Monday, September 10, 2007

Crossing Kansas

On a recent visit to the local hoosegow, I happened to stand in line with a lady who had the most amazing story. This was her first time visiting her pen pal in prison. She was a nervous wreck. I remembered the first time I ever entered a prison as a guest (NOT an inmate, thank you very much! I've never even had an overdue library book much less a few felony arrests!) and how kind all the ladies were to me who were 'regular's' going to visit their sons, boyfriends, brothers or husbands.

This ladies' name was Minna and she had flown all the way from England! She had never been in the states before. I thought this was so brave of her. She said, Not that brave because she made her ex-husband come along and do all the driving! I had to laugh because, well, if I had an ex-husband (still living) I'd make him drive me in England if I ever went there! They drive on the wrong side of the road, over there! Scary!

Minna told me the reason she had decided to come was because she is going blind, and may never get the chance to actually SEE her friend if she didn't make the trip now while she still could. We chatted for the entire time we stood outside, and it was so fun and interesting, it made the time pass quickly. There is always an obligatory 30 minute waiting period before the visitation center opens each morning. They can't help themselves, restrictions and frustrations are their job.

Then Minna told me something that really astounded me. She said they did not fly into Sacramento as I had assumed, but rather they flew into LAX so she could drive through California and see a little bit of the country. When I asked her what she thought, she teared up and said, "It was so overwhelming! I never knew there were so many wide open spaces left in the world!" I thought of the miles and miles of lonely grassland prairie and ranchland between Sacramento and LA, and said, "Welcome to the Wild, Wild West."

And then I told her, "Good thing you didn't fly into Wichita!" It's my belief you can become mentally ill from driving across Kansas. The first time I took that long lonely route with nothing but endless stretches of wheatfields for as far as the eye could see, I got vertigo! I thought I might just fall off the face of the earth, as there didn't seem to be anything to hold onto! I want trees, rolling hills and comforting mountains on my horizons.

When the doors were opened and we had passed through the various security checkpoints, I walked with Minna across the stretch of 'no man's lawn' between the visitation building and the prison yards. She was a total wreck, but I told her it was okay to be nervous. When those metal bars go clanging behind you and you are in a cage for a moment before they open the inner door to let you out, it is very frightening. Then you wish you WERE in Kansas some more, Toto!

After seeing Minna safely past the Officer's Desk to the B Yard visiting room, I went on into A Yard where my fella is housed. I realized later that I felt very sorry that I was not going to get to hear the rest of the story! I would never know how her visit went and if it had a happy ending! But I was so glad to have met someone so intrepid and willing to go such a distance to meet a friend.

1 comment:

PEA said...

Don't you love meeting people like Minna while waiting in line ups?! Her story certainly was quite interesting and like you, I'm curious as to how her meeting went!! Here in Canada, those who travel west have said that the worst province to travel through is Saskatchewan because it's so flat and only has field upon field to see. Hope your week is a good one my friend:-) xox