Monday, June 29, 2009

Laughin' and Cryin' (Vocabulary Lessons)

Okay. I'm not street smart. My jail lingo is limited. I'm dumb enough to say "jaybird" instead of "jaycat." Not that the library staff needs to diss or label anyone as crazy! I don't need to throw this word around like deputies or inmates do. There are a thousand reasons to feel or be crazy, so it's good to know this word. Any one of us--dropped into a jail cell for 48 hours--would discover our inner jaycat, for sure!

Enough said. The felines never cease to surprise. One young man stood by the book cart and said he was on hiatus. I asked, "From where?" He said, "The Streets!" Funny guy, he added that he was "on sabbatical" in jail! I hope he has TENURE and they hold his high-paying professorship while he's in here!

Next stop: "Caucasian." Today a guy wanted help spelling the word. We consulted the diminutive dictionary sold in canteen. No go. The dictionary was designed for primary school. In our budgetary heyday, we brought American Century collegiate dictionaries. So this inmate and I did the old "sound-it-out" routine, separating syllables into "Cauc" and "asian."

Glad it wasn't "supercalifragilistickexpealidocious."

The team encountered another inmate. The deputy was reading one of our entertainment magz and asked the inmate if he liked Mary Poppins, he said, "Sure." After a some good-natured scoffing, the guy said, "I like the way she sings. [Julie Andrews.] Just because I look like this (pointing to shaved head and jail clothes,) doesn't mean I don't know things. I have a brain." Turns out he'd spent his whole childhood in juvenile detention centers or camps throughout the state, but that is where he lived. That's not his LIFE.

It was great to hear this young man's spirited defense of his mind. This is exactly why the Library opens its doors every day to people who are free or goes behind locked doors to those who are incarcerated! We can't bring in a Broadway musical, but we can offer him a ladder to paint his sky with stars.

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