Noah here. Over the last year or so and getting to know Chris I have learned many things about how he adapted to prison coming from a life of privilege, having things the way he wanted them, and then be abruptly subjected to a life of submission.
You have to love both the irony of the situation as well as the his ability to both find his way regardless of the odds that were not in his favor and how he respected the lessons he learned as he looks back on them now.
Chris is a great guy that I have full confidence will find his way and be successful once he is released, but he assures me that if I would have met the guy who came into the system almost 11 years ago, I would be singing a completely different tune.
Once he told me his story of his bagel cutter invention, I begged him to create it into a post for me to share with the readers of construction2style, and well here it is, enjoy!
The Bagel Cutter by: Chris Warren
I was 26, 5’10”, 262 pounds of pure lard and had been incarcerated all of 90 days, looking down the barrel of a 20 year case.
Because I had fled the country, I was being treated to a tour of the United States by bus and plane, chains and holding pens.
On this particular day in 2009, I was in Oklahoma City at a transit center. To be clear: I was a fish out of water. Around me everywhere were convicts of every shape, size, color, background and disposition. This was not a world in which I had any experience – I was a mortgage banker (‘was’ being a critical distinction).
So I took great pride in small victories. Like, getting through the day without an altercation, or being accused of being a child molester, or yelled at for not following proper shower waiting etiquette. And on this morning, I had a small victory.
Each morning the staff served a prison-style “continental” breakfast that came with a rock-hard bagel. For the past three mornings I had been bemoaning the condition of the bagel, its lack of freshness, and the overall inability of anyone to produce a toaster or some cream cheese. And I was absolutely sick of eating in such an uncivilized manner: just shoving the damn thing in my mouth.
If I only knew then that over 10 years later that’s how I would eat all of my meals! But then, I was still not grounded in my new reality. So I set about in an effort to mold the world into an image of my liking.
I wanted my bagel cut, in half, cleanly. And I would figure out toppings and heating next.
So I broke apart a prison-provided shaving razor and attached the blade to to the end of a pencil I took from my shared desk with my cellmate. A cellmate who hated living with me, but I only understand that now, some 11 years later. And I used my new device to cut my bagel. So I could eat it in a civilized manner.
And what does one do with a victory but share it with someone?
So later that day, long after my precision-cut bagel had been consumed in a manner that would have made Elaine with a Snickers bar proud, I placed a call to my dad.
I looked forward to sharing a sure sign of ingenuity in trying circumstances. But these prison pay-phones not only recorded everything, but have computer software that flags certain words. As in, immediately flags certain words. So when I proudly told my father about my “bagel cutter” as I called it, he had a different word for it: “sounds like a shank to me son.”
Well, I moved the conversation on to a different topic. About a hundred seconds later I was still on the call, but could see about six different uniformed prison guards rush into our unit, and go directly into my cell. My voice caught. My dad asked if I was still there. Two of the guards were now exiting the cell heading towards me.
The phone was hung up, I was cuffed up, and found myself in a room with multiple guards, a prison detective (SIS), and my offending bagel-cutter was sitting on the desk in front of me.
I explained calmly that I didn’t know things like this were against the rules: I was just a mortgage banker in a world I didn’t understand who just simply wanted a cleanly cut bagel.
One guard laughed outright and the SIS officer look at me with a look on his face that crossed bemused and dumbfounded. I told him to pull up the call and listen to the whole thing. They did. On the speakers of the computer.
Now all three were laughing. After a stern lecture, I was sent back to my cell without further punishment.
But my punishment was waiting for me in the cell. The guards, when they had searched my cell, took my cell mates water-bag (a trash bag filled with water used for curls or other exercises). He was highly pissed. The cell door shut. My education continued…