24 | Porters, Pillows, and the Proverbial Straw

May 18, 2008
Sunday, 6:00 p.m.
Letter #24: Porters, Pillows, and the Proverbial Straw


Dear Family,

Hiya! I wanted to give you a personal look at some things I’ve been doing and some blessings too! I pray for you all daily!

My next-door neighbor, Jody, just got to go home. I heard them come and wake him up at 2:30 a.m., and I watched him leave. He peeked in my window, as he’d always do when they’d let him out three times a day for pill call, and I waved good-bye to him, for what I knew would most likely be the last time I’d see him. I’d shared my faith in Christ with him, and he professed to be a Christian. He read some of my Christian books and attended church with me.

He has a wife who was released from jail a month ago. He was disappointed, because he was afraid she’d get back into the drug scene that got her into trouble in the first place. Jody, at 26 years old, has four children, ages 10–2.

His biggest problem, however, is going to be helping his older brother, who was just charged with possession of child pornography, after a librarian said he’d viewed it on a library computer. She was fired, and she claimed it was due to her going to the police. However, it turns out she was about to be fired for several different reasons, and no child porn was found on the library computer. Jody’s bro is a deaf-mute and not stable mentally. He may have a decent shot at a great lawsuit now, especially with a protective younger brother on his side and three lawyers offering to take his case. His brother has been front-page and evening news here.

In other famous case news, one of the guys here I recognized from the Santa Clara County Jail. I’ve been told he just got 25–life for killing his wife. He’s an electrical engineer named Alex who has been in my Bible Study here for the past month.


FUN NOTE: When Jody left, he gave me a “pencil holder”—something that you can place the “golf pencils” in the bottom of; the tube-like construction holds it securely and makes it much more comfortable to hold a pencil! He also left me a very rare state-authorized PILLOW! Most guys stuff the state-issued pillowcases with extra clothes or a sheet, but me? I get a super-comfy pillow! And the best part is that my cellie doesn’t use pillows, so I didn’t have to give it to him like I’d planned! God is good!


The “lead porter,” Anthony, has treated me poorly since getting the job—he tries to pin blame for anything on me, criticizes me for not being interested in the only thing he is—speaking in degrading terms about women. He’s taken whole bags of condiments (taco sauce, ketchup) and then dogged me for catching him at it … since I can’t tell the C.O., I have to fight for my share, so I can at least share it with some of the guys who never got it with their dinners. He and the Hispanic porter, “Youngster,” said: “Geez, Chris. And you call yourself a Christian!”

I had only politely tried to deal with them up to that point. The proverbial “straw” had just been laid on my camel’s back. “The ‘call yourself a Christian’ crap needs to stop,” I said. “I was only looking out for the best interests of my ‘house’ [what everyone refers to their cell as], and do you know what the Bible says I am if I don’t look after my own house first? [… silent stares …] No? Well, it says I’m worse than infidel if I don’t look out for my house. So, before you throw that ‘Christian’ crap at me, you’d best learn your Bible.”

It’s been four days, and not a peep.  🙂  Standing up for what I believe is certainly different here!

 You say you want another story? Fine.

See, God showed me that Anthony (the black porter) is a fool. (Well, Anthony showed me that.) And he, as a fool, should be avoided, so that I won’t become like him. (A companion of fools suffers harm.) Well, Anthony’s respect for me grew after this exchange: he asked me to “give him space” while he was getting cold water for someone—I’d tried to get hot water next to him—something we commonly do—and he tried to humiliate me, as if I was gay, saying I tried to get all “up in his business.”

I said, “Well, that’s funny, ’cause just last night, while I was bending down at 208’s door getting soups, you came up behind me and told me to move, while it looked like you were doing something inappropriate.”

He stammered an apology, said, “My bad,” and walked away after saying it wouldn’t happen again.

I know it’s not my typical style, but it has worked for Anthony. The perception that “nice” = “weak” is usually handled by either becoming violent or—for those who actually are weak—by backing down, letting others walk all over you. I’m finding that the typical prisoner isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box and has a limited vocabulary and verbal sparring skills. I can be polite, cheerful, good-natured, and humble in my responses, while still making a point. I’m grateful God’s given me someone like Anthony to “learn on” before I get to my permanent place!

 One more? Okay. Last night, Anthony dogged me for wearing shoes with small tears on the side, though I’d been given a brand-new pair by the C.O. recently. (Anthony was jealous—it’s a $6.00 gift, and I didn’t have to turn in my old ones I play basketball in.  🙂  ) I told him I’m saving my good pair for my visits. His only retort was to mock me as if I’d winked at him.

 “Hey, Youngster!”—getting the other porter’s attention—“You didn’t wink at me, did you, Chris?” he leered.

I didn’t let him breathe, as I gunned him down with: “Don’t get so hopeful about something that’s never gonna happen, Bro. You’ve become too institutionalized—all your mind thinks about is gay, gay, gay.”

Yeah. No response. I grabbed a towel and trotted off to wipe down the tables. I’d already mopped up.  🙂

SORRY! to everyone about my not-so-clear story about the 2021 not-so-true release date. So, God can indeed chop my time here shorter, but it’s not through this clerical error, I guess. Pray I stop an attack on a C.O. (–1 year), testify in a felony case (–1 year), etc. The director of prisons may also recommend the “recall” of my prison commitment due to “exceptional behavior.” I’m just praying I’ll be faithful to the end, whenever that is!

So, in other random news, I should tell you more about my new cellie, but I’ll save that. Instead, for those of you curious about what my little business mind is doing to keep itself occupied, I give you a little taste:

First, I take note who is requesting what: 203 loves coffee, 101 loves sweets, 210 wants a large garbage bag, etc. Next, I take note of who is trying to offload something valuable for little: 120 has a pair of $3.00 reading glasses for (1) 25-cent package of soup; 222 has a $6.00 pair of sneakers, size 11, for 10 shots of Folger’s.

Next, I note who has what I want: state envelopes with first-class postage to anywhere in the world. While I’m porter, I trade my desserts for a week for the 10 shots of Folger’s and get the shoes. I trade two of my stamps for two soups and a Crunch bar, and I get the glasses but split the Crunch bar with my cellie. I make up for it by trading my jellies and extra syrup packets (1-for-1) for state envelopes.

One coffee fiend traded me seven packets for seven state envelopes! Normally, I get 1 envelope for two packets, though. Here’s how I figure I’m making out:

* Each jar of Folger’s contains “120 servings” for a cost of $6.40, or $0.05-1/3 each. Guys tell me it has 60 normal servings; that’s $0.11 each.

* You have to buy the Folger’s with money from home, which loses 55% = $0.22/shot.

* A state envelope, if sent home, is worth $0.50 (cost from store), actual cost = $1.00.

* If I sent overseas to Aunt Julia, Nina, and Monica, it’s worth far more.  🙂

* Thus, I can turn an extra syrup packet into a savings of $1.00!

Saving stamps is the best way to send me “money,” since I don’t want my family to pay even one penny of my dumb “restitution.” I’ll end up paying that out of my future crappy “wages” when I get a “job.” One stamp of $0.42 = two soups, which would normally cost me a $1.00 deposit into my account, then 55% is taken out. Don’t send money!


FUN NOTE: One guy who wanted a huge bag got one from me, plus a couple other items only a porter could get in exchange, and he took a new pair of my pants and made them into board shorts with two additional pockets! He normally charges four soups ($1.00) for the hem, and four soups per pocket, $3.00 total, but free for me.  🙂


More later! I love you all so much! God is good!

Love always,