I’m not the greatest at math, but addition and subtraction are not very difficult. So I was a bit dumbfounded because the numbers just would not add up.
Once a month we (even those of us who are in Ad Seg, the Hole) are allowed to shop at the prison’s canteen. The Hole’s canteen list is severely edited; limits per item are enforced; we are only permitted to spend $55.00. One of the most noticeable differences between how the inmates in the Hole shop and the inmates in a regular facility shop is who does the shopping.
In a regular facility the inmate himself goes to the window of the commissary and shops for his own products, but in Ad Seg we obviously can’t do that. Instead an officer – probably the one who has drawn the shortest straw – takes our list to the canteen and shops for us. He, or she, purchases the things on our lists and packs them in a bag.
The bag is then given to inmate workers who transfer the items that are in plastic containers into zip-lock bags. By the time the items arrive in our individual cells all shampoos, deodorants, toothpaste, lotions, coffee, and the like are in unmarked baggies. The brightly-colored liquids in the bags are actually beautiful. The light bouncing off the Colgate green gel toothpaste is mesmerizing; in fact, it’s so mesmerizing that one doesn’t even question the amount inside the bags as they are dropped, one-by-one, through the slot in the door.
As my items arrived, I was excited to see the snacks I ordered. I didn’t take inventory; I just put them all in a pile on my floor. As I began to put things away, I noticed that something didn’t quite add up.
I had ordered two Colgate toothpastes, yet I could only find one baggie. I went through the whole pile over and over, without success. The second toothpaste was missing. My receipt clearly showed that I was charged for two, but it just wasn’t there.
I had chalked it up as a loss when I noticed the bag of nacho chips was a little higher off the floor than it should be. I moved it, and there was the missing toothpaste, not in a baggie, but still in its tube. Bingo! But as I held the tube in one hand and the baggie in the other, there was a noticeable difference. The tube held 4.2 ounces of toothpaste, and the baggie had measurably less. I had no way of telling how much less, but I began to wonder about the shampoo.
The canteen list indicated that the shampoo was supposed to be 15 ounces, so I took my 8 ounce milk carton and began to pour. When all the shampoo was emptied into the carton, it barely reached the top. I did the same with the next baggie of shampoo, with the same result. Clearly, at least 7 ounces of shampoo was missing in each bag, yet I was charged for two 15-ounce bottles.
I then measured the 8 ounce coffee bags, and only reached 5 ounces each.
I wasn’t sure how widespread this conspiracy was, so I counted the 40 envelopes for which I was charged.
I knew I wasn’t great at math, but this was simple arithmetic. The numbers did not add up, but why not? My conclusion was that the inmates who were squeezing the items into the baggies were skimming from the top. They weren’t paid any extra to do this task for the Hole, so it seemed okay to them to take their pay from the products they were handling.
I wasn’t happy about the results, but I was powerless. Not only was I locked up in the Hole, I was also subjected to this unfair practice.
As followers of the Bible, we are admonished to give others our all; to give unconditionally, and with a pure heart. We are to be honest and full of integrity in our daily lives. Yet, only rarely does the world reciprocate.
We give our all at work, just to be shorted by another. We love our neighbors and go out of our way to be there for them, just to be shorted with ingratitude, accompanied by an attitude. We sacrifice our own wants to please our wives, girlfriends, or boyfriends only to be shorted by being ignored.
This world’s system seems to work on shorting others for personal gain. Shorting happens everywhere. Even though, as believers, we are strangers to this world, we still are affected by its shorting practices. But there is hope.
God does not short us. Our Creator not only has given us all we need, but abundantly more than that. More love. More mercy. More grace. More forgiveness.
This is why the Father sent His Son. He knew the world’s system would always be short of perfection. Nothing the world offered could ever satisfy a just God’s requirements, so He gave His Son as the only One Who could meet them.
If you ever feel like life has been unfairly shorting you, just remember the abundance from your Father in heaven. It’s way more than you could ever earn, or ever deserve.
……..definitely shorted on hair follicles, too……
Adrian G. Torres