4 | The Crisis

March 6, 2008
Thursday, 1:00 a.m.
Letter #4: The Crisis


Dear Family,

Hi from friendly 5B wing at your local county jail! This place is exactly like how you’ve always pictured it, thanks to the accurate portrayals in classics such as The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Andy Griffith Show, and scenes from The Inspector General. We pretty much stand at the bars, talking to the cops, the other prisoners, or ourselves. I just narrowly avoided being hung this morning, and I finally coaxed that dog with the keys in his mouth to come just a little bit closer. We’re becoming friends.

There are striking similarities to what you’ve seen in other county jails, actually. There are nice cops, dumb cops, mean cops, and ugly cops … all depending on how she’s feeling that night. There are windows to see the rest of the town, there’s the stuff that resembles food, and the beautiful girl you see outside really does come to visit you.  🙂

Have you ever run out of bathroom tissue? Pause for a moment now, if you will, and contemplate the exact process needed to—ahem—rectify that problem. Think you recall how it’s done? Good, because I thought I understood the process too.

Let’s start with the fact that your hypothetical household has one other member, who, though generally neat and one who practices good hygiene, happens to poop a lot. You have been keenly aware of this fact as your entire household’s supply of bathroom tissue rapidly has dwindled away.

You’ve noted that the toilet paper fairy has appeared only once in the six days you’ve been running the household. (No, gentle reader, deposits under the pillow are not necessary to trigger this fairy’s gifts.) You’ve carefully rationed your own digestive clock to necessitate only two uses of the sacred tissue. Now, granted, you do create a padded seat on the cold stainless steel throne prior to sitting; technically, this uses some paper. But not much. Honestly.

Your fellow housemate, on the other hand, does not require padding before he sits. He does not require a simple courteous notice either. The sounds let you know not to look.

You have been careful. You have discussed an Emergency Household Plan should you run out, and you have a code word in case you get separated. You have set aside a length that should be sufficient for one use (by a conscientious, rationing and careful pooper) and hidden it under your bed mat while your housemate was sleeping. You blamed a runny nose on the missing sheets of toilet paper, but you know full well you used your shirt instead.

During the days leading up to The Crisis, you devised ways to raise awareness by singing slogans such as“We need some toilet paper NOW! How about if you brought us some NOW?” and then “We’re running out of toilet paper! Can’t you see our skinny roll?” and finally, during The Crisis, “We are out NOW! We’re prepared to use our hands!” These chants entertained your housemate as he randomly pooped whenever he looked at the toilet.

In the final throes of The Crisis, you use the empty tube to spy on others below, who are on the dayroom floor. A trustee notices, and the Commanding Officer comes to your door. You put down your eyepiece to ask him if more tissue is available. He lets you know you are not alone in your plight, which is not as comforting as one might think. You also learn that your unit has no additional rolls, but that it is on the Thursday day-shift calendar to bring you one.

As he leaves, you pray today is Wednesday. It is.

As you think of ways you can hide the toilet from your housemate, a trustee shoves a wad of the sacred tissue under your door. “You owe me!” he yells through the door. You nod through the tears and hand it to the person who has just sat on the toilet behind you. Twelve hours to go …



Brandon sees many cars a day outside, most of which belonged, at one time or another, to his mother, father, or himself. He notices a van outside: “That’s probably my dad.” Hmm. Not likely, since his father lives in Mexico, where he owns three taxis, a few trucks, and a 2008 Camry. He is an electrician full-time.

Brandon tells me that I should go on the Real World website and apply, that they will hire me to be on the show because I look like the guys on the show. Hmm, how about the Real World San Quentin?

He asked me if I know where the Titanic is. Yes, I lied, just because I somehow knew that actual knowledge was not going to be a factor. “It’s where I go to the beach in Santa Cruz!” he said. I think I completely lost a full ten minutes of my busy life explaining the differences between the sunken Cement Ship of Santa Cruz and the majestic Titanic.

He startled me the other day when he suddenly sat upright on his bunk and yelled, “Ow!” I turned from my writing to appear interested/concerned.

He pulled up his shirt to expose a portion of his back. “See that?”

“Yeah,” I lied, again, “What is it?” This question came out before I remembered that I had no desire to know.

“I don’t know. It hurts! Some jellyfish probably got me.”

Help. Please.