A man of questionable expertise
November 4, 2010
I rarely go out. The dictates of my gym job and domestic inertia keep me in a fairly tight home-work orbit. This Halloween, however, I grew a fine old-timey moustache for my Turn of the century Irish Strike Breaker costume and felt the need to show it off in unfamiliar confines. My buddy Ben suggested crashing a stranger’s house party, I obliged.
The first half of the night was pleasantly unremarkable.
The conversations were light, bouncy, and forgettable. Until I met Chris(1); a young man enjoying a brief island of freedom between recent and forthcoming incarcerations. I learned of his legal woes in a fast moving five minute chat that began as workout advice, transitioned into recounting of his troubled youth, and culminated in the revelation that he was soon to return to the joint for continued indiscretions.
A better (or less lubricated) person would have taken that moment to bid him good luck and started up a less challenging conversation with the stocky lass in a cruelly unaware Strawberry Shortcake costume. But I was drinking. And I like to give advice. So I confided in him a largely fabricated criminal past and proceeded to advise him on how to survive in prison…which in the moment I felt wholly qualified to do.
It went as such.
My five point plan for thriving in prison, which I dispensed like a father whose son was matriculating into college.
1. Find the sweet spot between enough pushups to remain imposingly buff, but not so many you will be too fatigued to defend yourself.
I even worked out a training schedule to ensure maximum progress. While complete nonsense this was the one area I have any sort legitimacy within.
2. Even if you don’t have a knife, spread a rumour that you have a knife, it will keep you safe. Because people are afraid of knives. Hmmm.
3. Become a Muslim: people think they are dangerous. That was the entirety of my advice. Even the soon to be reincarcerted young man thought this was xenophobic and without nuance.
4. Learn to sing, because there is no music in jail and they will respect you for it. This assertion remained curiously unchallenged. I assume the crowd was either cowed by my wildly implausible criminal background or had simply written me off as an amusing buffoon.
5. If you get into any serious trouble, mention my name, because I’m known on the inside. That’s right, at this point in evening I had gone from a run of the mill small town thug to a career criminal of such renown that the mere mention of my name could quell a riot or stem a rape. Probably a little irresponsible on my part.
Other random claims I made about myself over the course of the evening.
Step to me and get punched in the neck…
Which acted as something of catch phrase/personal motto throughout the conversation. A slogan I adopted after claiming I punched my old probation officer Lewis in the neck…I assume for stepping to me at some point. I repeated this often enough that by the end of the conversation I could just say the “because when you step to me” part and the rest of the kitchen would chime in “you get punched in the neck” like an inebriated Greek chorus.
I used to be 6’5 but I fell down some stairs when I was eleven.
I refused to elaborate or clarify the statement in any way, but I told four people this. Upon deconstructing the claim the next morning I realized the unspoken explanation involved damaged growth plates and a degree of time travel paradox.
I had been fired from three jobs to refusing to adhere to daylight savings time.
While a complete lie, this sort of quixotic morale stance genuinely resonates with me, and I do hate daylight savings time, so I feel that some essential truth was served by the deception.
 Name changed out of basic courtesy. As to the exact nature of his crimes, I‘d rather not say. Though it was a strange, drunken, ill advised confidence…it was still a confidence. And this is a tale of my failings more than his. Let’s just call it a non-isolated incident of moderate thuggery and leave it at that.