Prison is awful, but even in prison amusing things happen.
Someone recently asked me this question.
“What was the weirdest thing that happened during the time you were a guest of the Federal government?” (She was too polite to say “while you were in prison”)
The answer amazed her.
My mother passed away in 2013 when I was incarcerated at FCI Herlong in Northern Nevada. The Federal Bureau of Prisons allows inmates to attend parental funeral services if the inmate is not a safety risk to the community, has a spotless behavioral record and meets other criteria. I met the criteria and was granted a 4-day furlough to travel to Ohio to be with family. One day before the service, the prison’s “town driver” (a Camp inmate approved to drive other inmates to the bus station or airport) took me to the Reno airport.
The time in Ohio was a roller coaster of intense emotions. Seeing my mother in the casket was really tough. Not having seen her in the final 4 years of her life made me a horrible son to my way of thinking; a regret that I still carry.
On the plus side, it was the first time since 2009 that I had been “in the world.” It was the first time I had spent time with my wife, children, family and friends outside of the locked confines of a prison visitation room. The flavorful food, bathroom privacy and freedom of movement were awesome.
At the services, several asked, “They just let you go and expect you to go back?”
Now, the funny part.
I arrived back at the Reno Airport a day later at the assigned time. The town driver was nowhere to be found and I did not have money for a cab or have a cell phone. Patiently, I waited near the arrivals curb for 30 minutes and then an hour (I was in no rush to get back and be locked up). Finally, I went to the airport police substation, explained who I was to an incredulous cop and asked if I could use a phone. The officer was helpful, but asked, “They just let you go and expect you to come back?”
I called the prison. The person who answered said, “What inmate are you calling about?” I responded that I was the inmate. He gives a confused “What? You are the inmate?” and puts me on hold for 15 minutes until the phone connection died. I had to call back and go through the same drill. (I offered to stay in a hotel overnight if it was too inconvenient to pick me up which got a “just sit there, smartass” response.) Two hours later, a town driver shows up at the curb. All in, this “dangerous” felon was planted on a bench at the Reno Airport waiting for about 4 hours.
Roadside Scholar Tip: You can’t make this stuff up. Government efficiency is an oxymoron. Do not wait for the government to solve your problems.
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