Hi Kay, I tried to write up a little bit about you know what. Here's the paper. Flush it if you want to, or line the potty . . . or print it for the sake of the DOC guards who aren't telling the whole story. Gary Waid
. . . Toi—“
uh, said, ahem Toile—“
Speak up, man! What d’joo say?”
“Okay, well goddamnit I said, shithead,
my toilet paper!”
Which is what my bunkie shouted at me when I first met him in the county jail at Sanford. He was standing on his box plugging up the air conditioner vent because it was freezing in the cell and you had to regulate the temperature somehow, and what with the impossibility of anything metal or anything sharp to use as a lever or tool of some kind, and with the impossibility of actually adjusting anything, you either froze or you mashed up a papier-mache-type goo made from toilet paper and a little toothpaste and whatnot, and you did your own engineering. You could use the food for the same thing, I suppose—grits and beans and stuff make pretty good glue—but the most practical building material in any joint is toilet paper.
Of course toilet paper is not exactly job-specific. It can be used for about a thousand things. On my first day in the big house that they called the Bird Cage, at El Reno, Oklahoma, I got to know my roommate over a nice cup of tea he’d brewed using an old soda can suspended over a toilet paper stove. He wrapped the fuel in a sort of cone and set it on the floor, and it burned from the inside out—a furnace effect—while a piece of wire suspended the soda can over the heat. Half the guys in there were cooking lunch in their cells, and depending on the quality of the paper, it seemed to be pretty clean-burning and almost smokeless.
But in Florida’s prisons there are more pressing problems to contend with. You are allowed two towels in Florida’s prisons. They aren’t the plush, homey bath towels in your own house. In fact, the showers are closed during many hours of the day, and if you’re at all active (or especially if you’re locked down and get only one towel), the DOC issue becomes nasty fasty. Remember the temperature in the summer is sometimes off the page. You work out. You expectorate. You sweat. You leak a lot. You have NO OTHER MATERIAL in which to keep yourself decent. For those of you who’ve never been to jail, I’ll help you figure it out:
Have you ever used a Q-tip for your ears? In prison they sell them, but they don’t pay the inmates for work so many guys are broke or nearly so.
You clean your ears,
And your nose,
And the space between your toes,
. . .with TOILET PAPER!
In the evening you make yourself a little snack. The Aramark food is, to say the least, lousy. So you eat something, then wipe out the bowl with what, your elbow?
The ladies have special problems pertaining to, ahem . . . ladies. What’chu tink, mon, Jah Ras Tafari gwan clean de boosh?
In the bathroom at River Junction Work Camp there were nine toilets but no urinals. The men were older—they had lots of years to practice—but still, they often sprayed the utensils with their pee. There were 140 men sharing the nine seats. Should we all have had to sit in our buddies’ expulsions when we needed to do our doody? Hell no. Some of us would wipe up a bit. Like they say in the army, clean as you go. And some guys were so meticulous, they’d cover the seat with wrappings.
Guys with hobbies like art, or guys with special needs used toilet paper to protect their material.
River Junction Medical actually became pretty responsible after they got rid of their first PA, but in many joints they won’t rewrap wounds or supply gauze for burns or friction problems. To get a band-aid for a blister in prison is such a chore sometimes, what with the long wait outside the wicker, the grumpy guard saying, “what’cha-want-I-ain’t-got-time-fer-you-now-go-way-n-come-back-later . . . , then the form to fill out and the stuff to sign and of course you have to ‘splain what your injury is and how you got it and do you really need this band-aid, anyway . . . that I used to swipe tape at the library (liberry for those of you who work for the DOC), and make my own bandages from—yes mother—toilet paper.
Or I could have paid the four-dollar medical fee.
Walk through your house. Remember what you do all day, then reflect on what it would be like with no actual materials or tools to do it with. Remember, you have only what they issue to you. Rags are contraband. If 140 guys shaved in your sink this morning, would you wipe it out before using it?
Every little thing.
On Saturday mornings out on the yard I had to wipe the water off the pull-up bars and the dip bars. Towels weren’t allowed, so I could either slip and slide, or improvise a little bit.
Going to work I ALWAYS had a wad in my back pocket. You just never knew.
And I used the empty roll sometimes as a bracket for my radio. I’d slip the cardboard over the bunk post, then clip the radio on the thing and voila—I could lay there and hear stupid top-40 tunes till I puked, which by the way had to be cleaned up, so I better have had a full roll somewhere.
If a prisoner is locked down he is issued a roll of paper a week, I think, which seems reasonable to me. But if you had to share that roll with a cellie, and if that cellie was, say, six-foot-six and two-eighty-five, with a shaved head that exposed a tattoo of a monkey fucking a football, then who’s gonna get that roll of toilet paper, hmmm? Your roll is your roll, man, in the box. Or other accommodations are made—like TWO rolls per cell, per week.
It’s a cleanliness issue. A hundred years ago, during the era of open sewers and cholera epidemics and rats in the kitchen and all that, when people of limited means were expected to die at fifty, one snotty rag was used for everything, one shitty wipe was good for every ass, one filthy sponge was fine for every dish or pot in the orphanage. But we’ve become more learned with regard to things like germs breeding in a closed environment.
Try this: Go around the house and collect all the paper products, then toss them away. Put your towels and rags and whatnot in the closet, but allow yourself two flimsy kitchen towels to use for everything. Turn off the air conditioner. Pack your clothes up—all but the required four undies, four T-shirts, four socks—then share a roll of toilet paper with the kids, the dog, the husband or wife, and grandma. When you run out, use your hands on your ass, and wipe your nose on your shirt, and clean the hairs off the bus-station toilet with your chin. And then, next time you see him, tell a Florida State prisoner that he’s using too much toilet paper.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
Gary Waid, former asswipe of the Florida DOC.
|FDOC 'RESPONDS' TO TOILET PAPER CRISIS|
OPERATION WIPE-OUT August 2002
"For The Prisoners Of
To help prevent diseases in prison today
from becoming epidemics in our society tomorrow."
Jeb's address is:
Florida Governor Jeb Bush
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001+