Here is a clue to the boredom of quarantine. It’s over 90° outside. The CO’s have four fans showering them from all angles and a door near them is propped open, yet our windows remained closed. I’m melting into my cot, staring at the ceiling when I feel a rumble in my belly, sit up, and smile. I know this pressure. It’s time for a bowel movement, which is something to do besides lay here… hell yeah!
Let’s discuss the other exciting interruption to my day: the chow hall. When it’s time, the cell doors break in unison, and we walk to a separate building whose architecture reminds me of an over-sized Pizza Hut minus the attractive lights and mouth-watering aromas.
Inmates stretch out of the two entrances. The line moves at a crawl. Guys yell to their homeboys, often having entire conversations in that manner. I resist the urge to tell them the obvious, that they can go stand right next to their friend and talk in normal tones, but talking to an inmate you don’t know can open a door. Besides, even when next to one another, there’s a sixty percent chance they’d talk at the same volume.
There are two main topics of conversations in quarantine. Guns and drugs, drugs and guns; guns, guns, and some drugs. Occasionally, someone will discuss hoes. However, in my limited earhustling, I understand why females are rarely discussed. Many of these men have slept with the same woman, of whom they have different opinions, so it’s best to avoid opening that door.
We grab our trays of food, cafeteria style, and are herded into the next available seat. There is no selecting, we fall into chairs like dominoes.
There is sparse chatting during meals and as of yet, I haven’t sat at a table where the others didn’t complain about the food. The level of griping makes me long for the boredom of my cell and would lead some to believe prison is where we house victims, not perpetrators.
Compared to my county jail, the food is fine dining. My jail had a two week menu with a sandwich day and a hot dog day (both dreaded). Every other meal was rice and beans. Varieties of each, but always unseasoned, incorrectly cooked, rice and beans.
Often mixed in with the rice and beans was a substance everyone called cathead. It’s label reads, “mechanically separated chicken”. It arrives in a cardboard box. From my jail window, I could see them stack the boxes outside a receiving door, which is opened after the delivery people leave. On hot summer days, the mechanically separated chicken thaws on the docks like ice cream, leaving a soggy box that is sometimes scooped up with a snow shovel.
It was always a treat to get a new guy to lean forward and smell his dinner tray. Everyone in view would pause their meal to watch the new guy’s head dip, and then laugh when his face distorted and he pushed his tray away asking how any of us could eat that. Two or three days later, he’d be chowing down.
I, being both gullible and intrigued, took a deep whiff on my first exposure. Now, I’ve never pulled over to smell a rotten animal carcass, but if I had, but first vomited, dropped my trousers and defecated, and then stirred all that goodness up, it would have smelled like mechanically separated chicken.
Forgoing the delicious meals of jail, all the portions were tiny. You lived in hunger. You were hungry directly following a meal and as added insight, I can’t think of a more unpleasant life than living in constant hunger.
The prison menu was unified 2011’ish to the dismay of inmates and CO’s alike. The menu works on a fourteen day rotation. Breakfast is grits and oatmeal (it used to be eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, etc… The lunch and dinner consists of sixteen dishes served over the twenty-eight meals. Although I imagine years of that might be maddening, and the portions are so small I fear for my future, today I’m elated. We’ve had grilled cheese (with real cheese), cheap Banquet style chicken patties, pasta with real meat, and today it was pizza!
When you go from a state of constant hunger and eating shit to constant hunger eating actual food, you’re stoked.
Prison offers a store where you can buy snacks to substitute the monotony, but it costs real money. Having no family, only friends, all I can do is wish them financial success and fits of philanthropy, things they have in excess, so I expect to be thankful. I will need love and support to retain any confidence.
I’ll leave you with a few bits of humor.
I heard two gentlemen in their forties discussing the state of Michigan. First topic: do Flint be nicers or worsers than Michigan? (For those outside the States, Flint is a city in Michigan) Surprisingly, this was debted in earnest. They used those adjectives the entire time. It was maddening.
A few minutes into it, one of the men said with indignation, “Man, I hears Benton Harbor be in the top one hundred cities in Michigan for murder.”
More stress, because I’m not sure there are one hundred cities in Michigan.
Well, rereading those, I’m not sure if they’re funny. These were fully adult men talking in such an asinine manner that they leave my brain singed.
Prison needs more psychologists.
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