You're not on the list

image.jpg

"You're not on the gate, you can't come in. "

"Right, but it should be on the list. Here's my name, it's different on my passport - look at this section"

"It's not on the list. Your name needs to have been put on the list 48 hours ago."

"Just look please, look here."

"Sit down over there. There's no answer" - wait wait wait wait - " what's your name again?" Wait wait wait... "Yeah, you're not on the list."

"But your colleague just rang someone, they said they were coming down for me?"

Wait wait wait. 

I wonder: if I'm this frustrated now, how frustrating must it be to be a prisoner? 

"If you're not on the list you might as well go. Oh, hang on, here you are." Visitor pass, phones, last piece of gum, the fork you forgot to take out of your bag 

I wonder if this is a good thing; I was just about to give up, go and do something easier.

Go in - wait some more - wait until someone comes to collect you - wait - wait - wait -

"Excuse me, did you ring the office, to ask them to collect me?"

wait - wait - wait

Gate keepers: sometimes you get in, sometimes you don't. After a while, you get given keys. This while is lengthy and involves many different forms, tracking people down to get approval, special training to be able to use the keys, all sorts of protocols, all sorts of bureaucracy. 

Some people manage to get in with less hassle than others; some seem to face complex difficulties. I wonder if I'm outside trying to get in because, on some level, I don't want to go in there.  

This is hard stuff. 

After a while, you start to forget all of it, start to forget your resistance, forget the rejection from them. After a while, you can move around without feeling so helpless. After a while, you walk past people waiting at the gate as you say hello to the people behind it, who have become acquaintances who smile at you. You understand their job now, their mysterious systems.

You're not sure if they've had a Ryanair-like customer service turn around, or if you've changed, if you've negotiated access, if you've crossed the boundary. 

Staff that I manage tell me they can't get in, that their name wasn't on the gate. I think: why don't they understand? What the hell is wrong with them? 

This is simple stuff. 

Copyright, Holloway Prison Stories. May not be used without permission.