As a comedian, I see the world differently than many people. Often, I find humor in situations that aggrevate other, “normal” people. I believe humor helps me fight the spiritual battle with depression that plagues many inmates as a result of the oppression that we are subjected to, and helps me deflect the “rehabilitation” aimed at me each day.
For example, I was standing in line for breakfast the other day and other inmates began cutting line, right in front of a correctional officer (CO). Of course, I wondered why he didn’t do his job and stop the cutting, but I also thought to myself that these inmates must be new inmates. Who else would be that eager for “prison food?” The moment passed, and I chuckled to myself. Of course, I would never cut in line because that would draw attention to me, and I always carry contraband: salt and pepper shakers! These items are prohibited in the mess hall and, although CO’s don’t mind cutting, there’s something about seasoning grits that sends many off the deep end.
Occasionally, I see news programs that show prison shakedowns. The officers proudly display the various weapons they have confiscated. I wonder why they don’t ever display my salt and pepper shakers? They’ve confiscated enough of them from me. I think it would make a good news feature for the six o’clock news. An officer, pointing at my shakers, tells the story: “I was standing guard in the mess hall when I noticed a red headed inmate known as “The Mule” (That’s me!), remove a salt shaker from the top of his sock. I was behind him and off to one side, so he didn’t notice as I approached his table. As I crept closer, I unholstered my mace. Just in case, you know. These animals can be dangerous when they’re eating. Pointing my mace directly at his eyes, I shouted. ‘Set the salt down slowly and back away from the table!’ I then keyed my radio and called for backup. After we secured the perpetrator, we did a pat down and found the matching pepper shaker in his other sock. The entire operation was successful. No food was seasoned!”
Another comic episode occurred the day I, The Mule, took jelly to the mess hall. I sat down by a window. I removed the jelly from my sock. As I began to squeeze a little onto my lump of dough, I heard a tapping on the window. I turned to see an officer shouting at me and pointing at my jelly. I couldn’t hear him clearly, but I think that he said I was in violation of SCDC policy 403: Possession of Jelly with Intent to Spread. Veins began popping out of the officer’s forehead as his hand hovered over his holster. As I sat looking at what appeared to me to be Barney Fife on crack, I saw a little light come up in his head: he realized that mace doesn’t work through plexiglass! He ran to the door, rushed over, and confiscated my, by now, empty jelly container. I bet that’s sitting in the contraband room.
Jelly is on the menu, yet it’s never served. If I bring my own, it’s taken from me. Now the officer is confiscating what he is supposed to be giving me but never does. I love when the humor writes itself.
While it’s true that these events have an aggravating angle to them, it’s also true that they are funny. Funny, I need. Funny, I can work with. Perhaps it seems like a small thing to some people, but I thank God that he gave me a sense of humor. It’s a blessing, the seasoning of life that can never be confiscated.
Elton Cross 187085
Tyger Ricer CI
100-200 Prison Rd
Enoree, SC 29355