Normally Abnormal

Along the Way. . .

Experiences, Insights & Humor on the “Long Road Home”

By Steven Maisenbacher

Walks On The Grass

Thanksgiving Week 2021

Now I generally don’t bash the Bureau of Prisons, but sometimes ya just gotta tell it like it is. Otherwise most of the fine people will never believe that things like this happen, but they do. In fact more times than not, and so when it comes down to things like the total lockdown due to a storm, it’s just plain unbelievable unless you’re the one that has to cope with the chaos.

So its 4 am Monday morning, little do I know what a severe and wild day lies ahead. See, in the night a storm passed through and blew out the fence sensor. But I don’t know this so I do my usual routine: up at 4 am, pray, get ready for the day and lie back down till they unlock the door at 6 am to go to medical for my insulin.

Now here’s 6 am, no unlock, 7, 8 am. By now it’s obvious something is up and we won’t be going to work. But I am most aggravated because by then I’m not feeling so good and  I know I need my insulin – head pounding, vision blurred and the sweat rolling off my forehead like I had just run a marathon. Beating on the door, I tell the officer on duty to call medical. Even he could look at me and tell something isn’t right. Another hour goes by and I have told the cop twice that I need insulin. Finally, around 10 am in waltzes medical, they sashay over to my door, we check my sugar level, 310! (the normal range is between 80-120).

No wonder I’m feeling like I got eaten by a wolf and pooped over a cliff.

So they get me loaded up with insulin, and I spend the rest of the day in the bed, all but incapacitated. Evening rolls around, 4:30 pm, 5 pm – the time I usually get my evening sugar check and insulin. Then 6 pm, 7, 8 pm – same situation and I’m a wreck. The officer on duty is notoriously unprofessional at best, now downright abusive. His exact words when I tell him I’m sick and need medical: “You always sick.” and “I am not a doctor.”  With that,  I’ve had my fill and lose it.

“Look here,” I yell, “You may not be a doctor but you are damn sure a correctional officer and I’m telling you I’m in medical distress, now get on the radio and get me some f-#*% help over here!”

He made some lame comment and an hour later medical finally comes. Sugar level 268. No wonder I feel horrible. So another blast of insulin and back to lay down. My vision is like looking through a well-limed shower curtain, so reading is out of the question. The same scenario happened the next day as well. Medical staff apologized, saying they were doing the best they could. I understood; medical services is chronically understaffed, and on holidays, there is only one person on duty for each shift. God help the inmate who has a life-threatening emergency on a holiday.

This is just one of the crazy things that we as inmates have to deal with during a lockdown. Another biggie is access to commissary. Inmates rely heavily on being able to purchase supplementary food items, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and personal care items each week. By unit, we are assigned a specific day and time to make our purchases. Since we were locked down on Monday and Tuesday, the staff only worked half as hard and served only half of the units that they needed to do for commissary. Bear in mind the holiday is already a compressed schedule and so they got a full day less to do what is hard at best to begin with because it entails actual organization and labor – something that the wonderful government employees that I currently have contact with do not seem to be able to manage without going thru some sort of seizures.

So we get up Wednesday morning and they announce that they are having a work call. Seems they were able to figure out how to get the fence working in only 2 whole days, so off to work we go. Then we were told, oh the pandemic is up in the community, so we are back to code red operations which precludes half the things that they couldn’t seem to manage to begin with thus further cutting us out of more opportunities, like recreation and access to education which had only just begun to “open up” after two years.

And here’s the “big one.” Since they couldn’t get done with what they had to do as far as commissary shoppers, they are just going to cancel the commissary for all of Sigma A and Sigma B units until next Monday. This is pure bull. They manage to serve everyone else in the prison – except the units that actually go to the factory every day and are productive.

So the silly people decide that it’s ok to make us wait till Monday, further delaying our chances to purchase any items to eat, drink or groom ourselves with. Brilliant. Just brilliant, and their reasoning, “Oh, we ran out of time and you can wait, since tomorrow is a holiday.”  Translation: We are not gonna come in on Friday just to treat you fairly and serve you like we did the rest of the prison, tough!

Now my Unit, Sigma A, shops on Wednesday, so if we go on Monday, we will not be allowed to shop on our regular day, forcing us to go without for 10 days. why? Simple laziness, inability to adjust routines efficiently, uncaring and absence of professional integrity. These kinds of things are typical of the wacky way things work in here, and this this is exactly what actually happened. This isn’t a fabrication and I’m not “enhancing” any of it. So tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, I figure we’ll be getting mystery meat turkey loaf or some such. I really don’t care; I’m just happy it’s my last Thanksgiving in prison!

© Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher, Nov. 2021

Published by Edna Peirce Dixon

I am an elder in my 9th decade. I have lived an ordinary life, I’ve done all the ordinary and expected things, went to school, got married, raised a family, tried to be a good person. Throughout this life I have also been a seeker, an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. Then in my golden years, as I sought to find meaning in my existence, some unexpected things happened and I’ve since learned it took a lifetime to prepare me for the challenge to come. My journey – indeed my calling - led me to come to know a remarkable man who happened to be an inmate in federal prison. Nothing could have been more foreign to my personal experience. GHOST DANCER Communicating daily for nearly nine years I had the opportunity to walk many paths with Ghost discussing our thoughts on many common interests with candor and respect. With enormous generosity Ghost has allowed me to share his wisdom and knowledge of his Native American heritage on Journeys of the Spirit. Over time, Ghost gradually revealed his life story in small bits, like scrambled pieces of some gigantic puzzle. Now, after spending more than 40 years in prison, Ghost Dancer is at last free and ready to tell his amazing personal story. As the saying goes, “you can’t make this stuff up” and as his friend and editor I can say this is a story so big that even after working with him for nearly nine years, I continue to be astonished as he shares new details my mind simply could never imagine. From the very first chapter, Ghost leads us on his journey and invites us to walk with him on his Nene Cate (Red Road). From the day he was born, a happy, loving gifted child, he endured heartbreaking sorrows, betrayals and exploitations. Through it all, Ghost fought a system determined to destroy him by any means, as he struggled to remain true to his calling. Through Ghost Dancer I also met and came to know Walks On The Grass, another federal prisoner whose story is also compelling even though very different. In Journeys of the Spirit, Walks has shared his decades-long journey from deep addiction to wholeness in LONG ROAD HOME and shared other bits of his story in ALONG THE WAY. Now as he approaches his August release into this crazy world of 2022 Walks shares his the thoughts and misgivings as he counts down to the big day in LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE.

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