“No, you go in and get the green beans/cheese/pudding,” they always say. Other inmates who’ve worked with me fear entering the refrigerators or freezers. The Brady Bunch episode where Greg and Bobby lock themselves in Sam’s meat locker might have scared me as a child but I saw that they got out within 30 minutes, so walking into one of the room-sized chambers of cool never bothered me. In the summer, heading in for a retrieval brought relief.
On a mayonnaise mission, the door closed behind me and I heard a thump. Thumps, bumps and crashes are common in a prison kitchen. When I pushed on the door with two gallons of mayo cradled in my arms, it barely budged. I pushed even harder but didn’t break through to more agreeable air. The supervisor had locked me in.
I hardly panicked but I did wonder how long it would take until someone realized I was missing. They’ll look for me in here, right? I devised scenarios whereby everyone might leave the kitchen in an emergency. Only two events empty a prison kitchen of all people: quitting time or a fire. It was early morning but… the ovens. I knocked and knocked against the noise of a busy industrial kitchen but no one heard. Am I getting scared?
I know fear of refrigeration restriction is not an official phobia because my thesaurus contains a list of them and, while knives (aichmophobia), lice (pediculophobia) and missiles (ballistophobia) have their own codified neuroses, freezers don’t appear on the list. Fear of cold (psychrophobia) and confinement (claustrophobia) cuddle next to each other on the phobia index; the others’ fear of being locked in a refrigerator constituted a combination of both. I assumed that anyone in sentenced to prison time would have conquered claustrophobia a few weeks in and started her work on agoraphobia. Perhaps not. Am I developing both of them now, too?
I have never been a phobia fanatic; I limit myself to one: fear of heights (acrophobia) probably because I’m so short. It set in when I was fifteen years old and vacationing with my parents and younger sisters in Rome. We scaled the steps to the walkway around the Sistine Chapel, the place that lets tourists see Michelangelo’s ceiling work up close. Clammy and quavering, I decided that being up that high was for the birds. I like to keep my head at around six feet off the ground which means I can still climb ladders without Sweaty, Queasy and Clammy jumping me.
They find me, though, when I go to court. I have a phobia of lawyers and judges now, cops too because, to me, they are swords, not shields> Maybe I do have aichmophobia because my heart races at the prospect of appearing before the swords. Maybe it is my acrophobia acting up in court; the judges’ egos are so overinflated and attorneys so high on themselves (and cocaine for a few of them) I feel wobbly looking down at myself from their perspective. I suppose these would be called adjudiphobia or counselphobia but they’re not phobias, probably because my fear is far from irrational. Fear has to be irrational to be a phobia.
A handful of guards are so quick to rage at an inmate that a hair trigger would slow them down. They berate and demean women, usually feast on an inmate’s physical disability or scars. It scares me when I walk down the walkway that I might have to watch how they treat weaker prisoners or how they chortle and chuckle at me. But I don’t think I have a bona fide phobia, just a conscience.
“Oh my God!” screamed one inmate.
“How did you…?” asked another.
“Ask to go to mental health and fall on the floor if [the supervisor] won’t send you!” ranted a third.
“I’m fine,” I shrugged. I was. I continued my work until the supervisor called me over to apologize for locking me in for 45 minutes, or so I assumed.
“I wanna show you something,” he explained as he led me back to my former tomb. “There’s this knob here.” He pointed to a tiny steel rectangle protruding from the wall. “If you get locked in, you just turn it and it unlocks the door.” He showed me how the bar of the door closure slides to open the portal even as a lock – one so mighty it would scare Houdini, David Blaine and Criss Angel even if they were working conspiratorially – remained tightly closed. “Just in case you get locked in again.”
“Well, why don’t you just put up a little sign that says ‘If you get locked in, turn this knob that way’ so everyone will know how to get out if they get locked in?” I asked him.
“Can’t do that. Then no one will be afraid to go into the refrigerator,” he explained, like fear is a requirement in here. Maybe it is.
From Aljazeera: America Needs More Female Cops
Because women reportedly diffuse escalating situations better than men do and are involved in fewer shootings, thought leaders are suggesting that police departments are better off recruiting more women than men of color.