Conrad's Night in the Big House
By Conrad Keely
i spent friday night in jail. it really sucked. they caught me and a friend of mine pissing in an alley, and when they ran a check on me they found out i had an unpaid traffic ticket from three years ago. so they set me a court date.
it was my first time in jail. it was very packed, being friday night, and everyone was drunk, including myself. but a lot of the other people were pretty disgusting, shoeless slobs. actually i was also a shoeless slob - they made me take off my boots because they were steel-toed. oh, what a strange experience. the biggest thing i got out of it was listening to everyone else's excuses as to why they were in there. for some reason, everyone was extremely talkative. like they had to talk, even if no one was listening. they apparantly had no inhibitions about talking to complete strangers. it was a rather male-bonding experience. one fellow, this tall blond texan, easily the best-dressed person in the cell and coincidentally the most talkative (he was very obsessed with his appearance, and was continuously trying to rub out a stain in his black slacks), claimed that he was hanging out with some chick, who asked to try some drug he was doing, maybe it was jut pot, i don't know. well he gave her some and she starts freaking out and hallucinating or something, and the cops pick her up and she points out this fellow as the person who drugged her. so they haul him in, and he's freaking out because he thinks he's going to be charged with date rape. he eventually discovered he was just getting a public intoxication, and he exclaimed to everyone in the room, "man, that is music to my ears!".
no one really spoke to me. i didn't want to do anything but leave, so i kept entirely to myself, and no one gave me any trouble (maybe it was because i was wearing this black harley davidson shirt). in fact, the only real person who got any shit was this baggy-dressed hippy kid with dreadlocks. while he was walking into the room some black guy turned to him and said "hey, next time you bump into me you say excuse me, aw-ight?" the hippy finally passed out on the floor, and when they gave us breakfast (an orange, a carton of thin milk, and cornflakes), several people threw their bags of cornflakes on his inert body. i'm not exactly certain why, maybe it was his hair. maybe it's an ancient jail custom which pre-dates american society, i guess i'll never know.
there were a lot of people passed out on the floor, mostly mexicans who didn't speak english. since it was so full, the people crowded on the benches practically rested their feet on these people, or slung insults at them like "move your legs, bitch!". at one point, one of the mexicans on the bench leaned over and with a dazed look and began vomitting all over the person passed out underneath him. everyone in the jail cell jumped up and ran to the other side as vomit splashed everywhere. everyone except a guy on the phone sitting next to him, who pretended like nothing was happening, and the guy passed out beneath him. the man above continued to vomit, covering the poor drunk scumbag below with bile and spew, while everyone in the jail cell just pointed and laughed hysterically. eventually a janitor (who incidentally was a splitting image of charles manson) came in and cleaned up, but he couldn't wake up the unconscious fellow to mop underneath him. a police man finally had to come in and wake him up, but the man refused to wake up, and began swinging at the policeman in his sleep. the cop resorted to pinning the man's arm behind his back and twisting it up. this worked, and they dragged this vomit-covered wretch away. jail is truly extraordinary. you know, i go through life thinking that i live on the edge, that i'm different and weird, or live an extraordinary existance in some way. absolutely not. i'm normal. in fact, i'm a fucking square, and so is everyone i know. you want to see how the other half lives, spend a night in jail.
in some ways i guess jail really does work. because i remember thinking to myself while i was there, "oh jesus, is this where my life is headed? is this some new pattern that is going to plague me for ever?" and then you start to think of all these things you need to do to get your life in order. and i imagine that's exactly what they want you to think while you're in there too. but on the other hand, it also made me think about being in a prison in turkey, or being a captured british sailor in 16th century japan, or a russian prisoner during the napoleonic invasion, and that made it kind of exciting and cool. i don't imagine that the scum and villanry that populate jails today are much different than their repugnant conterparts throughout the centuries.
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