Back when I was a third-year plumbing apprentice, our firm won the bidding for a lucrative job—installing all the fixtures in the cells being built in the new addition at Chicago’s Cook County jail.
The rotund plumber whose tutelage I was under, took advantage of my slim frame, having me squeeze into all the tight spaces to check for leaks while he read the newspaper or chatted. That was okay with me, since I was eager to learn all I could. When the job neared completion, all the plumbers were pulled off the job except me, now tasked to complete all odds and ends.
My final chore was to both clean and caulk all the fixtures in every cell. Due to all the practice I had, I was already considered the Rembrandt of beading, consistently producing a tight bead—almost a work of art.
So there I was, caulking away, when suddenly I hear a loud whirring noise. Turning abruptly, I see the door slowly sliding shut. Panicking, I dove for the entry, but somehow stopped myself in mid-air when the thought occurred: “What if this door doesn’t close like an elevator door? What if nothing will stop it once it begins sliding? What then?”
The door closed, and I’m gripping the bars, screaming for someone to let me out, as if I just unjustly received a life sentence. However, I knew I was all alone, except for the hearing-impaired warden, who had even removed his hearing aids because they made his ears itch. Consequently, all I heard was my voice echoing throughout the cells.
As the warden sat in his office reading the newspaper at the far end, he suddenly decided to check the new cell doors he had closed for the first time. All at once, he saw my dilemma and began laughing so hard, he doubled over while holding his sides.
When he finally released me after the shortest prison stay in history, he said it was a lucky thing he had abruptly decided to check the doors. I told him that if he had checked the cells in the first place I never would have been trapped in the second place. This set off another round of laughter, complete with tears rolling down his cheeks.
When he finally regained control, he said he felt bad and wanted to make it up to me. He gave me a one-of-a-kind gift: a get-out-of jail-free card bearing his signature. Thank goodness I’ve never had to use it.
(photo courtesy of Damithri/Dreamstime.com)