The Hole Truth

15 Oct

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be in solitary confinement and imprisoned without human contact, just ask a robber, murderer, or freelance writer.

Solitary confinement, colloquially referred to as the “hole,”  “lockdown,” or in my case, “home office” can be a torture like no other and lead to such severe behavior as withdrawal, paranoia and uncontrollable snacking.

Tommy Silverstein, who has been in solitary confinement for the past 29 years, longer than anyone else in the federal prison system, describes solitary existence as “a slow, constant peeling of the skin.” Additionally, he reportedly suffers a terrible addiction to Pringles.

Unlike Tommy, I am not held against my will, but I do work in constant isolation and experience a similar lack of human contact and sensory deprivation that has caused me to become disturbed, agitated, and acutely aware of my neighbor’s bathroom habits.

For instance, through my bird’s eye view from my office, I know that Mrs. Sanchez routinely rises at six-thirty to retrieve the newspaper.  Within fifteen minutes she has poured herself a cup of coffee and headed to her outpost. By half past seven she has sipped, skimmed, and flushed.

Mr. Sanchez has his own routine, which unfortunately includes every Saturday blowing his leaves out of his yard and onto mine. His sunflowers have grown so tall they impede my view into his kitchen and I often fantasize about how I might lean over the fence and rip them out the same way Mrs. Sanchez leans over the sink to remove her dentures.

One day, while wadding rough drafts into baseballs and hurling them at my voodoo doll named Señor Sanchez  (representing every agent who has ever rejected me) I screamed, “Damn it, Sanchez, what’s wrong with me?”

Señor Sanchez replied, “Señora Lisa, why don’t you . . . ouch! . . . socialize with . . . ouch! . . . real people? ”

Pausing to give my arm a rest, I nodded in agreement. Through a mouthful of Pringles, I mumbled, “I’ll try, Señor Sanchez,” and offered him a chip.

I invited to lunch everyone that ever visited my house—the garbage collector, the meter reader and the UPS guy. The garbage man, Leo, didn’t mind that I served only Pringles.  He seemed grateful to be there and even left with my garbage.

The UPS guy, Bill, didn’t seem as appreciative. He dressed in plain brown and didn’t bring a hostess gift.

“Couldn’t you at least deliver me flowers?” I asked Bill.

“That’s the FTD guy,” he answered, shoveling Pringles into his mouth. He rushed off claiming he had another package to deliver. Whatever.

I’d had more ambitious plans for my meter reader, Frank, thinking we might develop a relationship around editing each other’s work but he insisted that reading gas meters didn’t translate to poetry metres. I remained stubbornly optimistic until I said “iambic pentameter,” and he said, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

At that point I gave up on the lunch invitation, deciding instead to focus on the upside of isolation—heightened creativity. I’ve done some of my best work confined to my office like a caged animal, with nothing but Señor Sanchez and Pringles for company.

I hope to one day complete my life’s work, a collection of essays on the relationship between writing and voodoo-ism, titled, “Writing Beyond Reality” and die a martyr to my keyboard, despite years of nagging loneliness and an obscured view into the Sanchez home.

Eventually, Leo, Bill or Frank will discover me dead, slumped over my desk, hugging my manuscript to my chest.

“We should have visited more often,” they’ll lament. Leo, trying to be helpful, will toss my work into the garbage. Bill will deliver me Pringles. And Frank will write my eulogy in iambic pentameter. They’ll bury me with my “weird looking doll.”

“Right, Señor Sanchez?”

“Sí, Señora.  Chip?”

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61 Responses to “The Hole Truth”

  1. downhousesoftware October 15, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    mmm. Pringles.

  2. Traci October 15, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    I enjoyed your post. Writing is a vicious cycle. We need solitude to write, but we need other humans to provide us with material. My family with often martyr themselves for my cause.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks. And good point. We do need others for fodder and inspiration.

  3. prachi jain October 15, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Pringles, meters, Senor Sanchez and voodism are all but ways to lead to my Monday dose of laughter. Your writing shows you must be around people all the time, not otherwise. Such humor comes from a very social person.
    Love it!

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      Thanks, Prachi. Chip?

  4. Honie Briggs October 15, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    This is great! I can totally relate. Looking back over some of this years earlier writing I can see signs that I paid waaaay too much attention to the potty habits of the neighborhood pets. Thanks for bringing a dose of reality to my Monday morning “commute” from the fridge to my desk. And the snacking…well let’s just say, I have seen the enemy and its name is Doritos! 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

      Ha! So many of us share the same commute, we should carpool!

  5. G M Barlean October 15, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Well done. I giggled often. I plan to make my very own voodoo doll. Why haven’t I thought of that on my own, I have no idea. Thank you!

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      Thanks. You’ll have to keep us posted on what your voodoo doll looks like. 🙂

      • G M Barlean October 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

        Well. I sure as heck know WHO it would look like. I’ll get my sewing kit out later tonight! mwahahaha.

      • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:51 am #

        I’m waiting with bated breath.

  6. Carrie Rubin October 15, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Believe me–I recognize that solitary confinement. Sometimes I think I know my laptop better than I know people. But think of all the potential character fodder you have from spying on your neighbors. 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

      True. But I couldn’t stand the solitude any longer so I headed to Panera. Now I’m spying on strangers. But I’m still lonely.

  7. Tina October 15, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Solitary confinement, yes, and yes. I made a trip to the forest over the w/e. That silence is invigorating, quite unlike the vague hum of my CPU. Love the bits about neighbors and so on. I watch the comings and goings and make up stories from them. Hmmmm, blog worthy?

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      As writers we can’t help but feed off our surroundings. Hope you enjoyed your trip, and that you could see the forest for the trees. 🙂

  8. Carl D'Agostino October 15, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    But Emily Dickinson also lived as a recluse…

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 8:11 am #

      Do you think she had a voodoo doll?

  9. jotsfromasmallapt October 15, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Geez Loweeeze…thinking I could grow up to be just like you…what folly…what a day dream…what a gawd awful prospect to leash upon society. Thinking, thinking, thinking…
    Society deserves two of us.
    So….here’s Plan A:
    Stocking Pringles as we speak, scouting around for a Frank, Bill, Leo…Craig’s List perhaps?? One upped you on Senor Sanchez, however, I have a magic wand….

    Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      It’s a plan! But I want a magic wand too! I’ll check Craig’s list.

      • jotsfromasmallapt October 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

        The art gallery I do research for…get this…has a magic wand maker!!! They are for real. Really! Graham carves them from exotic woods. Beautiful. If I can find his website…I’ll pass it along. You’ll be impressed. I’d save Craig’s List for “other things”….

      • jotsfromasmallapt October 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

        Found it:
        On the “notes” check out the photos…click on each photo for bigger image. Graham is also Assistant Principal French Horn player for Oregon Symphony Orchestra.
        Multi-talented young man!! Enjoy!!

      • Main Street Musings Blog October 17, 2012 at 8:56 am #

        Sounds like there’s a magical world out there I’ve been missing out on. Thanks for sending the link! Cool to read about how the wood speaks to Graham, and to learn that he’s a french horn player. So is my daughter (but not for the Oregon Symphony Orchestra–for her High School marching band.) 🙂

  10. nursemommylaughs October 15, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I think we need to Skype for lunch! That would solve our problem. That way I could tell you to brush off the Pringle crumbs off your sweatshirt and you could tell me I have spinach in my teeth. Like REAL friends! Laughed too hard and then cried for an hour. 😉

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 8:48 am #

      It’s a date! Señor Sanchez wants to know if he’s invited.

  11. reptilesintheicecream October 15, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Brillant, I too am addicted to Pringles. You should come hang out with me.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 8:51 am #

      I’d love to! BTW, admitting it is the first step . . . 😉

  12. Diane Masucci October 15, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    I’m printing this one out, Mrs. Muse, and it will be posted on my office wall. Ok, so I couldn’t help it, you needed to spell meter for poetry as metre but who the hell cares about the way the French spell things anyway?

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

      Wall-worthy? I’m honored! And oui oui, madame, you are correct– I corrected meter to “metre.” I beg you, come back to writing group!

  13. Krista Fuller October 15, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    So sorry…I had no idea.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      See what happens when you move away?

  14. Paprika Furstenburg October 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    If they find you dead, they can cremate you and put the ashes in the Pringles tube 🙂

    You should be comforted by the fact that soon the sunflowers will be dead and you unobstructed view of your neighbors’ kitchen will return.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      As long as the Pringles tube is placed in a pine box. Good point about the sunflowers– always the optimist. 🙂

  15. morristownmemos by Ronnie Hammer October 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Too bad the FTD florist didn’t have a delivery for you too. You could have invited him for some champagne and Pringles to go with the flowers.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      Right! Or, I could have invited the Edible Arrangements guy. Then I would have enjoyed a delivery and a free lunch.

  16. rebecca2000 October 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Seems like Hitchcocks rear window. 😉

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:47 am #

      Next I’ll be watching The Birds.

      • rebecca2000 October 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

        Sounds great!

  17. Grown and Flown October 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Solitary confinement was a lot more productive before the internet, twitter and Facebook…but I like the Pringles idea.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:47 am #

      Ah, so true!

  18. earthriderjudyberman October 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    My observation is the same as “rebecca2000,” your outlook on life and your neighbors is much like “Rear Window.” But it also sounds like my self-imposed seclusion over the summer.
    Good call on having a voodoo doll to take out your frustrations on. My choice also would have been an unreceptive agent. You’ve provided many vicarious thrills and chuckles, Lisa.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      I suppose we are fortunate that our seclusion is self-imposed. I always enjoy your comments.

  19. winsomebella October 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    You are rockin’ the solitary gig……:-)

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Wasn’t Alcatraz known as the rock? 😉

  20. Perfecting Motherhood October 16, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Thanks to you, I’ve learned you can request (and become addicted to) Pringles in solitary confinement. I’d personally ask for Nutella, although after 29 years, I might get sick of it and have it only every other day.

    I hear you about writing and being alone to write. You really can’t write well with distractions around you, and that includes other people. But you also draw believable stories from mingling with other people, so it’s a tough balance.

    I’m not always crazy about having to write for various companies but at the same time, it guarantees human interaction on a regular basis. Alright, interacting with some people can drive me nuts and I may be better off not dealing with them!

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      You’re right, we do draw from our surroundings so it’s good to be aware. Speaking of which, isn’t that a new photo? Nice.

      • Perfecting Motherhood October 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

        Thanks! It’s “new” as of a couple of years ago but I swear, I haven’t changed much (except for more gray hair to cover).

  21. ♫♫♫♪♪♪é October 16, 2012 at 5:44 am #

    I just have a question to this humors post that people have used the word recluse and mentioned solitude was different before the net. Why would you use Tommy Silverstein’s name? What hes been through continues to go through is neither light nor close to self imposed “isolation” our phones ring, we chat on line and as one commenter pointed out you must be “more social” .Further I’m sorry to be such a downer but really Tommy has nothing to do with self imposed exile. Frankly he is tortured Please read Solitary Watch’s blog here on word Press describing his now more than 10,000 days of isolation he continues to go weeks w/o talking to a soul. No one no net, no prisoner, no guard, no phone, no one, no rec with another living soul. It hurts me personally to see his name used in this way. Sure it came up on a google alert…
    Thank you

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your thoughtful and tactful response. Your point is well taken. As a humor writer I often use exaggeration to add humor to common place examples. You make an important distinction with respect to semantics and situation. Solitary confinement is a serious issue and I can understand how you were hurt by my references. I regret any pain I may have caused you or anyone else. Please know that was not my intention. I thank you for shedding light on this topic.

  22. David Emeron October 16, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I love writing. I could write 24 hours a day–except for that pesky sleep affair–and sometimes, I have. I do have the most wonderful sweetheart in the world, however, who has been with me–my constant companion for the better part of a century. We have private spaces, but most of the time, we share a room wherein we have matching desks. I prefer that, I think to locking myself up in my study. I just put on my headphones and turn on this marvelous program called “natura,” by a company called which makes all kinds of rain and surf and thunder and lightening sounds, which you can mix to your liking. I guess I’m not really isolated, like the Pringle eating inmate. One wonders why someone would be placed in solitary for that long. Is it because he is in danger from the general population? Or because they are in danger from him? I’ve never heard of this man, and I’m too engaged in several projects right at the moment to run a search on it. I just wanted to say I enjoyed your site, make a quick comment, and get back to work. Thanks again for the visit.

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Thanks for commenting, David. I think it’s beautiful that you and your sweetheart share a work space and that you work together, separately. “Natura” sounds cool, I intend to check it out.

  23. funnysister October 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Great post!
    I’ve “officed” @ home for 15 years.
    I just realized knowing way too much about everyone at the Post office, grocery store, nail salon & starbucks is a result of me being in in the hole for most of the day and has nothing to do with being the nicest person ever.
    I don’t need an alarm clock to get my fanny out of bed in the morning…each morning as my neighbor blows “a farmer” in the shower, I know it is time to go to work!

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 17, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Or maybe it’s both. 🙂

      I must admit, I had never heard that expression before and when I looked it up I laughed out loud. That’s some neighbor you have! I think I’d rather be awakened by a rooster’s crow . . .

  24. Katherine Checkley October 17, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Love the Pringles 🙂 I’ve always wished I was in your situation…I don’t know anymore! I do have off work on Fridays and that’s when I work on my novel. I sometimes get that prickly feeling of being alone…of suddenly stopping and looking around and thinking, jeez, when will I get a reprieve? I’m not sure what that would be like everyday. Although, amazingly, even after reading your account (which was very comical) I still want to lock myself up and write! 🙂

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 17, 2012 at 9:43 am #

      Good for you for being disciplined about your writing.
      I think the isolation comes with the territory.
      “The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.”
      Ernest Hemingway

  25. Sid Dunnebacke October 18, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Working my nature center’s fall festival this past weekend, I was approached by a young fella – YOUNG – who said to me, “I am going to die from all the incompetence around me.”

    I thought to myself, kid, you are SO going to grow up to be me. There are not a few days when I’d happily take your solitude, but I suppose it would get old even to me after a while.

    This is terrific, as usual, Lisa!

    • Main Street Musings Blog October 18, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      “Choose with whom to be accompanied it’s your free choice, choose with whom not to be accompanied it’s your right.”
      ― Miguel Ángel Sáez Gutiérrez, Zori 1ª Parte
      It should only be that simple . . .

  26. gabrielablandy October 19, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    It’s great to know there are other people out there, spending way too much time on their own and knowing more about their neighbours than those people they used to be friends with. You’ve inspired me to make sure that I get out tonight!

  27. The Laughing Mom October 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    I can relate in so many ways. My biggest adjustment to going to an office again was withdrawal from my pantry. I used to make fun of my mom when she said the butcher’s at the grocery store would compliment her on her appearance. When you are at home, they become your water cooler. Very funny about inviting all the people who knock on your door to lunch.

  28. ♫♫♫♪♪♪é October 22, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Self imposed isolation with any kind of view is not what Tommy experiences. makes me sad when people use his name for something as trivial and self serving as this.tsk tsk

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