There are certain items you can post to prisoners. Undies. Bottle green shorts. Books. No nail files.
My friend in jail asked if I could send her some summer pyjamas. I checked what was “allowed” with a prison guard. She told me they had to be cotton with 3/4 length pants and a patterned t-shirt top. No lace, no shorts, no singlet tops.
My visit to Newcastle seemed the perfect opportunity to shop for prison-friendly pjs. Big W, Kmart, Target, Best & Less … all in close proximity.
But could I find what I was looking for? No, I could not. There were 3/4 pants with singlet tops. There were plain t-shirt tops. There were pyjamas trimmed with lace. There were patterned t-shirts with pyjama shorts. There was much unrelenting ugliness.
I started to question the prison rules for sleeping attire. Why must the pyjamas be patterned? Why no singlet tops? Why no lace? Why no mention of drawstring ribbons that might be used as hanging devices.
My odyssey took me first to Kmart Kotara. Nada. I proceeded to Target. Nada. I went to Charlestown Square Big W and clutched a mint-green Snoopy set to my chest in relief, then realized it didn’t come in a size 16. I spent a few minutes experimentally stretching the size 14 pants out before placing them reluctantly back on the rack. The last thing you want in prison is too-tight jammies at night.
I tried Best & Less. No luck.
There’s a massive Kmart at Waratah, so I trekked over there in desperation. Kmart Waratah should be the perfect place for desperation. But not if it involves 3/4 length pyjama pants with patterned t-shirt tops that are cotton but don’t have any lace.
And definitely not in a size 16. There’d obviously been a run on those. So I decided I’d try mixing and matching two different sets of pjs to get my desired combo. Nuh. Size 16s were pretty thin on the ground in all the vaguely suitable ranges.
The Sprogs were getting pretty fed up with pyjama shopping by this stage. I told them to shut it. I got a tip-off froma friend to try Sussans at Hamilton. So we drove there. It was closed. At 3pm on a Saturday arvo. We got back in the car. Sprog 2 begged me not to get angry. (It had been a pretty tense day – at one point I’d sent an SMS to Husband ranting about “his” whining, crying, bickering children. I mean I’d taken them to Newcastle Museum in the morning, what more did they want from me? Blood?) Sprog 1 said she had a headache and begged for water. I texted my mother for help.
She said there was a Sussans at Kotara. I promised cold drinks to the Sprogs if they agree to one more shopping centre visit.
I spent their college fund on Boost juices and parked them at the entrance to Sussans. Sussans did have patterned pyjamas with 3/4 length pants and T-shirt tops with no lace. But they were $50. I thought, bugger it, and started searching for the checkout when I had a last-minute panic and worried that I’d misunderstood the prison guard’s instructions. Did she really say the tops had to be patterned? In my travels I’d seen some pyjama slogans that could be regarded as rather provocative in a women’s prison. Surely the guards didn’t want inmates wandering around with suggestive slogans on their chests? I mean, they’d banned flesh-revealing singlets and shorts.
So I put the $50 jammmies back. If I was going to spend $50 on jammies, I wanted them to make it onto my friend’s back, not spent the next however-many-years chucked in a box with all her other when-you’re-released possessions.
We went back up the escalators to where my odyssey first began, Kmart. And I got the pair of pjs I’d initially rejected for being too ugly despite meeting all the criteria. Black polka-dotted 3/4 pants and a pale pink top with a black cat on it. In a size 16.
Someone get me a drink. Jaysus.
PS Ooooooh, maybe there’s a business idea in all this – prison jammies …