Once, a long time ago, in one of those crazy conversations that happen between siblings, it was determined that I was the most likely, of all of my brothers and sisters, to survive in prison. Not that any of us were intending to be incarcerated…but still. That conclusion was arrived at based on several factors.
- I can sleep in uncomfortable places. I have managed to sleep while stretched out in the back seat of a moving car, or in the front passenger seat, with my head leaning against the door. I have slept on buses, trains and airplanes, none of which offer the best accommodations for rest. In my own home, I have napped on the sofa, or curled up in the armchair. I’ve had a series of old and uncomfortable mattresses. The key, I have found, is to settle into a position, and not move around.
- I can entertain myself for hours with the simplest activities. That has always been true. I know several games of solitaire played with a deck of cards, but I have also managed to turn other games into competitions against myself. I’ve played both Yahtzee and Scrabble with four players, all of whom were me. Other games can be made more challenging by trying to beat my best score. In my life as it is, I chastise myself for wasting too much time on games and puzzles; in prison, I’d have lots of time to waste!
- I am a reader. I seriously worry about people who don’t read, either because it’s too difficult, or because they don’t like it. From my perspective, a life without reading seems like a sad and small place. And a love of reading makes any situation better. It would make prison bearable.
- I am a writer. This was a big advantage when I first moved to Beaver Island. Though my family hated to see me go, they knew I’d keep in touch with long letters detailing my adventures. This blog is kind of the same type of communication, and it suits me. Though I’m the only one doing the “talking” (other than rare and short back-and-forth discussions in the comments), it feels kind of like a conversation, and it helps to allay loneliness. That would be advantageous to prison life, too.
- I like institution food. I was thrilled with anything that was offered at my high school cafeteria. At the time, I thought it was simply a welcome change to the packed lunches I’d had to carry all through elementary school. But then, I also loved the cold buttered toast we were served at break time when I worked, during senior year, at Suncrest Convalescent Home. I liked the cafeteria food at the hospital when I worked there, and later when I was a patient there. I enjoyed anything served up in the cafeteria of the community college I attended. I like TV dinners. Now, I have never had prison food, but I feel that I’d at least have a good attitude about it, to start.
- I have always loved being alone. Even as a very small child, I would seek out corners or closets or cubbies to be away from the boisterous activity that was common in our busy household. I would sit for hours under the kitchen table. I would climb, with a book, onto the deep top shelf built into the wall of the bedroom I shared with my sister Brenda, and relish the idea of being above the fray. I’d take a flashlight to the farthest corner of the attic, to enjoy the quiet. As a young adult with a husband and small children, I’d get up in the middle of the night, just to have some time all to myself. I enforced a bedtime for my daughters no matter how old they got, so that I could have a little time alone before going to sleep.
I was reminded of the prison conversation this morning. I was near the end of a good book, and trying to finish it while drinking coffee and before going to work. The dogs, wanting my attention, were going outside and back in, first one dog then the other, in tag team fashion. Over and over. I finally picked up my coffee and my book, and closed myself in the bathroom. Then I, who live the most solitary life imaginable, said to myself in total exasperation, “I just need a little peace and quiet!”