I promise I am not whining. I’m actually in a pretty good mood considering but let me tell you a little bit about my day. Bria didn’t sleep very well last night. I can’t seem to get my act together. I’ve been in zombie mode. I rushed around this morning to make sure I had a deposit in on a family retreat for this weekend that has now been canceled due to weather. Did I mention Ray left again this morning and the oldest isn’t dealing well. Potty training is going well, but it’s still, well potty training. Then, I was bambuzzled into letting a friend come over later than I would like because frankly, her parents are bothered to have her hanging around while they do their thing and I’m only hanging out at home so why shouldn’t they drop her off here? It’s that same kid who won’t eat anything. I had leftovers parceled out quite nicely until I was told she would be dropped off and expected dinner. I put in a pizza. She just got here. It was then that I found out (after the pizza that was supposed to be for dinner after softball practice was in the oven) that she ate at home because she was certain that the pizza at our house wouldn’t be to her liking. That may be a run on sentence but that’s kind of how I feel the afternoon has gone…on and on… and on…

Since I can laugh at how wrong my day has gone. I thought it was a good time to share a story with you. It’s another story that has taken me a couple of weeks to laugh about. Here goes…

Last Friday, I sat in the van, a few blocks between Beale Street and the Pyramid. I was on Poplar, just passed the lovely streets in Memphis that are named after some of our fabulous 50 states. It was near the neighborhood where men tend to walk around during the day with brown bags over bottles. If I wasn’t sitting directly across from the sheriff’s office and Memphis police station with officers and deputies regularly walking by, I might have been a bit more nervous. Instead, I sat texting away on my phone, trying to record what was happening for posterity. I lost that post. Seems fitting now since so much seems to be lost in those few blocks between Beale Street and the Pyramid. To really tell you the story, I need to back up to events that have been happening over the last month.

We needed a clearance check from Shelby County. It seems easy enough. You just go the sheriff’s office and have them sign something saying you haven’t been arrested and you aren’t charged of a crime. Frankly, nothing can be easy in this state. Our social worker says to us, that if we can, check out the other sheriff’s office. See if they can process this for us because really, if you can avoid 201 poplar, you should avoid it. I did just that.

One morning, when Ray was supposed to be getting off early, I decided to take care of our clearances because the social worker told me that I could do it for both of us. I dropped the big girls at school and Bria and I were off to our local branch of the county sheriff’s office. I stepped into another world. I suddenly knew what Hansel and Gretel must have felt like when they wound up in the witch’s home. There was a skinny lady with a deep accent staring intently at Bria. She couldn’t seem to do anything without looking at her. Bria is a cute kid but she was not in her Memphis finest. Rain coat, sandals and a mismatched hat that she was insisting on wearing. Once I had sufficiently been creeped out, this sweet lady sent me to 201 Poplar which I will now refer to as hell on earth. She explains to me how to park and pay in advance. I let her know that I’m familiar with paying for my parking having moved from Virginia. I thanked her and raced off.

201 Poplar sounds innocent enough. It sounds like a building downtown. There is nothing innocent about it. You hit the 200 block of Poplar and there stands one structure that extends for the entire block. I could see only one way in located in the middle. We parked a block over and started our walk. I won’t try to describe what we were walking back and forth in front of. I will tell you at one point, a homeless man gave me more help than anyone else. You see the big building is not the one I needed to be in. I needed the glass annex. The building that you walk in and it says, “No cell phones! No Purses! No Exceptions!” That can’t be it. That’s the jail. That can’t be where I need to be to get a tiny little clearance.

In an effort to cut the story a little shorter, I will tell you after retracing my steps and about 45 minutes of in and out and walking and finally getting a deputy to help me, that’s where I needed to be. The deputy says,”but sugar, you’ll have to put your purse in a locker.” My purse and my beloved phone were going to have to separate from me. There was a wall of lockers that did not work. I finally found one small row that seemed to be in working order. No luck. They were all taken. I was close to a nervous breakdown when a little old lady came out. She was done. She gave me her key. I locked up my stuff. Paid my money and then realized with a tiny bit of cursing in my head that my paperwork was in the locker. So now Bria and I are in line with cash and paperwork and id and nothing else. We were walking into the Memphis City and Shelby County Jail/Holding Facility. It was what I imagine the bowels of hell would look like if it had only been on fire. Here is where I should mention that I have a degree in Criminal Justice. I helped stage a prison riot exercise at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville, KY. Walking through the security at 201 Poplar was a little bit scarier to me.

I was directed to a cinder block room on the left. I went in and there were four windows with signs that all seemed similar. The same people were working all four windows but if you didn’t pick the right one, you were gonna get a new hole chewed if you know what I mean. I finally get the right window and sit down with Bria who truly needs to let some energy out. I’m watching her strut around. I notice another gentlemen who I’m guessing is an attorney also waiting. He was waiting with his man purse. Holy Crap! I can’t bring in a diaper bag but Ving Rhames is here in his three piece suit with his man purse, that’s okay? Yes, he looked just like Ving Rhames and he thought Bria was very entertaining since she decided to play store with the empty windows.

Other interesting people included all the people coming from court to be processed and get their fingerprints done. One poor guy was here illegally, got a job and then proceeded to wreck the delivery van on his first delivery. Another one came in yelling about how sick he was with a wash cloth held to his face. This was fun, in a confined room with my child. The best was the lady that clearly looked high as a kite. She needed to document all of her tattoos. This was clearly going to take her all day. She sat in the little desk saying, “I ain’t gonna put that one down. Let them try to look at that one! I ain’t letting no body see down there!” Lovely lady really. (Where is that sarcasm font?)

I waited in that room a little over an hour wondering if anyone was looking for me. I told the girls if I got finished, I would have lunch with them. That was out. Later I found out Hanan waited forever for me without buying her lunch. Mother of the year, that’s me! Finally my name is called. Ray’s paperwork is wrong. 30 minutes later and I think I’m done. Nope! I now have handheld directions sending me to the 10th floor of another building.

I get my phone and call Ray, who by the way wasn’t the least bit concerned with where I was or why I was taking so long. I was probably close to tears and said something like, “I’m not leaving until this is done!” I get on an elevator after my 5th metal detector and go to the 7th floor. The elevator stopped on 7. Really. It didn’t take me long to find the right elevator. I get where I need to be. Again, I’m given a hard time. They refuse to finish Ray’s if he’s not there. They start mine. I’m waiting with a disgruntled employee that makes my time there really pleasant. Apparently his home was a terrorist ground, I was sitting with an MPD officer and who was just arrested for assaulting someone on his property. Good times. Finally she says, “Mrs. Stiff, I can start but there’s no one here to sign it. All our deputies are in a meeting. You can wait a couple of hours or come back another day.”

I grabbed my papers and ran. I called Ray. I let him know my failures and then I cried because oh my goodness I have to go back. Highway To Hell kept running through my mind. I went back a few days later. My social worker assured me that they would do Ray’s. No such luck but I had my stamp and my papers and I was outta there.

Couple of weeks later, Ray was in and out of town. I begged him to go and get his taken care of so we could get on with things. It would be easy really. I had gotten his paperwork already. That’s when you’ll find me sitting in a van, texting trying to post to the blog from my phone as he has to make multiple trips back out to the van, enter the bowels of hell to get his paperwork redone, pay more money and finally go back to the tenth floor to get one dang stamp.

As Ray likes to say, it seems ridiculous that we are asked to do all this considering all the money they navy has already dumped into investigating him. I then drove him to the other side of town to get his TN fingerprints. We’ll still have to do federal fingerprints later. Then get even more stuff notarized.

The very sad part is, we’re just getting started. We still have medical forms, financial forms, notarizations, authentications, fingerprints, forms, letters and miles of paperwork to go. Don’t tell Ray though. I think he needs another couple of weeks to get over 201 Poplar AKA the bowels of hell before I ask for anything else.