My Life as a Jailbrarian: Scenes from the State

I was only with the state for about a year, so there aren’t a lot of interesting stories to tell. I think the one from the last post was the most interesting day I had at work. So, the entire year will be completed in this post.

Most of my time with the state was spent in an office working on a computer. Nothing much exciting ever happened in the office. We had the occasional collect call from a prison with an inmate trying to contact us. There was the time my boss was given a brand new computer even though she never actually used her computer so the IT guy switched it with mine one day while she was out of the office. She never noticed. There was the time I was called down to the front desk because I had certified mail and had to sign for it. It turned out to be Penthouse magazine. This happened for several months until I figured out why. It was soon after the state banned adult magazines from the prison libraries. One librarian kept getting them in the mail so she sent them to us so she wouldn’t get in trouble. Most of what I remember from the office is that the boss was the worst boss I’ve ever had and being in prison was preferable to being in the office with her.

I got the chance to do be in prison more when the librarian at the women’s prison left. I spent a couple of months working as the substitute librarian. There aren’t a lot of exciting stories from my time there. I do remember one early morning when I signed in and headed over to the building where the library was located only to find it locked. I had arrived before the day shift roll call was done and the education building was not yet open. I considered waiting at the door until this officers arrived and then realized I was lurking around prison grounds in the dark and the officers in the towers had guns. I changed my mind and walked over to the roll call room to wait for the officers there. I had a library worker go on maternity leave. It was not something I expected to happen while working in prison. It was relatively uneventful. It was a good job. It was an easy commute. It was a 7-3 schedule. The inmates didn’t cause me much trouble. I had a private restroom.  I applied to be the full time librarian but did not get the job, most likely because my boss was an asshole.

I went back to the office and back in front of a computer. I took over the LASI program when the LASI coordinator  went out on medical leave. This meant I supervised law students who used LEXIS to send requested legal cases to the inmates on request. This program was eventually moved to a building back at the penitentiary compound from the last post. This meant I spent some days working out of the compound. One perk if working at the prisons was that the library staff had reserved parking spots. This was never an issue at any other prison, but it became an issue here. There was a lot of construction at the compound at this time so parking was scarce. It was not uncommon for someone to be parked in my spot if I arrived at the compound later in the day. One day I guess I was in a bad mood(shocking, I know) and had had it with people taking my spot so I pulled in behind them, parked and started to head in to work. An officer ran over to confront me about this. Due to the construction, the compound was guarded on the ground by armed correctional officers. This guy was one with a gun. He ordered me to move my car. I refused. He ordered me to move the car again. I pointed to the sign that said reserved for librarian and told him that I was the librarian and that I would be happy to move my car to let the car parked illegally to vacate my spot. I honestly can’t remember who won that fight, In my mind I did, but I think that is a false memory. I’m pretty sure that the guy with the gun probably won, but let’s pretend I did.

Eventually, the stress of working for a horrible person, the fact that it was a contract position with no benefits and that fact that she had rejected me when I applied to be a real employee added up to me deciding my time in prison was over. My boss did manage to be an asshole one more time by pulling me into a conference room to yell at me when she heard I was looking for a new job. Fun times.

Up next: I apply for parole.

My Life as a Jailbrarian: Prologue

After talking recently about my time as a jail librarian I have decided to do an occasional post with some stories about my life in jail. This prologue is not a jail story. It is the story of how I ended up in jail in the first place.

I was living in Cincinnati, working at a market research firm and had just finished going to school at night to complete my MLS(Master of Library Science) degree when we got the official word that my wife would be transferred to Washington DC.   We knew it was coming. I didn’t think it would happen that fast.  As the move got closer, I started applying for jobs in the DC area. I had one really good phone interview while still in Cincy that, unfortunately, did not result in a job. A few days before the scheduled move I got a call to schedule an interview with DC Public Library so I headed east a few days ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, this meant being extremely tired and possibly ill from eating bad road food when I arrived at the interview. My boss at my old job said that the DC people broke the rules and asked her about my health. I looked that bad. Needless to say, I did not get that job.

Once we were officially residents of the DC area I started sending resumes to every local library I could find. I hit the road and personally visited the HR departments of both public and academic libraries.  One public library system actually sent my resume back to me stamped rejected and accompanied by a letter saying they do not accept unsolicited resumes. This system will appear again in later posts. That was fun. I rode the Metro around DC to the colleges there. I was on my way to Howard University one day. I got off the Metro and asked a woman who was headed to work at the hospital for directions. Along with the directions, she also gave me advice for walking through the neighborhood: walk quickly, don’t make eye contact and run if you hear gunshots. I never made it to Howard. As soon as we parted company I went right back to the Metro station and went back home.

I eventually signed on with a temp agency that works with librarians. I worked for a week at a fancy law firm near the White House. I enjoyed eating my lunch in the park with a view of the White House. I worked for a week at the World Bank. I have no memory of anything I did there. I remember being bored. I was also still applying for every job opening I saw. I eventually was called in for an interview with the state of Maryland. It was at the Department of Education working with Correctional Education as a technical librarian. I was offered the job. It was only a contract position, but it was better than temping, so I accepted. The same week I received a call from the temp agency. They had a job for me that could turn in to a permanent position.  I turned it down because I felt a guaranteed position was better than a possible permanent position. I have no idea where the other job was. I made the decision to go with the job with the state without details on the possible other job. This decision led to my 20 year jail sentence. Sometimes I regret making that decision.

Next installment:  A Visit to the Big House

Tater’s Monday Musings

  • I read two different books over the weekend that were written when the author was a teenager. If you ever want to feel even more like a failure, spend the weekend being reminded of people who have achieved more than you before they are out of their teens.  Sure, I have a good job and I now have a title, but I’m pushing 50 and I still feel like something of a failure when it comes to the career thing.  20 years in jail really hinders your job prospects even if you just work there.
  • I joked recently that I was going to write a book called The Power of Positive Negativity after I one again posted something negative only to be proven wrong. I feel like it is better to expect the worst in situations and be pleasantly surprised when things go right.  This weekend I did the opposite and posted something positive about a car buying experience only to have it go bad just a few minutes later. I’ve learned my lesson. No more positivity until after everything is done.
  • I might be biased because of my hate for the Washington baseball team, but  I watched the local coverage of the game yesterday and their broadcast team is horrible. Constant bad jokes that fell flat, making fun of a between innings activity and just a bad job in general. You are one of the best regular season teams in baseball(playoffs, not so much). Spend some money for some decent TV coverage.
  • I just wrote the check for my ticket to my 30 year high school reunion. How is that possible? I can’t be that old. Can I?
  • This is the end. I have to leave for work. Aren’t you glad this is the last bullet point?

I am an Awkward Introvert and It’s Still Not Cool

There was a review in the newspaper recently(I think the Washington Post) for this book

Apparently, it is now cool to be socially awkward. This is after the recent book Quiet and the movement that made people think it was cool to be an introvert. Suddenly, everyone was an introvert. The Internet was full of articles about introverts. People were sharing them, declaring themselves an introvert. Based on the activity I saw on Facebook there are no extroverts on the planet. Of course, this isn’t true. I’m sure many of the people declaring themselves introverts were actual introverts I’m also sure many of the people were extroverts jumping on the introvert bandwagon. Blockbuster superhero movies, new Star Wars movies, new Star Trek movies, dreck like The Big Bang Theory, etc have made it more mainstream to like things that used to make you a nerd.  The above book now puts the socially awkward in the cool column.

Now, speaking as someone who has been a socially awkward introvert my entire life, I don’t buy the cool thing. Sure, some socially awkward nerds make it big and enter the cool category, but many of us are still just awkward people who tend to stand in a corner alone at a party. I don’t want to be an introvert. I would rather be someone who enjoys being with other people. I don’t want to be socially awkward. I would rather be someone who can attend a party or a social event at a conference and mingle like a normal person. I wasn’t cool in high school, I wasn’t cool in college and I’m not suddenly cool now because the socially awkward have been declared cool. I think my socially awkward introvert culture has been hijacked by people who have always been the “cool kids” and now are “socially awkward” or an introvert because that’s the new in thing.  This cycle will eventually end. It will once again be cool to be an extrovert and at ease in social situations and the cool kids will abandon us once again.

Trust me. Being me is not cool.

Don’t Be a Reason Why

I am four episode in to the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. I read the book years ago, but I’m discovering I really don’t remember much of it so I’m getting the story like it is new to me. The basic plot is that a girl has committed suicide and left tapes behind for people to listen to about why they are one of the reasons why she did it. I am not even halfway through, but it has already made me think a lot.

I think back to my days in high school. My hope is that people who knew me then have more positive memories than negative ones. I hope that, for the most part, I was not someone who made life difficult for my classmates. Unfortunately, I know there are times that I was not a positive in someone’s life. Times when I acted badly in an effort to seem cool or to fit in with the people around. Times when I acted without thinking. Times when I could have been there for someone and wasn’t. Again, my hope is that the positives outweigh the negative. For those who might have bad memories of me, I’m sorry.

I hope the same for my adult life. I hope that I am a positive in the lives of the people who know me. I hope that I never make anyone seem small or worthless. I hope that people know that I am there for them if they need me. Again, I know that there are times that I am in a bad mood and not an easy person to be around. My hope is that these times are outweighed by positives. I hope to be more mindful of those around me and strive more to be a positive in the world.

I’ve seen articles saying that they fear that this show glamorizes suicide. So far, I have not seen that. I think this show helps people to see that your actions affect other people in way that you might not know. Something that you see as insignificant can mean a lot to someone else. We should all try to think more about how our lives are impacting those around us.

Currently Reading: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

One Is The Loneliest Number

Note – this post is more personal and introspective than usual. You should read it fast before I have second thoughts and delete it.

A friend on Facebook shared an article this weekend that said the biggest threat facing middle aged men is loneliness. While I am surprised that people think it is the biggest threat facing middle aged men, I’m not surprised that middle aged men are lonely. I am a middle aged man. I think I was born a middle aged man. Loneliness has been a constant in my life. I can be in the middle of a crowd, at a party, etc and still feel alone. I have many acquaintances and not many actual friends. I talk to people at work and then to the two people who live in my house and that is the extent of my social life. I do occasionally have a text conversation with my brother.

In person, I pretend a lot of times that I think I am someone that everyone loves, but really, deep down, I always assume I am someone that people don’t really think about at all. I’ve always felt that way. I was part of a social group in high school, but felt that I was the one who didn’t really belong. I felt the same with groups in college and I feel the same today. In every group, I feel like I am the expendable one. I have social anxiety when it comes to parties and other gatherings, so I would rather just not go. This leads to the life referenced above. I spend most of my life isolated from the world. It’s OK now while my family is there, but I am looking toward a lot of alone time when my daughter leaves for college next year.

Another problem is that I have always had more female friends than male friends. I now work in a world that is predominantly women. In the one group I socialize with on a regular basis(I am the expendable one) I am the only man. This also is a limit to developing close friendships. It is harder and more complicated when the friendship is across genders. You always have to be aware of any impressions of impropriety and there are limits on what you can discuss from your personal life.

So, no, I’m not shocked that loneliness is a problem for middle aged men. I would like to say that since I am aware of the issue that I can take steps to do something about it, but that would be a lie. I will continue to spend my time watching TV and reading books when my family is not around. It just seems easier that way.

Drywall and Dead Birds

This is my late day so I’m at home until 12:30 and work 1-9. My wife left for work and then called me to tell me to watch the garage door when I leave because it was really loud when she left. So, even though I am the least mechanically inclined person I know, I decide to go out to look at the door to see if I can determine the problem. Luckily, it turned out to be a manual labor issue, not a mechanical issue. A piece of drywall has come loose and is hanging over part of the garage door mechanism.

This is the perfect job for me. No brains required. Just climbing up and pulling the drywall down. This is complicated by the fact that the door can’t be opened until the drywall is down and the Mustang she inherited from her dad is directly under the drywall and there is not a lot of room for a fat guy like me to squeeze past with a step stool to get to the drywall. So, I put a load of blankets on the car to protect it and eventually was able to angle the drywall around so I could pull it loose and bring it down without damaging the car or myself.

The worst part of the whole thing was what was on top of the drywall. I could see when I started that something was on top of it. I thought it was a plastic bag and didn’t really worry about it. Unfortunately, it was not a plastic bag, but a dead bird. I don’t know how long it had been in our garage or how long it had been dead. All I know is that it came crashing down with the drywall and it was not fun. So, once I worked my way off the stool and through fat man’s squeeze while holding a giant piece of drywall, I had to try to get the dead bird in a plastic bag and in the trash can without touching it and then sweep the feathers and drywall pieces up.

So, there you have a small look in to my glamorous life. I am now using all of that as an excuse to do nothing the rest of the morning.

Reentry Is Hard

This weekend was the first weekend in a while where I was actually able to relax.  To make it even better, it was a four day weekend. I didn’t do anything exciting. On my birthday leave day on Friday I went out and got some free food from Panera and Dickey’s and watched a movie on DVD. Saturday was so uneventful all I remember is that I took the dog for a walk and watched a basketball game. Sunday I went to church and out to eat with the family for a late birthday celebration. Yesterday I spent hour scanning pictures from 2001. Even so, the four days off makes it really hard to think about heading out in a few minutes to reenter the real world.

I don’t hate my job. I don’t hate working. I’ve just reached the point in my life when I am ready to move on from the career and to the retirement phase of life. I would even take the ability to work from home. Actually, I think I’ve always been at this point. I would have gladly been a stay at home dad if it had been feasible for our family. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never been a career focused person. I do my job to the best of my ability and I do apply for new jobs/promotions when they come up, but I’ve always been someone who would quit to stay at home if given the opportunity. I think this got more pronounced toward the end of my time at the jail. Corrections has a 20 year retirement, so I spent the last few years of my time at the jail watching people I worked with retire knowing that I still had 10-15 years left. I’m closer now, but not close enough.

So, I head back to work today but I would much rather be one of the people who have the ability to spend their morning with friends at Panera instead of heading off to another day at the job. Reentry is hard.

Happy Birthday to Me

As I started thinking about what to write in my very narcissistic post wishing myself a happy birthday some lyrics from a new Ryan Hamilton & the Traitors song popped in to my head: I’m still not clean, and I’m not sober, I’m just a little bit smarter and a whole lot older” While I am clean and I am sober(usually) I am pretty smart and I am a whole lot older. 

A lot has happened since my last birthday. I changed jobs, leaving the place I had worked for 15 years. I lost my mom. I went to California and went para sailing and lived to tell about it. The United States lost its mind and elected Donald Trump as president. Only two  of those things listed(I said a lot and listed a few. Maybe I’m not so smart) are a  positive and one of the positives(the new job) had some negatives(leaving friends). Hopefully, this upcoming year will be one where the positives outweigh the negatives.

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been 30 years since I turned 18. My 30 year high school reunion is this summer. How did that happen? I don’t feel like I could be 48. Sure, I’m tired more now. I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I spend a lot more time at home and hardly any time at all “out on the town.” But I don’t feel old. I just feel boring. Maybe in my case they are the same thing. Maybe I should work on that.

I am inching closer and closer to an empty nest, 50 years old and soon after, retirement. I hope I am inching closer and closer to being a 50 year old empty nester/retiree who spends his time doing fun, active things and not one that watches a lot of TV alone. So, my goal as a 48 year old is to be a 48 year old who does more fun things out of the house. My goal is to be a 48 year old who makes the effort to see his friends he left at his old branch so they remain his friends(if y’all are reading this let’s have coffee/drinks sometime). My goal is to be a 48 year old who is an inspiration and not a cautionary tale. But, my immediate goal for my 4 day weekend(thank you HCLS for birthday leave!) is to eat a lot of free food I got for signing up for restaurant email lists.

 

Am I Getting Too Old For This?

I was thinking about my upcoming personal schedule and I’m tired just thinking about it. I work today 11-9, tomorrow 9-5, Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 1-5. Thursday night/Friday morning from midnight to 7am I will be at church acting as a monitor for the winter relief homeless shelter. I will come home, try to sleep while my family is home and then, Friday night, go to a friends house and probably stay out too late. I then work 7 days in a row Saturday to Friday, leave work at 3 on Friday to drive home, pick up my daughter and head to church to leave for a youth weekend retreat in Ocean City. We get back in time to stay up late again to watch the Super Bowl and then get up Monday morning to start the work thing all over again, including my speed friending event at my old branch that may or may not get any attendees. I guess maybe mid to late month I might get a chance to just relax. I think I’m getting too old for all of this. I should retire.

The upcoming youth group trip started me thinking about the difference between when I first started working with a youth group and now. My daughter doesn’t believe me when I say the kids in the youth group I worked with at our old church actually liked me. She’s just kidding, but there is a big difference in then and now. When I was first asked to help with the youth group at my old church I was a 26 year old with no kids of my own. I was closer in age to the teenagers than I was to their parents. I was willing to stay up all night at lock-ins, play football, capture the flag, etc. I’m still willing to do all of that. I’m just old, tired and fat now. I also spent more time with the kids back then. I wasn’t just occasionally going on a trip with them. I was teaching Wednesday night Bible study and/or middle school Sunday school, so I saw the kids on a regular basis. It also helped that I was not related to anyone on the group. The dynamic is different when you are a younger adult volunteering than when you are someone’s dad. I still have difficulty adjusting to this new reality of being a random chaperone and not something more.

So, the moral of this post is that I am old and tired and need to stop thinking so much.