I Come to Know My Enviornment (and the People)

On Friday of this week, I believe it was the first Friday of my fourth or possibly fifth month at Solano County, a voice came over the intercom in all its distorted electronic glory and declared that we should all – everyone in the module – roll-up our bedrolls, the entire mod was being moved. This occurred at about 11:00 a.m., but by 1:00 p.m. we had yet to make any progress. So in the hours that I sat on a metal slab in my cell, I was able to evaluate this present maneuver on the part of my hosts. First of all, I knew this was coming from Lieutenant Marsh because none of the rest of his staff ever had an independent thought; and even with that I surmised that if Marsh had indeed matriculated through this system – it was because he too had toed the company line and forfeited his right to think – people only advance people like themselves – and so ultimately this brainstorm had to rest with the Sheriff.

I surmised also that the motivation behind this was twofold: disorientation and to interrupt progress (like tunneling, I imagine romantically, that is, if such a thing was going on in E mod). Though for the life of me I couldn’t imagine why you’d go to the trouble of tunneling out of Solano County, it really functions as a way-station; except for me and a few others, most inmates are passing through on the way to somewhere else, or awaiting court dates when ultimately they will be shipped off to somewhere else. I seriously questioned the sanity of either move.

Being trained in medicine, I concocted another horror story. The new arrival in the cell next to me had been screaming all morning that he needed to see the doctor. (Of course his pleas were ignored by the guard who spent his morning sitting at the floor desk and monitoring who needed more toilet paper and whether, today, he felt like being obliging.) At any rate, let’s imagine the problem is swine flu since that’s been in the news lately, and the other day the Daily Republic announced that Solano County had its first documented case.

Jails and prisons and hospitals are notorious for super-infections because you have a large number of people in a confined space.

Now the history of eradication of some of our most aggressive and problematic infectious disease has taken place because the healthcare workers knew enough to isolate the infected parties. In fact, TB was about completely eradicated before we devised a treatment for it. But in this instance the brain trust at Solano County is going to mix the population up. That way, my colleague next door can infect the rest of the prison population, who in turn, affect the guards, who in turn take it home to their families. I realize that’s a worst case scenario, but that is how it happens, and it was all because some genius thought he’d mix things up.

I did look out my cell and there was Smitty once again talking with the guards at the floor desk. That guy is always out of his cell. He saw me looking and came over to explain he wasn’t happy our group might be going to J or M module. Apparently they aren’t as blessed with natural lighting and don’t offer a hot water dispenser.

I think Smitty is working under cover; I’m just not sure for whom. I’m going to keep my eye on him, though.

My bunky, however, never to lose an opportunity for a nap, decided that he would accomplish this afternoon’s without his bedroll.

Officer Smith, who I am completely sure belongs to some right-wing paramilitary, racist extremist group, interrupted the ridiculousness of it all to tell us to leave behind our mattresses – though at best one could only call them mats.

At any rate, if the move was designed to interrupt any in-cell shenanigans – like tunneling – I’ve had sufficient time to block it up; and since Smith has made the executive decision to turn the TV back on to Maury and his theme of Sexting, I guess it means we won’t be moving soon, so much for the element of surprise.

Then all of a sudden – actually it was three hours and ten minutes after the guard’s initial announcement that -the upper tier of E module began to stir.

I was particularly alerted to the increased animation – the pep if you will – in Officer Smith. Normally his mannerisms are slow and deliberate. At this moment he seemed particularly excited. I turned to my bunky and informed him, “Officer Smith is pissed. He’s been here all day, and at 2:30 p.m. more than three hours after his announcement, they decide to start this move a half hour before shift change.

An older, dark-skinned black lady – not in uniform – was orchestrating the move and you could tell she was getting increasingly frustrated also. I gauged that by her tone towards the inmates.

The guard had opened all the cells on the upper tier. Guys were filing down the stairs with their bedrolls. They had absolutely no idea what was going on, or what was expected, and she was snapping at them, “Who was in cell 1, cell 2,” and so forth. She lined them up and then had the guards put them all in chairs, and then proceeded to place them all in the “yard”.

A few minutes later she called a few names and they were gone except for 3 or 4 guys left in the “yard” –again, think empty room. It was now our turn. All the ground floor cells were electronically unlocked and we filed out into the day room with our bedrolls. In the outer hallway the guards placed all of us in chains and shifted us into the “yard” – think empty room again. The older black lady began to call out names, oddly – or perhaps luckily depending on how you look at it – I was keeping the same bunky.

The few guys left from the upper tier, however, questioned why they were the first out, yet everyone was leaving but them.

She, the older black lady, didn’t take kindly to that statement, mumbled that this was “too much,” and then made it perfectly clear that people were to remain quiet.

We were then ushered down the hallway to H module. My bunky and I were assigned cell 9.

Smitty had been correct: module H was considerably more dark and dingy as compared to E. My bunky felt it was colder, too. I just wanted a broom, a mop, and some disinfectant. I have a confession to make. I can’t take filth. It violates everything I believe, and believe me this place was praying on every sensibility I had. I believe I’ve said it before – a line from Thoreau – but it’s certainly worth repeating: “Often the poor man is not so cold and hungry as he is dirty, ragged and gross. It is partly his taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give him money, he will perhaps buy more rags with it.” I just don’t get why people have to be slovenly.

I had planned to talk with the guard about getting the broom but he didn’t want to talk at the time. I guess when you’re anti-conceptual, and you’ve gotten used to doing nothing, then nothing is all you do. I get that they don’t want a lot of people coming at them at once, but it seems to me when you’re just standing there alone, it’s no interruption.

I just let it go. That’s really all to do in here, let things go.

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