March 1, 2015
Sunday, 6:00 p.m.
Letter #372: The Sting, Part 2
So there I was, stuck in a holding cell with fourteen other guys, and it soon became clear why our little band of merry men had been singled out for unpreferential treatment and strip-searches: the Powers That Be had become suspicious about the sudden up-tick in attendees at the smaller religious services. They assumed that many of the religious zealots weren’t attending to get something out of the services, but to take something from the services: namely, contraband.
Thus, I found myself an unwitting participant in a sting operation. It reminded me of the time I was pulled over on suspicion of being drunk, and I had to play along with all of their “prove you aren’t drunk” games, which are wildly fun when you’re as sober as I was. What am I saying? This whole sting operation thingy would have been so much more entertaining if I’d had something to hide.
And what did this invasive search unearth? (Note: no actual earth was moved during the search.) Well, one guy had fresh tattoos all over his neck. Either he didn’t get caught, or they decided that he’d given himself the best punishment possible for such a rule violation: he will be forced to wear his unfortunate decision for the rest of his sad little life. He could have received a few extra months in prison, but that distinction fell to the chap who had an unsmoked cigarette somewhere on his person. I’ve never smoked, but I hear they’re supposed to help you feel relaxed. My guess is that this particular cigarette had the opposite effect on its owner. Well, its former owner, anyway. You know, the guy who now has three additional months in prison; ample time to learn other relaxation techniques.
I never really understood the logic of maintaining one’s vices while in prison. Smoking, alcohol, and drugs only shorten your lifespan, and I thought the whole point in doing time is to try to outlive your sentence, right?
The other crazy item the sting operation caught: a medical syringe full of heroin. This just reeked of “Bad Idea.” For starters, heroin isn’t exactly easy on the body. For another, it’s crazy-expensive. Something that costs $50 on the streets can be sold here for over $1000. And, more than that, it usually gets tampered with by inmates, which has resulted in a few deaths here in the past couple of years. Oh, and if caught with it before you throw away your life, you get an extra few years in prison, throwing away your life in a different way.
So it turned out that we had some true geniuses in our little crew of 15 guys that day. But the drama was just beginning for me, as the captain in charge held up my Day Planner, and asked whose it was, then said I wouldn’t be getting it back.
Excuse me?!? I was pretty sure that he wasn’t following proper protocol, since he wouldn’t give me an explanation or a seized property receipt. We were all free to go (except Heroin Boy), but I wasn’t about to leave my brain in the hands of some random person. Ever lost your smartphone or laptop? Yeah, you know exactly how I felt.
I asked the captain why he was keeping my Day Planner, and would I get it back, since I needed it for my job here. “Oh, you’re the music guy, right?” he asked. “What does ‘Twitter feed’ mean?” he questioned, referring, I could only guess, to my listing of items to eventually put in a queue to tweet out. I didn’t know if he didn’t know what Twitter is or if he didn’t know why I have a Twitter account. I explained it to him, but he said he’d have to let the investigative unit look through my Day Planner. Everyone told me to expect them to take months. I still haven’t got some of my belongings replaced that the prison lost nearly two years ago, so I prepared for the worst- case scenario.
A couple of days later, I went to my boss and unit manager, Mr. Lohman, to let him know what had happened. He had me close his door as he got the lead investigator on the phone. After a couple of minutes of Mr. Lohman vouching for my integrity, he put the guy on speakerphone to question me. He asked about all the inmate names and ID numbers (music program students, tutor candidates, and my band members), social security numbers (guys I’m helping build their credit), and he had me explain some of my acronyms. Then, he said, “We also noticed you have a couple of staff members’ birthdates in here. Why is that?” I explained that I’d been asked to write personalized birthday songs for them, which our choir sang.
I asked if he needed me to explain anything else, and he chose to give me a compliment instead. “No, it’s all pretty clear. You keep a lot of very detailed notes about a lot of fascinating topics. It seems like you do a lot here. Good for you. I’ll try to get our investigation finished up soon and get this back to you.”
Five days after it was seized, two of the gang task force guys came to my cell and personally handed over my Day Planner. Nothing was missing. I joked that I was sorry that they weren’t able to find anything bad, but instead had to see evidence of what a “sad little life I have here.”
They shot back, “No, you’re doing alright. Keep it up… but, for future reference, you might want to get rid of those birthdates. People may wonder why you need the warden’s birthdate.” I laughed, thanked them, and they left as I thanked God for His favor.
And I couldn’t help but wonder: as outsiders looked inside my “Brain”, amongst all the projects, marketing plans, song ideas, tweets and ID numbers, did they see Jesus? Is there evidence of the time I spend with Him? My life … have I organized Him into it, or out of it? God, every day, You are Priority One!