Other essays on this theme

Essay: "Personal Boundaries"

Respecting the Rules

My personal boundary expands quite a bit farther than yours. Prisoners are often eaten up with the flu, herpes viruses I and II, hepatitis, mononucleosis, aids, and genital and mouth warts (human papilloma viruses I through 22), etc from shooting drugs together with dirty needles and sex with prostitutes and each other. The young ones like to eat food off each other's trays. They like to drink out of every cup that has fluid in it. They don't like to wash their hands or use soap. They are always sneezing, coughing, hawking up slime to spit onto the walks and walls or noisily snorting up and sucking down snot into their throats to swallow. Their hands are too sticky to shake, which might be the origin as to why people just bump knuckles now. That is progress, at least.

A lot of the trash-speed freaks and old geezers have lost most of their teeth, and their food-pits look like toxic cesspools. They seem to think that if they are already missing 3 or more teeth, they never need to brush or mouthwash again. They absent-mindedly work their jaws all the time. Their faces collapse in a particularly gross and disgusting way as their lips pucker and wrinkle into shapes that resemble piles of dog feces. Many have nicotine stains on their thumbs, forefingers and that ragged patch of hair that they call a beard and mustache. The state makes it too big of a hassle and run-around for lazy faux like them to get fake teeth. Then they sit across from you at chow. The table is tiny and they want to talk to you about their cases. While they do, they send flecks of their food and spittle to fly over and land on your food or arm or in your cup. They rapidly grow used to their lack of teeth and having to swallow their food whole, like snakes do. Mostly, they only eat pasty, gooey foods that stick between the wide gaps between any remaining teeth they may have. It also fills all the cracks, crevices and craters in and on their jaws and teeth. There it rots, forming a constant supply of microscopic pathogen than periodically spews into the formerly breathable air.

As if staying out of germ-range weren't hard enough, I have to challenge other prisoners' personal boundaries. For example, Negroes like to clique-up in narrow doorways during the summer. They do this because these places offer a stiff breeze due to the corridor suddenly becoming pinched down. They like the way the faster flow of air cools them. A second reason they do this is to bolster their short supply of a commodity that they call "respect."

Their game is to improve their own self-esteem by taking it away from people that they force to ask permission of them to pass through the doorway they are blocking. They can loiter in doorways for hours while recounting their former free lives to each other. They also like to pretend that they don't see me coming. This used to make me stop and ask politely for them to make a temporary crack so that persons with business to attend to can pass. When their habits of clogging doorways and sidewalks slow the progress of my personal boundary too much, I adopt a new strategy. When they pretend to be blind to my rapid approach, I pretend to be blind to their blockade. I keep charging forward, but I look intently off to the side. Also, I pretend to scratch my head and use this as an excuse to point my elbow at the biggest ones' faces. This maneuver somehow makes my target suddenly become clairvoyant. At the last second they jerk off to safety with a curse or a cry of offense as if I am the one creating the problem! This tactic never has failed in getting them out of my way quickly.

One of the most amusing things in prison is when a Caucasian inadvertently violates some minority's personal space. This happens three times per day when chow is called. Caucasians are already dressed, ready and waiting for the doors to open. Minorities stream out of their cages while still getting their britches on and shirts buttoned, belts buckled, and shoes on. As the Caucs squeeze by these slow-moes, the slow-moes make spitting sounds and gestures to show their displeasure at being passed. They seem to think that everyone should wait for them and stay respectfully behind them as they shuffle along, dressing, laughing and visiting and waiting for their many friends to catch up as they gather in knots along the path to the mess hall. They are offended by Caucasians who pass them along the way. Caucasians are offended to watch them be the last to arrive and the first to crawl under the fence, bucking the line in droves. But few people say anything to them about this. I do, though.

I ridicule them for it, because there are personal boundaries and social rules for a reason. When they all erupt in a chorus of hawking and spitting as I shoulder past their blockades to chow, I begin loudly hauling up a huge green lunger to spit, same as a dog growls at the pups. When they cry foul on me, I tell them that dump trucks don't belong on the superhighway, they stay in the slow lane, and they don't park in the road. When I watch them crawling under the fence, I loudly speak of burglaring food and of hogs rooting around to get their troughs. Why? Because respecting personal boundaries and obeying social rules are the actions that provide the oil that keeps even prison societies from exploding into heat and flame. If no one provided negative feedback, the mal factors would continue to develop and practice even worse behaviors until someone goes psycho and stabs or beats them to death. Respect for personal boundaries is what separates us from the animals. Persons who have a hard time learning to respect personal boundaries and social rules are often too large for their own good are missing their two front teeth. Also they often have puckered scars where they have been bashed in the head for their transgressions.

Respecting personal boundaries and obeying the simple social rules of politeness is just plain common sense and a very good idea.

-James Bauhaus