Friday, January 27, 2017

William Myrl; Letters to No One (70)

"It's the feeling that compels us to reach out for others even as we curl away from the others around us."

Dear No One,

There was ice cream today, meat burgers. These things are donated on occasion. It's an awful lot of build up for what is essentially a kid's meal, as we all gossiped about it for a week and a half before the actual lunch, expectations rose beyond reason. Ice cream is one of my favorite things, basically a drug of choice.

The boulevard was packed with officers out to catch the double backers, beat the deucers, tray thieves. They hand out 111's, stealing charges, if they catch us going through the line more than once, and today they were serious. Potential hazards; loss of phone use, rec, commissary, or a twelve dollar fine. The fine seems much harsher if you're paid thirty five cents an hour. It's hard to guess how many extras were served.

As we eat lunch in the Apparel Plant (way less fancy than it sounds), I didn't have an opportunity to test their hamburgler alarm system. It's embarrassing to think about how much we and how eagerly we fixate on and anticipate this sort of meal. In actuality it is less and less exciting than a stop at Wendy's. I remember Wendy's.

Writing these letters, I try to avoid repeating myself, the danger of a diary is falling into the habit of recording mundane cycles of thought and feeling. But feeling, when straying from the humming average of a psychologists ten point scale, is often at the forefront of my mind when I want to write.

This kind of feeling isn't good for stories, isn't helpful for detailed argument. It's the feeling that compels us to reach out for others even as we curl away from the others around us. The feeling of being wrapped in a soft and permeable malaise, an unhappy fog. I don't know what to say.

Wait a day.

Whenever I have a dull period, it is almost invariably followed by an upswing. Today, folding the same canary jumpsuits I was folding yesterday, I had to tamp down on my smiles. My internal dialogue was too amusing.

There are other factors. Thursday is the end of my work week, and I had just counted two boxes of band-aids. Inane tasks put me in a good mood. (199 adhesive medical strips, they shorted us one.)

Perhaps more salient, we had our group today. It wasn't as negative as last weeks gathering, where patients complained about medical mistreatment, and being locked in seg when they tried too hard to get someone to listen to them. Some droned on, some always do.

There were three students there, one with a strange name, indeterminate ethnicity, huge eyes and pouty lips. I happen to hate that descriptor, but pouty is exactly what they were. Some cliches are there for a reason. Most of the session for me was an exercise in staring at her without being overtly creepy. I don't generally feel compelled to contribute to the conversation unless it falters.

I've got a new j-pop fixation: Passepied. I've only got three tracks of theirs but each is excellent. Then there's Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Still insane.

Tonight will be my Pathfinder game. We had to change the schedule because we lost a player. He went to segregation chasing his lover, we'll get into that another time. The new guy won't stay awake after nine in the evening. Continuing to play Friday and Saturday late night rec periods will be impossible One happy consequence, I can catch the second half of this Crazy Ex Girlfriend season. The gaming gang consists of Dick, who has an accurate name, Mao, who is impossible to reason with, and Darn, who is the soft pudding with which I shall mix them together.

William Myrl
Letters to No One

Saturday, January 7, 2017

William Myrl; Letters to No One (69)

Dear No One, 

There is a conversation that keeps rewinding, actually, there are a number of them, but one bothers me more than the others. When talking about themselves, about living in prison, offenders often use the word alert. They say you have to be alert, you have to remember where you are, because anything could happen at any time. 


These people do not understand what alert means. Alertness is a state of heightened awareness, which it is not possible to maintain indefinitely without inviting serious physical and mental health concerns. Purse likes to talk about how alert he is, both in group and in the pod, its one of the speeches he keeps tucked in his back pocket along with his address book. An example he uses is not going to sleep with your cell door open, because someone could enter and do you harm while you were helpless. This behaviour is not a sign of alertness, it's a sign of not being an idiot. When the people who work in the prison leave home in the morning, they don't leave their doors open either. They don't leave the doors to their houses open in the middle of night while asleep, just as college students don't leave the door to their dorm rooms open onto the hall, because they are not idiots. 

There are very few offenders that, when pressed, will say they are not alert, do not keep alert. So what do they mean? Purse might say it means being aware of the people around you, aware that you're dealing with criminals. Again, the technical name for being aware of the people around you is called consciousness, or not being an idiot, you don't get kudos for being awake. There is more violence per capita in the prison systems than in the nation at large, but we happen to occupy a very relaxed section of that system. Inmates won't always honor their debts or their promises, but that's also true of humans in general. If to be alert means to remember that you are surrounded by criminals, because they might try to cheat or otherwise take advantage of you, it would do just as well to remember that we are surrounded by humans, who do much the same thing. 

The "alert" comments are a pet peeve, possibly because they remind me of someone describing how self aware they are, or how perceptive. How would they know? The individuals I interact with who are clearly sub par people readers believe themselves monuments to perspicacity. Remember the above average effect? Nearly ninety percent of drivers will aver to being above average navigators of the roads. Those same respondents would call themselves "alert." If anyone can do it, than anyone can think they're good at it. 

I told the students I was not alert. I live here. 

Hearts and stars, 

William Myrl 
Letters to No One