At approximately 9:30 a.m. on the 1st of August, the tower guard appeared on the intercom. “Adams, you have a visitor.” Turned out it was a former patient of mine who in every sense of the word, except etiquette, had become a friend. Iris, Iris Seigel, was someone who I grew to like because I appreciated her candor. You might say she had too much of it, but I accepted it as part of her.

Iris is an Israeli and her opening declaration was “I like you and because I was worried about you, I had to see for myself that you were OK.”

I appreciated her concern, but was surprised, and not pleasantly, that she had driven to Solano County. Over the past 8 years that I had known her, we had had many interesting conversations about life, family, Judaism, being a single parent, and of course, plastic surgery. Iris is a tall woman in that she is 5’11” to 6’0” feet. Under no stretch of the imagination is she overweight, though, she is physically big. I believe her stature has had a profound effect on her psyche. She often asks me if she should have this or that done, and a lot of my input has been to discourage procedures that she did not need.

Perhaps that is the basis of our friendship, honesty. Iris, because of her cultural heritage, can seem a bit harsh, but underneath, in actuality, is quite a lady.

Her parents live in Israel and I have had the opportunity to remove a skin cancer from her mother, in one instance helping her to avoid a big operation, including skin grafts. Her doctors in Israel had recommended a much larger procedure. The fact that I was able to completely excise the cancer and fashion a flap to cover the wound in one operation had endeared me to her mother, and her mother’s doctors. I was happy to just have solved the problem with a local flap.

Much of our visit was conducted staring through glass trying to decide what to say to each other. She brought me up to date on her mother, and her daughter, and I reassured her I was fine. She wanted me to know the things that were being said on the internet and in the press. I begged her not to allow people who don’t know me and have never had a conversation with me to make her worry.

Sadly, for the lack of any other way to look at it, that is the price of celebrity or fame, or infamy. I suggested she join in the conversations on the net, admit that she knows me, and give whatever input she deems appropriate. I also suggested she take her daughter to the Wharf in San Francisco and go sightseeing. The take home message: I was fine.

After saying our awkward goodbyes, I returned to 2H 11A and though shaken, I appreciated the love. “When this is over,” I thought, “I’ll call Iris and invite her to dinner and let her vent about what’s going on inside her.” I felt like I didn’t spend enough time really letting her talk about her mom and how she was doing. That has to be a strain on her.

My mom though saved the day – as usual. She met Iris on their way sightseeing and offered to let them stay at her house. It saved them money but more importantly, it offered a warmness that both Iris and her daughter could use.

It appears there may also be a changing of the guard here on H-mod. For the past two to three months Office Powell has run H-mod Monday through Thursday on day shift. Powell has been replaced it would seem by an Officer Lombardo, who is an athletic looking Italian guy in his early 50s. I have no opinion on Officer Lombardo in that I have had no interaction with him.

My colleagues, who are regulars and have had many contacts with him, offered their assessments. It ranged from “he was cool” to “he’s an asshole”. It cancelled out; not that I would trust the judgments of my colleagues anyway. I’d have to arrive at a conclusion for myself.

My experience is that all of the guards are cut from relatively the same cloth. The least interaction you have with them the better; as soon as you think you can trust him, or her, they screw you, so I avoid them altogether.

It seems to me that Officer Lombardo is not interested in interacting anyway, and you get those all the time. They’re doing their eight hours and that’s the extent of it. Nonetheless, by the end of the hour, everyone’s recollection had kicked in and the votes for asshole had completely overshadowed the cool. In fact, the original vote for cool had become an adamant vote for asshole as he remembered Lombardo having turned on him “for nothing.”

I personally didn’t have to wait long to find out. The days we normally have access to the “yard” are Monday and Tuesday. After having cleaned my cell, I approached the mod door to ask the floor officer for access to the yard. There’s a glass door between you and the floor officer and he sits approximately ten feet away so you have to scream through the door. A few of the officers have the tower guard open the door so you can walk across to their desk and have a normal conversation. Most attempt to ignore you and leave you standing there – because they can.

Lombardo is one of the latter. He picked up the phone, looked at his computer – incidentally he said nothing through the phone, simply picked it up, put the receiver to his ear and then set it down. And this was merely a nonverbal communication that he was in charge. My argument is that if you have to feign being busy in order to be rude, you’re not really in charge, you’re an idiot.

By now two colleagues are in line behind me so when he looks directly at me I scream through the door, “We’d like to go to the yard.” It’s the only place where you can use a pull-up bar and get some semblance of real exercise.

He shakes his head no and says, “I mod.”

I again say through the door, “Our days have been Monday and Tuesday for the last couple of months.” My colleagues rally in agreement.

Lombardo immediately changes facial expression and screams, “I’m reading the memo and don’t get loud with me.”

So I say, “No one’s challenging you, I’m just asking.”

He screams, “You are yelling and I’m not going to have it.”

I counter with, “What’s wrong with you? Who are you mad at?” And of course I’m screaming, “There’s a door here.”

He advises me to shut up and walk away from the door.

I again pose the question, “Who you mad at? Nothing’s happened here to merit your response.”

He advises that I need to walk away from the door or risk lock down.

I oblige, but all he’s served to do is elevate my stature amongst my peers. They knew there was no reason for his condemnation, but they also saw it as another demonstration that while Adams doesn’t talk much, he will not be bullied. It’s easy though, they see the guards as the enemy. I just see a group of angry guys who need to figure out their own emotional state. I’m here to do time, but it doesn’t mean I have to be abused by some guard who didn’t want to come to work today.

Besides, if the access days changed, I didn’t get a memo and neither did any of my colleagues, so I don’t know why they, the guards, insist on trying to degrade you every time you need one of them to do their jobs, or to answer a simple question. It’s abusive and it’s mean.

That isn’t to say that I cannot empathize with the guard’s predicament. I can, but I’m not going to be the misguided target of their frustrations just because they can. Their job sucks, but they chose it, so don’t take it out on me.

That also isn’t to say that it’s all negativity on the part of the guards. This is not false sense of fairness on my part; some, perhaps even a great deal of my colleagues, are despicable and I wouldn’t trust them either. Some are murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and child molesters. There are no words to describe just how completely repulsive they are. So I get it.

During unlock I get the privilege to overhear the logic that runs through their minds and I am sickened. There is the child molester who has a series of legal papers explaining why it is unfair for him to be housed in the general population – and he uses those statutes to browbeat the guards who, while they are here to enforce certain statutes, don’t know crap about what they say. Yet lost in his dialogue is the fact that he sexually abused an eleven-year-old boy and what about his fairness.

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