By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Wasn’t Long and it Wasn’t Long
On my second day I went to the A & O (Admission and Orientation) that is mandatory in every federal prison. It was the same old spiel, “do this, don’t do that, go here, not there, yada, yada, yada. I’ve been to so many of these I could give the speeches myself. I certainly would see to it that the inevitable dumb questions that always are asked were fielded ahead of time. I guess that comes from where I have lived for the past 37 years, so there it is.
The next day I went to the factory in search of the factory manager with a referral for a job from the A.W. (Associate Warden) whom I have known since I was in Beaumont, Texas. He was a captain back then and knew me very well since at the time I was getting the interferon treatment, and like all the upper echelon staff had been alerted to this in case I was to flip out or something.
When I walked in and asked to see Mr. Sikole, the factory manager. I explained that the A.W. told me to come down there to see him and ask him to hire me before I decided I didn’t want to work in Unicor. So I told the manager I had over 25 years’ experience and longevity with Unicor, and more than 16 years as a quality assurance inspector, with ISO certifications to audit internal operations and external operations. As soon as I said ISO certifications, he perked right up. It seems that Mr. Sikole had a background as a quality control manager and he knew that ISO certifications were rare and required extensive education and training to get. This is just one of the numerous qualifications and fields I have picked up over the decades in prison which give me a pretty decent resume for when I get out.
So I was told to go to the office and tell them he said to do the paperwork on my hire as a quality assurance inspector; I was “in” that fast, because of my qualifications and experience. For any who don’t know, UNICOR is a federal prisons industry. They have all sorts of factories and operations throughout the federal prison system manufacturing everything from military uniforms and combat wear to body armor and protective wear.
First taste of Talladega Trouble…
Wasn’t long after I had gotten to work that Ghost suggested that since my unit team was down in his unit they were going to move me there eventually, so we should just go ahead and get with the unit manager and see about getting me moved. “If you were in the unit with me,” he said, “We can hang out and I could at least teach you a few things.”
I was very open to the idea, the only problem was I needed to find someone I could move in with that I knew wouldn’t disrespect the sacred articles I have like my eagle feather or my medicine bundle and also someone without a lot of vices that could be cool with me living like I do. So Ghost says he wants me to meet this guy in the unit whose cellmate would be leaving at the end of the week. Well, wouldn’t you know it, just as we were having this discussion, who should walk up but the man Ghost was talking about, Kevin Schuman. He introduces us and we all speak for a few minutes together. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty good fit, and as Ghost said they will move me anyway and I’m still in the unit that they had stuffed me in when I first got here due to lack of space in my assigned unit.
So Kevin and I get the copout (request form) and fill it out together. Then they go and give it to the unit manager and I spoke to him as well. He is cool with it and signs the request. On the day the other guy left, the unit manager tells them to tell me to go ahead and move. So I come in from work, pack up my stuff and move it from Delta Unit to Beta B Unit where Ghost and Kevin live – and where I now live too. Well, it seems the unit manager had asked the counselor to contact control and get the move entered into the computer, but for whatever reason the counselor wasn’t able to do so.
Now I had moved, but along comes the usual 4 p.m. stand up count, then a recount, and another… Finally a guard comes to the cell door and asks for my name. Five minutes later the guard is back and says, “C’mon, you’re in the wrong unit, you interfered with the count and made it wrong, so you’re going to the lieutenant’s office and they can sort it out,” which is usually cop speak for you’re going to the hole.
Of course I know all along and I keep trying to tell them that I was told to move by the unit manager and that I even had the signed cop-out asking to move into the cell with Kevin Schuman. I knew they were mad after they pulled me out of Kevin’s cell and made me take all my property back across the compound to Delta Unit. The cop in that unit said to put it in his office because I was going to the lieutenant’s office. So off to the lieutenant’s office I go. I’m sitting outside on a bench waiting, they are all there and I can hear them in the office yelling back and forth. I just knew I was going to the hole for messing up their count.
I was snakebit for sure, but the Creator had his loving eye on me and the fact that I was in the right to be where I was. I had followed a staff order and I wasn’t to be blamed if the counselor got all in a huff because the unit manager (his boss) told him to do something and authorized the move without clearing it with him. Such “moves” are normally the domain of the counselor and apparently he got his feelings hurt by the way the unit manager ran right over him.
Now I couldn’t have orchestrated this better if I had a lamp and a genie popped out if it. At that moment the unit manager came around the corner and saw me sitting on the bench. He could hear the cops and the lieutenant in there huffin’ and puffin’. “Maisenbacher,” he says, “What’s going on? what have you done?”
“Think they want to lock me up because the counselor in the unit didn’t enter my cell transfer from Delta to Beta Unit and now they are trying to blame me for messing up the count when all I did was what you told me to do.”
So as the Unit manager starts toward the office I say, “Here is the cop out with your authorizing signature on it sir.”
He takes it and into the office he goes. Now there’s more raised voices but the most beautiful sound I heard was “You ain’t locking him up!” He tells them that I was only doing what he had told me to do and he would deal with the counselor himself.
Then the office door flies open, “Maisenbacher, go back to your unit!” At that point I was thoroughly confused, so I had to ask, “Which one?”
“Beta A where I moved you.”
“But my property is in Delta Unit. They made me take everything back.”
Back in the office he goes. Less than 2 minutes later he comes out and tells me, “Go to your unit they will bring your stuff down on the cart.”
So that is the story of how I ended up moving down to the madhouse with Ghost. But it wouldn’t be for long. See maybe six weeks later they decided they were going move all the Unicor workers to Sigma Unit.
By this time I’m barely able to walk, let alone tote all my property back across the compound, so I did what I had to do…I paid a guy to carry all my stuff down to the unit I was then assigned to. We got down to Sigma A to find out they had made some mistakes in their moving strategies and Kevin Schuman and I got separated. I was placed in a lower bunk on a lower tier due to my back issues and Kevin was put in an upper bunk in an upper range. We were told that once everyone was in the units they would make the needed moves that were going to be required. I was put in with a guy who acted kinda crazy. He ended up telling me he liked to sniff glue, which totally explained his eccentric behavior.
So a week goes by and they move him out and Kevin moves back in with me. Now I want to tell you about Kevin; he’s a good guy, like so many got caught up in drugs and ended up in here over it. But Kevin is one of the hardest working people I’ve met in here. His work ethic is stellar and he is good at his job. Then there is the other side of Kevin…the guy is just funny, one of those people that don’t have to try to be funny they just are; his comedic timing is perfect and though his midwestern up bringing often guides his sense of humor, he is very easy to live around simply because he can make you laugh at almost any situation. And that is good medicine.
OFF KILTER Verse 1: Sometimes things seem just a little off kilter, Like the world slipped away and I got stuck in the filter, See, I was thinking about all that I don’t know, Like a remote, or computer or even a phone… Chorus: Is this my dark frontier, or just an amusement to see, is this a hellish adventure or the undoing of me? Off kilter... Verse 2: So what to me seems amazing is merely to you old hat, And I’m ok in the knowing that that’s where we’re at, But if I look perplexed and act unsure of what to do next, It ain’t no witchcraft and I ain’t been hexed. Chorus: Is this my dark frontier, or just the amusement to see? Is this a hellish adventure or the undoing of me? Off kilter... Verse 3: Now I understand what most people don’t, Like keeping my sanity when the sharks circle the boat, And I don’t make a fuss when I feel like it’s all caving in, I just pull it together and figure out how to win… But ... Is this my dark frontier or just an amusement to see? Is this a hellish adventure or the undoing of me… off kilter... And I can’t help thinkin’, somewhere in my universe there is a disconnected voice saying, "Don’t worry Walks, we'll leave the light on for ya"...Off kilter... Off Kilter lyrics © Oct 13, 2019 Steven Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)