Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My time in prison

I had one of those moments in a conversation recently where i was happily explaining something and the other people just looked at me with complete incomprehension.

It went like this:

Em and The Mister and i were at lunch somewhere. I was talking about what i would do if i ever found myself in solitary confinement. Like, what kind of games i would make up in my head and how i would pass the time between being interogated? Would i exercise, all alone in my cell? Would i be able to figure out how to communicate with the other prisioners by rapping on the walls. Would i try to dig a tunnel and escape? Would i be allowed to have a crossword puzzle book and a pencil? What about a deck of cards? Would i make a pet out of a passing rat? Or would i have to eat it to survive? And so on.

They both just looked at me. They each said they had never even thought about it. They exchanged a speaking glance. Em raised one eyebrow at me. I guess i may have read too many books and seen too many movies with this theme.

  • Like Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler and
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and
  • I cannot remember the name of it but i read this terrific book about 20 years ago by a woman who was put in prison in China by that asshole Mao.
  • V for Vendetta
  • The Terminator 2
I can't believe they never thought about it at all. Maybe i read my books a bit too seriously.

42 comments:

Mother of Invention said...

I don't think it's an odd thought at all considering what you've read and seen. I haven't really thought about it, but I haven't read or seen any of those. I expect my imagination would work overtime and I'd invent all kinds of dumb stuff to do! And I'd beg for a pen and paper! Maybe I'd write on TP! Maybe write critiques of prison food! I'd sing and make up songs and I'd kid around with the guards. Okay, I'd draw the line at taming the rat!

Caro said...

oh i have thought about that stuff a lot. I've even fantasized about it. Alone. No one to tend to. All the yoga I can cram in...

ms chica said...

This post makes me a little sad because, most of the conversations, I've had with Mister Hombre the last month have gone this way. Complete incomprehension. Either I spend too much time in my head, or he's under a lot of stress...I fear both.

He used to get me.

Bobealia... said...

If it makes you feel better I've thought of it. Em was just being a teenager and the mister was being boring.

liv said...

God. I want to hug Ms. Chica.

Also, I think that based on my own experience however brief, prison is not fun. And caro, yoga doesn't fix a damned thing. Trust me. It's my life.

Meno, it's not like in books. Unless you're reading A Tale of Two Cities

meno said...

moi, i had a pet rat once. They are kind of cute, in a hairless tail sort of way. See, once you start thinking about it, your mind goes off.

caro, i never saw it as ideal, but with me, it would be the boredom that drove me over the edge.

ms. chica, would it help if i said that sometimes that happens? Two good people just lose that ability to connect for a while. Listen to this song by Mary Gauthier, "Sun Fades the Color of Everything." If you like that sort of thing that is.

bo, thank you, that does make me feel better. But they truly had never thought about it. I need to get Em some new books.

liv, i in no way think that prison, or detention camp, or whatever, would be any fun. It;s just that my imagination identifies with having lots of time to fill. I want to hug ms. chica too. Soon, i will.

Mignon said...

I was thinking exactly what bobealia said. Because I've thought about it, and apparently my husband has too (he with so little imaginative thinking).

But I thought of it because of a trip to Alcatraz, King Rat and One Day in the Life of Ivan Densiblahblah. The last book always makes me appreciate weak coffee, too. And the following daydream: What if I only had one pinch of salt and one pinch of one kind of spice to make one half of a mushy potato palatable...

meno said...

mignon, you brought up two more reasons why i have these thoughts, One Day in the Life of Ivan D-sneeze-iovich, and King Rat.

I feel like i have read so many, seen so many, about this, that, although i have no idea what it would REALLY be like, i can wonder.

Lynn said...

Given all the hoopla about Paris Hilton and jail, it's no wonder that you brought up the conversation. If I had been with you, I would have totally understood what you were saying...and I would not have rolled my eyes. I think that it is a fascinating topic to contemplate...which I shall now go and do;~)

flutter said...

I am so utterly familiar with the *blink blink* phenomenon. It usually occurs whenever I open my mouth...

d-man said...

If you had a deck of cards, you could play Solitare in solitary.

mrschili said...

You may take your books too seriously, but I've thought about this stuff, too. Ever see Papillion? I don't think that anyone who's ever seen that film can NOT think about what they'd do in a similar situation...

mjd said...

I have thought about this stuff and mostly come up with the same answer, "I could not survive in prison." So, I would be sharpening my plastic spoon to dig my way out. I would be carving a handgun out of soap like John Dillenger. Not really. I am not that clever. Hopefully, I would do more than twiddle my thumbs. Although the Count of Monte Cristo did not have this option, I would read books from the prison library or learn another language in the prison rehibilitation classes.

AC said...

Was that book Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Chang? If so, I read that too and am still completely blown away by it. I still remember with a shudder her description of walking into a book store and the ONLY book on the shelves were volume after volume of the Little Red Book.

And termintator 2 is one of my favorites too! I adore Linda Hamilton in that, and wish daily I had the determination in my eyes Sarah Conner had doing those pull ups at the very beginning.

Toni said...

After the week, and especially the night, I have had- I would welcome solitary confinement!

But no, haven't put as much thought into as you...

Marsha said...

I do wonder if one would have access to paper and pen? I would want to write, either a story or a computer program - not sure which maybe both. My family gives me that look all the time. I still love them, even if they are unimaginative they are sweet, as I am sure your family is as well.

lu said...

Like Ms. Chilli, "Papillon" Was one of those movies that had me thinking.? It seems that there was a rash of cool prison break movies released during the 70s.

Ortizzle said...

I have wondered about that. Especially when I thought of POWs, locked up for years sometimes, never knowing if they would die or be killed before they got out of prison. I wondered how they kept their sanity.

thailandchani said...

Most people don't get me, either... so maybe it's just a common condition for all of us. :)

As for solitary confinement, well, I couldn't do it without books. Impossible! The snakes in my head would drive me over the edge without some distraction.


Peace,

~Chani

meno said...

lynn, she never crossed my mind. I always think more in terms of political prisoners or POWs. But i'm happy that you wouldn't have rolled your eyes at me.

flutter, i don't get it very often from these two. We are all three fairly odd. that's why this stuck out.

d-man, and that's just what i would do. Alone.

mrs.chili, i never saw that one, but i've certainly heard of it. Maybe i should add it to the Netflix list.

mjd, see! You are just as odd as i am. And we are not that odd.

ac, YES! thank you so much for the name of the book. I tried seaching google and amazon with no luck. You know more than google! That book still haunts me.

toni, uh oh. That doesn't sound good. Maybe a vacation would be a better option than solitary.

marsha, i see that you have wondered too. My family usually gets me, just this time neither of them had ever thought about it.

lu, now i really have to see Papillon. Cool Hand Luke too, although i have seen that one.

ortizzle, exactly. How did they do it, and what helped some of them live and stay sane, and some not. And what would i do?

chani, maybe you would learn to tame the snakes, and get them to enlighten you. Just a thought.

Jennifer said...

Oh good lord, I think about this all the time. More along the lines of creative ways to off myself with limited "tools" should I ever end up in jail. Because being dead is the only way I'd survive it. And I know this because I've thought about it. A lot.

gr said...

I have all kinds of doomsday/accident scenarios running through my head, and sure, the cell is another. I worry most about a Katrina type thing, though. That was all too real for so many average folks.

Tink said...

I think about that stuff all the time. What would I do if my car fell of a bridge? What would I do if I were stranded in the middle of nowhere? What would I do if I was attacked by zombies?

It's good to be prepared.

Sober Briquette said...

Whoa. Read Papillon, don't rent the movie.

egan said...

I think I'd just flex my muscles all day long and talk to myself in French.

QT said...

Sorry, I had to laugh at Egan.

I think about this shit ALL.THE.TIME - especially wilderness rescue scenarios. So I don't think your are crazy and could have easily added my 2 cents!

Scott from Oregon said...

Hmmmm... I'd try to figure out how to avoid rhoids myself...

THE number one complaint about solitary, you know, from those who have done time there...

TTQ said...

I've often thought about it... give me a racquet ball racket and a ball.. though the racquet has strings so that would probably be out of the question, but I could play four-square by myself. And I would sleep. A LOT. Live in my dreams..

sari said...

I don't think that's any weirder than pondering "Hey, how many killers have I walked past in my life and just not known?"

But I'm weird that way.

meno said...

jennifer, i've thought that i would want the poison capsule hidden in a tooth. But i'm guessing that mu dentist won't be okay with that.

gary, Katrina was another way for us to realize that we can never really be safe. Given that i don't delude myself into thinking that i can make the world safe, of course i have thought of some of the myriad of things that can hurt us.

tink, yeah, like in Shaun of the Dead, or the aliens in Signs. I wonder if water really would work on aliens?

de, thank you for that. i almost always prefer to read the book than to watch the movie made from it.

egan, but would you throw poo?

qt, i laugh at egan too. We'll just have to compare notes when we meet.

scott, what is it with you and stucco and the 'roids?

ttq, maybe a ping pong ball and a paddle. No strings that way.

sari, oooh, i've never thought about that. But now i will.

jen said...

i think about that stuff all the time. it's an escape fantasy actually.

have you seen Midnight Express? Now THAT is a prison i don't fantacize about.

Sanjay said...

No you are not alone. Solitary confinement can destroy you, if it does not it will sure as heck change you for good.

alphawoman said...

I'm sure I would loose my mind in a week. Iloved the count of Monte Cristo! One of the best stories of triumph ever. Though, I read it so many years ago...didn't he loose the girl?

Jeremiah said...

You take your books exactly the way you ought to...as brain food. A hungry imagination is a good thang.

meno said...

jen, i have never seen midnight express, on purpose i think. I can't take movies that are too gruesome or tense. For some reason it's easier to read about it for me.

sanjay, some people do not get destroyed, but no one could escape unchanged. It's a situation i hope to avoid inmy lifetime.

alphawoman, you know, i can't actually remember. Guess i need to read it again.

jeremiah, that's a great way to look at it, because i can't do anything about it anyway. I yam what i yam.

egan said...

Yeah, I might throw poo too. It makes a mean adhesive.

Biscotto said...

So, uh, I've been thinking about this a lot lately, myself.

Do you ever write eulogies for the people that you love? Sometimes I do. They are an interesting challenge, if you can get past the weepy part.

Biscotto said...

I read the rule book for the jail last week, or was it already the week before, when I got arrested.

You are allowed to have ten pictures and 50 sheets of paper and one periodical subscription and a total of 5 books or magazines. You can buy stuff from the dispensary if someone deposits money into your account. They do this by sending a check or by dropping a money order into a deposit box at the gate of the jail. I don't know what they sell at the dispensary, though. I doubt the let you have cards. Prisoners might use them to gamble. Could you make your own with the 50 sheets of paper? Maybe.

Jail would be really boring but I personally think that the worst part would be having to shit in front of people. Someone else is in the very small cell with you. No visual privacy. No olfactory privacy. No auditory privacy. For either of you. This is way, way more intimate than I want to be with someone that I love, much less a stranger that I probably won't like much.

Also, the food is so pasty and soft, you'd probably be constipated. It's not like you could be quick and discreet.

Yeah. Gross. I know. But if you are going to think about prison, don't think about the rat, or the exercise. Think about not being able to shave your legs or cut your hair or trim your nails without permission. Think about not having fresh air. Think about choosing between the Brothers Karamozov and the latest issue of People Magazine. Think about reading in the paper about movies that you can't see, places that you can't go, and food that you can't eat. Think about not being able to have a private conversation with the Mister or Em.

Oh. Was that too long? Anyway, it's an interesting question because you can drive it in more than one direction.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Hee! I play that game too. I'd be perfectly fine in solitary confinement as long as I had a book, a pen and some paper. I'd be fine without the book, even. Or without the paper and pen. Heck, I can just sit there and stare at the wall and entertain myself with stories. There are days when I wish that was my only responsibility. ;-)

meno said...

egan, and you know this how? You don't even have kids, yet.

biscotto, i have imagined giving speeches at funerals. The part about this that is a fantasy is that i am not good at speechifying, except in my mind. I shudder at the thought of spending any real time in prison, i am sorry to say, for many of the reasons you describe.

nancy, i would probably end up making up stories out of boredom. I might even believe they were true too.

Mama P said...

I think about prison sometimes as a nice break. Food, a bed, a toilet, all in close proximity? No kids to look after? Sounds pretty good to me.

Susanne said...

I haven't been thinking about prison exactly but I often wonder what it would be like not to have to tend to the mundane everyday things and have plenty of time on my hands. I use it as a measure for my priorities. To become clear on my life.

Also, the "what if?"-game is a game for imaginative people and writers. We can't help it.

(I frequently get these *blink*-moments as someone before me called them. This "what are you talking about, are you crazy?"-look. But usually not from my husband or son.