Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 9, 2014
(even writing from a PC is a little entertaining to this prisoner!)
I think I want the tiger to contemplate the meaning of life……………and this cow…………………

Greetings to my friends and family.
This note finds me writing from a “Job Services” Place, where, miraculously, I am able to use a computer. It’s primitive compared to my MacBook pro, but ‘twill serve”…………’twill serve.
I am currently employed at a Seven-Eleven, an experience that is alternately hilarious, irritating, and, most often, surreal. My employer is a nice man named Rasheed, a Pakistani who employs many women from the Work Release Center. I am making $ 8.25 per hour.
Yesterday, I was interested to watch one of the managers remove his shoes and pull out a prayer mat to pray to the East. Wow. Yes, in the Seven-Eleven. Kind of cool. The other employees are mostly Turks, with some originally from Russia. They are all Muslim, too. It’s fascinating when I am not feeling pressured…which is pretty much all the time…as I learn how to push “dat button…no! no! no!...not dat button…Dis button! ‘Scratcher wins! Scratcher wins!...”
I’m getting over a feeling of humiliation…and, often, a feeling of despair….certainly not because I am too disdainful about working, but because of the sometimes superior and irritating manner of those who seem to radiate a feeling elation at my position.
The snooty Muslim men behave, nonetheless, with some levels of respect. And, when they smile a little, it’s a rewarding sight. Still, they seem to revel in my awkwardness at trying to learn to use something as alien as a cash register or as I try to navigate the intricacies of the Lottery machine…(ugh!)…then, they get angry because I don’t know the prices of a “Slurpee.”
I’m doing okay, although…and I am insisting that they teach me some “Urdu”…their Pakistani dialect.
(PhoneticallY) Kay-ah Hahl-leh…means “how are you?”
Some may wonder why I have settled for this minimum wage job…Well, I must keep it in order to progress through the “levels” at Work Release. (“Levels” are “earned steps” toward freedom – whatever that is!)
The good news is that there are more employment possibilities for me available…but, I must be cautious how I do things and watch my impatience. If I hold off and stay in a state of unemployment in order to get a job where I am more comfortable, I may lose the ability to move through the graduated levels that insure passes to go out from the center…and, eventually, to see my family…
SO! I must grit my teeth and endure it.
Through it all, I find that I have many rewards and, perhaps, insights…as hundreds of people whisk through the store. While I sell cigarette after cigarette and lottery ticket after lottery ticket, I find that my heart squeezes with compassion more than anger or frustration at my own circumstances. When I consider the levels of poverty throughout time immemorial….the Depression……the potato famine…Dickens’ London…………American slavery…whatever form of poverty or unfair treatment that has existed throughout history, I regard the current American poverty as a condition that wears strange beguiling faces.
Most people, I think, believe that they have a sense of luxurious free will and self-determined destiny because they can buy an $8.00 pack of cigarettes, some gas, and some lottery scratchers or tickets. And most people (even – or especially - prisoners) are extremely well-fed and warm and able to navigate the Seven-Eleven or Walmart with relative ease.
What a brilliant marketing strategy carried forth by corporations and the media…!!!!!
What seems to be “freedom” seems to appear as simply another form of enslavement.
But…that is a treatise for a longer venue than this Blog.
Nonetheless, I’m fascinated and, often, disgusted by our American way of life…I am also sympathetic with the victims of the “snow job” carried out by companies and media darlings successfully advocating consumerism as the “right way” to do things..the only appropriate way to act.
In other words, most people seem to believe that, if we don’t give Walmart every penny and dime we earn…and if we don’t go into debt to buy things we don’t need, we are failing at our cultural positioning...we are “bad” parents……I guess I’m turning into a Commie?

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