I’ve lived in a small rural town for a number of years and never considered it to be a big advantage over city life, until now. Our local police department was recently required to replace its almost 100-year-old jail with a new, state-of-the-art facility. The old building was left as it had been, on its last day of service. Even though the electric had been turned off, all of the mechanisms were controlled manually. Working for the town, I am also friends with one of the local officers. I asked him to show me sometime how the levers and control rods worked to open, close and lock the cells. He said he would be glad to.
I think it was nostalgic for him, but I was so amped when he called and said things were slow and that he could show me the place that afternoon. He unlocked the steel door, and we went in. After a tour of the three floors, we wound up on the third. He demonstrated how the control rod was pulled out to engage a cell, then a long lever was pulled forward to “Cycle” something (never really understood how it worked myself) then pushed back to its original place. The cell door unlatched and slid into the open position. I took a look at the dark cell. It was bad. No ventilation, no overhead lights, just old, rusty and dirty.
My friend asked if I wanted to try it out. I tried to hide my excitement, smiled and said “Sure.” He walked me down to the center cell, motioned for me to get in and stretch out on the steel bed. There was no blanket or any bedding of any kind. It was like lying on the concrete floor. Not comfortable in any way.
He said to put my hands up over my head, reaching back through the bars. When I did, he latched his handcuffs on me, preventing me from being able to get back up or out of the cell. He said that would settle down their most unruly inmates. He went back to the panel with the levers, and the door slid and locked solid.
Even if I had wanted to, I was going nowhere. He asked if I wanted out or to try it for “awhile.” I smirked and said I was good, and I’d like to try it out for a bit. He smiled and said, “OK, I’ll be back in a bit!” As soon as he was gone, I wondered what in the heck had I just done! And how long is “awhile”? Well, it was too late to be thinking up those questions. I would just have to wait to find out. After what seemed like “awhile” to me, I noticed my arms where starting to ache. It was a challenge to find a position that did not hurt from either the cuffs or the bars.
Time seemed to be passing very slowly. I could stare at the underside of the top bunk, or the steel walls, or over my head through the bars. There was nothing to really do. It was very warm in there, and I was ready to head on out of there. I really thought my friend would have been back to get me by now, it was easily past my usual time for dinner. Then is when I noticed, it was starting to get darker. I could not believe it! It gets dark about 8:30 or so this time of year. I had been locked up three hours or so! What if he didn’t get back till morning? How could I stand this overnight? My arms and wrists were hurting a lot by now. What could I do? There was no one in the building, and no one anywhere nearby. I had left my cell phone in his car for safekeeping. I was really stuck! After I could no longer see through the bars or the upper bunk, I knew it must be after 9. This was crazy. What was I thinking?
Finally I heard a car, then steps on the metal stairs, and the flicker of an approaching flashlight. It was my friend. All I could think of to say to him was, “I was hoping that was you.”
He said he was sorry to have been so long but had been called out and this was his first opportunity to get back. I had been locked up for only four hours. It had seemed like days to me.
I was pleased to have the handcuffs off, so much so it did not even seem a big deal when the door slid open and I was “freed.” My friend pointed out that was a very authentic jail experience I had just had. I smiled and said we should do it again sometime soon. He laughed and said anytime I was ready.