Captain, Road Prison 36: You gonna get used to wearin’ them chains afer a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listenin’ to them clinking. ‘Cause they gonna remind you of what I been saying. For your own good.
Luke: Wish you’d stop bein’ so good to me, cap’n.
Thursday night, the night when I was hanging out with the boys, the night before I turned myself in, the fellas asked me how I would handle myself in jail…would I be passive, or aggressive. How would I carry myself? I was sure of this answer; “Like Cool Hand Luke,” I said.(If you’ve yet to see the film; really, what are you waiting for?) I walk in I keep my head down, I do my time, be as passive as can be, without allowing myself to be vulnerable…real cool. So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into the hellish dorm-like cell, grabbed the biggest guy in the buildin’ and started tearing him limb from limb…you can imagine. In reality, the story goes more like this here.
As I walked in I noticed a Television hanging on the wall directly to my left, by now it was Sunday, and football (the NFL kind) was playing. The bulk of my new roommates were gathered around betting cakes from future meals (cakes are actually this yellow dry brick of carbohydrate that hovers between sweet corn bread and constipation, they are the most well used form of currency among the residents of the Kitsap County Bed & Breakfast). Directly in front of me was a group of tables, intended for mealtime, with enough seats for thirty-six souls, thirty-six sadistic souls. To the left of the tables were a group of bunks, enough for thirty-two people, who hate sleep. To the left of those was a bathroom with four sinks, five toilets, and five showers…that’s right the toilets and the sinks were separate…classy. Straight back from the door I entered was a door that led to the “yard” which was a twenty foot by twenty-five foot concrete pad surrounded by twenty foot walls, three of them, and covered with a chain-link fence. The yard was the only space where one could exercise, push-ups and sit-ups, no apparatus was provided and in fact such things were considered contra-band, though some guys would take their bags and fill them with books that were provided by people who donated them to the jail-house; they would use them to do curls and squat-thrust type calisthenics. Next to the door to the yard was a cot, it was to be my cot. There were no bunks left…over-crowding in a county jail!?!?! Perchance there is trouble in our utopia. Some blame the criminals, others blame the system, after seeing for myself; I agree. When I sat down on my cot to organize my things…there are rules here Donny (this ain’t ‘Nam), I noticed the guy on the cot next to me was sleeping…not a football fan, he was more into “Dukes of Hazard”, it was alarming the amount of contact I had with that stupid show in the span of ten days, this after decades of avoidance.
Once the guy next to my cot woke up, he started catching me up on the politics of the room, there were two guys who sort of ran the room. One was a huge guy who’d been there for three years trying to fight a manufacturing charge involving meth. (Trucker Tic-Tacs) The other one was a guy, about my size, who was a little younger than me and had spent the bulk of his adult life in various cages meant to rehabilitate his broken brain, and help him “play ball” with the rest of society. So far, they hadn’t worked. (the cages) My neighbor seemed to have been locked up on account of his social retardation. I know, its not illegal but it was his most egregious fault as far as I could tell. His story is actually a cautionary tale of convenience store dress codes, the moral of which being: do not go to the convenience store in your pajamas if you’ve a warrant for your arrest. The bathtub chemist was a Bonhoeffer fan, the lifer was a Jehovah’s Witness…strange.
This room had a few rules, some enforced by the guards (a group of guys, 2/3 of which wished they were somewhere else), and some by the inmates (a group of guys, 3/3 of which wished they were somewhere else). The guards rules involved being “locked down” to your cot or bunk from 11p until 8a in the morning, except for breakfast which was at 5a, and also from 2p until4p. No exercise in the room except to walk around the perimeter, slowly. And, you must stand on-line for meals, whether you plan on eating or not, for this was when role was taken. I feel taking role right before mealtime is a bad idea, especially when the meals are basically mounds of substance that defy one to find anything about them recognizable based upon one’s dealings with nature. If one was healthy enough to make it to the meal line, and something happened after, there would be empirical evidence as to what was the culprit. Also, they frowned upon fighting…they did however, enjoy rattling the cage. This played itself out in horrible fashion one day at lunch, we’ll get to that; next post. The inmate’s rules had to do, mainly, with maintaining solidarity…not taking advantage of one another. One was not allowed to give food away for free, one could only trade, which was unfortunate for me, because I didn’t want the food I could get anymore than the food I had. Lose, lose. It also was hard to get used to because I’ve a bit of a communist’s mindset, in as much as if I have something I don’t want, I really have no motivation to be compensated for it…I’d rather just give it away. The rest just had to do with personal responsibility. No one but you should have to pay for your mistakes, was the over-arching ethos. Next post I’m gonna wrap this up, including the story of the cage rattling, and the conclusion of the adoption story. It may take two posts, but this concludes this post…see you next week.