My Daily Journal in Federal Prison

Day 5

Bob Barker has a real messed up sense of humor.  (I’ve quickly learned that his clothing company has cornered the market in prison attire & personal hygiene products.)  Most of these items are fairly non-descript with no obvious branding other than their trademark BBC logo where it can’t be immediately seen.  But two products, in particular, immediately caught my eye:  “Maximum Security,” the all-in-one shower, shave, & shampoo…and, get this, “Priceless,” the facial quality bathroom tissue.

Down here in “the Hole” they don’t freely distribute razors for the inmates to keep in their possession.  However, once or twice a week, they have razor callouts, whereby the C.O. walks the hall asking who needs one (which are promptly collected about thirty minutes later).  Some joker ALWAYS responds to this request with a loud, bellowing, best Bob Barker impersonation…”Come on, doooowwwwwwn!”

On another note…I was hoping that one of two things would happen this coming Monday.  Either, A) I am returned to the general population (preferred), or B) my new celly gets put back where he belongs.  He’s actually been fairly courteous and respectful, but unless I get to choose my company, I would rather be down here alone.  (fyi – he was sent down here for disciplinary reasons…claims that he was locked up because he had the top button of his uniform buttoned.  Huh?  More on that later.)

Besides, I feel a #2 brewing down below and I’m not quite sure about the protocol for an event like this.  I suppose I could just follow his lead.  Considering that the toilet is only a few feet away from our bunks, we need to establish some rules of engagement.  Maybe turn the shower on, to drown out any errant noises, while we do our business?  If he doesn’t make the first move, I might be able to wait until Monday morning after breakfast when we get to go outside for recreation.  I’d sacrifice that privilege for a little privacy.  Oh, and you heard me correctly…unbeknownst to me previously, we apparently get to go outside in the morning after breakfast, Monday through Friday.  I learned this from my celly yesterday.

That’s the thing about prison — announcements are typically made for the prison’s own benefit and not those of the inmates.  If you want or need something, you better ask for it because it won’t be offered up freely.  E.g., if I had not asked about reading materials, I would not have even known that the illustrious book cart existed…and I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival.  I’ve surmised that the selection will be limited to an autobiography of Barbara Bush, a tattered Louis Lamour (sp?)…and maybe a copy of The Watchtower.  I’m hoping for at least something entertaining.

After the last few degenerates were sent to the SHU (aka, “the Hole”), I noticed that they were all forced to sign some sort of intake form and were provided a list of SHU rules & regulations (my celly had angrily refused his).  I found it odd that I was never included in this ritual and since I was clearly in the dark about the recreation policy, I thought it be best to familiarize myself with all of the amenities, especially if I was going to be forced to stay here much longer.  So, I asked the C.O. for a copy when he brought me my breakfast.  I assumed that he forgot about my request, but then returned some time after lunch and shoved a copy through the door.

Oh yeah…and no sooner than a few minutes after I wrote that piece on bathroom etiquette did my celly announce that the time had come for him to do his business.  He grumbled under his breath that “this is the worst part about being in the Hole.”  I shared my idea about turning on the shower and he agreed with its genius.  So, I turned toward the wall on my lower bunk and I pulled all of the blankets tight over my head.  I conjured happy thoughts backed by the soundtrack of prison shower white noise.  In the SHU, the water temperature of the shower is already set (surprisingly pleasant) and it is also set to a timer (about 2-3 minutes).  Let’s just say that my celly’s business took about 3 showers in length.

Okay, so the book cart was largely a success.  It was indeed an actual cart that was brought around at the same time as the toilet paper (coincidence?  I think not)…although the scene wasn’t as romantic as that old dude from Shawshank ambling down the hallway with his carefully curated selections.  I quickly garnered that the protocol was to scan the shelves for something of interest (from within the confines of your cell looking through the little slot in the door) and then point or grunt your selection to the C.O.  After not immediately recognizing any literary classics or current best sellers, I went to Plan B: above-average thriller and/or compelling non-fiction.  And here I hit paydirt.

My celly yelled from somewhere behind me that he wanted a couple of Westerns (keep in mind that we’re talking about a young, African American male from Detroit who is here, allegedly, for drugs).  I spotted a fairly new-looking, barely creased spine listing the author Michael Connelly, whom I recognized as a well-regarded author of mainstream thrillers…this one was called “The Narrows.”  I also noticed another interesting title called “Hollywood Kryptonite,” which appeared to be of the True Crime genre.  The guard also grabbed two random Westerns for my bestie fromDetroit.

I settled in for the night with the Michael Conelly book; oddly enough, I have only read one of his books, “The Poet,” about 10 years ago and this just happened to be the sequel.

After spending no more than 60 seconds with his Westerns, my celly declared from high up above that they were “garbage” and nothing but “thrift-store trash.”  To which, he flung his books of the bed and proceeded to loudly grunt out about 500 sit-ups on the top bunk…followed by about 500 push-ups on the floor, with equal vocal intensity.

Me?  I ended up reading the entire book from cover to cover (about 400 pages)…my brain was famished for some kind of stimulation.  After my celly had finished his sit-ups and hopped down to the floor, he looked at me and said, “DAMN, celly…you down there readinglike a MOTHERFUCKER.”

After he finished his push-ups, he added, “Did you read like this on the streets??”


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