Thursday, October 26, 2006


The inmate first approached me early in the shift with a yellow medical form. He stated that he was paranoid and was afraid he would hurt somebody (he flexed his chest when he said that) and needed to be given a cell all his own.

"You aren't paranoid," I said.

"I am too. People make me uncomfortable. I've been dignosed."

"If you were paranoid, you wouldn't have walked up to me, you wouldn't be standing this close, you wouldn't be making eye contact... your body language and voice are all wrong... and anyway, where'd you get the idea that jail was supposed to be comfortable?"

"Well, maybe I'm a little close but it's really hard for me to do it."

"Whatever. Put in your kite (any written request in the jail is called a 'kite'). Address it to me. We'll discuss you at the team meeting day after tomorrow."

"You aren't going to move me now?"

Just a flicker in his eyes- for half a second he considered doing something stupid, then chose to avoid the pain.

In my few minutes of free time over the next hours, I ran the inmate. No psych history. Claimed to be a gangmember and thoroughly dangerous fellow. Throws chairs when he's upset. Sex offender. The last was probably key, he was afraid his charges would get out. Maybe.

Fifteen minutes to end of shift and a horn sounds, strobe lights flash and solid steel door after solid steel door slams shut with a crash. Fire alarm.

I was running for the weasel's dorm before Central announced where the alarm originated. The puke had reached over the officer's desk and pulled the fire alarm. I was there first, the only officer. The puke was standing by the officer's desk and 74 other inmates watched from their bunks...

And the puke did nothing, just turned around and put his hands behind his back. I wanted him to fight. I knew he was too much of a coward- that's why he wanted out of the dorm so bad. But I really wanted him to fight. Something about his behavior made me despise him and I wanted to hurt him. But I was a professional. I did call him a coward when we were alone in a cell later and I was describing the disciplinary process. He just flexed, trying to be hard. I though about how easily his bones would break.

Anger is rare for for me. It's been a long time since someone pushed my buttons this thoroughly. Long ago, when I was dealing with adolescent emotions, my brother told me that you never hated anyone unless they reminded you of you. He was right, at least for takes a lot of closeness to make it personal for me. (RIP, Rick, and thanks).

So, did this puke remind me of me? A little. He had an ability to carry out a plan and manipulate the situation he was in to get exactly what he wanted. That's part of what made me angry, this ability to plan only being used for his own benefit. That's it though. I didn't hate him.

So what were the buttons? Entitlement. That he felt he should get what he wanted and if he had to inconvenience over a thousand people to get it, he didn't give a shit. Inconsistancy- he wanted to be a tough guy but did everything he could to avoid any hint of danger, damage or fear. And the cowardice itself, which just makes my skin crawl.

Hmmm.... and what are the three virtues I most prize? Mystery solved.

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