Some people live in a world that the rest of us can't even begin to recognize.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week 5: Chow Hall

The building where "meals" are served is a little distance from the building where the intake prisoners are held. Okay, it's 758 steps (give or take a few) from the door of our building to the door of chow hall. I got bored one day and counted. At least it is 758 steps outside to chow hall, and 758 steps back. (Unless it's raining and there are thousands of worms on the small sidewalk, which is a story in itself.) With the minimal time we are allotted out of our cells, I have learned to appreciate the fresh air, sight of trees, clouds, and birds, and, especially, the sight of sunsets or stars at night. Occasionally, we are walking to or from chow hall when the church bells are ringing on the hour. I wonder if everyone else here recognizes how precious and incredible the beautiful sights and sounds of life are, and how much we are missing when they are limited to us by the penal system.

We are expected to walk in complete silence, partnered in twos, from our building to the chow hall. There is always an officer walking us to and from anywhere we go. I feel sorry for him, because expecting over 100 women to walk silently and in pairs is pretty much an impossible task.

The young girls who call themselves "the ghetto girls" (but don't anyone else DARE call them that) cut in line when the guard is not looking so they can all walk together. They like to rap, sing, and dance during the walk to chow hall, and know which officers will allow them to do so. Given how white, how suburban, and how much older I am than them, they joke that they will "turn me ghetto" before my stay here is over. I think I've mastered the head bob and and hand twirl, but, for the life of me, haven't figured out the coordination involved in the "Stanky Leg."

We never know what special surprise awaits us at the Chow Hall for lunch or dinner. (Breakfast is pretty standard and the same each day of the week.) This prison surely gets a discount on soy products. Soy hamburgers, soy chicken patties, shredded soy pork, soy turkey, and soy hot dogs or sausages are the major staples of our diet. Gross. Along with the soy main dish, we have at least one soggy, overcooked and tasteless vegetable, a few leaves of iceberg lettuce, and some type of bread product. Okay, it's just wheat bread, but the various amounts and patterns of mold on it gives it that suspensful, momentary "gee, are we getting something different today?" hopefulness.

Dessert is definitely the crowd pleaser in the chow hall. Sure, jello and pudding are served frequently, but many days we get cake. And cake days are good days. Big, 4x4 inch squares of all flavors of cake, with thick, creamy frosting on top. Trades and deals are constant. I often give away any cake that is not chocolate, simply because I hear women talk about the dozens of pounds they've gained in the small time they've been here. When you spend 90% of your time laying in bed, and your primary nutrition is commissary junk food and the lunch and dinner cake, the pounds do add up quickly.

There is a certain strategy about sharing your food with others in the Chow Hall. You don't want one person to claim you as their extra food source and make you feel you owe them some food daily. You also don't want to look like you are refusing to share, and return your tray to the garbage line with a preferable food item still on it. My strategy? I offer all of my desserts to those suburban blond "sorority" type girls. My cell neighbor asked me why I did this. Was I wanting to join in their crowd? Gosh, no. Those women are young, blond, skinny and look good even in prison. They are everything I wish I was. No, I don't want to get in with their crowd, I want to fatten them up! Then they'll be everything I am!
Others joined in the campaign to FEED THE BLONDS, and those girls were soon complaining that their clothes were getting too tight, and, oh my goodness, they needed to get a larger size when we got clean clothes on shower days.

Yes, entertainment is so minimal around here, I have to invent my own.

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