Cons of Laziness

When I was a child, my mother used to tell me that being lazy was more work than work. At first, I did not understand her reasoning and so, as children are wont to do, I ignored her. I didn’t think of myself as being lazy, per se, but rather as being discriminating about how and when I spent my precious energy. I later learned that my idea was simply another example of what Mother was talking about: Using twelve words to describe something when one word would have sufficed. Lazy.

By the time I graduated from high school I had gotten a better grip on what Mom was trying to tell me. I saw my friends struggling daily to concoct innovative methods and techniques for avoiding work. I noted many instances wherein these friends, whom my mother would have called ‘lazy’ and been done with them, spent far more time, energy and sometimes money to avoid doing something they could have accomplished with much greater ease had they simply done what needed to be done when it needed to be done. In the end, the ‘work’ still needed to be done and was usually twice as hard due to the time delay. For example, the grass was taller, the stain was set, the food was dried on the dishes, etc.

Most of the innovative methods my friends and later co-workers used to get out of work involved blaming someone else for causing the work to be necessary in the first place and then trying to invoke the idea of ‘fair play’ as an excuse to pass along the work to someone else in the second place. Unfortunately, placing the blame and then whining generally never worked and more like than not just made the whiner look not only lazy, but petulant. Two qualities not well liked by moms and/or supervisors.

One of the worst examples I saw of the Blame/Whine approach occurred when I worked as a supervisor over an institutional food service department where the workers were seasoned criminals and self-proclaimed experts on how to avoid work. Blame/Whine was always the first impulse and deeply ingrained in the prison psyche as the first line of defense when ‘supervisors’, ‘officers’ or ‘bosses’ tried to get them to do work.

I was having trouble with the ventilation system on the cooks’ floor at the time. The vent hoods above nine pizza-style ovens and five 80 gallon steam pots were not working properly. There were no windows in the area and the temperature was reaching upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I passed through the area to check the vents and the temperature and make sure the four cooks I had preparing the evening meal were drinking plenty of water and taking breaks.

When I walked into the cooks’ area, I felt as if I had been struck a physical blow by the heat. The four cooks were struggling over two steam pots full of boiling foods. They looked extremely stressed by the heat and I could not believe how hot it was. I was about to shut the meal down and evacuate the area when I discovered that all nine of the pizza ovens were turned on and set at 350 degrees. The ovens were empty and had not been used since biscuits had been baked some three to four hours earlier in the day.

I turned to the cooks and asked them why the ovens were on and were they going to bake something I didn’t know about.

They all shook their heads and answered in the negative. Nothing to bake.

I frowned in puzzlement and asked “why didn’t you turn the ovens off?”

One of them replied quite quickly in a decidedly irritable tone “we didn’t turn them on; first shift did it!”

“Oh,” I said “then I’ll call them back to turn them off. Don’t worry. I won’t let them get away with wasting gas.”

Needless to say, the ovens were off when I passed that way again.bars

O is for Oh-Gee

You’ve probably heard the term “Oh, Gee” any number of times, usually referring to something that surprises or invokes some sort of emotional response from the speaker, such as “Oh, gee, that sux!” when someone drops their $7.00 Starbucks ® Latte in their lap or on their laptop keyboard.  Lots of times, we heard something a bit more colorful, but that depends on the speaker again and the cirucumstances.  Was it the Pastor’s latte and keyboard?  Or was it his/her own latte and keyboard?

But that is all beside the point when the term is heard Behind Bars.  If you hear someone referring to someone as an “Oh-Gee”, this is simply an anagram for OLD Gangster (Gangsta).  The term is applied freely to offenders who have have spent a number of years Behind Bars.  This can actually be a form of twisted respect for an “old-timer”, someone who has done a lot of time.  The younger offenders or those new to the system are sometimes overwhelmed (usually) by the completely alien world in which they suddenly find themselves.  The “O-Gees” are normally more resigned to their fates, more savvy about how to ‘get-by’ Behind Bars and, therefore, a wealth of information for the uninformed newer offenders.  Of course, everything Behind Bars comes with strings attached.

“Oh-Gees”, depending on their ingenuity, ambition and need and/or greed, can demand various forms of payment ranging from shots of coffee, soda, pastries or other luxuries bought from the Prison Store (Commissary) to much higher payments such as protection, real money, alcohol, tobacco, drugs and/or sexual favors.  Of course, it would behoove the uninformed offender to weigh the value of the information being offered against the price before making the purchase.  Everything listed above is illegal, of course, and may not only result in disciplinary action with varying levels of punishment to retaliation in the form of bodily harm up to and including death if the ‘bill’ is not paid.

“Oh-Gees” are often very friendly with staff, providing diversions or smokescreens for younger/stronger offenders, or oftentimes providing staff with information that may or may not be real or useful, but thereby endearing themselves to the powers that be, which again, depending on the skills of the “Oh-Gee”, can be very lucrative.

One thing for sure, such skills do not come easily, but must be developed over time with many trials, errors and failures.  “Oh-Gees” certainly may demand a certain level of respect from both staff and offenders if for nothing else other than having survived for 20-30 years Behind Bars.

H is for Hog

Hog is a noun, right? Sure it is, but wait… there’s more. There is also a verb form of the word. Hogging: to hog something and/or someone, as well as, hogged, the past tense. Hog, hogging, hogged. Yes, and these words actually have nothing to do with the four-legged mammals, which go so willingly to the slaughter in order to provide bacon, ham and pork chops for those of us who are Non-Vegans/Non-Muslim/Non-Jewish, etc. In keeping with my Behind Bars theme today, I am using the term Hog as representative for the letter “H”. Inside a prison unit, you will hear this term used freely and frequently by both employees and offenders. Even though the State of Texas uses a great deal of pork (not to be confused with Political Pork or ‘Porkulous’) to feed the growing inmate population and has a vast pig-farming operation that supplies the pork in bulk and offers a variety of offender jobs in the maintenance and care of said facilities, the offenders and staff are probably not talking farm/shop or bar-be-q techniques when they speak of hogging using such statements as “I been hogged, Bossman!” or “You tryin’ to hog me, Homes?” or “Say, say, say, man, stay away from Officer Whozit or he’ll hog you for a soda, man. Know what I’m sayin’? Can you feel my pain?”

The act of hogging, is usually something that one offender does to another offender, but it is not strictly limited to the offender population. Bosses (staff) may hog offenders, offenders may hog bosses and bosses may hog each other. Hogging is applied to the act of taking something forcefully, or against protest, from someone else. Normally, in the Free World, this might be referred to as ‘stealing’; ‘robbery’; ‘larceny’; ‘theft’; ‘extortion’; or ‘rape’, depending on what was taken, of course, and is considered serious disciplinary infraction or, in some cases, criminal activity. Normally, it is good practice for the staff to be on the alert for acts of hogging since such things can and often do cause serious repercussions, if carried to the extreme. Some of the nastiest situations Behind Bars have been caused by so-called ‘predators’ hogging weaker offenders for food, property and/or sexual favors. Some of it is blatant, some of it is done in jest and some of it is done in large scale operation with rules, regulations and by-laws and falls under the general heading of ‘Gang Activity’. Although it may sound funny or humorous in some context, it is definitely a serious problem and one both offenders and staff must deal with on a daily basis Behind Bars.