30 August, 2018

I Wear the Green Dot

When I arrived at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center, there was a whole raft of rules to internalize. Maybe the one that’s taken the most getting used to concerns Department of Corrections ID cards. At Crossroads we could stash our IDs anywhere on our person, as long as we were able to produce it whenever a staff member told us to. I carried mine in my right front trouser pocket. Transferring to this facility, ERDCC, where all pants are elastic-waisted and pocketless has caused some awkward moments of motioning to tuck away my hands, only to slide them along my thighs. Ridiculous, how some habits can leave us to flounder.

Each housing unit here is designated a certain color code. Black is for Housing Unit 11. Green is for Housing Unit 6. Yellow is for 5. Red is for 4. Blue is 3-House’s color. And because there aren’t suppliers, apparently, of circular vinyl stickers in any other colors, yellow, with a black dot in the center, is for Housing Unit 1. When you’re assigned to a housing unit, a guard in its control module takes your ID and sticks a dime-sized indicator onto its upper-right corner. Thenceforth are your name and address indicated. In theory, it’s like any driver’s license.

Then I got my little clip, with its dangly transparent pocket, to hold my ID. I was told to always have this affixed to my shirt front, on the left side. Always.

“Hey,” I want to tell people, ‘’my eyes are up here.” The instinct here is to look at everyone’s ID before engaging, reading the name, studying the mugshot, and doing the math to figure out, based on the birth date, how much respect to convey in the exchange.

A quiet, low-visibility day-to-day hasn’t kept me from being somewhat widely recognized, by name and at significant distance, here. Comparatively, I remained a nameless face to most of the guards and administrative staff at Crossroads, even after sixteen years there. Being identified by strangers feels like wearing an odd size of coat. I’m sure I’ll get used to it with time. Meanwhile, please forgive me if I fidget a bit with the strange fit.