(Yes, the title is purposefully deceitful, we didn’t actually get arrested.)
The other night I was with my (drunk) flatmate Hellen and we’d just got a water-taxi back from Aqua Lounge (a bar on another island). We were walking to Munchies, a night-time takeaway, and I mentioned that I needed the toilet (Munchies doesn’t have one) so Hellen suggested, as we were just walking past it, that we ask in the police station / prison (the building serves as both) to see if I could use their toilet. Even though it was a silly suggestion I thought we may as well because it would probably be funny.
Hellen can’t really speak Spanish when she’s sober but I was surprised by her new-found language skills that she was using to speak to the policeman on duty at the front desk. He said I could use the toilet and it was honestly one of the most disgusting toilet experiences of my life. The only worse one I can think of is at the boxing ring in Cuba.
The prison / police station toilet didn’t even have a door so if someone had come into that big room, which had some weights and punch-bags but not much else, they would have seen me peeing. It was soooo smelly and had no water, seat, or paper, but still it was better than nothing. I walked back out to find Hellen sitting in the front part talking to the policeman, called Modesto, about all sorts of things. He was cool and probably found us (or the situation) quite funny, and let us look in the kitchen there and everything. Hellen said she was going to come back tomorrow to cook and he said that would be great.
He explained that if you do a crime in Bocas you stay in that prison for your first night but then you get transferred to the prison in Changuinola on the mainland because the Bocas one only has two rooms, one for girls and one for boys. The boys’ room was actually right next to the reception area and the wall had a giant window in it (not a window, just a gap basically) looking through to the reception, and then I suddenly realised there were prisoners in there who had heard everything we said!
One of them came over to the gap and asked us to go and buy him fried chicken and come back and give it to him because he was hungry but we told him we had no money. The window gap thing is really big so I asked how come the prisoners didn’t just climb out, but Modesto said they have chains round their ankles which are attached to heavy metal balls so they can’t go anywhere. I’d heard of that in movies and stuff but I didn’t think it was still used today!!
There’s absolutely nothing in the cell except a toilet, so if they want to sleep they have to lie down on the concrete floor. The room wasn’t very big but he said sometimes there are up to about 10 people in there. I’ve never been to a prison in England but I’ve seen documentaries etc, and people there have TVs in their rooms and beds with duvets etc. I think the Bocas prison is a lot more effective at putting people off doing crimes!
Anyway after about 20 minutes we went to Munchies and told Modesto we’d come and visit him another day. Sure enough, the next day we went back to the police station at about midnight when we’d had a few drinks, but a guy called Espinosa was there, not Modesto. He was equally as friendly so we chilled with him for about 20 minutes and asked him to take a picture of us in the back of the police car. I don’t think he’s destined to be a photographer because we asked him to include the whole car but this is what happened:
(The random white guy is our neighbour who happened to be walking past at the time). We bumped into Modesto in the supermarket yesterday and he remembered our names, which I was quite impressed by. I don’t know if we’ll ever go there when neither of us is drunk, but if we continue like this then the whole Bocas police force will know us very well by the time we go back to our countries.