Originally Posted 05 Febuary 2013
Guest Blogger: John “Agit8r” Fisher
A Day In The Life Of John…………..
I once had a job that was literally shitty. I worked for a relatively small cleaning contractor that cleaned the courthouse complex, and county jail in Spokane. During that time, they took over the decontamination of jail cells that had previously been done by a well-known service that uses bright green vehicles. Though the work was somewhat sporadic, it did pay pretty well for semi-skilled labor, enough so that I continued to do it on the side as an emergency-call person after I stopped working for the company in other capacities.
The first cell-clean we performed involved an inmate who had stuffed a few days worth of meals down the toilet, shit in it numerous times, and then flushed it, thereby flooding his cell with fecal matter, rotten bologna and fermenting oranges. We were somewhat unprepared logistically, probably due to the emphasis on needing to kill MRSA (a factor in the account being up for bid in the first place, apparently) and only secondary concern given to the prospect of large-scale shit removal.
As we doused the cell, floor to ceiling, with a disinfectant (mixed to the concentration that the packaging label directed for disinfecting cadavers) from the doorway, my co-worker (a burly Ukrainian immigrant named Eduard) said to me “in Ukraine we call this monkey room.” Then we opened our bio-hazard kits, which contained rubber gloves, a doctors mask and a disposable full-body suit with a hood. Most importantly (it would turn out) it came packaged in a lunch-box-sized clam-shell case. After suiting up, putting on goggles and rubber boots, we waded through the cell, while applying more disinfectant. Then we wiped down the walls, the sink, and the bed, while we waited for the layer covering the floor to soften up.
Then we got to the toilet. I looked over at my supervisor, who was observing the process along with our project manager… from several feet away… behind an unenclosed curtain wall… while holding their noses. “How do we get this stuff out of here?” I asked as I began to understand what the bright green, unfamiliar looking piece of machinery that was sitting in the property room, waiting for the previous company to come and retrieve it, must have been used for.
“Did you try the dustpan?” came the reply.
“It won’t fit past the seat. It’s all one piece of metal.”
“We’ll have to get you guys a scoop for next time.”
They would later provide a plastic soup ladle, which ended up being pretty useless anyway. But in the meantime, I would have to try to put my problem solving ability to work. I went to the door, pausing to kick whatever I could off of my boots before exiting the cell. I scanned the cart, while my coworker began shoveling the refuse from the floor into a red plastic bag, by using the dustpan.
As I looked over the cart, I noticed the plastic clam-shell case from our bio-hazard kit. I opened it up, and then broke it in two at the hinges. Then with half of it, I began scooping the composting sludge out of the toilet, until it could be flushed. After seemingly forever, we finally got the rest of the crap off of the floor with the dustpan, the half clam-shell case, and finally, a ridiculous number of paper towels (they would later get a wet-vac), we got the stainless steel fixtures nice a clean for the next “guest,” we painstakingly picked the few bits of stuff out of the painted cinder-block wall’s pores, and at last wiped up the foot tracks from my trip to the cart, and spritzed everything with a final coat of cadaver-cleaner.
Though some of the hiccups got cleared up before future visits, there were things that would confound us still. There was the time that one of the showers had a sizable amount of clotting blood covering about half the floor, which really put my resolve not to vomit to the test. There was second floor, where the wet-vac couldn’t be plugged in, because none of the plug-ins worked (which really would have been handy the time that there was a massive quantity of what appeared to be vomited-up semen in a cell there.
There was the lack of a pressure washer, which never got resolved, but was occasionally necessary for instances like the time when one inmate wrote “FUCK PIGS” on one wall, and on the wall above his bed wrote “I LOVE YOU TAMMY” …in poop. Or when a guy filled in his air vent holes with toothpaste. Or when another guy used toothpaste to glue pictures of scantily clad women cut out of magazines to the bottom of his shelf-desk. Or when a fellow fashioned himself a curtain for his door-window …with poop. And then there was one guy who was both a painter and a sculptor… but I won’t bore the reader with that.
I’d like to end on a lighter note, from this one time when Eduard and I had to clean a cell in the Intake area, on a rather chaotic night. The place was crowded and we had to wait while they got the prisoner out of the holding-cell that we had to clean, as guards and prisoners, on their way to being booked, moved back and forth around us, and some prisoners were yelling drunkenly from their holding cells, and others were talking loudly to one another to be heard over the yelling. And I was pretty jived up because after we got the call, I had kinda chugged my large coffee (because it would be cold after we got done, of course). Then, one of the prisoners began banging …some part(?) of his/her body into a metal part of his/her cell, and kept this up until it became something of a rhythmic clanging. And probably partly because of my coffee buzz, and partly because it was generally good to show the prisoners’ that their craziness couldn’t phase you, I began moving my shoulders and hips side to side in a dancing motion to rhythm of the clanging, to which Eduard shook his head at me, as he said in his thick accent “Jamming out…”