Friday, October 9, 2009

on seeking excellence

So I go to this Michigan prison (not a busy one) to visit a guy who doesn't even belong there.

The staff members at the desk are very nice to me, I sign in, follow all the rules and move to my seat. One of the people at the desk makes contact with the unit where the prisoner is housed, and announces that the man has a visitor.

I remain seated in the waiting room. I'm the only person there to visit a prisoner.

15 minutes later (I learned after the fact), the prisoner took his seat in the visiting room. He was the only inmate in the room.

After 30 minutes, one kind soul at the front desk assured me that she would investigate this delay.

After 30 minutes, the prisoner asked the guard in the visiting room where his visitor was.

Turns out, nobody bothered to let the front desk know that the prisoner was up, and waiting for me! My friend and I sat alone, in separate rooms, for 30 minutes while staff members in the prison talked about other things.

I finally made it into the visiting room, we hugged, exchanged pleasantries, and sat side-by-side...the only two people in the room.

"You can't sit there," barked the guard. Referring to the prisoner, she said, "You must face me! You can't sit with your back to me."

We moved to the other side of the aisle, so that we both faced the guard. A small, round table---badly scratched and chipped, where the prisoners often place their vending machine food---was in front of us. As my friend crossed his legs to begin the conversation, the sole of his shoe touched the lid of the table.

"And you gotta take your foot off the table!"

45 minutes after my arrival, we began our conversation.

The Michigan Department of Corrections slogan:

Seeking Excellence Every Day!

Adds one veteran prisoner:

And never finding it!

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