I think of myself as an honest person.
I work in a prison and it is the kind of job where not only do I need to tell the truth, I need to keep myself out of stuff I have no business digging around in. There are times when I have to leave a room because I don’t want to be involved.
I’ve been called into IA more than once and been questioned about stuff that sometimes I know nothing about. Sometimes I know a little bit about it and sometimes I know the entire story from my own perspective. Then there is the gray area where I’m just connecting the dots and am pretty sure I know exactly what happened but not because I KNOW what happened but because I know human nature. Give me A and C, a dash of E and G and knowing what I know, I can figure out B, D and F and usually be right.
And believe me, working with Level 4 felons has given me a front row seat into human nature.
And it is not always a pretty sight.
I have seen both the most honorable of men and the ugliest side of greed and liars and people who simply like to be unreasonable because, well, what are you going to do about it? I’ve been the target of lies and bitchslapped and worse, by people I thought I knew, people who had some control over my life. I’ve had professional and personal confidences tossed into my face (“top that!”) when I had no idea I was in a race.
I have gotten myself into trouble more than once because I give honest answers. I won’t keep stupid secrets. If I have a conversation with A about B and it is something B would like to know (“Your husband told me he loved you” “Miller said he thought you were doing a good job” “Steve said he was thinking about moving you to pre-release”), it doesn’t occur to me that I should have taped the conversation. It doesn’t occur to me that B will cross examine A, asking for a virtual trial transcript, when A was simply making a chance comment.
I have a former friend who finds dishonesty insulting, stating that it implies that she is not important enough to respect, but her view of dishonestly is so broad that it just exhausts me, trying to tiptoe around her anger. I never know what is going to set her off. I have had her cross examine me about random comments (What did you say? What did he say? Then what was said?) Hell, I don’t know. I was barely listening. I tell her that most of life is simply background noise; I’m not writing down every comment or every response. Most of the noise that goes on is the same thing, over and over (the definition of prison AND life) Despite the fact that I have been divorced, for her to think that it is as simple as changing paper towel brands is disrespectful to ME. That I could feel disrespect is something I am sure has never crossed her mind. I can easily dismiss this kind of background noise because I KNOW she doesn’t have a clue about what she’s talking.
Guys who live in the prison must be exhausted attempting to keep track of every offhand comment and response, for fear of offending somebody, especially when they are surrounded by people who is just WAITING to be pissed off. It must be tiring to always think that others have an agenda and that that agenda is always always always critical of them. I know it wears me out.
I can handle greed (take a look at the two barns I have filled to the rafters with furniture and the two chairs I am so coveting, even as I write).
I can understand sloth (it does a bed good to air out, so it isn’t really important to make it up every day, especially if the door is shut and the dogs can’t be laying on the sheets). And it’s ecologically correct to soak dishes and do just one batch.
I understand thinking unkind thoughts about people who get on my very last nerve. (And I am frequently and purposefully unkind, but in a cruel and clever way.)
Sometimes I’m short tempered (For the last 56 years, dinner is at at 6:30. Tonight, I got dinner ready a little early. setting down with a pickety project with a thousand little bits to it and told Darling to let me know when he was hungry. I meant like in 40 minutes, not right then. So I huffily got up and slammed dishes around. He did the same thing with lunch. I was slicing pears up for his salad and he yanked the plate right out of my hands. NO ONE is that hungry and the next time he does it, the pears are going to turn brown before I touch them again.)
I frequently am thoughtless (although I am good about thanking people for kind things they do for me). I have a terrible temper but I rarely will just lash out in anger, only because there be dragons. I lived in a house where my parents frequently laid out traps for me, just daring me to mis-step and when I did, they were ruthless in flaying me, but they didn’t manage to beat the humanity out of me. I work with stone killers and worse and they don’t scare me. What they do and say? It’s not personal. It just comes from fear.
But I have little patience for people who deliberately make mean comments for the sole purpose of eventually saying “How. Dare. You.” and ending with “FUCK.YOU.” Nothing like someone standing in front of me, betraying all the trust that I’ve put in them, or deliberately hurting me because what they are angry about something else. That is personal, even though it comes from fear, it’s personal and meant to not only hurt me, it’s meant to stay in my head, so I can hear it on an endless loop. Jackson used to write me these long, cathartic letters for years. As he spiraled further into the mental illness that eventually took his life, he had a need to write ever uglier, hideous letters, filled with “how dare you’s” and “someday, everyone will know what your really are like.” You know, I hope that one day everyone DOES know. Because at least I’m honest about it. I don’t drag up the past or alter my importance in their lives. If someone hurts me, I try to concentrate on the present hurt and not drag up crap from fifty years ago.
So I can’t say that my time in prison has been wasted. I have learned far more than I’ve taught but it hasn’t always been something I could have lived without. I would just have soon remained ignorant of the uglier side of human nature. I do my best to be a decent person and face up to my foibles and frailties.
So stone me. Get in line.