When did the daily commute become a trial by fire?
These days my daily commute consists of a few yards from the coffee urn to the desk. Barring unforeseen complications, I make my journey in a few minutes, negotiating the stairs and stray dog toys. On those occasions where I am required to leave the compound, I’ve found that the commute has morphed into some sick survival of the fittest, a throwback to Mad Max. Road rage, tailgaters and lane changers.
In my commuting prime, I’d make my hour drive to work, park my car and then start my commute at the East Gate of Folsom State Prison.
My office was at the far end of 1 Building, Security Housing Unit II, or SHU II, at the time. SHU II housed about 600 inmates who couldn’t be housed safely in the general population. You stab another inmate, you went to SHU. Assault a Correctional Officer, off the SHU. Escape attempts, drug smuggling and weapon possession, you went to the prison within a prison, the SHU. A select clientele.
After grabbing all the files and paperwork from Records, the three of us assigned as SHU II Correctional Counselors made the quarter mile trek to the sallyport where we entered the prison’s main yard. Through the double iron gates to the yard where the general population inmates slapped dominos on metal tables, played basketball, or walked endless circles around the track, waiting for yard recall. No fewer than four gun positions watched over the yard for the first sign of unrest.
SHU II was on the other side of the yard and at 1 Count Gate we were keyed into the housing unit. This is where you donned the stab resistant vest and signed into the log book before you entered.
The building, was constructed in the early 1900’s in two blocks of five open tiers of cells. It was reportedly the the largest single cell block of its time. My office was converted from a shower on the back side of the first tier.
My morning challenge was getting to the office without one particular inmate throwing bodily fluids at me, which is never a good way to start your day. His particular talent was in using fecal matter as a sculpting medium. He would lay on his belly in his darkened cell and wait. He had little balls of poo all lined up and flicked them at you as you passed.
A morning of bob and weave, bob and weave. One morning he left a little poo bunny sculpture on the bars. It was actually well done.
Every time you needed to go out on one of the tiers, go to a classification committee, He’d be waiting with his bitty balls.
The people I worked with in SHU II were some of the best correctional professionals ever. Good people doing difficult work, work that most people on the outside don’t understand, or appreciate.
So, when you think your thirty minute commute behind a guy with his left turn signal on is bad, it’s better than having poo balls tossed at you.
It’s worse than the time I carjacked a van full of commuters. Have a commute story you want to share?