November 27, 2016
Sunday, 6:00 p.m.
Letter #463: What Does a Log-Splitter Do?
Living in prison has given me a unique perspective on life and on the lives of those I encounter here. I am certainly not the average prisoner, as only the lucky few of my race and socioeconomic status ever grace the inside of these gates. Plainly said, middle-aged, educated white males are a rarity, and I’d be the last guy standing in a group game of “I Never” (I’ve never … owned a gun, been in a fistfight, used profanity, tasted alcohol, tried drugs, smoked, broken into someone else’s property, etc.).
This unique perspective not only means I’m around guys with significantly less education than me, but it also means I can’t avoid them. And, every so often, I like to give my closest friends and family just a brief glimpse of what you’re missing by not being incarcerated. So, enjoy just a sampling of the ignorant gems inmates say. (If you have children under the age of 4, these statements will not be nearly as ridiculous to you.)
One guy in my painting class from earlier this year had a particularly dense way of looking at things. He made you wonder if he was just trying to be funny or just looking for attention or just actually ignorant. Besides the basic stuff such as “What is ‘vertical’?” and “What is ‘horizontal’?” he had a question when the teacher said that a small brush was “for doing really small, delicate, intricate paint jobs”: “What is ‘intricate’?” Well, it isn’t your kitty who strays indoors, bro.
The teacher put up with his incessant questions, even when the guy asked him about the laptop he’d been using for six hours every day in class for the past month: “Is that a laptop?” No, Honey, it’s the new iPhone MAX for people with large heads.
Then, one day, the teacher put several pictures of his custom-made log-splitter up on the screen and took questions and comments and stories from the class about the log-splitter as he described in detail how he made it, how it operates, and how many logs it could split at one time. An hour quickly passed, most of us forgetting we were even in prison. Until Question Guy piped up with another of his genuinely sincere gems of a question: “What does a log-splitter do?”
The teacher calmly replied that it … uh … splits logs. His follow-up question: “Oh! For like when you’re camping?” Yep, that’s right. Rather than taking along a bundle of firewood, you can drag an entire log-splitter behind the RV and turn the campsite into a pile of logs in about 2 hours flat.
Some guys get a little over-ambitious with their speech and end up a bit tangled without even noticing it. I recently heard a friend of mine preach, and he said, “I never cease to forget what God has done for me.” Well, in this case, he never ceases to forget what a triple negative does to a sentence, since he most likely was trying to say he always remembers what God does for him.
One other variant of that phrase I heard a couple of years ago, also in a prison chapel service: “It never stops ceasing to amaze me what God has done for me.” Ungrateful wretch.
Another unique perspective I have developed is that which comes from being around guys who have vastly different value systems than I do. One friend of mine recently described for me how incredible his girlfriend was: “She was down for anything [meaning she was okay with anything he wanted to do]. Once, I shot this guy three times in the stomach, and since he was badly wounded, his girlfriend said she’d take him to the hospital, insisting that she wouldn’t tell on me. I told her no, that we should just bury him already. When she kept insisting on getting him medical attention, my girlfriend turned to me and said, ‘Well, I guess we’ll have to shoot her too.’ Yeah, she was awesome!”
Wow, I couldn’t believe my ears. That girl is totally the type of girl I’d love to take home to Mom. Great find. I wish she had a sister.
With nothing better to do, plenty of guys just try to be funny. Here’s an example: I’m often on my bunk in the dorm, writing letters or cards or working on projects. One guy just walked past me, saw me writing, and made an exaggerated kissy-face: “Dear Diary,” he crooned, “I’m so lonely here … ” Ha. I guess you could say this letter to you is a sort of diary for me. Not far off, that guy.
One guy was recently telling me how great it was that he’d started spending time with me. He said that it is a matter of “ironing sharpening iron,” a concept I’m not familiar with. See, in most Christian circles, you could say that fellowship is like “iron sharpening iron” from Proverbs 27:17. However, if you are ironing flint clothing, it is possible for ironing to sharpen the iron.
Another guy, when I told him that my mother had put over 300,000 miles on three different vehicles, immediately bragged that he once drove 300,000 miles in three weeks and then proceeded to tell me how he’d gone up and down the West Coast in that time frame. Hmm.
Problem is, I can do basic math, pal. You’d have to go 60 mph without stopping except for 4 hours in those three weeks in order to go just 30,000 miles, making that story unlikely, though I’m sure you drove really, really far. Just not as far as my mom. Unless you went 595 miles per hour without stopping for three weeks straight, you little astronaut, you. Well, we know he’s a space cadet, at least.
Prisoners aren’t prime examples of America’s best and brightest, that’s for sure, but they are people just the same. And while education level and brain activity may be low in some, they still have the capacity to make something new of themselves. Whatever the need, I know God has me here, and I won’t stop not helping them achieve their best.