June 25th, 2019
“When I’m no longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg.” – Snoop Dogg
“Bread pudding makes me weak. I have been known to be moved to tears by cookies and ice cream, and ribs are a spiritual experience for me.” – Bill Rancic
The girl finally sat down across from us. She was wearing her standard, bluish-green, prison garb. Her hair was wet and unbrushed (she doesn’t currently own a hair brush, but we’re working on that). Karin and sat on the other side of a low coffee table that was clearly marked with the number 11.
The girl had previously told us over the phone that she wanted us to get her some snacks from the vending machines in the visitor center. Only visitors can use the vending machines, which makes it slightly awkward for both the prisoners and their guests. After we had all hugged, I asked the young woman,
“What kind of ice cream do you want?”
She thought for a moment and smiled. Then she said, “I want something with caramel and chocolate, if they have it.”
I walked over to the ice cream machine, carrying a plastic baggie full of small change. Every visitor in that room was carrying a bag of quarters. A person was allowed to have up to $20 worth of change on them. That would seem to be like a lot of money, but it isn’t. It was pretty easy to run through that much cash.
Karin and I had spent almost half an hour getting through security prior to arriving at the visitor center. There were several people waiting there before we showed up, and the process was more than a little tedious. The guard was friendly enough, but he had to go through a long series of instructions with each visitor:
“Fill out and sign this form.”
“Let me see you ID.”
“Put everything in your locker.”
“Remove your shoes and belt.”
“Pull out your front pockets. Do you have anything in your back pockets? Are you sure?”
My unspoken response: “Yeah, I’m fucking sure.”
Then he said, “Go through the metal detector.”
I am always surprised that I don’t set off metal detectors. I had my right foot and ankle crushed at work ten years ago. Since the surgery to rebuild the leg, I have been carrying around six titanium screws and an titanium plate. Nothing ever happens.
By the time Karin and I finished running the gauntlet, I had absolutely nothing on me but the key to the locker, and a bag of change. Karin didn’t even have that.
But I was talking about ice cream.
The vending machine had a limited selection of ice cream treats. I finally settled on a Klondike Choco Taco. It cost $2.50. I don’t know if that is expensive or not. It’s kind of irrelevant. There was only one ice cream machine available to me in Taycheeedah, and I could use it or leave it. I used it.
I brought the Choco Taco to the girl. She devoured it in a state of ecstasy. Simple pleasures become important when everything else is stripped away. The girl told us between bites,
“We only get ice cream twice a month, and it’s in one of those little paper cups. Wow, this is good.”
I had also bought her a Mountain Dew. Another simple pleasure.
She took a slug off of the soda. Then she asked me,
“Do you know how to hot wire a car?”
She went on, “I think the only way to get out is to crash a vehicle through the fence. The fences have that wire on top, and I think they are electrified.”
“Yeah. There are these yellow signs on the fences. I think they say that the fences are electrified.”
This made me remember something from thirty-five years ago. When I was stationed with the Army in West Germany during the Cold War, there were free tours of the East German border for all GI’s. I went on one of them. A border guard from the Bundesgrenzschutz (West German Border Police) explained in detail about the barriers that the East Germans had set up to keep their citizens inside the country. The East Germans had electrified fences with razor wire on top, just like the prison at Taycheedah. Some things don’t change.
I asked the girl if she wanted another ice cream. She nodded. Then she asked me,
“Do they have Dove Bars?”
“Yeah. What do you want? Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?”
I went back to the vending machine.
Once again, she savored every bite of the ice cream.
Another prisoner was walking around with a camera. Apparently, she was assigned by the guards to take pictures of inmates and their guests, if those people wanted photos to remember these special moments. Our young woman told us that it cost the visitors money to get a picture taken. This came as no surprise at all. All the photos were taken in front of a back drop that looked just like a brick wall. How appropriate.
We talked a little about what will happen to her after her time in prison. She said that she will be on probation for a while. I asked her about how it would be if things did not go well while she was on probation.
She laughed and said, “Don’t report your car as stolen until I am across the border.”
She was making a joke. As Stalin once said, “Dark humor is like food. Some people don’t get it.”
The girl was still hungry. We had been talking for almost two hours. I bought her a gyro. It was very hot when it came out of the microwave, so she had to let it sit for a while.
It was pouring rain outside. The girl told us that she had to walk outside to get from the visitors center to her cell block. We decided to talk some more and wait for the weather to clear.
She asked us to put some more money the prepaid phone account so that she could call her boyfriend. I told her that I would take care of it. It seems to help her a lot when she can call her beau. He is one of her lifelines. Karin and I are her other connection to the outside. It is hard to overstate how important it is for a prisoner to have contact with people in the real world. I really believe that those contacts keep an person sane.
It was almost six o’clock when Karin and I left the young woman. We had to drive an hour and a half back home. We told her that we would come back next week at the same time. We plan to come back to see her every week. We all need that.