My first entry a month ago about what is what like to go to jail got more hits and likes in the first day than anything I’d ever written about before. I thought it would be a one-off, but I think it’s good to remind people where pornography addiction can lead you if you don’t learn to deal with it. I never thought I’d have to face the reality of a jail bathroom, but that’s one of the many consequences of not taking care of myself the way I should have.
Sure, there was the overarching theme of “Just Survive” as I entered my first day of jail, but if I were to delve into the specifics of the anxiety I wrestled with in the nearly two years my case played out in the legal system, I think more than half of it came from not knowing what the bathroom situation was going to be like.
I’m not a super modest person. I can shower in a room with others. I’d rather not go to the bathroom while others are watching, but I came to peace with knowing I might have to do that. My biggest fear centered on people messing with me when I was in either of those vulnerable positions.
When I got to jail on my first day, despite it being nearly 10:30 a.m., everyone was fast asleep in the “pod” I was in. The room was probably 60 feet long and about 10 feet wide through most of it. I was the 14th man in a room with 7 bunk beds that could comfortably fit half that. At one end, it opened a little where a table and chairs were and at the other end, I noticed that there was a door, presumably to the bathroom. On the handle was a cardboard hanger somebody made that said “Vacant” much like a “Do Not Disturb” hanger you’d see at a hotel better than the one the county was providing me. I quietly hopped off the bed and went to the door. The other side of the hanger said: “In Use”.
I pushed the door open into the bathroom. It was a little bigger than the bathroom in most people’s homes and had a dull gray cement floor. There was one shiny metal toilet attached to a shiny metal sink. In the corner of the room was a single shower stall, separated from the rest of the room with those big plastic/rubber flaps that come over your car at the end of the car wash.
“So, there isn’t any group showering situation,” I said to myself, able to dismiss myriads of prison movie fight scenes from my head, recognizing a huge fear had evaporated.
Later in the day, when one of the inmates wanted to take a shower, he announced loudly he was doing it and asked if anybody needed to use the bathroom. When nobody did, he just flipped the hanger over and went inside. It became the standard protocol for my time there.
Once in a while, we’d get somebody new into our pod who wanted to establish some kind of dominance in the pod. A regular way of doing this was entering the bathroom to pee when someone else was taking a shower. I guess the idea is that they don’t have to respect the wishes of someone who wants to be left alone to shower.
Just a quick aside: Years ago, I sold DVDs and CDs at a call center for parents with defiant children. In training, we learned about Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Basically, it is a condition where If I tell you to do A, you’ll do B. If I think say, “OK, fine, do B” you’ll do A. It doesn’t make any sense, but I saw a lot of people who clearly struggled with this in jail. It’s a real thing. It’s fascinating, but frustrating to be around.
While I kind of sat back and watched things going on around me for two months, after that point, a group of three or four of us who were older (I’d guess the median age was about 29 and I was a decade beyond that) and doing extended stays would put that kind of behavior to an end quickly. While I wasn’t physically imposing compared to these others, I learned quickly to represent that I could, and would have no problem fighting if necessary. I knew they’d have my back if anybody tried anything. In my almost six months there, the worst I saw were two guys take defensive postures with each other.
Most would try to diffuse the situation by just going up to someone and saying, “We don’t do that here. Stay the f out of the bathroom when someone is in there,” and if that didn’t work, I’d usually try to convince them using the kind of manipulation that partially landed me in jail.
“You know, I don’t think anybody in here has a problem with you being gay…” I would start.
“I’m not f’n gay!” the person would always respond.
“Oh, sorry. Well I don’t think that anybody would be upset if you explained that you had some kind of bladder control problem…” I would continue. “They sell adult diapers in the commissary.”
“I don’t have an f’n bladder problem,” they’d shoot back. I knew the other guys had my back as I did this and were enjoying listening from a few feet away.
“Well, I think you need to explain to everyone why you like to bust in when men are naked or going to the bathroom. If you can explain it, it’ll make it easier to deal with, because right now, everybody just thinks you’re gay or need diapers. If you don’t want them to think that, maybe you should stop barging in.”
I had to give this little talk about three times in the six months I was there.
I look back and feel a little bad that I played on their fears and insecurities, but I also try to tell myself that I was not living in a democratic society full of open-minded, kind people who wanted the greater good for all.
While the water in the shower was either drippy and freezing or turbo-charged and scalding, the overall bathroom situation was not as bad as I anticipated. I know that’s not the case at all jails or prisons, and in a way, I think part of my punishment was the anxiety I had to live with in advance of getting to jail.
Looking back, I don’t think that was such a bad thing. There was no pornography and no reason for not taking care of myself that made jail worthwhile. Lesson learned.