01 June, 2021

Mandatory Breaktime on a Moment's Notice

We're in the middle of five different things at work, in the prison's media center, when our boss, one of several Recreation officers who oversees our area, pops his head in. "You gotta go, guys," he says. "They're sending everybody back to their house."

We each mutter our own profanity of choice before going through the steps necessary to shut down while also ensuring that no one's movie or TV series gets interrupted.

"Here," Luke says, passing Jacob a loop of co-axial cable before picking himself up off the floor. He'd been working on an RF modulator, to activate a new channel in our closed-circuit lineup.

"This sucks," Jacob says, turning to put some parts back in a box.

"Is everyone out of the database?" I project to the room.

Gary turns to Twon and asks, "Are those MP4s done ripping yet?"

"No response doesn't necessarily mean yes," I say when no one acknowledges hearing my question. "Okay, I'm backing up in five, four, three..."

Twon sighs, "It's at ninety-three percent, Gary."

"'...two, one. I'm backing up the database."

"Paul, did you turn off the vinyl cutter?" Luke asks our intern.

"Yeah. I pushed the roller arm down and put away the roll of red after I flipped the switch, too."

"Where's the mouse for 63?" Jacob want to know.

"Backup's done." I push my keyboard in and do a rush job of tidying the paperwork on my desk.

"Over by the... yeah, there."

Jacob wonders aloud, "I wonder what happened this time."

"Probably another staff assault."

"That'd be the forth in a week," says Gary.

"Did anyone check the volume on 70?" Luke asks.

"Who'd have thought? Violence in prison! Tsk, tsk," exclaims our sarcastic new guy, Paul.

"I did," I answer, regarding the troublesome channel that I manage. "It's good."

"Everybody got everything?"

Gary looks around and gravitates to possibly the most trivial detail. "Mouse check?"

"Are we leaving the monitors on?" Jacob asks.

"You gotta go, guys. It's a campwide lockdown," says our boss. "Leave 'em," he tells us.

"It's always something."

"I love this job, some days."

"Other days, not so much?"

"Man, I think I might've finally worked out this annoying-ass JavaScript string."

"That about sums it up."

"Do you think you'll be able to pick it right up when we come back?"

"Who got the viewing stations? Anybody?"

"I sure hope so."

"They're good. Door?"

"Got it."

"See you in a bit. I hope."

"See you guys soon," says the boss.

"I hope so," I tell him, and mean it.

Back in the cell, I sit alone and type a blog post to convey just an iota of the profound uncertainty that I live with. I've said before how inconsistencies are the only consistent part of life in prison. Not even a thirty-two-hour-a-week job can shield me from them.

Maybe when I finish this post I'll prepare a hot beverage and crack open a graphic novel to read – make a coffee break of this whole morning. Yes, that sounds like a great contingency plan.


  1. I hope everything turned out okay.

  2. Exciting job, even when shutting down. The volume on 70, too? You think of everything.


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.