If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. — Tennessee Williams
I’ve lived an interesting life. I don’t spin stories about protesting the war in Vietnam or going to Woodstock. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not–and believe me, I know exactly who I am.
I worked in a prison and it is the kind of job where I needed to keep an eye on things that looked hinky, with inmates, free staff and officers. Just SOP. I’m sure that most people are aware of odd incidents during the workday–it’s just that in my line of work, odd incidents could get you stabbed. (Actually, odd incidents have gotten both of my shoulders torn up and several long jagged scars from flailing shanks.It only takes a couple of assaults to make a person keep their eyes open.)
We had a secretary in my department who just acted odd. You couldn’t use her shredder (the only department shredder). Couldn’t use the outside phone line. Stay off her fax machine. Leave the copy machine alone. Her office was always locked. We spent a lot of time knocking and waiting at her door. After a while, she got caught smuggling in cell phones and drugs, which is why she needed so much privacy. And all her privacy was a little off.
I’d share this weirdness with
a former friend a person I’ve known since childhood and because she is just a works at a random high school in a random position, decided that I was thriving on drama. With no life and death training or experience, she got it in her head that my co-workers and I thrive on drama, which she found find it unnecessary and unpleasant.
Well heck, I find people stabbing each other over I don’t know what unpleasant, too. I don’t like watching people being beat to death. I don’t like the daily battle and
the housekeeping fighting stabbing either. My main job was to make it home alive at the end of my shift. I’m not too sure what her main job is. She complains about teachers coming in late or needing extra books or deciding not to use XYZ test book (which she promptly rats out to the admin because I guess she is the curriculum monitor.)
I find it interesting that even though she doesn’t have a regular class six times a day/homework/lesson plans—she has help to check in and shelve books and when students are in the library, she has a teacher in charge of the class–I’m not sure what all her job stress is coming from. It seems to me that she is busy getting her
co-workers underlings in trouble, but no real reason.
She only taught for a few years before her present position and she acts as if she is the only person who has gotten a MA degree while holding down a job. I got a MA in Spanish while pregnant with my first child and an MA in Math before my second child was out of diapers. Yep, it was hard. Not impossible nor did it make me a super person. It sure as heck didn’t give me the right to rat out my fellow teachers.
My parents both died in the last ten years. I took care of my mother for the last eight years of her life. My son was was ill and spent the years between 15 and 25 in and out of the hospital. I was ill. I have chronic cluster headaches (There are 43 of us in the US who have what I have.) It’s a little scary and besides mentioning that my head hurts, I don’t feel the need to give this particular person all the gruesome details, only because she will twist the truth into some kind of lie or if she’s never heard of it, the natural step would be that I’m lying. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma, she called me a liar. But since I went to an oncologist at UCSF and not a soldier/sailor/tinker/spy, I sort of believe my doctor’s opinion. She of course, called me a liar.
I’ve been called into Internal Affairs 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 knew a
former friend person 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 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 her 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 know it wears my warden out, because he will patiently listen to the looney tune crazycake stuff until he’s had it and then just cut it off; not to whip up some drama but to simply get in and out of this foolish drama.
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.)
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 scared 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 myself. I don’t drag up the past or alter my importance in life. 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.