Stephen Newman

The Old Man and the Foot by Stephen Newman

Less than an hour ago, I walked into the bathroom to take a shower, but the grey-haired maintenance man was lying on the bathroom floor, blocking the path. “You can just step over me,” he said. He, and two of his 20-cent-per-hour inmate assistants, were attempting to fix both of our urinals, both sporting “out of order” signs. Apparently they’ve been leaking into the unit below ours with each and every flush I’m not sure if it’s just the water that leaks, or the urine. I didn’t think to ask.

It’s inconvenient, though, as it leaves us with three toilets for 88 guys. And this can be extra frustrating when Zac, who spends more time on the shitter than off, chats with his “homies” about March madness for what seems like hours, during any of his multitude of daily shits. I don’t count, but the guy is in there at least 30 times a day. (How IDOC manages to not run out of toilet paper is a small miracle.)

The shower situation is slightly less dire, yet still frustrating. There are six showers in an open room, two with decent water pressure. The problem is that Mickey, this grouchy old fart approaching 70 years old, who has been in prison here for at least 25 of those years, seems to think it’s necessary to rest his foot on the soap dish holder while he dries his leg. Let me back up a bit. Each of the six showers is a pre-fab unit — an all-in-one gizmo with the water control knob, the showerhead, and a small shelf to hold your soap. The shelf is attached to the main unit with heavy duty screws, nuts, bolts, something like that. The old fart (who is in for murder — I have a general rule never to confront anyone in here for murder) will launch his foot up onto that soap dish holder, applying pressure with his leg as he leans forward and vigorously dries himself with his towel. Each time he does, it bends the soap holder down further and futher. He has done this to three of the six showers. Now, when I try to set my soap on the thing, the soap falls right off. It’s practically at a 45 degree angle — completely useless (unless, I suppose, you, too, need to dry your leg). My point is that it’s fucking…pardon me…freaking inconvenient to keep having to bend down to pick up the soap that has fallen onto the shower floor. The other option is to use the soap dish on one of the adjoining showers (with bad water pressure) and then walk to that shower each time I need to access my soap. This, too, is less than ideal.

“That’s why I don’t commit felonies,” I’ve been told by myriad staff members in the past, if I complain about such a trivial problem. Another version of this: “If you don’t like it, don’t come to prison!” Ok, thanks. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.
This morning I was finally able to get the books I ordered on Borderline Personality Disorder. A friend of mine was diagnosed, and I have been anxiously awaiting these books, to help me understand it (and her) better. The first book I ordered was a memoir, called, “the buddha and the borderline.” I should have been able to pick it up weeks ago, at the property office. But I was notified that because the title of the book had “Buddha” in it, it would first need to go to the chapel, and be cleared by the Chaplain. This delayed the process by at least two weeks.

The Chaplain put me on the “religious property” call out sheet last Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM. The call-out notified me that the pick-up times for chapel property are Tuesdays from 11-1 and Wednesdays from 11-1. So I was going to have to wait for another week (since he posted the thing two hours after the cutoff for the prior week). Amazon delivered the book in two days. A month later, I am finally able to read it. What a process! I spent a few hours this afternoon reading it. Right now I’m on page 88. I love the book, but I feel really bad for my friend who has to live through this every day of her life.

I have a very analytical mind, and it helps me to get as much information as possible, to process things emotionally. I might finish the book tonight. I have two others that I received, also on Borderline Personality Disorder, which I am anxious to begin reading.

On Saturday night they played the movie “Whip It”. No, this wasn’t a “50 Shades of Grey” prequel. It was a movie, circa 2009, about Roller Derby. It had Ellen Page as part of an all-star cast. While my parents used to tell me that Roller Derby was “the professional wrestling” of their generation, it looked pretty cool and I actually want to go to a real Roller Derby match now. Maybe I can, once I’m off parole in a few years. I think it would be fun (and inexpensive) entertainment.

I had to resign myself to the fact that my cellmate would, as always, talk throughout the movie. I have no way to win. If I watch the movie with him, he will talk throughout the whole movie and distract me. If I wait so that I can watch it later (minus the distractions) that also fails, becauase then he will tell me about the whole movie as he is watching it, ruining it for me. If he sees I’m watching it later, he often re-watches it with me and talks throughout the movie anyway.

I wondered if I was being overly critical. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my mind. So Mr. Analytical Steve decided to do an experiment. For the first 25 minutes of the movie, each time he talked, I checked my watch, and logged the time (to the second) of his interruption, along with what he said. The movie began at 7:01 PM. By 7:01 and 37 seconds, he had already made his first comment: “oh, yeah! She’s a cutie!” In the first 25 minutes, he interrupted the movie 26 times with comments — an average of more than one interruption per minute, averaging 13 seconds per interruption. Could he be that bad in the theater? Remind me never to invite him to Sundance. Redford would be mortified.

Stephen Newman
DOC #90843


1 reply »

  1. It must be liked living with a really annoying family you can’t escape from! I lived with my dad’s OCD growing up, and it drove me crazy.
    Hang in there.


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