for such purposes.
I did, however, designate the middle of my back yard as a place for burning things.
I have not, nor will I ever, drape any landmarks in miles of orange fabric.
I have not sung karaoke.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Not a new jail, but one I'd never been in before.
Some poor unfortunate meth-smokin' chick got herself arrested over the weekend. I thought she might like a visitor, so I grabbed a pee-test cup and walked across the street to the county courthouse.
I'm working in the Wilds of the North today - one of our satellite offices, located in an even more isolated, desolated, and under-populated place than Fake Cow County.
Their jail is still located in the back of the courthouse. I have no idea how many people it will house. I'm guessing seven.
No sign of Otis.
The place was clean, as are most Texas jails and prisons, but old and dark. I made my way down a short hallway that terminated in a heavy duty wire door. It looked like someone had gone to the ag mechanics class at the high school and said "Hey, y'all. We need us a door for the jail." And somebody welded 'em one.
The jailer was very nice. He had all the jail keys on one huge ring. No electronic buzzers and electromagnetic locking systems here. Just a huge-ass key ring with about 20 brass keys, each one probably weighing three pounds. You lock a door with one of those keys and that bastard stays locked.
I waited next to the fingerprint counter for the jailer to bring the prisoner out. As I said, the place was clean, but it smelled. It smelled of urine. No matter how hard you try, there is no hiding the smell of bodies and urine in these places. It's like a nurisng home only more sweaty.
Miss Saturday Soiree was none too happy to see me. I was hurt. She barely spoke, but glared eloquently at my little plastic pee-pee cup.
The jailer pointed us to the unisex bathroom. It was tiny. A one-holer not built for dual occupancy. I hate this part.
I managed to squeeze into the room, along with my companion and we got the door (which opened to the inside, of course) closed.
And we waited.
Then I realized that this was the only place in the whole jail that didn't smell like pee.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Friday night we spent another one of those evenings at the softball field. The season is winding down and parents are just as stupid as ever. After the game, Jackson and I, my brother Jonboy, and Li'l Drew, who is one of the league officials, gathered around the back of my truck, cussing and discussing.
My niece, Luna Lovegood, accompanied her father to the field. As we talked, she ran from side to side and end to end of the pickup, trying to find a spot where she would be tall enough to lean and gab across the bed of the truck like the rest of us.
She finally ended up on my side, doing a respectable James Dean lean, but the top of her head didn't clear the side of the pickup. I wasn't really contributing anything of value to the conversation, so I watched her instead.
"Don't worry about it," I finally told her. "You'll be tall enough to talk across the back of the truck before long."
Her arms were folded over her chest and she looked up at me from beneath the brim of her softball visor. "I know," she said matter-of-factly, adopting a passable farmer squint as she gazed at the horizon and into the dying sun.
We leaned against the fender in companionable silence for a while.
When she spoke again, she put one hand on her hip and braced herself against the side of the truck with the other. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if she had spit a stream of tobacco juice with perfect precision onto the careless weed growing through the crack in the pavement next to my foot.
"I used to weigh just fifty pounds," she told me.
I nodded. We were silent for a moment as we considered this. I kicked a pebble. The sun set a little lower.
"So what do you weigh now?" I asked.
She gave me that same serious, old-soul stare. "Fifty-two."
I bit the inside of my cheek and turned my head to contemplate the empty bed of the truck for a moment.
"Well. One of these days, Junior," I drawled.
The sun disappeared.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
As I passed M2 in the hallway, her grumbling caught my attention. I asked why she was ticked off.
Last week she got a guy who has a six year sentence on a felony drug charge. He spent the last few months in jail awaiting trial. After he pled guilty and the jail released him, he came to see her for his initial interview. M2 went over the rules and regulations of probation with him. He was not impressed. He also told her he couldn’t comply with several of the rules because he’s homeless. Basically he told her she’d just need to adjust the judge’s order to fit his situation.
M2 explained that people on probation can't live on the streets. You've got to have a permanent parking spot, so to speak. He told her he'd see what he could do and would get back to her on that. Homeless Dude has some family in town but he doesn't want to live with them because they are just filthy. He'd rather live on the streets.
Homeless Dude doesn’t have much of an employment history, even though he's an able-bodied young man. However, there are some possibilities he’s considering, he says. Apparently the big-shot owner of one of the town's major agricultural businesses has tried to get in touch with Homeless Dude several times, so HD will probably deign to go to work for him in some capacity to be named later. Provided the work doesn't interfere with his burgeoning social calendar, M2 assumed.
Finally they got through the paperwork and she handed him an appointment card. He took it, looked at it disdainfully, and shoved it into a back pocket.
“I can’t really make any promises on when I’ll be back in,” he said. “It depends on a lot of things.”
As she explained that reporting in person is not optional or even negotiable, M2's blood pressure topped off somewhere around volcanic eruption levels. She made it clear that he would just have to make room in his busy week to get in here to see her. On the date and at the time specified.
Of course, didn’t show up. She managed to track him down by phone. He was across town, hoeing a piece of property for some extra cash. He told M2 he really didn't think he could be bothered to come see her. M2 made it clear that now would be a really, really good time for him to show up. If he wants to sleep somewhere other than the county jail, that is.
He showed up. M2 was headed to the waiting room to get him. I just laughed, amazed at the guy's chutzpah, and went back into my office. As I began flipping through papers I heard M2 call his name: “Mr. UnusualLastName”
'UnusualLastName?' I thought. 'No way...'
I watched the doorway, waiting for them to pass my office. Mr. UnusualLastName had his head down and sported a huge beard and walked fast to try to keep up with M2. Even so...
I sent M2 an instant message: "Is that JOEY UnusualLastName??!"
M2 replied: "Yes."
(She's wordy like that.)
I just shook my head. Joey UnusualLastName. My cousin, Joey UnusualLastName. I didn't even know he was still in town. I haven't seen him since our great-grandmother's funeral, lo these many years ago. I haven't heard anything about him since...well, since he learned to cook his own meth.
Yeah, my family is close like that.
I ran into my aunt at Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't seen her for well over a year. She updated me on their kids, one of whom moved to town about 3 years ago. I've not seen him since our grandmother's funeral lo these several years ago. I hear updates on him now and again from people on my caseload. They work for the same company. They love to come in and tell me 'I work with your cousin!' or 'Your cousin is my supervisor!'
Yeah. Close like that.
My brother lives in the same town I do and we managed to speak to each other about a month ago. I see him maybe once a month if we both happen to go to church on the same Sunday. He works for the university and said one of the advancement officers – fund-raisers - planned a trip going to El Paso for business. She asked Jonboy if our cousin Earl still lives there. Earl and our grandfather were cousins. The advancement folks like to keep tabs on influential alumni, especially those of the donating variety. Earl, a former state attorney general from New Mexico, fit the criteria. Jonboy told them that although Earl stays in an assisted living facility, he’s still a complete cut-up who would enjoy a visit from the university folks.
The next week, the development people were back at work. They came to Jonboy's office to thank him. 'For what?' he asked. They went to the facility to visit Earl. They asked for him at the desk and were informed by the management that Mr. Earl no longer lived there.
Or anywhere else for that matter. He died two years ago.
'No kidding? Really?' Jonboy said.
Yeah. We're close like that.
The week after he told me that story, we both managed to drag our sinful carcasses into church again. I nudged him and showed him the printed prayer list on the announcement sheet. I pointed to a name under the "Christian Sympathy Extended To:" column.
Jonboy was as surprised as I. Cousin Merline had died the week before.
Truthfully, I didn't even know she was still alive.
Close. That's how we roll.