kafkaesque non-fantasy land
Wednesday, May 18 2011
I'd agreed to go down to Eastern Correctional Facility today to install a printer in the computer lab that serves inmates participating in the prison college degree program Gretchen works for. The existing printer was on the fritz, and without it the students might have to submit their work long hand. Mine was considered an emergency tech support call, and you would think that it would be given some sort of priority. But you live in a unkafkaesque fantasy land where dust bunnies don't accumulate under couches and every drop can be shaken from a penis post-urination. Much depends on who is running the prison's front desk, and today it was being run by the woman, let's call her Frosty, who once counted out pc jumpers from a container I'd brought to make sure no extras got into the facility. I could tell she was in full-on crackdown mode as she thumbed through the art history book brought by one of the professors who had hoped to bring some enlightenment into this medieval place. After coming upon the inevitable bare breasts of Tahitian women as painted by Paul Gauguin, it was pretty clear she was never going to let it in.
When my turn at the counter came, Frosty told me that my gate clearance had actually been scheduled for 9am that morning, information that lay completely out of my plans. Evidently there had been a paperwork fuckup. Such things are common in the paper-dependent world of the New York prison system, though there is little in the way of tolerance for errors. The thing is, even if I'd come at 9am this morning, I wouldn't have been able to get in at that time because the prison had been under "lock down." Frosty's attitude throughout such interactions is always mildly hostile and maddeningly impersonal. Frosty has seen me dozens of times over the past four years, but every time it's as if she's never seen me before in her life. It reminds me of the Simpsons, where in every episode involving Homer Simpson and Mr. Burns, it's as if Burns is learning of Homer's existence for the first time. "Who is this Simpson you speak of?"
As unpleasant as Frosty is, she could have just shooed me away at that point, but to her credit she went back in the back to try to find someone who might be able to amend my gate clearance. Finding nobody with that sort of power, she told me that my getting into the facility was an impossibility. I'd driven 25 miles for nothing. So I marched with my printer back out to the car and drove home. On the way I listened to a TED podcast featuring Al Gore, the message of which was as follows: our wasteful, prolifigate use of fossil fuels (including, one imagines, driving 50 miles for no reason) is slowly but surely destroying the stability of our planet's environment.
While I was out, I did a little shopping at Emanuel's in Stone Ridge and also got myself a falafel sandwich at Bodacious Bagels. It's one of the few fast food items still available to me.
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