I love thinking about people's jobs, especially the details. What kinds of e-mails do they get? What interesting tools do they use? What are the little creature comforts that make their day better? There are many things that are unique to working inside a prison. I go through no less than 8 gates on the way to my office, patiently waiting for each one to be opened for me by a mysterious person watching me from afar and then vaguely waving my thanks as I pass through. Each morning I choose my clothes based on the likelihood that I will have to respond to something in the housing unit (no heels because the tiers are perforated metal) or in a remote area of the prison (nothing binding or expensive, make sure I have pockets that day.) My bag is searched as I walk in to ensure that I have not accidentally left anything considered to be contraband in my purse (cellphones, cash, anything with my address on it, heroin, etc.) My cute mason jar salad was confiscated last week because the jar is glass.
I can’t have a camera in my office, but I thought it might be interesting to write about my “Prison Office Essentials.” These are the must-haves that I keep in or on my desk and use regularly.
- Hand sanitizer. ALL. THE. TIME. Prison is gross. I’m not super sensitive about germs, but this does make me feel better. Bonus benefit is that the smell is strong enough to mask Eau d’ Incarceration.
- Lanyard. I actually have two. One was a give-away and has the name of my prison on it. I wear that one when I’m feeling very Company-Girl. The other is a Vera Bradley number I bought myself last year. I wear that to be Fancy. I only wear my lanyards on days when I don’t have pockets, and I hook my keys and my ID to them. Doubly fun because then my keys bounce off my belly all day.
- Sistema convertible silverware. I heart this kit so hard. If you know anyone who works in a secure facility, buy this for them. Because 1) no metal utensils for obvious stabby reasons and 2) we love the Earth and can’t do disposable every day, the only other option was to eat with kids’ utensils from IKEA. Nothing says “professional, independent woman” like eating with a fork that looks like a penis and testicles.
- My DSM. I have both the DSM IV-TR and the DSM-5 nearby right now because we're still transitioning from the old version. I'm a big advocate of not memorizing reference books so these are well-thumbed.
- Trader Joes Sea Salt Butterscotch Caramels. These need no explanation.
- Bubbles. This one isn’t universal, but I firmly believe that you should keep bubbles in your desk drawer. Nothing is better for work stress than taking a few seconds to blow bubbles. Fun fact: It is impossible to hyperventilate while you’re blowing bubbles. When I work with inmates in lower security levels, I sometimes will bring in a box of party-favor bubbles when I’m teaching them about the power of breathing.
- Tiny framed picture of the kids. Personal pictures of family are discouraged but I like to have a sweet picture of my heathens. This one is wallet sized and is tucked under my computer monitor. I have bigger framed pictures of the hellhounds on my bookshelf.
- Small bucket of whistles. We all carry whistles for security. I like to keep a few extras for anyone who doesn't have one or forgot theirs.
- Disposable face mask. This one actually lives in the pocket of my stab vest but it's still kind of interesting and it's near my desk, so I'm including it. I don't use these often, but I'm always grateful it's there when I need it. Pro tip: If someone is smearing poop, a little Vicks under your nose will make your life so much better. Vicks plus a face mask and you're golden.
- Wonder Woman mug. I keep all my Pilot G2 pens (I love these so much that I buy my own) in here, plus a couple little picket signs that Syd made me that say, "STOP! And be awsum!" There's also a pom pom pen stuck in there for whimsy.
I also have the basics tucked away; tampons, salt and pepper, hair ties, lotion, etc., but I figure those are more run-of-the-mill. So I'm curious. What unique things are on your desk that make your space "yours"? Anything that I should add to my collection?