Today I was stripped searched. Another man demanded I remove my clothing. As I headed toward the curtained off area where this unfolded, I handed him my belt, ID card, and polaroid of my wife, sons, and myself that had been taken earlier on our visit. He told me to remove my shirt and hand it to him. He combed through it for contraband. I was told to run my fingers through my mouth. Separating my thick lips, I exposed my gums and tongue, and confirmed that I wore no false teeth or dentures. In preparation for the metal detector awaiting me after the search, the officer asked if there were any bullets or metal rods inside of me.
I was then asked to raise my arms to expose my pits and turn my head side to side, pulling back each ear as though I was able to hide something behind them. Feeling like a magician building anticipation in his audience for the next trick I showed each side of my bare and empty hands. The next step was running those magic hands through my short, dark, kinky hair.
Next I was ordered to remove my sneakers one at a time, handing them over for examination. The examination was intense as each tongue of the shoe was lifted, the laces undone, and the inside soles removed. The officer beat the bottoms of my shoes together and then against the concrete wall incase he missed something. When they were deemed clean he tossed them carelessly on the floor in front of me.
I knew that my pants were next, so I took them off and neatly handed them to the officer. I watched as he turned them inside out, shake, and molest them as he looked for hidden seams and pockets. The officer then asked me to remove my underwear and hand them to him inside out, without shaking them. He ran his hands through the elastic band and crotch as I stood before him completely exposed. The only thing remaining on my body were my socks. Those would soon follow, ending up on top of my sneakers.
Now completely naked I was commanded to lift up my member and jewels. “Turn around” he said, ordering me to lift each foot one at a time, twinkling my toes. He then asked that I bend over and spread my cheeks so that the intestinal pressure would squeeze my sphincter revealing anything inside.
If even the smallest bit of toilet paper is visible, he could have me sent to the “doo-doo room.”
This is a cold observation cell where the confined mans clothing is taken and replaced with a thin cloth medical type gown. The room consists of a supremely thin mattress, a set of white sheets, and a comparably thin blanket. There is no pillow. There is no sink. There is no toilet. If you got to go, it’s in a bucket brought in by an officer.
Before you can leave the observation room you are required to give three excrement samples in the bucket. All samples are analyzed for illicit paraphernalia. Most officers working that unit don’t want you to dump on their watch, so if you do go, they don’t count it. If any urine or feces get on the sheets or gown, your count starts all over again.
My outerwear was hung on hooks as I waited for the officer to tell me I was clear and could begin to get dressed. Sometimes the officer will stand outside the curtain peeking through the slit to see if somehow I was able to keep something hidden on my body. His search for drugs and weapons is never over. He’s hungry like a hound on a fox’s trail.
After the first dozen times of the search you become numb to it. You anticipate the commands because they become so routine. Now as soon as the curtain is pulled back I begin to strip, allowing myself some dignity. Sometimes I initiate small talk, asking about the recent game or latest crises. Some officers feel as uncomfortable as you, so I try to make it lite to keep our minds occupied.
I never allow my focus to dwell on the search, or my fear of a trip to the “doo-doo room.” I instead focus on my wife and children. I focus on how happy I am to have been able to see them. I focus on how thankful I am to be able to share a few hours with them.
My birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are spent at a square table, with a maximum of three visitors, and vending machine food. I am very appreciative of this blessing. Every visit, every moment that I am fortunate enough to share with my wife and children, is a gift that I appreciate and cherish. I will love them everyday like it’s the last time I’ll ever see them. Anything that I endure, including the search, as a result of being with my family is worth it.
Love gives us the power to endure. Just look to Jesus who loved us so deeply He endured the cross.