Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Shakedown is in Progress

Although most of us have never stepped inside a prison cell, we are all probably familiar with the term shakedown search. This term refers to the routine search for illicit contraband like weapons or drugs in a prisoner's cell, and interestingly, does not require a warrant in order to perform it. Prisoners are usually asked to stand outside their cell as the shakedown is in progress so as to eliminate any danger to the guard as he performs the search. A skilled prison guard will thoroughly search every crack and crevice of the cell, but will concentrate his greatest efforts on and around the bed and it's bedding.

I'm not a prisoner guard by profession, but I am the parent of a five year old daughter. As such, my call of duty often requires me to perform a shakedown of her room before putting her to bed. Why, you might be asking? Simple. Because if I don't she will hide illicit contraband that can (and WILL) be used long into the wee hours of the night. No, I am not talking about illegal drugs or weapons. I'm talking about toys - you know, Barbie dolls, flashlights, plastic cell phones, small purses containing miniature dress up clothes for miniature stuffed animals, my little ponies, necklaces, glow sticks, little people, board books, etc., etc., etc. - that could be used for play long after she should be fast asleep.

There have been many nights where my wife or I have gone in to check on our daughters long after putting them to bed, only to find our five year old still awake and quietly playing with toys. Because this occurrence is not uncommon, I find myself at bedtime acting more like a prison guard than I'd really like to be. I have to politely ask her to brush her teeth, thus removing her from the room, which allows me the precious time I need to perform the shakedown search in safety. I start near the pillow of the bed where I usually find the most explicit and largest number of contraband items. After the pillow I focus my efforts on the remainder of the bed by running my hand between the mattress and the frame of the bed - a perfect spot for hiding the smallest of the toys - and then make sure to check under the covers where odd bumps and protrusions are usually a dead giveaway for contraband. Once I've done a thorough search of the bed and collect all I can, I widen my search area to include the rest of the room (and do a quick cleanup of the room in the process), until I feel satisfied I've found everything that could possibly be used in the dark for play. Then I make sure sneak past the bathroom where she is hopefully still brushing her teeth to properly dispose of the illegal items back into the toy box, which is conveniently located in a different room all the way down the hall.

It is then and only then that I feel it is safe to allow my child back into her room where we say our nightly prayers as a family, kiss her goodnight, and tuck her into bed. Who would have ever thought that parents and prison guards had so much in common? Thanks to my five year old, I do. We haven't quite gotten to the point where we need automatic closing doors and video cameras, but it might be an option worth considering.

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Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously