Fresh air -- Dirty cities at last

January 30th, 2009 - 12:34pm by Badger

When you spend multiple years in any enclosed environment, the approach of your release from captivity is much anticipated.

When I walked out of the gate of Englewood FCI in Colorado on December 29, 2008 after five years of federal prison, the air was sweeter, the sights sharper, the sounds louder. Everything seemed bright and exciting. It was very close to the feeling you get when you are right on the cusp of an adrenaline rush. It is very possibly the best feeling I have ever experienced. It's just a shame that you have to go to prison to experience it.

Walking the streets of downtown Denver, waiting for my bus back to Minnesota several hours later, I was struck by how dirty everything was, and how rude people are. In prison, there is a guy who spends 35 hours a week raking the decorative rocks on the sidewalk boarders. Hallways are constantly mopped, trash and litter is not tolerated. Rudeness is met by strong words and fists. If you walk down the hallway or through the rec yard and met someone's eye, you acknowledge that individual -- even if you have you have no idea who they are, even if you only nod at them. If you ignore them or stare, you might be in for a problem. Given the fact that I had only escaped from such an environment mere hours earlier, it was a bit of a shock to see everyone rushing about their business -- shouldering people aside, talking, talking, talking on cell phones -- completely ignoring the world around them. I even notice one couple making out while the woman talked on her cell phone! People walking right by a trash can to dump their Starbucks cup on the ground because it was too much trouble to lift the flap of the trash can. Everyone with angry looks -- no one saying "Hello". It was actually very disappointing. Has society become so self-involved that simple courtesy has no placed in today's technologically charged workplace.

Sadly, after only a day of riding the Greyhound back to Minnesota, I had already become accustomed to the impersonal, harried looks, and casual littering. Now, after barely a month out, I barely turn my head when a kid who's pants are around his knees ducks in front of an old lady to take the last seat on the city bus. It's really amazing how easy it is to become callous and indifferent, to simply say it's not my business. I am a courteous person by nature, but it is strangely hard to remember the simple rules I lived by 30 days ago.