Walking into Maricopa County’s lovely Fourth Avenue Jail earlier today, it occurred to me that you don’t really see that many fanny packs outside of county jail waiting areas anymore. Sweat pants, too. There was one lady with a wispy brown mustache sporting purple sweat pants and not one, but two fanny packs. One had a broken zipper and a jumbo pack of Zig-Zag rolling papers poking out of a hole. The other was bulging but closed, filled no doubt with all kinds of fascinating objects. She was quite upset she couldn’t bring her fanny packs and their contents into her video visit.
That lady would ordinarily be the pièce de résistance of a wait to do a custody visit, but this time I was fortunate enough to overhear a conversation I only wish I had overheard when I first started practicing law, when clients and their families were far more mysterious to me. When I thought almost everyone had a baseline amount of reason and was capable of understanding at least the obvious things that follow from their ideas. I sure was naive back then.
The jail had only one window open, and there was a line. A prominent sign said something like “Attorneys Have Priority” or “Attorneys Please Step to the Front of the Line.” I can’t recall it specifically, but each jail has something like it posted. Either way, I saw there were no other lawyers and did just what the sign said. The lady waiting to get to the window immediately sighed at a volume clearly intended to get the attention of the entire waiting room.
“Oh, don’t worry about my running meter.” She sighed again, “It’s not like I’m just trying to see my baby. My poor, poor baby in jail.” She stuffed her visitation slip into the single tiny pocket on her sweatpants and crossed her arms, covering up the Duck Dynasty logo on her sweatshirt. Leaning toward another lady in line, she explained, “They get Fridays to themselves, attorneys do.” The other lady gave a righteous nod. “They need their own line. They should wait like the rest of us.”
The conversation went on as the two women waited. There were lots of sighs and sneers and judging glances at the attorneys in the waiting area. Having sparked a friendship, they sat together after finishing up at the window.
The second lady eventually asked the first, “Who you visitin’?” The first replied, “My baby. Nobody ever sees him. His no good public pretender hasn’t met him in jail in over a week. He’s gonna fire that loser, though. I don’t know what’s wrong with these lawyers. It’s my baby’s life. Don’t they care?” The other lady agreed, muttering “mmmmhm” while smirking approvingly.
They mostly sat in silence until the time came for their visits. At that point, the first lady stood up and scanned the waiting room, carefully eyeing the lawyers waiting for their visits. “I hope my meter doesn’t run out,” she declared in a tone obviously intended to make us all feel ashamed for cutting in line. She shook her head and shuffled away.
And there you have it. People can simultaneously be indignant about one thing while also being indignant about something else that would be infinitely worse if the other thing wasn’t the way it is. It’s like that in jail waiting rooms, and it’s like that in life.
It’s also important to remember that people may even magnify that indignation and justify it to others based on things that aren’t true. Like the lady who complained about the meter.
I later saw her driving out of the $5 all-day parking lot across from the jail.