Sometimes You're Not As Safe As You Think

I recently made yet a third road trip to the dermatologist in Bastrop for some taxpayer-funded skin care. Once again I was unfortunately traveling with an inmate from the low security prison next door who must have been a serial killer as it was necessary for us both to be shackled. Actually, the other inmate was rather meek, very polite, in his late 70s and could barely get into the van--not exactly Hannibal Lecter. If you've never been shacked, it's a surreal and somewhat painful experience. I cannot recommend it.

Accompanying us in the rolling cage that looked like a Ford van were three of the Bureau of Prison's finest, regaled in body armor and packing semi-automatic handguns. During the trip, I needed to scratch my nose, but couldn't reach it in the shackles, so I finally just relaxed and pretended to be asleep. This gave me the opportunity to "ear hustle" (prison term for eaves drop) on the officer's conversation about some of the arguments and fights they had started with people who looked different in various bars, pizza restaurants, and convenience stores around central Texas. It was a classic "I can top that!" type conversation that gave me the impression I was traveling with a harmless senior citizen and three dangerous lunatics in uniforms.

When we arrived at the dermatologist, there was a back door, but naturally the officers wanted to parade us through the main entrance. It's difficult to parade wearing shackles, so I shuffled to the elevator and eventually into the waiting room where four unfortunate patients were now awkwardly waiting as the room got significantly smaller. One was a woman who appeared to be in her mid 70s.

Normally people just won't make eye contact with anyone wearing shackles, but she took a long look at the two dangerous criminals and then at the three storm troopers. Turning to the men in uniform, she said, "Thank you for your service. You surely make me feel safe." I spoke up, "Safe? Woman, you need to just thank the good Lord this isn't a bar, pizza restaurant, or convenience store."

Of course I only said that in my mind. Sometimes that's best; particularly when shackled.