24 July 2010

"You Can't Get There from Here"

I was standing at the elevator on the 7th floor. I pushed the Down button. A voice asked, "Where to?" and I said, "Fourth floor."

"You can't get there from here." It was a nice voice, very patient.

I stared at the papers in my hand, a stack of requests from offenders who wanted to see a chaplain. The jail is a tower twelve stories high.

And you know elevators. They run up and down. I was on the seventh floor and needed to go to the fourth.

Oh. Wait a minute. The fourth floor with inmates was not in this tower. That fourth floor is in the West Wing. I had to go from the seventh floor to the third floor and transfer to another elevator.

And are there only two sets of elevators? No. That would be too easy.

On this particular day, I did manage to make it to the third floor and make the transfer. I got to where I needed to be.

But that isn't always the case.

I've ended up in the parking garage.

One day, I hit the button for the second floor, thinking I was headed back to my office. Instead, I found myself in a small hallway with four or five holding cells. I headed into the office where half a dozen officers were chatting.

"I'm a new chaplain," I announced. "I'm lost. What do you do in here?"

They had the grace to laugh.

Turned out those holding cells were for offenders waiting to go to court, and, handily enough, there were two courtrooms at the other end of this small hallway. The officers were waiting for the next round of sessions.

I knew those courtrooms. I'd never been in them, but from the hall near my office, I can see the signs for those courtrooms. I often see defense attorneys waiting out in the hall before their cases are called.

I asked the officers, "I don't suppose I could cut through the courtroom and go back to my office." No, they assured me. I couldn't do that.

I was so close.

I said my goodbyes and went back to the elevator. I told the Elevator Operator (who exists somewhere in the building, with cameras!) I wanted the third floor. Transferred to another elevator and went downstairs and back to my office.

Do you remember the early video game "Zork"? Every now and then, there were messages that said, "You are in a twisty windy passage." Must have been written by someone who had to deal with multiple elevators.

And for those of you wondering why I don't just haul up and down the stairs: in 2007, I broke the arch bone in my left foot. Six weeks in a boot. Last summer, I tripped over my own feet in my living room. Broke every toe in my right foot, except the big one. Six weeks in a boot. The feet never fully recovered. I don't do stairs. Or hills, which explains why I'm taking great delight in figuring out how to out-maneuver the hills in Seattle. Escalators!

07 July 2010

Okay, now it's real

I got a call early this afternoon, asking me to see a woman and let her know that her mother had died. You who have read this blog for a while know that death notifications are my specialty. Have tissue, will tell.

Except that I had been told that the sergeants are the ones who do the actual notification, then the chaplain is called in to deal with the aftermath. The notes in the files and on the bulletin board over my desk were very explicit, very clear.

Apparently no one told the sergeant, so I was the one to tell Kathie the bad news.

She howled when she found out, great wracking sobs, lots of tears. She had been trying to put some money together so she could go to California to help her mom. Nothing had worked. Then she got picked up on a warrant on Saturday and came to jail. She'd tried calling her family, but no one answered, or the phones were blocked and couldn't take a collect call. And then I came to her with this.

We prayed. And the men who met an hour later on another floor for a Communion Service prayed for her. So now I give her to you.