Our office is about three blocks from the courthouse. Here’s a picture of where I do my “daily beat.” You can see to the right the beginnings of the more modern addition, which more than doubles the size of this picturesque older part. Hard to get a picture of the whole thing
Because parking is at a premium in our downtown (and because we are lazy), when we lawyers have a court appearance, someone from the staff drops us off at the front door and picks us up when the trials are over. I love saying, “Just a sec…I’ll call for the car…” (See my previous post on my love of “staff.”)
On pretty days I wait for my ride outside the courthouse on the sidewalk. I enjoy standing there watching folks coming and going, shooting the breeze with my fellow lawyers as they pass by on their way to their own hearings. Yesterday was such a day—gorgeous fall weather.
I no longer do criminal-law work (having the luxury of that option!), so I have little contact with the “underground” of the courthouse, where our “holding cells” are. Sometimes, I get a jolt of reality of the “other side” when my path intersects with that legal arena.
Yesterday, as I was awaiting the chauffeur, prisoners were being brought up from the cell to be transported back to whatever incarceration unit they had come from. There were, maybe, twenty of them, shackled together, wearing prison-issued “scrub-like” clothing, some of these bearing the (I guess) honorary title “TRUSTEE” across the back. There were both men and women.
I watched as they loaded onto the bus, accompanied by armed Deputy Sheriffs. I couldn’t help but watch for the noise.
There was (just no other word for it) much “hooting.” There was vile profanity being shouted. Several from up and down the line chimed in together. The racket was amazing. The officers seemed totally nonplussed—like this is just the way it is all the time.
I wondered if the ranting was purposeful, if the participants were, together, protesting some ill treatment or injustice. I don’t think so. It seemed like some type of random group rage against the system, not requiring any previous connection between them. But I don’t know for sure.
As the shock of the scene began to dull, it dawned on me that I should snap a shot, so I did (having my little point-and-click nestled in my purse). Here’s the scene, much quieter by the time I got to my camera:
The prisoners had just gotten all loaded on the white bus, and I regret that I did not think to snap before, as they were all lined up outside.
Now, let me point out to you the woman to the left of the sidewalk. I had noticed her earlier. She hovered up closer to where I was standing for a while, sauntering slowly toward the group, watching. I never saw her greet any of these people, but she seemed as interested as I was, so I wondered if she had a personal connection with some of those bus riders.
But here’s the thing I noticed most about her: the bag you see hanging from her right shoulder is a diaper bag. Peeking over her left shoulder is a blanketed, tiny, tiny baby. I could see his/her little face and tiny fingers from underneath the blanket as she stood next to me. This baby looked days, not weeks, old. In the woman’s right hand was a cigarette at all times. She chain smoked the five minutes or so we were together, stomping out the butts on the sidewalk as she finished each.
As a mother, I recoiled at the thought of having such a little one amongst the throng at the courthouse; and I was not pleased by the chain smoking while holding an infant.
I have thought about her, the baby, the prisoners and their behavior, the whole scene since.
Just as I was snapping this shot, a good friend who is a law clerk for a criminal division strolled up, curious about what the heck I was doing with my camera. I remarked on the level of noise that went on as they entered the bus. His comment: “C, they’re always that way.” Really? So this wasn’t an event-driven moment? It was just mob behavior….
Back to the woman and the baby…I don’t know what to say. I am worried for this child growing up, wanting to pray for him/her. Should I be worried? Am I just naive? Is it smug and superior of me to wish that this infant’s life looked a bit more like my own son’s life did at that age—nestled in a clean, safe nest without thought of moving among the masses or side stream smoke?
And then there is another woman who walks, incessantly, by our office every day. We see her, rain or shine, triple-digit or freezing temperatures. I snapped this shot of her as she walked away from me down our sidewalk. Truthfully I am afraid for her to see me photograph her. One friendly lawyer tried to greet her one morning and she spewed profanity at him, accusing him of raping her…no, I’ll keep my distance, for she is clearly not in her right mind. Left unapproached, she remains impassive as we move about her. But she’s there, walking, walking, walking, and we all assume she spends nights in some shelter.
I like to think that my job offers me a cross-section slice of society on view, but I think I’m kidding myself. After all, my clientele select out—by necessity—those who cannot pay me. So, while I see a lot of the darker side of life, I think there is a whole different sector with which I really never intersect.
I thought about God’s-eye view, as He looks down from the heavens, zooming in on individuals. What must He see? Beauty, for sure, but also misery and isolation that I miss as I move about in my bubble.