I received a notice to report to the medical wing at 6:30 a.m. the following day for a blood test. Since prison breakfast is served from 6:20 to 7:30 every morning, I worried that if I went to get breakfast first, I would miss my appointment.
The next morning I arrived at the medical wing five minutes early. I was the third inmate there, so I figured I could get the blood test done quickly. But the lab technician who performs blood tests did not arrive until after 7 a.m. It took 25 minutes for her to call the first patient. By the time I made it to the dining hall it was too late. I had missed breakfast.
Two days later, I was surprised to receive another notice for a blood test. This time, I decided to go get breakfast before my appointment. I was able to leave the chow hall faster than anticipated, so I arrived at the medical wing at 6:55.
But as soon as I arrived at the medical wing, a corrections officer immediately questioned my late arrival. The corrections officer told me, loudly, that I was supposed to be on time. She said she could write me up for an infraction for being tardy.
I answered her calmly and respectfully, so she wouldn’t think I was challenging her authority.
“I went to eat breakfast and got stuck there until now, but they haven’t started yet, have they?” I looked inside and saw there were about 10 other inmates in the waiting area. The medical technician appeared to have not yet arrived.
She told me it didn’t matter if they started late. She was right. I was a few minutes late. If she really wanted to write me up, she could.
Still, I was unfazed. My tardiness was not worth the paperwork, and she knew it. I could see that a second guard behind her was barely controlling his laughter.
“You’re supposed to be here on time,” she said. “You’re not supposed to go to breakfast or nothing!”
I let her shout at me for almost a minute. I tried to apologize and reiterated that I was worried about missing breakfast.
She raised her voice, telling me not to worry about breakfast. She told me she had already ordered all of us breakfast. Then she paused for a moment and stared at me challengingly. I stayed quiet.
At that moment, the lab technician showed up. She ordered me to go into the waiting room and take a seat.
It wasn’t until 7:25 a.m. that the lab technician called the first inmate. This was almost an hour after we had been instructed to show up, and five minutes before breakfast was ending. Two inmates had to remind the guard that they had not eaten breakfast before a breakfast cart was brought in. Several people immediately got in line to grab food.
The lab technician reappeared to call the next patient: “Jones? Jones?”
But Jones was next in line to receive a food tray. He was more concerned with his breakfast than his blood test. He did not hear his name called.
Five minutes later, the lab technician called another name, “Flo-u-res? Flo-u-res?” No one answered. She tried again, “Flo-u-res?” Still, no one answered. She tried a third time, adding the inmate’s prison number. An inmate finally spoke up. “You mean, Flo-res, not Flo-u-res!”
About 45 minutes later, my name was called. I sat down and the lab technician looked at my arm to see which vein was best.
“You know,” I said, “I had a blood test done a couple of days ago.”
“Really?” she said. “Yes, you’re right. I remember you. Hold on, let me check.”
After checking her computer, she apologized. “Oh yes, this was a mistake. We don’t have to do this. I’m sorry.”
With that, I went back to my cell, wondering what was for dinner.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.