I assured them both that that was not my intention. “In fact,” I said, “it’s more of a comment on my own transformation. I think when you come in here, you’re mad, just plain angry. You hate the system, you hate the guards, and pretty much you hate yourself. Everything is negative. The book is really about my own personal transformation from hating the system to trying to find a place in it to make it better. So, if there is something in there that’s negative about a person or event, it’s really a comment on where I am and how I’m taking it, not the actual act. I think readers will see a change in how I put it together, a change in my attitude, at least I hope so.”
They both accepted that as not being an attempt to discredit them. Weary was more forgiving. Ms. Jones, though, remained guarded. “You know,” she said, “I’ve been watching you and I think your idea of OK, is a lot higher than most people’s.”
“I grant you that,” I said, “but believe me; I’m not trying to be hard on anyone. I think what comes through is an evolution of my thinking about the role of government, at least the moral role of government.”
“What’s the third book about?” she asked.
“It’s titled ‘A Conversation Long Overdue.’ It’s about the disintegration of the black family and a look at how we restore it, in an effort to decrease social problems.”
Ms. Jones just looked at me for awhile. I’m not sure it was necessary to say anything else…on her part or mine.
“Oh,” I said, “there is one more thing; I’ve got some books downstairs that need to be picked up. My mom is coming tomorrow at 8:30, but the form says these books can only be picked up between 2:00 and 2:45 p.m. Can we get those brought up with my other papers so she doesn’t have to wait four or five hours? I’d rather she was home before the traffic gets too heavy.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said.
Later that evening I received a message from Ms. Jones that the books would be available for pickup at 9:00 a.m. I smiled, regardless of what I had to say about this experience; Ms. Jones was clearly a ray of sunshine.
Unfortunately, I soon learned from my mother that the rest of them weren’t. The women at the check-in counter at visitation were much less than helpful. I for one can’t imagine in my wildest nightmares why you wouldn’t help a 75-year-old lady. But apparently the staff at Solano County has more than the ability to be rude to anybody.
Mothers, though, have a way of putting things: “Acid affects the container more than anything,” was my mother’s only response.
I wondered how miserable their home life must be.
As for me, it is now football Sunday, and actually looking out the slit in our cell door at the TV across the day room on the opposite wall, has taken me so far away, I might as well have escaped to Miami. I’m just a guy in America watching the NFL. I could be anywhere, but one thing for certain: I’m not in Solano County anymore.
I’m sitting on the rim of the toilet in my cell looking out, and I’m smiling because I’m happy. The guard is sitting across the day room at a desk, scowling at a computer and pretending to use the phone. He’s bored and can’t leave his post. He has to just sit there. “Who’s the prisoner?”I think (and smile).
Today Niko asked me exactly what the meaning was of the phrase “the glass is half full or half empty”. Being a native Indian of Central Mexico, he had never heard that expression. I forget sometimes that the cultural nuances of the language are foreign to him. I explained that, with regard to attitude, it was a comment on whether the individual focused on the good or the bad around them. People, who saw the glass as half empty, focused on the bad. He smiled. He got it immediately.
“Of course,” I added, “politicians will invoke it as a way to tell people don’t look at my screw-ups. The English language is full of twists and turns.” He continued to smile anyway, his glass, was half full.
Anyway, it’s kick-off Sunday for the NFL and being in Solano County Jail there is an over-abundance of 49er fans. Casey, the mod worker, is actually in control of the TV, and he is a 49er fanatic. No problem on my part, to be honest I’m happy to see these guys have passion for anything. If we can create a passion for work, family, and America, we might reduce crime.
The game is very interesting. The Niners are playing the Arizona Cardinals and early in the fourth quarter the Cardinals go up by 3, 16 to 13. The mood becomes somewhat somber and there is really nothing but silence throughout the module. The Niners then go on to a 13 to 14 play drive and score a touchdown to go up 20-16. The mod erupts with pandemonium. The inmates are going crazy. They love it (and I am happy to see their passion for it).
Suddenly, the TV goes off in the middle of the celebration. Officer Javarski has decided, on his own I might add, that there was way “too much” celebration. The TV stays off. The mod is in stunned silence.
A few minutes later, Javarski comes on the intercom to further threaten the guys. “I will not tolerate beating on the doors,” he says. “I will reduce or take away your “unlock” for that too. The intercom system is for emergencies only. Do not push the intercom button.”
My assessment: Evil and meanness at its purest form. There was no excessive celebration though there were people beating on some of the doors with too much enthusiasm. No one hates noise more than I do, but I understood their elation, even though – at the time – I didn’t participate in it. The real answer is Niko is a big Niner fan and I afford him a wide berth at the window to enjoy it.
Javarski is just a mean, angry individual who resented the inmates – who by the way are locked in 6×10 foot cells for 22 hours a day – having a moment of enjoyment. They may be guilty of some horrible offenses, and frankly some may not; but they were sentenced to time away from family and friends, time away from work, and time away from life, but nowhere was anyone sentenced to the indiscriminate whim of some sadistic jailer who is mean just because he can be. That is crazy.
That’s probably a bit harsh on my part, but harsh is where I seem to be. I seem somewhat irritable even to myself. A great deal of it has to do with people being hard just to be hard, but certainly it also has to do with me, and not having a plan on discharge. Part of it is simply the monotony of the place. And clearly part of it has to be blamed on the assortment of knuckleheads who now represent my colleagues. There are times when I even understand the guards’s attitudes.
What I’m leading up to is my first confrontation. Although mild, compared with some of the confrontations I have witnessed since my arrival, it is my first such interaction with another inmate since I’ve been here.
He is a white guy; fully gang tattooed up, and short, maybe 5’8” or 5’9” at the most. Out of fairness though, it was not all him. He has been loud and disruptive since he’s been here. I have watched as some of my more passive colleagues have extended niceties toward him only to be rebuked. And frankly, I have fantasized about the opportunity to “beat him down” in order to get him to play well with others. I recognize that it is futile; at this point there is no way anyone is going to effect any change in his behavior. And since reason will never be one of his tools, I have resolved that, much like an animal, he responds to fear and threats ofviolence.
He obviously has a great deal of disdain for our colleagues here on H mod and this is perhaps the most significant area where I believed I could help him. And trust me, it’s not that I cared about him in the least bit; I found him to be ignorant and an asshole, but I didn’t want people targeting him for problems. In order to create conflict, the guards sometimes use peer pressure to pit the inmates against each other. One guy messes up and they lock down everybody, or turn off the TV so no one can see it.