Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Patiently Waiting.....

I'd been in USP Beaumont, TX for a few weeks when we were locked down for a multiple group incident( disruption involving various gangs or races). We might have been locked down for a couple weeks, tops, but the tier outside our cells was trashed and dirty from all the fishing lines passing and the officers smoking in the building, flicking their ashes on the floor during counts. The day before we were let up, the unit orderlies were allowed to come out for an hour to clean, and when we were released the next day, piles of trash stood in the corners and mop buckets, brimming with black water, waited by the mop closet doors.

While most of the inmates were shuckin' and jivin', showering or talking on the phone, one inmate- an old black guy who'd spent most of his life on prison basketball courts-was cleaning his cell. When he came to one of the mop buckets and realized that the mop closets were still locked, he went the officer's station where a black female officer was talking on the phone. After waiting patiently for five or ten minutes, her conversation ended and he asked her to come open the closet so everyone could get on with the process of cleaning their cells. She said that she'd get to it. So he went back to cleaning the cell and when he'd run out of things to do-left only with the mopping- he went back to the officer's station where she was, once again, on the phone. Again he waited. When she hung up he repeated his request and was given the same response. So he went and took a shower. With his shower out of the way, he pushed the mop bucket up to the office door to show the guard that the water was, indeed, filthy and needed to be changed if anyone were to clean their cells. But she was busy again, this time eating her lunch.

"Come back in a minute," she said. " Can't you see that I'm eating?"

"My Bad," he answered, stepping away from the desk. He pulled the soiled mop out of the water and turned it in the wringer with a couple good pumps. Then, setting both the mop and wringer unit on the floor, he picked up the bucket and dumped it's dirty black contents over the women's head before slamming the plastic container down on her subway sandwich.

Strips of lettuce and salami, trickling black, ashy water, hung from her chin and shirt lapel. The shocked look on her face-mixed with absolute terror that this was not the end of his attack- will stay with me forever. Not so much for the humor, but because it was a peek into the general perception many in society have of us : animals with no imagination or hope for returning to the grace of thoughtful humanity. In this instance at least, the assault ended with a lost meal and a ruined beehive hairdo. I distinctly remember that, for the longest time afterward, we didn't have a lot of trouble getting cleaning supplies.

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