The Place I Call Home (2)

There are two young black guys, inmates, who are working off time and allowed special privileges, like five hours each day of unlock time, who now work in E module. They deliver meals and keep the place tidy. They both are young, about 21 years of age.

The lighter skinned one has over the past month struck up conversations from time to time – really about nothing: a hello, what’s going on – and on this occasion took the liberty of calling me to the cell door. “You need anything?” he asked.

“No, not really,” I said. “But I want you to be careful. I know you are working off time and don’t let someone mess it up for you.”

“Naw… naw, I’m cool, he said. There are a lot of cats always trying to get me to give them something, you know, do something wrong. I don’t even mess with it.”

“OK, just keep it right so you can get out of here.”

“I’m cool. Thanks for checking my back.”

He walked away with a smile. I suspect because he is free to move throughout the complex a lot of requests – so to speak – are made of him by some of the most unsavory of guys on the planet. I really didn’t need anything and I wanted to help keep him focused.

I have not really had any conversations with the other mod worker. He seems sort of shy and withdrawn, perhaps dimwitted. He’ll smile or nod his head but will not engage. It may be that he is smarter than any of the rest of us. Clearly the least you interact with anyone here – that is, the more you are under the radar – the better. The least likely you are to have some confrontation you really don’t want to have.

Last night, or rather I should say evening; a female voice came on the intercom. “OK, gentlemen, it’s your “unlock” time. You know the drill. Be fully clothed, whatever you need, take it with you. There will be no ins and outs. Whatever you do, do not piss me off, or I will lock you down.”

That was April 2, 2009, Modules E and F at 1730. I mention that because my immediate inclination was …What was that all about? Why was it necessary for her to add that? What exactly was her goal in tacking on that last thought? Was she trying to be funny? Was she exercising her limited authority? Was she trying to provoke one of the inmates into some kind of confrontation? What exactly was her point?  My God, was it just to be mean?

I asked around, and the consensus was she was simply on a power trip. It was also suggested that we wait until her sergeant was around and then ask her if she thought she was being professional. Jeff, one of the older guys in a wheelchair, added that the best thing was to ignore her. If you call her on it, she – along with her buddies – will just try to make it harder on you while you’re here. Perhaps Jane Austen was indeed correct: “Vanity working on a weak mind produces all sorts of mischief.”

It has been three to four weeks since I’ve had an INR (PT/PTT) drawn which can only best be characterized as carless on my part. Medical necessity suggests that it be done at least once a week. I have been negligent in suggesting it, though it really is the job of Dr. Kadevari and his staff. Nonetheless it is happening to me and as such is my responsibility. Yet, the interaction with the staff is so unagreeable that I find it more tolerable to take the chance.

“Adams” my name glares over the intercom, “you have an appointment with the nurse in five minutes, and be dressed and ready.”

That is how it happens some times; you think it and its there. So I make sure I have on the proper attire, and I wait by the door – approximately twelve minutes. When it opens I walk across the day room to the outer door.

Approximately six feet from the door, sitting at a desk is Officer Smith – who demonstrates a nasty attitude whenever the opportunity arises – who is in a conversation with the nurse. He looks directly at me standing at the door, so I push it but it does not budge – for it has not been electronically unlocked yet. I wait another thirty seconds, and push the door again – no luck.

On my third attempt the door opens when I push it, and corrections officer Smith says, “You can’t open the door until I release it, and we were in the middle of a conversation.”

“I didn’t know if it was open” I said, “the tower said to push it. Sometimes it’s open and we need to push the door open.”

“Well, you can’t come through until I open it.”

I take a seat in a plastic chair provided by the nurse, and with as much sarcasm and distance as she can muster says in a monotone, taking every precaution to make sure that she does not address me directly, “The doctor has ordered an INR/PT/PTT; do you want to take it?”

I have to believe that that question is inherent to the facility – do you want to take it? – But I wish to minimize my time with both the nurse and the corrections officer, so I say, “Yes.”

She draws blood and I move my right hand over my left arm and she blurts out “don’t touch.”

I’m nowhere in the vicinity of touching and am merely getting ready to take over the cotton ball while she pulls the needle and discards it. But her response wasn’t a warning, it was a threat and she had done it before. I think in the future I will refuse the blood draw – I’m sure that is what they would like – so that they can disavow themselves of any wrongdoing. (But let’s not forget they already transferred me down here with an INR of 4.3 which not one of the staff – including this nurse – knew about for 5 days.)

I waited while they opened the outer door, and then proceeded to my cell. I stood there for about four minutes and decided to walk back to the outer door. Officer Smith screams through the glass, “Wait at your cell door.”

I had, for approximately five minutes, while they exchanged notes on the fact that they were indeed in control. Make no doubt about it, to be constantly living with ill-tempered, bad-mannered, common people is dreadful. I find it almost impossible to say which, of all my unpleasant sensations, is uppermost.

But that is also the beauty of this place: the ability to retreat behind a closed door to solitude, to shut out those things that no amount of reason will change. And luckily for me, a few moments later the whole episode was filed away, hopefully never to be reopened.

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