J is for Jailed

I have one little quirky trait. Well at least one that I will admit to.

I am fascinated with jails… always have been. I blame my father.

He was a politician and a new jail had opened up in our town. Being who he was, he was required to go cut the ribbon (or maybe the wire) to announce its new opening. I guess small town Canada is desperate to celebrate anything.

Yay! We have criminals and now we have a finer place to put them. Check out these cells!

My eyes were wide open. I took it all in and from there it began.. the fascination that is… not the time spent.

Having visited jails in Canada and one in South Africa (admittedly a bit scary but a job requirement to determine voter eligibility for its first non-racial democratic election), my all-time favourite jail experience was visiting Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco.

Standing forlornly out in the water on an island, it felt eerie, unlike any place I have been. I couldn’t get my head wrapped around what it would have been like. Until I discovered…

There was actually a former prisoner signing autographs of his book right there in Alcatraz.

Rushing to the cue, I stand in awe. Like some teen obsessed with fan fiction, I wait to buy the book, get it autographed and then ask a question or two.

Finally I am there. I am standing in front of him. And this mouth, that usually works in overdrive, completely rebels.

I ask nothing. I am a star struck (well convict struck) loser.

Shyly moving away from the table, I grab the book and proceed to gobble it up; word by word.

On a more serious note, I am drawn to books about people wrongly convicted of crimes (David Milgaard) and how the justice system can fail. On a lighter (?) note, viewing Wentworth and Shawshank Redemption replaces my desire to visit jails; which occurs less and less. Probably a good thing.

Staying out of trouble with Cheryl and The Family C from A to Z.

Do you have a favourite book and/or movie that is set in a jail?


Sucking It Up To Ask A Question

I used to be really good at this.

When I was 18 and backpacking through Europe, we asked questions all the time. I remember an entire day spent looking for contact solution in some Italian city; desperately pointing to my contacts and using hand gestures for cleaning said contacts. Finally we hit the contact bonus and found some. A scary moment for an 18-year-old who might have to resort to wearing glasses which in the old days, were pretty sad affairs. Think 2 big thick coke bottle lenses in some kind of unattractive accompanying frame. So yes, I was motivated to ask the questions.

Gradually this changed. Somehow I became “cooler” or “wiser” or “more experienced” and I thought less of asking questions and more of finding it on my own. Do people actually get more stubborn and determined as they get older? Well… a glance at my mom and that might suggest some truth in that statement. 🙂 Anyway, I remember when this came back to bite me in the butt for the first time.

Chris and I were taking some alone time for a romantic holiday to San Francisco. My dad had sworn by San Francisco and said we MUST go there. So here we are on our first day out and I have the guidebook in hand and we are off to explore. Note to couples: before dating, ensure one of you is good at reading maps; NOT both of you think you are good at reading maps but maybe neither is. The latter doesn’t paint quite as pretty of picture. So we head towards China Town and this is where it begins.

“Ah, Chris, do you know where we are going?”


“Oh, okay. Should we just double-check on the map of our guidebook just to be sure?”

“Well, fine.”

I “read” map, set the direction, off we go, to NOT find China Town anytime soon.

“Do you want to take a look at the map? Just to know if we are definitely going the right way.”


Looks at it and off we go; still lost and wandering in maybe San Francisco circles; looking for a way out to find China Town.

This continued for some time. You know that deathly silence that occurs between couples when things aren’t quite working out? Yup. We had that going on pretty well.

Somehow by a miracle, we ended up in China Town but by that time, we were no longer “happily exploring” as much as “frustratingly enduring”. I remember entering the fortune cookie factory (our sole goal), looking around quickly and thinking, that wasn’t worth the fight.

So I have learned that sucking it up to ask the question a tad earlier can save you some grief later on.

Despite experience backpacking, you still end up in places where the guidebook is useless, or its maps are useless, or you are useless and you have to move beyond that pride. I once would have known how to manage and get on these Cambodian boats; knowing exactly which one, how much to pay, where to sit but upon returning to Cambodia, I would now have zero clue. Yes, Cheryl, despite having lived there, you will now have to ask some questions.