Me: Well, I guess I'm no longer here. Someone already signed me out.
G1: So you're a pastor?
Me: I am.
[I smile that charming ADF Clergy Smile™ we're all known for]
G1: It's always nice to see pastors around here. What church are you from?
Me: Ár nDraíocht Féin
[G1 looks confused, so I add:]
A Druid Fellowship.
G1: Oh. What kind of church is that?
[Obviously, my clarification didn't help]
Me: We're a Neo-Pagan church.
G1: Oh. We're Gideons, my husband and I. And so's our son. He's still back there. We're the people with the Bibles.
Me: Of course. You guys do great work. I love seeing you out there. It's nice to encounter folks who just want to share, not push.
G1: So you don't preach the Gospel?
[Now I noticed the dog-eared Bible open in front of her. She was reading Mark]
Me: No, ma'am. I do not.
G1: Well, I'll pray for you, too, then.
Me: I do appreciate that, ma'am. It's always good to be the object of love from your fellows. So thank you.
[I smiled more broadly now]
G1: Are you local?
Me: No, ma'am. I'm from Columbus. One of our members is residing here. I come up when I can, but not as often as I'd really like.
G1: Columbus? That's a long way to come for up here. Did you have problems getting up here during those snowstorms?
Me: Actually, I watched the weather and got in and out just before that one hit. It was a heck of a drive, but it was worth it. It's about a three-hour round trip, give or take, and I know that the roads aren't exactly the best to be driving on in that weather.
G1: We came up once a week. They were surprised to see us that night, let me tell you, in our four-wheel drive with our bibles in hand! "Why'd you come up tonight?" they asked. "It's not for us," my husband told them. "They need us in there."
Me: Do you come up every Sunday night?
[pause, during which I realize it's not Sunday]
G1: Every Tuesday. Today's Tuesday.
Me: Oops. There I go, getting confused. Of course it's not Sunday.
[Mentally, I note that I still associate "doing religious stuff with Christians" as "Sunday only" events]
G1: Yeah, we made it up here and went back. They sure were happy to see us. You know, we go back into the cells, you know, back there.
Me: Back on the floor?
G1: Yeah. You just go back there, right? Back to the interview rooms?
Me: Yes, that's as far as I've been. I've never been back on the floor. I'm not sure what it's actually like back there.
G1: Well, at least you get to sit in a room alone with them. Their families don't even get that privileged. They have to talk through a glass window.
Me: I know. I really do feel very lucky to get to sit down and talk, with nothing between us. I wish that they'd get the chance with their families, too.
G1: You know, every time I go back there, I sit down with any who come by, and we read some of the Good Book, and we talk about whatever they want to talk about, and then, before I leave, the last thing I do is give them a hug. You know, that physical contact. . . they just don't get hugs in here.
Me: That's really good. I'm glad that you do that. Physical contact is very important.
["I hadn't thought of that," I think. "I'm here visiting a Pagan and I never thought that a hug was something that might be needed. I'm a dope." A mental note is made to do that next time, because, you know, I can.]
G1: How often do you come up here?
Me: I try and get up about once every two weeks. Weather has prevented me recently, though. This was really the first break where I've had a chance to come up in almost a month. It's a long drive, and the work I do for Ohio State often prevents me from making it up on a week day.
G1: What do you do at Ohio State?
Me: I do some work for the IT department there. Keeps me busy.
G1: I wonder if my son knows you. You know, he sang in the Men's Glee Club for 12 years. He holds the record. They gave him a little gold clock when he left.
[Brief discussion of who he is and why I would never have met him, plus a formal introduction of names, during which I shake G2's hand and he goes back to being disinterested in the conversation]
Me: [glancing at the clock again for the eightieth time and still trying to be polite] Well, it's a long drive back to Columbus, and I have another call to make tonight. But I did want to say "thank you" for being there when these men and women need it.
G1: Thank you, too. It was a pleasure to meet you.
Me: And you. Good night.
[exit, stage left, and make the long drive back to Columbus.]