Pens in the Pen

To go outside for my running work out isn’t as simple as just walking out the door; there is a process. Sometime during the day before recreation time I have to put my name, room number, and planned activity on the “Recreation Sign Up Sheet” located at the guard desk in my housing unit. To do so, one obviously needs a writing utensil. Usually there is a pen at the guard desk.

This past Saturday, however, there was no pen.

So the guard, a timid Army private, asked me if I’d leave my pen at the desk for other inmates to use. I look pointedly at his left forearm where the tips of three pens are protruding from the pen-pockets in his uniform.

“Umm…why can’t you just let us use one of your pens?”

“I can’t.”

“But I’m only allowed two pens. To get another one I have to fill out a form and wait…and they’ll probably wonder what happened to my other pen. I’ve only been here a few months.”

“Well, do you mind leaving one of them here?”

“Why don’t you just draw one from supply?” I asked.

“Only the CTT sergeant has access to the pens and he doesn’t work on weekends. I can’t get one.”

I wanted to scream, But you have three pens in your pocket! I can see them! WHY is it against the rules to let me use your pen? You’d be watching me use it!

But I didn’t scream. I went back to my room and I got one of my two hard-won pens. With the hope of being seen favorably amongst the guards, I left it at the guard desk all weekend, watching anxiously over it to make sure no one stole it before the guard could draw another from the supply closet on Monday.

The incident reminded me of my travails at the county jail I spent a few weeks in before being transferred to the USDB. I’d had to fill out what looked like a scan-tron form just to get a pencil. The guard there, also laden with writing utensils, looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him how I was supposed to fill out a form to order a pencil without a pencil. He said, “Figure it out. But you can’t use my pen, ‘s against the rules.”

Catch-22 is alive and well.


In other news, the medication call line was twice as long as usual tonight. It’s amazing how this always seems to happen when the 6-foot-tall, busty blonde nurse is working… I just wonder how inmates figure out when she’s on shift before they even announce medication call.


2 thoughts on “Pens in the Pen

  1. One might presume that with a $750 billion annual defense budget, the USDB could afford an extra couple truckloads of pens. Alas, much of this cash is siphoned off into non-defense related expenditures. Are the guards MPs or has this function been contracted out to some slimeball civilian firm?

    • I assume it has to do with the probability of them being used as weapons. In hospital (psych, for anorexia) I couldn’t even get a soft, felt tipped pen for that reason.

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