Another day in paradise: Where’s my piña colada?

Our job is anything but a day at the beach, but humor can help us get through our shifts


I sometimes find myself saying, “It’s just another day in paradise” around the “office.” What a great vision, right?

Envisioning that day at the beach with my toes in the sand, warm sun on my skin and a fruity, yummy umbrella drink in my hand while looking out at the ocean.

My paradise comments referring to work are obviously said dripping with sarcasm, but when I say this, it may even be a positive buffer against the daily abuse and harassment we encounter inside the dungeon we work as correctional officers.

Maybe those of us who use humor on the job cope this way and choose to remain a positive person no matter what we are doing or dealing with, including lunatic people all shift.

This is no day at the beach. Ever. 

I am beginning my third month back in Intake after a 2.5-year stint at our Honor Camp. I somehow had forgotten how ruthless and patience-testing inmates could be.

While at the Honor Camp, inmates for the most part followed simple rules and it was a refreshing change to see. I did my share of discipline and had a roll-up here and there, but it was the best inmate behavior to be seen.

Where I am now is far from good inmate behavior.

The types of incidents that we have encountered lately tend to be patience testers. I try my best to always be on my A-game, although because of the long hours and working the graveyard shift, it puts strain on sleeping well and consistent healthy food habits.

This being said, we learn creative ways to search for patience. Here is where the humor kicks in. And we sure laugh a lot at work. Watching inmates act disorderly and shocking can be sadly entertaining.

Two nights ago, I listened to a suicidal grown man curled up in a fetal position in the safety cell scream for hours.

Last night, a female who refused an opportunity at a detox center ended up in a holding cell screaming at everyone who walked by yelling some of the most foul things I have ever heard.

(Patience testing…)

I think all of us have way above average communication skills. Mixed with moral authority, we can talk almost anything down. But every so often our verbal skills just do not work.

In my first week back, somehow I caught a fist right in the palm of my hand intended for my partner’s head.

Over the years, just when you think you have seen it all, you are proven wrong again and again…

Like the other week, when nothing I said could calm down the hysterically crying, bizarre woman I had to search who was covered in iguana feces and was so distraught over being away from her reptile.

Or the female in some serious short shorts, who was brought in for public intoxication and was too drunk to speak. While I was removing her handcuffs, she sprayed my boots with urine as though the Bellagio Fountains had suddenly appeared in the search cell. For a second the sounds of urine hitting the floor sent me to Las Vegas!

(Still patience testing and yes, both those incidents happened in the same work week!)

Or the constant name calling, being told they pay taxes, that they got our job and pensions, and that they have done nothing wrong. Does a shift go by where we do not hear one of these?

With our patience being tested, we still have to control how we act and feel. Everyone knows the reference of “drawing a line in the sand” but what the public does not know is that we, as COs, have to draw that “line” a few feet back than the norm.

We have to exhibit patience, restraint, composure and a professional politeness well beyond the expectations of the average human tolerance level. I try to manage and remember there is good humanity left out there somewhere.

I can say though, that my job is unlike any other. I laugh every day at things I still cannot believe I see. You just cannot make this stuff up. I am still in awe that adults can act more like children and I see it every day. Their temper tantrums are incredible!

Women screaming, guys sobbing, this younger generation with their sense of entitlement issues demanding everything.

Mental illness and levels of intoxication way out of control.

Inmates wanting to fight and who love to spit, kick and swing.

Inmates playing the victim, since it is everyone else’s fault and not their own.

Inmates hating you because it is your fault they’re there, even though I do not recall slapping the handcuffs on them and driving them to jail.

What speaks of paradise more than that?

All this happens so often and it cannot be taken personally. No matter how the inmates act, we will draw that line in the sand as to never go down to their level. We are strong-minded, in control and making good decisions as long as we continue to focus on patience and professionalism. Humor is a coping mechanism for this job. So get your laugh on today.

As I sit here at the Intake counter, awaiting our next customer, I daydream of drawing lines in the sand with my bare feet sitting on a beautiful beach in paradise far, far away with that piña colada.

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