THE HAPPY PRISONER

by Steve Clem on July 19, 2012

“These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.”

_ Red, from the movie Shawshank Redemption

I’ve always made it very clear that I’m not living in Minnesota by choice. I moved here with my ex-wife when our oldest son was just a little over one year old, with the promise that life would be better in the Tundra, with her family nearby, and better job opportunities. Indeed, the very name of this blog shows my mindset on my current life.

But this summer, a very funny thing has happened. I’m starting to actually like my life inside these prison walls. Now this could very well just be a temporary thing, only time will tell. But as of now, I think I’d probably request a delay in being released.

Why, after 12 years of living here, am I finally starting to feel this way? I have NO idea. But I have a few theories.

Theory #1: The weather sucked much less, in terms of snow and cold, this year. Our Spring started legitimately in early March, a time when we’re usually stuck with deep snow and cold weather. And the mild Spring turned into a hot and mostly dry, sunny Summer. What this has meant that I’ve been able to enjoy the great outdoors, which is something I refuse to do in the dead of winter. I refuse to become one of those “oh, I’m so bummed out because there isn’t enough snow to go cross country skiing” types.

Theory #2: I’ve gotten to know my fellow inmates better. Both old friends and new friends. I’ve hung out with so many different people this summer, and it’s been so damn nice. My friend, TBass, who I just met last January, and I, have perfected things to the point of labeling this season “The Summer of Slore.” I’d try and define what that means to you, but basically it’s like turning every day into a Sunday Funday. And I also hung out with old friends like Bob and Mike, doing the same things we’ve done in the past, but this time with a little more chutzpah.

Theory #3: No more furloughs. Last Summer, I spent nearly every other weekend back in my hometown of Sioux City. This summer, I’ve left town exactly zero times. It means that I’ve been forced to explore everything inside my personal prison, from Twins games, to Sunday Fundays, to eating greasy breakfasts at Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul with old friends, I’ve explored more nooks and crannies in the Twin Cities than anytime in my life in the last few months.

Theory #4: Stockholm Syndrome. I give this theory the least amount of credibility, but I have friends who have suggested it, so therefore I must present it, so therefore from Wikipedia:

Stockholm syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, Sweden in which several bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault from August 23 to August 28, 1973. During this situation, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, rejected assistance from government officials at one point and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term “Stockholm syndrome” was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast. It was originally defined by psychiatrist Frank Ochberg to aid the management of hostage situations.

Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

The reason I discount Theory #4 is that my captors have given me NO reason to ever become emotionally attached to them. Because they are predominantly Norwegian Lutherans. Which means they are incapable of becoming emotionally attached to or from. It’s a genetic thing, yo.

Whatever the reason is, the point of it all is that I’m starting to like being in the Tundra, especially when the Tundra months are limited. And when I start liking the fellow prisoners (not in the Boggs-Dufresne way).

And in case you think something is wrong with me, regarding my new found love for the Tundra Prison, make no mistake. Hey MNDOT, GFY!

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Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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