There I sat in a dark cell all dressed up (in a county jail jumpsuit) with no place to go (because I was already in jail).
The light switch for each cell was positioned just outside its gate, but within reach of any inmate willing to stick his arm over his open cell’s threshold or through the bars of a closed gate. Most inmates never bothered to flip the switch. My cellie and I certainly did not. Why would we? There wasn’t a book or magazine of any kind on the unit and the prison handbook is hardly a scintillating read.
My cellie woke up in a bit of a mood, but I had learned enough about him to not take it personally. If I woke up in a dimly lit cell and saw me sitting on the opposite bunk staring into space, I’d be a little miffed, too.
Someone had changed the channel on the TV to ESPN. Faux-hip, frat boy banter over baseball highlights was drawing an audience in the dayroom. Guys were looking up at that TV with the kind of focus some retirees devote to slot machines. Had it been football season, I would have been right out there with them. Instead, I chose to take advantage of unstructured time; I took a nap.
When I woke up, it was readily apparent that not much had changed. A glance through the cell’s open gate revealed the same guys seated at the picnic tables watching maybe the fourth iteration of SportsCenter as intently as they had the first. Some had changed seats. Others propped their feet up on the bench of the table in front of them. None was nearly as interested in the program as his gaze might have indicated. Was this really how the men on the unit who bothered to leave their cells would spend the day? I had other ideas.
I rose (no pun intended) from my bunk, retreived an ink pen and some blank paper from my kit and marched through the cell’s gloom to the dayroom.
Struck with inspiration for future blog posts, I grabbed a seat at a random table and set to writing. As more men exited their cells, I picked up smatterings of chatter. Even as I jotted my notes, I tuned in to what I was hearing. Over time, I stopped writing my own thoughts and started writing those spoken by others.
I might have been the only man on the unit jailed for a civil matter, but according to several inmates, my story is hardly unique. What is unique is that I am compelled to address the insanity that led to me spending five days in jail. What is unique is that I wonder why all of these dads just accept utter stupidity as convention. What is unique is that I refuse to live my life under the thumbs of people who demand that I live by rules that they themselves do not.
There’s gotta be a better way. You can call me crazy, but you won’t call me miserable.