New Orleans Parish Prison - Not for Tourists
Natchez Steamboat on the Mississippi River
(written on behalf of Dale)
I've always known about that song that goes: "I'm in the OPP. Yeah, you know me!" I never really knew or cared what OPP was or who the song was by. It was just a song that came on the radio every now and then and got stuck in my head for a day or so before I forgot about it completely for another six months. Then, as I sat behind bars in New Orleans and looked down at my orange jumpsuit, I saw printed the letters O-P-P. Then it hit me. Orleans Parish Prison! "I'm in the OPP." And there I was too. It was sort of like living a dream, but more precisely, a horrible, horrible nightmare.
When you're slightly (very) intoxicated, many things seem like a good idea. Often times, the poor results don't end up too disastrous. But questioning a New Orleans police officer's spelling ability while being questioned at three o'clock in the morning on Bourbon Street was definitely one for the "never again" basket. They don't take kindly to it.
Three hours later, after an uncomfortable car ride, a series of paperwork, more questions and a quick wardrobe change, I was sharing space with the lowest, filthiest degenerates of a famously crime-stricken city trying to fight off advances for my baloney sandwich. On further inspection of said sandwich, I decided I could pass on the crusted bread surrounded piece of gray meat. I gave it to my neighbor who added it to his pile of even older sandwiches. It seemed they were more valuable as currency than as nutrition.
Time stood still in there. There were people in the cell block--a large, solid walled construction with a tarp roof--who had been there for hours, days, weeks, months. Drunk and disorderlies (myself included, apparently) were thrown in with violent criminals and repeat offenders. There's no distinction. Orange jumpsuit means scum. Guilty until proven innocent.
I spent a few hours just lying on my bed hoping that someone was coming to bail me out. It would have been easier had my debit card worked, but insufficient funds meant insufficient luck and then it became a waiting game. Regular roll calls make it difficult to get any sleep, but they can provide entertainment. The usual answers of "here" and "present" were interspersed with more colorful responses. My favorite was, "Suck my d*ck!," although he quietened down after being threatened with solitary confinement.
After turning down a couple more sandwiches, I realized I had been there for 24 hours without sleeping. And added to the previous day, it made 38 hours awake. Not a bad effort, and I was beginning to wonder how much longer I could last when I had a wonderful interruption--my name by itself. That meant I was out. I liken the excitement and relief to how I imagine it must feel to win an Oscar. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I fended off a final advance by the large man trying to steal my shoes and was released back into the world. Bail had been posted at three o'clock. Eight hours later they decided to let me out. I walked home through the dark streets of New Orleans humming a familiar tune.