Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What's been goin' on.

Like I said, the Tuesday of that second week of the road trip, Denise and I moved on up to Vine Grove, Kentucky, where her daughter Chantel and the kids live. We were gonna spend the rest of the week there before driving home on Saturday.

Well, the first evening there I turned on my laptop and checked my email. There was an ominous email from my boss in San Saba, asking me to submit a statement concerning something that has happened between myself and an inmate out there, something like two months earlier.

Somewhere around the end of the second 8 week semester, as my noon to 2:30 class was ending and I was leaving the jail, I found myself walking out the door from the education building, along a sidewalk that leads to the next locked door. You have to go through about seven locked doors coming and going from the education building. It's tedious, but comes with the gig.

There were prisoners, students, lined up along the sidewalk, waiting to go through the same door I was headed for. They were going back to their cells. One of them was a dude I'd had issues with in the past. He'd taken all my classes, and I'd had to write him up a few times for talking in class and throwing things at me.

Yea, one day he tossed a little piece of an eraser, or a rolled up piece of paper at me while I stood next to him lecturing, and the object hit me in the eye. I was PISSED when he did that, and I wrote him up for assault. But the guard in charge of the shift that day took me in his office and talked me into reducing the offense so that it wouldn't add years to the guys sentence. I was cool with that then, because as much of a pain-in-the-ass as the guy was, I didn't want to blow the thing way out of proportion just to fuck him over.

So, the little bastard was given a break. He came back into class in a few days, grinnin' like he'd gotten away with something, which he had. But the semester ended soon after that and the little shit was out of my life, or so I thought. I'd see him now and then in the hallways while he came and went from other classes, and other students used to joke about what a pain in the ass he'd been while he was in my class. The whole thing evolved into a big joke, or so I thought.

Anyway, back to the sidewalk. It'd been raining that day, if memory serves. This guy was standing out of line, in my way. So, rather than step off into the wet grass to avoid him I gave him a little shove. I put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him aside and moved past him. I remember hearing him say "Hey!", but I didn't look back, and I didn't think anything else about it. I guess I was showing him a little contempt, as he done to me endless times, talking and disrupting my classes.

Thing is, you're not supposed to ever touch an inmate. It's in the rules. No matter how innocent or incidental the contact is, it's not supposed to happen. I'd been told that in the fall of 2008, when I was hired to teach in San Saba and given a briefing by the prison folks, but since then it had slipped my mind.

In the environment I worked in, spending 95% of my time with inmates, I saw a LOT of physical contact between them. Guys would arm wrestle one another and push one another, and it was always a joke. So I guess I allowed myself to fall into the perception that such contact was OK and forgot the instructions I'd been given.

Truthfully, the briefing we got in 2008 was minimal, and a lot of what they told us seemed then to be over the top: Don't ever let them know your name; don't ever let them know any personal information about you; etc. The fucking college gave us name tags that we wore every day, and the prison insisted we wear them. So much for "Don't let them know your name." In the reality of working there, most of the stuff they told us in the briefing went out the window in the first semester. So I guess it was natural, in that setting, for me to forget the fine points of the rules.

What's more, that wasn't the first time I'd had physical contact with a prisoner. There were many occasions when a prisoner was standing in my way in a hallway, or in class, or when one tried to sit in my chair in the room, and I'd gig them in the back or shoulder with my elbow or thumb to get them to move out of my way. It was a normal, almost every day thing.

I never did it to a prisoner I didn't know. It was always someone who I knew from class, who I knew to be friendly, who would have a sense of humor about it. I did it many times, in full view of cameras and guards, and nobody ever took me aside and told me "Hey, stop doing that!" So, you can imagine my shock when I found out that this former student of mine who I'd shoved on that sidewalk was having meetings with the Warden and trying to blow that shove into a case of assault.

Well, like I said, I emailed my version of the events to my boss, but then I didn't hear anything else about it through the rest of the week. Finally, on the Friday before we began the journey home, knowing that I was scheduled to begin a new semester in San Saba on the next Monday, I tried to get hold of the folks out at the jail to find out what was going on.

I didn't get anywhere there. Then I got a call from my boss on the Ft. Hood campus, who runs the college program out at San Saba. He told me that he'd gotten a surprising email from an official with the Texas Department of Corrections, and that we needed to have a meeting Monday morning. he didn't tell me what he knew, so I spent the rest of the weekend with a sword hanging over my head.

Long story short, I went in to that meeting Monday morning, after all of that drama with mother over the weekend, and the Dean informed me that as on now, the TDC had banned me from teaching on any of their facilities in the state. Because of that I'd be loosing my full-time teaching position with the college. That means I'd be loosing my salaried position, my medical coverage and my hopes for retirement.

So, because of a shove, a moments decision, almost an instinctive action, I'd gone from having a birds nest on the ground, with a killer salary, full medical and a nice retirement in 12 or 13 years, to being a basic part-time teacher with nothing much to show for 18 years of history with the folks on the Ft. Hood campus. I'm back to square one.

Realize, I'd worked towards that full-time teaching position for 18 years, ever since I started teaching for this college in 1990. I'd put up with all the tedious bullshit that part-timers have to deal with, for 18 years, all in hopes that some day I'd be graced with the kind of salary and benefit package that we all fucking DESERVE.

After 18 years of scrounging for classes and working 12 and 14 hour days, I'd finally gotten that full-time position. And it was a great job, even with the drive, and all the prison bullshit. And then I had it all taken away from me in an instant. Tossed under the buss by the TDC, and then by the college, with no hope expressed for any recourse. I tell ya, in the early part of that first week, with all of this hitting me, it's a wonder I didn't try to suck start one of my AKs.

But those feelings didn't last long. By the end of that week my friends on the Ft. Hood campus had stepped up, knowing how badly I'd been screwed, and they assigned me enough extra classes here on base to keep me going financially. What's more, other friends around the area, finding out about the drama, had shown me so much love and support... I can't tell you how much it helped me begin to start rebuilding my life. I guess it takes this kind of drama to show you how much you are respected... How much you're loved by the folks in your life. I also give full credit to Denise for supporting me emotionally, keeping me from going nuts. She's been wonderful to me.

The last little drama began late last week. The dean called me into his office on Thursday and put me on the phone with some woman on the main campus who told me that since I'd been terminated as a full-time employee, they were going to stop payment on the last month of my contract. They were gonna dick me out of about four thousand dollars, which is what I would have been paid through the month of August (the contract was from September 1st of last year to September 1st of this year).

It's taken me, with the assistance of my boss, until today to get them to back off and start to pay me what they owe me. I deposited a check today that should have been direct deposited last Friday, and I should get paid again at the end of the month. By the middle of September, the money I'm earning now as a part-timer should begin to kick in. Thing is, as a part-timer, there'll be no more extended holidays when we can go on trips. I'll have to work mini semesters over Christmas and new years, so that I don't have to go for two months between paychecks. There's no more medical, so I'm back to trying to find my own coverage.

Like I said, I'm back to square one. The whole thing is unbelievably frustrating and humiliating, and makes me wanna kill someone. I walk around here, going to and from class, looking at the faces of my friends and colleagues and thinking about what I've lost. I think about the plans I used to have for my life, and how much of that is torn to shit now. I try not to think about it too much. I'd go crazy if I did. I went through about two weeks of sleepless nights over it all, but with these classes starting, I'm really too busy and tired to think about it very much.

But it'll always haunt me. That moment on the sidewalk, that moments decision will be streaming through my brain on a loop for the rest of my life. I had it made, and I screwed it up. I let myself be set up. It was all my fault. I don't think I'll ever be able to get over that.

At the same time, one of Denise's nieces was diagnosed with a brain tumor today, and another friend of hers from work, a 45 year old guy, is in the hospital, brain dead from an aneurysm and not expected to last very long. That news puts all of my issues in perspective. And when I think of how lots of other people have to live, including friends of mine, and the issues of their lives, it makes me feel like a big pussy for feeling so bad about myself.

So, life goes on. I'll be OK. It may take me a lot longer, but I'll get back on solid ground again. I've been on this journey too long not to know how to lift myself back up and keep runnin'. I'll just have to redouble my efforts. I just thank God for all my friends, and for the woman I love, who has shown me again and again how much she loves me. When I think of what my life would be without her, or without the rest of my friends, I feel like a rich man. Truly rich.

So, that's the end of that. I'm back to work now and everything is gonna be cool. Thanks again to everyone for all their well wishes, and God bless all those who are struggling with crap they can't control. Cheers!

18 comments:

Jerry in Indiana said...

Jeff,
It will all work out in the end, mark my words. Good things are just around the corner. Hang in there, big guy!

FHB said...

Jerry - Thanks man. Yea, I'll get past it. Thanks.

Mushy said...

Like Jerry said, good things are coming...good guys finish first dude.

Praying for ya.

FHB said...

Mushy - Yea, I hope so. At least I don't have to make that damn 150 mile drive every day. That could'a killed me.

Anonymous said...

I,m so sorry to hear all this. You don't deserve it. Like Jerry said, good things are coming.
MiniMe

kenneth said...

After reading this, I think the real truth will eventually be revealed as being that your good luck has gotten you out of a bad situation.
And I'm not saying this to patronize you, but because I've found it to be true more often than not.
What if it is your fault and you did set a chain of events in motion that resulted in your no longer teaching there, and not accidentally, but because a part of you knew it was a thing that needed to be done?
What if your more discerning subconscious awareness noticed things which your conscious awareness was not paying attention to, or was avoiding, and, 1.Acted to save you before you stayed until your life really was ruined by those incorrigible idiots. (There are good people locked up, but the prison society which all inmates must adhere to is a psychological cesspool, and will never change.), or, 2. Acted to free you to be available for the better things that you deserve
What if, rather than being kicked out of the cool kids club, you are being avoided by a monster that knows you are poison to its agenda?
The best things aren't necessarily at the end of the easiest roads and pathways. Besides, you don't seem all that partial to pavement anyway.

dick said...

Welcome to my world of busting ass.
I'd piss and moan for ya, but you ain't that kind of guy and would probably just smack me.

BRUNO said...

I don't know what to tell you. I, too, lost out on one of those cushy-pensions, that I never knew the true value of, until it was too late.

But, unlike you, I can't blame MY misfortune on anyones' actions. I can only blame MYSELF, and my physical-body. I would've gladly went several more years, to a full railroaders' retirement. But a little blood-clot decided otherwise for me.

And now I'm the main-ingredient, in this "humble-pie" that's just waiting to be "cooked".

At least you're still young(relatively!)& healthy! That's a BIG-plus for ya'!

You'll find a new "groove", in no-time flat! You've too much dedication-to-the-cause, to give-up that easily...

FHB said...

MiniMe - Dude, yea, I'm slowly getting over it. The crying turned into being REALLY pissed off a long time ago. I'll be OK. Friends like you make it a lot easier to deal with.

kenneth - Man, you sound like my sister. When I told her about it all she said was "Thank God! I'm so glad you're out of that environment and away from those people." Her contention, shared by my mother, is that it would have eventually killed me, ether from getting shived by an inmate, or having a heart attack from the stress, or any number of other things.

Truth is, the job wasn't stressful, and I never felt in any danger there. But the environment was very oppressive, and the drive to and from the place was a HUGE pain in the ass. I used to have constant visions of swerving into oncoming traffic one day while I lit a cigar, or having some drunk swerve into me. I was pretty sure I would some day die on that road.

So, on that level I'm actually glad, relieved that I don't have to go there any more. But, having said that, I'd go back in a heart beat. I'd go back to have the regular salary I used to have, and the benefits, and the positive future that seemed to be laid out for me because of that job.

Lets face it, there's a hell of a lot of people with shittier, harder, more depressing jobs that that one. But, I hope that everything will work out in the end, and that I'll be able to have the future I want, even if I now have to wait MUCH longer to begin enjoying it.

Dick - Yea, don't make me have to slap ya. Fuck it! Fuck them. Fuck that little weasel and his lawyers. I hope that little bastard spends the rest of his life nuzzled up to some fat, sweaty guy, tossin' his salad on a regular basis. He's in there and I'm out here, so who wins? Yea, enough said.

Dave K said...

I'm damned sorry to hear what happened. Rules are rules but that seems pretty harsh for one incident. It would be one thing if you had a history of confrontation or you put him in a headlock and threw him against a wall.

Regardless, your last two paragraphs say it all. In today's world, you do need money and more is helpful, insurance is good to have and a pension is great but none of those can replace what you still have, which is family and good friends. You can't put a price on them.

It's good to hear you've gotten past the worst part of it. The job may be X hours out of your day but from everything I've read here, you'll find a way to keep on living and loving life the rest of the time.

Keep on truckin'.

Shrinky said...

Bloody Hell, the world's gone mad. This is so friggin' unbelievable, I can't get my head round it. You have every right to feel shafted, it sucks big-time. Not right, not fair, and completely unjustified. I am so, so sorry you are caught up in this insanity - you are right, it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

FHB said...

Dave K - Yea, that seems to be the consensus. No second chances with the TDC. But life goes on, and there's too much fun to be had out there.

Shrinky - Yep, seems like an amazing injustice. But hey, I'm still alive, and I'll rise again. It'll happen.

JDP said...

FHB you can always take some measure of satisfaction in knowing the punk is still locked up. At least you know why you were forced out. I was forced out of a big corporate job years ago and still to this day am not sure why. Life goes on my friend and hoping good things will come your way. Keep a positive attitude and keep working hard. And I know from experience how TDC operates. My wife worked as a prison guard for six years and her job ended rather abruptly. She, we are better off for it.

JDP

FHB said...

JDP - Very true. I know that in the long run I'm a lucky man. There are women working as guards at San Saba too. I'll never understand, other than the raw economics of it (a job with benefits), why a woman would ever take that job.

*Goddess* said...

Wow, Jeff, I'm so sorry to hear about all of this.

Sometimes the only thing that gets me through crappy stuff is knowing someone loves me, no matter what. I'm glad you have that with Denise.

FHB said...

Goddess - That's a fact. She's made it much easier to bear.

FHB said...

Bruno - Never give up. Never surrender!

PRH....... said...

Sorry I was away for the summer, and missed this. As you know, I retired from a cushy gov'ment job a few years back....but life is more than that, so hang in there. I'm working more now, and doing what I want, and the money ain't squat, because when The Obummer gets done with us the inflation is going to crash the dollar anyway.

Hang in there!