Who ya gonna call?

By Nancy Black

Eight-six-seven-five, three O nine! That’s the only telephone number I know by heart these days. And it doesn’t even belong to anyone I know. It’s from a hit Tommy Tutone song from 1981 about a girl named Jenny. 

Kind of humorous, not knowing any telephone numbers these days. And I am sort of exaggerating. I have my children’s numbers memorized, our office answering service’s and probably my siblings’ if I were to concentrate really hard. But my reality is, if I were in a pinch, I wouldn’t know how to call anyone who could help me, because I don’t know their numbers. 

I went to visit a friend in the Dallas County Jail this past Friday evening. Wow! What an experience, though not necessarily one I would recommend. From the moment I started walking toward the dark façade of the Lew Sterrett Justice Center on the outskirts of downtown Dallas, my heart began to race. 

The closer I got, the more frightened I became. Not of any shady looking people hanging around outside; everyone looked pretty normal to me. It was just unwarranted fear of the unknown.

My friend in jail may or may not be guilty of her charges. I have no idea. But I do know, when she was arrested a month and a half ago, she didn’t even have her cell phone on her body. So, she had no numbers memorized by heart for anyone she knew “on the outside” who could possibly help her.

When booked, prisoners are asked to write down the names and telephone numbers of people who can bail/bond them out and/or call and visit them. They are not allowed to update this first list, from the first day of booking, FOR THREE MONTHS! The next time inmates get contact with anyone willing to help them is when they meet with their assigned public defender, which could be WEEKS after their initial booking process.

My mind started racing when I heard that news. Especially since it meant I would not be able to visit her that rainy night. She had no way of knowing I was even there or that I had added money to her commissary account. Most of the guards and sheriffs on duty were nice enough to me as I struggled to understand the rules of our city’s jail. But I left not knowing if she would ever be aware I had even been there, or that she could eat something other than a bologna sandwich for lunch.

As I drove away from the Justice Center, this time heading toward the bright lights of downtown Dallas, all I could think about was numbers. Whose number would I write down? Who could, and would (BIG questions!), really help me in times of true trouble? Innocent until proven guilty, but if I were arrested right this second, or was in an accident and/or separated from my cell phone and in dire need, whose number would I write down, blurt out or scream?

My solution was my lawyer’s office telephone number. They have an answering service, too. They already know everyone who is anyone in my life. And I will now have firm instructions to them as to what actions to take if I were to be somehow incarcerated or otherwise need emergency help.

There is only one problem. Before I can put my unsuspecting lawyer’s number to memory, I have to stop hearing that silly pop song in my head. Eight-six-seven-five, three O nine!