17 June, 2019

On Missouri Prisoners' Bizarre Cleaning Methods

A six-year veteran of the Department of Corrections recently told me that a cellmate spitting toothpaste in the sink after brushing was his biggest peeve. I asked how he rinsed his toothbrush. This confused him. I explained: "When you rinse your toothbrush under the faucet, the bacteria that were in your mouth swirl and splash all around the basin you're refusing to spit in."

He said, "Yeah, but I guess not as much."

I don't know whence the compulsion springs, but nearly every prisoner whose acquaintance I've made has been downright fanatical about the cleanliness of his sink basin. He won't spit in it after brushing his teeth — heavens, no, that's what the toilet's for! — and wipes every drop of moisture out of it after washing his hands. Why?

No inmates have been able to satisfactorily explain the anti-spit policy. The most insightful acknowledge it's a psychological quirk, but even they can't enlighten me further.

I've been imprisoned now for eighteen years. Many have been the occasions when I've used the water faucet in the utility closet. Many have been the occasions when I found soggy noodles, tiny cauliflower florets, or a sliver of roast beef stuck in the drain grate. Such is their aversion to using their own sink that these people will drain excess liquids from their dinner bowl into a communal sink. Very few seem to clean up their messes afterward. Worse, as sometimes happens, that stuff will end up clogging a shower drain. Any port in a storm, I guess.

On a seemingly related note, I have watched with my own eyes as the same characters with clean-sink fixations sop water from their toilet with a rag they then use to "clean" their cell floors, walls, and doors. To rinse his rag, each has an identical method, dunking the cloth and flushing two or three times.

There are some around here, I've heard it said, who use a similar technique to wash laundry in the toilet. How they also might feel about the subject of sink cleanliness is not a subject I'm knowledgeable enough to address at this time.

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