We've got this running joke on ships that being onboard is like being in prison. We say things like there are two days in prison, the day you get in and the day you get out. We also know that at times we display behavior that suggests we're completely institutionalized (remember the time I got a letter of warning because I freaked out about the fact there were no beans?!). As I read Orange is the New Black I realized I shared a lot of Pipers feelings.....and that maybe here was some truth to the shipping / prison analogy.
Orange is the New Black was a great read. Educational (I learned a lot about the need for prison reform and the war on drugs contribution to the problem), funny (at times I actually laughed out loud - my Mom would call and tell me what was making her laugh - we very rarely discuss books) and, heartwarming (these women formed a bond that was indescribable - it was one I could relate to - I'd do a lot for my shipmates...even ones I don't really like).
In a nutshell: I liked is book.
Here are some of my favorite parts (admittedly, the parts that were my favorite were the parts that reminded me of shipboard life so, I've provided some commentary):
“And as I hugged them as hard and relentlessly as only a girl drunk on tequila can, it sank in on me that this was really goodbye. I didn’t know when I would see any of my friends again or what I would be like when I did. And I started to cry.”
“Uh-oh. I hated cleaning too but was certainly not about to risk the ire of my new roommates.
“So we have to make the beds every morning?” I asked, another penetrating question.
Annette looked at me. “No, we sleep on top of the beds.”
“You don’t sleep in the bed?”
“No, you sleep on top with a blanket over you.” Pause.
“But what if I want to sleep in the bed?”
Annette looked at me with the complete exasperation a mom shows a recalcitrant six-year-old. “Look, if you wanna do that, go ahead—you’ll be the only one in the whole prison!”
May I just interject that the above is exactly what we did at Maine Maritime Academy (ahem. institutionalized.)
“What had she drawn on to make it through, with only nine months until her release to the outside world? The advice I got from many quarters was “do your time, don’t let the time do you.” Like everyone in prison, I was going to have to learn from the masters.”
“Crazy concentrations of people inspire crazy behavior. I can just now step back far enough to appreciate its surreal singularity, but to be back with Larry in New York, I would have walked across broken glass barefoot in a snowstorm, all the way home.”
We joke on the ship: we're all here cause we're not all here. The surreal-ness of being surrounded by crazy? I feel you Piper. I feel you.
“As for me, I felt caught between the world I lived in now and the world to which I longed to return”
“You try to adjust and acclimate, yet remain ready to go home every single day. It’s not easy to do. The truth is, the prison and its residents fill your thoughts, and it’s hard to remember what it’s like to be free, even after a few short months. You spend a lot of time thinking about how awful prison is rather than envisioning your future. Nothing about the daily workings of the prison system focuses its inhabitants’ attention on what life back on the outside, as a free citizen, will be like. The life of the institution dominates everything. This is one of the awful truths of incarceration, the fact that the horror and the struggle and the interest of your immediate life behind prison walls drives the “real world” out of your head. That makes returning to the outside difficult for many prisoners.”
That first sentence resonates so loudly with me....she's right. It's not easy to do.
“Being cooped up with so many “wackos” was affecting my worldview, and I feared that I would return to the outside world a bit cracked too”
Impossible not to Piper, impossible not to.
“I opened my mouth, mad enough to spit, and said loudly, “I don’t eat iceberg lettuce!”
Really? I asked myself. That’s what you’re going to throw down with?”
Oh I laughed so loudly at this one. Nothing chokes me more than getting stores and realizing its ALL iceberg...there's no romaine or spinach.
“The world kept going despite the fact that I had been removed to an alternate universe. I wanted to be home desperately, and when I said “home,” that meant “wherever Larry is” more than Lower Manhattan, but the next seven months stretched out in front of me. I now knew I could do them, but it was still way too early to count the days.”
“Everyone got edgy before they went home. These numbers and dates were something to cling to.”
“How could anyone do significant amounts of time in a setting like this without losing their mind?”