Tolerate

June 28, 2017

I came to the secured unit door after work. All of Industry and Education had already switched back in, per usual. OFC Brown was assigned to the door. He unlocked it and let me in.

AF: What’s up, Brown?

B: What’s goin’ on, Fait?

AF: Same old, man. You all right?

B: Yeah. Hold up though, I got to pat you down?

AF: What? You’re kidding right?

B: Nah, man. LT says that when y’all are comin’ back from Industry we’re on the number system, but everybody comin’ back on a pass has to get a pat search.

AF: But I’m not comin’ back from a pass, I’m comin’ back from work.

B: Oh yeah, what’s your pass say?

AF: I don’t have a pass.

B: Oh, really? Where are you comin from that you don’t have a pass.

AF: Chapel.

B: Right. You see these new cameras they just put in? (gestures above the door) They ain’t here to watch you. They here to watch me. All that warden does all day is sit up in his office watching the cameras to make sure I do what he tells me. I used to stand out in the hallway, but LT says this is [my] unit, I gotta do em inside the door.

(blue nitrile gloves are on. the discussion portion of the search is over with. a guard is like a referee, or your boss; they aren’t always right, but they’re never wrong. winning the argument can only make things worse.)

A standard pat search is something like the TSA search, depending on who does it. The problem with Brown is that he’s an aggressive search. And it wasn’t but a couple of weeks ago that he stopped me in Corridor to search me because I ‘looked suspicious’. I know you can’t see me, or know how I move. I might be the least suspicious looking guy around here.

(hands at my shoulders, working down my arms as though testing whether my muscle is ripe, pressed along my torso, front and back, smoothing my state issue T-shirt for a wrinkle that isn’t there)

There was a blonde guard in my last unit. She played similar games, but I knew where she was coming from. She was right in the middle of the pat-down-aggression-spectrum. And she never pulled me over just to paw at me.

(around my waist, pulling the pockets of my sansabelt denim away from my body to check if I am stupid enough to smuggle in my pockets, allowable contact on my thighs begins just outside my bathing suit area, if my bathing suit is a European-cut trunk short.)

AF: No, I work in the chapel. “Chapel Worker” is my job. I don’t have a pass because I’m returning from work.

B: Oh. Well…you have a nice day, Fait.

Getting felt up on a (supposedly) random and regular basis is part of this life. No less an invasion for its necessity, but you grow accustomed to it. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to feel violated by routine. That’s why Brown’s conduct is red flag. There are a handful of reasons to single me out. A couple of which I might have even encouraged in blonde guard. But Brown isn’t really my type. So, he’s trying to be funny, thinks I’m actually on one, maybe he has a thing for me, or maybe he’s just trying to cover his own ass by lingering too close to mine. I could ask him a thousand different ways and never get a straight answer.

So it’s another piece of routine. Ask the questions you can’t answer. Tolerate the uncertainty. Pay attention to the Browns of this world and be prepared for every one of the possible answers to be the actual answer. And otherwise let things go.

~AF

P.S. ~ (June 29, 2017) So, obviously, Brown’s name isn’t really Brown. But when I passed him today and called him “Brown” he looked genuinely hurt, thinking I forgot his name. And it isn’t like I can explain I’ve been writing about his behavior out in the world…I feel real smart right now.

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