When I’m 64


The visiting room was similar to the waiting room, a mash up of Victorian pillars, graceful arched doorways, bars and bars and more bars, and mauve and teal furniture. The best of the 1880s and 1980s. There was a raised platform with a guards’ desk on it with a very bored, very fat guard, and a box of Kleenex.

Chairs were arranged in rows facing each other, about four feet apart. One side was for children, the other for everyone else. There was probably capacity for 100 pairs of prisoners/visitors.

Vince was already seated, and in addition to his new glasses he had narrow sideburns down to his chin. I eventually noticed that most of the guys in the room had facial hair that, well, you don’t see every day on the outside. One result of them not having much else to do, and those crappy Bob Barker razors. They were all wearing white T-shirts, faux jeans with elastic waists, and denim long-sleeved shirts. “We joke at breakfast, ‘Hey, you wore the same outfit as me!’” Vince said.

This was his opener after we had our one allowable five-second hug and sat down.

The room wasn’t full; we had the whole row to ourselves except for one other pair about five seats down. This was what caused me to choke up the second time. The visitor was an elderly lady who reminded me of my mom—well dressed, frail. Her son looked like any middle aged guy who works in your tech support office—balding, slightly paunchy, outdated (but not Instant Weirdo) glasses.

As I was gazing at them, wondering if she was my future, Vince was telling me how prisoners were strip searched before and after each visit. That got my attention and I noticed a line of guys going one-by-one into a room with a guard, who was wearing blue latex gloves.

Strip searched?” I asked in shock. You mean ….

“No, mom, a strip search. You lift your balls, bend over and cough. It’s not a body-cavity search”

He made it sound like a strip search was no big deal, while a body-cavity search was something only real losers had to put up with.

I looked down at the elderly lady again, then looked Vince in the eye. “Don’t make me do that when I’m old,” I said. He gave a kind of non-response and I knew it would be up to me to decide whether or not to visit him when I was elderly, if he landed in prison again.

I was really surprised, and then disappointed, that a photographer was available to take pictures of prisoners and their visitors, but I hadn’t know that, and Vince was short 50 cents credit so we couldn’t buy a ticket to have it done. He told me he wasn’t allowed to communicate with other prisoners in the visiting room, otherwise he could easily borrow some credit. He asked the guard if he could do that, but the guy shook his head sympathetically, no. Apparently I could have bought credit out in the waiting area. It was all very confusing, and I have a master’s degree. But maybe I’m not very street wise.

I could see a young couple across the room posing for photos. Vince told me there were four allowable poses. Three were non-contact and the fourth allowed people to hold hands, but they had to stand at least a foot apart.

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