In my last installment of this epic trilogy, I must do all these things. Can I? Is it possible? Will I succeed?
Well, I certainly can't if I just ask myself questions the whole time, now can I?
It was a day like any other - right, so that's NOT the way to start that sentence. It was a day like any other two days of my life, those two being quite specific and extremely rare, but it was similar to those days. Yet again, I had showed up to community service, amidst the gang-bangers, near the potential-dangers, among the wing-wangers, and I was HAPPY. That's right, you heard me, HAPPY. I'll write it again if I want to, but I don't want to. This was my last day, my very last day of doing this ever (at least I fucking hope so), and I had the routine DOWN. I knew this ritual like the back of my ass, which isn't that good, but it's damn good enough.
Check in, sign in, sit down, get up, go outside, put on your vest, get in the van, drive to destination, get dropped off, pick up trash, get picked up, repeat. Easy as washing your hair, just with 9 more steps. Nine steps which I had grown so accustomed to that I knew this day would be a breeze. Buh-reeze.
They call the men first.
"Alright, fellas! Into the vans!"
And we wait.
We wait as we watch the men pile outside.
We wait as we watch the men load into the van.
We wait as we watch the men drive off.
We wait as we wonder why the fuck we're still waiting.
And then we find our answer.
"Well, y'all are lucky today, girls! Y'all get to sit inside all day!"
Slow it down. Back it up. Make it dramatic.
"Y'all. Get to sit. INSIDEEEEE. Alllllllllllllllllllllll DAAAAYYYYUUUUUUHHHHHH."
Are you getting this? Did you gasp? Did your hand fly over your mouth? Did you squirt a little pee-pee in your pantsies? I doubt you did. Because I don't think anyone can really understand this unless they've done it. But lucky for you, I'm here to do my best to illustrate it for you.
Eight hours. You got that? You understand the concept of time, yes? Eight hours is a lot. In eight hours, you can have sex 32 times. In eight hours, you can eat 16 meals. In eight hours, you can drive from Nashville, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana. In eight hours, you can fly from New York to London, and then take an hour-long walk once you get there. But instead of going to Europe, my 8 hours was to consist of sitting in a metal folding chair. In a tiny white room. With nothing to look at. But the clock. On the wall.
EIGHT HOURS OF MY ASS BONES BEING RUBBED BY METAL.
EIGHT HOURS OF CLOCK-STARING, AND NOT EVEN THE FUN, DIGITAL KIND.
EIGHT HOURS OF HAVING GOOD POSTURE.
EIGHT HOURS OF PERSONALLY REFLECTING ON MYSELF AND MY LIFE AND WONDERING WHAT THE FUCK I DID TO DESERVE THIS AND WHETHER OR NOT I WILL EVER FIND MY FAVORITE PAIR OF GLASSES I MISPLACED A YEAR AGO AND WILL I GET WRINKLES IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? AND WILL MT TOES EVERY STOP SWEATING? AND WHY COULDN'T YODA BE LUKE'S FATHER INSTEAD OF DARTH VADER? AND IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE FOR LITTLE, GREEN MEN TO HAVE HUMAN BABIES?
Eight hours of losing my mind.
We were told no rules unless we broke one. The first being: you can't lie down.
"Miss, you gotta sit up. You're not allowed to lie down."
"But I'm 7 months pregnant."
"You can sleep, but ya can't lie down."
Okay, lady. If I can't fall asleep sitting up on a piece of cold metal, I seriously doubt a girl who has another human inside of merely one section of her body can do it.
Well, I was going to tell you some more rules we learned, but as I sat there going insane/eating some jellybeans, I was rudely interrupted by a girl I had seen at community service every time I'd gone.
"Whachu in here for? You don't talk. You done somethin' real bad, didn't ya?"
What? WHAT? What is this fucking shit? It's fucking high school all over again, that's what it is. Emo. See, that one's accepted by society. Someone can ask if you're emo, no big deal. They're not gonna get smacked. But I was looking at this girl, and according to society, I'm not allowed to judge her based on her appearance and give it a name, just as she had done to me. I wanted to say,
"No, I am not emo. Are you in Special Ed?"
But, alas, it's not allowed. Whoever wrote these unwritten rules could of had the fucking decency to actually write them. Then maybe I'd respect them more.
"No, I'm not emo."
"But you all dark. And you in all black all the time."
"Yes, yes. Well, I like black. Black is nice. Black is my favorite. Black is a color."
See Spot? See Spot Run. See Natasha? See Natasha talk like re-re to the tar-tar.
Then she got up and left. Apparently to snort coke in the bathroom. Apparently that's all she had been doing for the past 30 consecutive days she had to serve in community service. Coincidentally, today was her last day, as well.
Then came Chatty Cathy. Ever seen a Chatty Chain-Smoking Cathy? She was taken off the market because parents thought she was a "bad influence" on children, but here she was again, in the flesh.
"I can smoke these inside because they're electronic cigarettes, not actual ones. They got a battery and were 100 dollars and come in different flavors."
"Yeah, really. And I can smoke these inside because they're electronic cigarettes, not actual ones. They got a battery and were 100 dollars and come in different flavors."
"Wow, that's neat."
"Yeah, it is neat. It's neat that I can smoke these inside because they're electronic cigarettes, not actual ones. They got a battery and were 100 dollars and come in different flavors."
"Yeah, I got blueberry-flavored, and coconut-flavored, and mary jane-flavored. And I can smoke these inside because they're electronic cigarettes, not actual ones. They got a battery and were 100 dollars and come in different flavors. Mary jane is my favorite flavor. You know, marijuana."
"A weed-flavored cigarette. That runs on batteries."
What is the world coming to.
"Yeah, and I can smoke these inside because they're electronic cigarettes, not actual ones. They got a batt---"
"A BATTERY! ...yes yes, I think you might have mentioned that."
I don't think I want to know what the world is coming to. But when it does come to that, whatever it is that awaits it to come, I will be going. In fact, I'll be gone. So it can come all it wants, because I would have already came and went. Come on.
Two hours down. Six more to go. Two hours of listening to two complete idiots. That's an idiot an hour.
These next two periods of torture consisted of listening to random tidbits of conversation:
"...he lost his sight and refuses to learn to read Brail so he is constantly walking into the women's restroom..."
I'm sure that's the last of his concerns, chick. He can't even see inside the women's bathroom, so why does it matter? I'm sure the sound of a woman's piss hitting a toilet doesn't sound much different from that of a man's piss hitting a urinal. Your secrets remain safe.
"...I got this new vibrator, honey, that goes in both ends!..."
"...Nuh-uh, girl! Da asshole is ONE-way traffic, not a 2-lane highway! I ain't into that shit!..."
When at a loss for conversation, it never fails to bring up the topic of sticking things up your asshole.
"...and I was pickin' up my boyfriend from school, and I told him he better have that joint rolled before we pull out of his high school parking lot 'cause I was ready to hit that shit..."
This coming from a 40-year-old woman who looked like a man, baritone and mustache included.
Idea for a new method of cruel and unusual punishment: Put someone in a room for 8 hours with a bunch of morons. The morons are instructed to never stop speaking, and the person being punished is not allowed to speak. They must only listen, slowly dumbing down their own brains. (The morons in the room would be ex-captives who were driven to idiocy by the same punishment now taking place.)
Four hours down, four hours to go. Half done, or half left to survive through? You choose.
I get up. I can't take it anymore. I had George Carlin waiting for me in my car, his words begging to be read.
"Excuse me, can I go get my book out of my car?"
"You're not allowed to read."
We are sent to do community service after committing a crime in order to BETTER ourselves, and we're not allowed to EDUCATE ourselves? Who's running this show? When will he be assassinated? Oh wait, only intelligent people get assassinated. Shit.
"I can give you a newspaper though."
ANGELS SINGING! BELLS RINGING! SANTA CLAUS EATING JELLO! WHATEVER THE HELL THE PHRASE IS! IT DOESN'T MATTER! NEWSPAPER! A NEWSPAPER! NEWSPAPER! A NEWSPAPER! NEWS! IN THE PAPER! A PAPER! OF NEWS! I HAVE NO OTHER THOUGHTS RIGHT NOW!
I dart out of her office, paper in hand, victory achieved. As soon as everyone sees me holding an object other than the bridge of my nose, they react the same way that I did.
"Ooh! Ooh! Can I have a section?! Let me get a section!"
"Is there a coupons page?! Girl, you know you gonna give me that Wal-Mart coupons page!"
"No, I want the Wal-Mart page!"
"We can share it, girl!"
"Can I have a page?! Can I have a page?! Boy oh boy, a real, live newspaper!"
Total. Frenzy. Over a newspaper. That's how bored we were. It was like someone had just bestowed us with...oh, I don't know. What do women want? Golden dildos? That's what these women would want, at least. Well, that's what it was like. For them, it was like being handed diamond asshole-stimulators.
After reading pages and pages of things I didn't even give a fuck about (politics, anyone?), I finally landed my overgrown fingernails on the Sudoku page. And you know what they say: if you give a mouse a cookie...
"Excuse me, could I have a pen?"
"A pen. I was going to do this Sudoku in the newspaper."
"Oh, you can't write on that, hun. It's not mine, I can't let you be writin' on it."
"Here's a pen though."
YEAH THANKS A LOT FOR THE PEN I'M NOT ALLOWED TO WRITE WITH.
So I go sit down in my chair, pen in hand. I'm trying to think of fun things to do with a pen without using its ink, putting the majority of them into practice. I can put it behind my ear! Eh, that's not that fun. How 'bout the other ear! Eh, feels the same as the first. I can...pretend to write with it! That makes me look crazy. Make-believe it's a magic wand! Damn, still looks crazy. Hmmm...stab someone! No, no, that's no good either...When I'd almost completely given up, about to give it to that one lady with the two-ended vibrator, thinking maybe she'd find something to put it in, I had an "a-ha" moment.
"Excuse me, could I have a piece of paper?"
And that's how I spent the next 4 hours. I copied the sudoku onto the paper, worked on it, doodled some, and continued to work on the sudoku. For 4 straight hours. Doodles and numbers. For 4 straight hours. Little old men with glasses and digits 1 through 9. For 4 straight hours. Cartoon mini-me's and single numerals. For 4 straight hours. Scribbly ---
THE MEN ARE BACK OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD HOLY SHIT!
I see my partner-in-crime and start frantically waving like the madman I had become, catching some bewildered glances from other men as they walked past.
"HEY! HEY! IT'S ME! DO YOU REMEMBER ME? IT'S BEEN SO LONG! IT'S NATASHA! NATASHA FERRIER! PLEASE, PLEASE TELL ME YOU RECOGNIZE ME!"
"...Have you been in here all day???"
"YES. And man oh man, do I have some stories for YOU."