Mined from the notebooks, Sunday, May 20, 2018. Posted Monday, June 4.
The Westchester County Jail is next door to the hospital. Actually, it’s essentially on the same grounds and looks like an extension of the med school campus, except for the razor wire. The hospital is for all intents and purposes the jail infirmary. Jail is a leftover term. It’s a prison with a population of longterm inmates, convicted felons of various degrees, although I’m not sure that includes first-degree ones. Ill and injured prisoners who wind up at the hospital are still prisoners, of course, and need to be guarded, which helps explain why uniformed law enforcement officers are in and out of here all day and all night and why the drive in front is as busy with rollers and police vans as the title credits of “Hill Street Blues”. At shift changes, the groups going in and out the doors sometimes seem to feature as many badges and as much Kevlar as stethoscopes and white coats. Tonight as I was on my way out, I met a trio coming in, all with big white letters spelling out CORRECTION on their vests
They entered in a line. The male officer in the rear was olive-skinned, fortyish, possibly Hispanic but possibly Arab-American, shovel-jawed and good-naturedly grinning, with his bill cap pushed back from his forehead and and his short-sleeved uniform shirt revealing that both his arms were as tattooed from his wrists to his elbows as an NBA star’s or many of the inmates he guards’. In the middle was a short and stout white woman in her late forties with a broad, smiling face and her sandy blond hair pulled back tightly, snow white roots showing around her forehead and temples. And in the lead was a tall, dark, and handsome white guy in his early thirties, as good-looking, trim, and fit as an actor playing a heroic cop on TV. Unlike the other two, his mood was unreadable. He didn’t look dour or grim, but he was serious and purposeful, his mind on the business at hand. When he stopped to check off boxes on his tablet and then to lift his left shirt collar point to say something into the microphone clipped there, the other two stayed in line behind him, their smiles not dimming in the least. The tall officer spoke softly enough that I couldn’t hear his voice even though the lobby was as quiet as you’d expect with the midnight shift beginning.
This reminds me. The city of Yonkers is in Westchester County and it’s not far from here, and Yonkers cops are among the regular police presence, although they’re often here in the company of ambulances and enter and leave through the emergency room which is in a separate wing that’s practically a whole hospital unto itself, so I haven’t run into many of them, just glimpsed them a long ways down the hall, striding alongside gurneys shuttling patients to examination rooms or ORs. But one day early in Mrs M’s stay I shared an elevator with one, a young female officer who looked like a cop, carried herself like a cop, a wore the serious, unreadable expression of a cop, but, I noticed, had just had her nails done. Her nails weren’t long or oversharp, the tips were rounded, as a matter of fact, but they still seemed more practical for office work than patrol duty. Pink polish but not pink polish.
Before I headed out to the car, I stopped at the cafe to grab a cup of coffee for the road. The grinning, olive-skinned corrections officer had gotten there ahead of me. I said he looked either Hispanic or Arab-American, but he could have been black but with a very light complexion or could have been white with a somewhat dark one, Greek or Italian, maybe, or maybe he was all of the above or some combination, a typical American of the already arrived future type that makes Trump voters so angry, insecure, and afraid. Whatever. He was at the coffee bar making himself a large cup of tea. His grin had grown into a full-fledged smile that he was wearing just for himself. He’s probably cheerful by nature but I wonder if hospital duty is an assignment corrections officers look forward to. I imagine it is. Change of scenery, change of pace. More comfortable surroundings. Many chances to sit down. Friendlier company. And much less physical risk. When I Googled the jail---because I always do my homework---three of the first four news stories that came up were about officers who had been in altercations with inmates, one put in the hospital as a patient herself.