Stephen Newman

Dirty Blankets and Pecan Pie by Steve Newman

I didn’t sleep well last night. After watching a better-than-average Lifetime movie called “Killer Assistant,” on my 15-inch flatscreen, I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t. I didn’t have any blankets.

The laundry workers wash our sheets every Sunday morning, but our blankets are only washed on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. We toss our blankets and sheets into a large bin late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, alongside the dirty laundry from all 88 inmates on our unit. The bin is taken downstairs, via elevator, washed in the laundry facility (more commonly referred to as simply, “Laundry”) and returned to us 4-6 hours later. The problem was that I turned my blankets in on January 7th — the first Sunday of the month. They were returned to me, unwashed, in a huge plastic trash bag.

They weren’t simply unwashed. They intermingled with dirty laundry from 87 other guys, many of whom aren’t the poster children for good hygiene. Scabies. Bodily fluids. Who knows what could have been transfered to my blankets while in the bin? No way I could put them back on my bed. So I packed them up under my bed until next Sunday. I figured I could sleep for a week with only a sheet. But I missed my blankets, and as a result, I tossed and turned all night. (While tossing and turning, I worried that a guard might yell at me, because we’re required to have our beds made by 8 AM each morning. A “made bed” is defined as a blanket neatly covering 75% of the mattress, with no sheets showing. We can sleep after 8 AM, but we have to sleep on top of the blanket, not beneath it. But when I don’t have a blanket on my bed, it’s quite challenging to comply.)

When I woke up at 7:30, I debated just skipping my group therapy at 8. It’s voluntary, twice a week, but I’ve only missed one group in over a year. Today was about to be number two. I had a headache, I felt hungover, I didn’t even have time to make coffee. Somehow, I managed to rally, brush my teeth, get dressed, and get to the group on time.

When I arrived…surprise! A new member of the group — to protect his identity, I’ll refer to him as Harry Potter — was sitting in one of the comfortable rocking chairs. In September, Harry was caught having sex in the shower. To keep from getting in trouble, he claimed that he was raped. As a result, the other guy got into serious trouble, and a months-long investigation ensued. This is the last guy I want to have in my group — a group where I’m supposed to open up and share my deepest darkest secrets, and trust that the group members will keep what I say confidential. Harry Potter loves to spread drama and gossip. And if he is capable of making false claims like he did in the past, he is capable of anything. It’s risky for me to be honest with him about my feelings, for fear he may retiliate with lies about me. So as a result, the progress in this particular group will be severely thwarted.

Today, the clinician showed us two videos on mindfulness and meditation. It worked out well — I was able to sit back, not share my secrets with the new group member, and learn some helpful lessons about living in the moment and not worrying about the past and the future.

After our 11 AM lunch (a turkey sandwich on a wheat bun, Sun Chips that expired three weeks ago, a dry whole wheat chocolate chip cookie, and an orange) I spent the entire afternoon writing emails to Anja in Slovenia. Anja ran out of eStamps on December 28th, and we went 11 days without emailing, which felt like an eternity. So today, she received the money I paypaled her and bought 125 stamps and sent me seven emails. I replied to all of them — it took me about four hours and made the afternoon fly by.

Tonight, I watched the college football championship between Alabama and Georgia, which I’d been looking forward to all week. I tried my best to ignore my cellmate, who loves to narrate everything he is watching on TV, all night long. Somehow, he thinks I care about what he’s watching more than what I’m watching. But comments like, “Oh, good, this is a potty training sounds promising,” which is word-for-word what he said to me tonight, have become increasingly difficult for me to ignore. Luckily, I have the patience of a Buddhist Monk and the tolerance of Chaz Bono at an LGBTQ rally.

After Alabama’s win, I watched a particularly good episode of “The Good Doctor,” and am now writing this blog. It’s 11:11 PM. Count time. (We learn to use the restroom and brush our teeth before the 11:10 count…otherwise the bathroom will be off limits for an hour. At around 11:05 it can feel like rush hour in the bathroom. 3 toilets, 4 sinks, 88 inmates.)

And that, my friends, is a typical Monday in an Idaho prison. Probably not as bad as what you see on TV, but don’t let the term “Prisneyland” fool you. Sure, if you absolutely had to spend ten years in prison, this one is probably as good as any. Still, I don’t recommend it. If I was allowed on the internet, I’d give it a very bad yelp review. I mean, seriously! What kind of hotel only washes your blankets twice a month?!

FULL DISCLOSURE: It’s not all bad. The pecan pie we were given for dinner last night in the chow hall was sublime, as was the pumpkin cream cheese pie we got on New Years Day.

Steve Newman
DOC #90843


Categories: Stephen Newman

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