Four Fun Activities for Your First Day in Solitary

I recently watched the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black and really enjoyed it. But, as is the case with most TV shows I watch, I left with a list of “give me a break” moments. One of them had to do with *mini spoiler alert* Piper getting put in solitary confinement, for like, a day. If that.

Now I don’t want to trivialize how awful that must be, having never been in solitary myself, but I feel like she overreacted. I have no doubt that solitary will drive you mad…eventually. But she was panicked, hysterical, and hallucinating pretty much immediately.

I mean look at her. Her first order of business was to sit on the floor and feel sorry for herself. There are so many things she could have done to occupy herself before resigning to hopelessness. She didn’t try at all!

For example, I can think of one thing most people do that kills 6-8 hours every day and it doesn’t require too much space: sleep! Take a fucking nap, Piper! You probably won’t notice you are in solitary if your eyes are closed and you are unconscious.

Not tired? Do a bunch of jumping jacks, push-ups, and squat thrusts until you get tired! Then sleep. Then repeat. You will kill loads of time, improve your mood by generating endorphins, and burn a ton of calories. It’s win-win-win.

Feeling lonely? Try talking to one of your neighbors. You could play 20 Questions or Would You Rather. Not within earshot of another human being? Seize this unique opportunity! I feel like I rarely have the privacy required for one of my favorite hobbies – singing and dancing like nobody’s watching! Belt out your favorite songs and have a dance party. Once again, your mood will be drastically improved, you will burn major calories, and you will be primed for another great nap.

Starting to get stressed out? Take some deep breaths, do some yoga, meditate. Think of solitary as a retreat. People pay good money to sit in silence for days at a time so they can just “allow themselves to BE.” You get to do it on the taxpayers’ dollar. Take advantage of this opportunity for introspection and self-reflection. You could use it, Piper, because you are kind of a bad person.

I think Piper’s dramatics bothered me so much because she could have done all the things I wish I could do at work every day. In theory you have the freedom to leave when you feel the walls closing in on you at work — which of course you don’t in solitary — but the catch of having a job is that you have to show up to keep it. So you may find yourself similarly confined to a small space for long periods of time. The unfortunate difference is, in solitary, you can do whatever the hell you want. Last time I checked you couldn’t take a nap, lay down into corpse pose, or belt out your favorite tunes at your desk. If anyone should be losing their mind, it’s us poor working stiffs.

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27 thoughts on “Four Fun Activities for Your First Day in Solitary

  1. I gotta be honest. I started watching this series and within one episode couldn’t help finding the protagonist annoying for this very reason. It’s like, does she have to go bug-eyed and hyperventilate about everything? And so I watch a second episode and there it is again. Needless bug-eyedness and fragility. At first I thought it was me, I’m heartless, inconsiderate of her plight, she’s got a pretty bum deal after all. So got my wife to take a look – 20 minutes into the episode; my wife: “man, is this lady annoying.”

    So, my question: we couldn’t bring ourselves to watch any further, but keep hearing nice reviews about the show. Give it to me straight, barring this solitary confinement thing, does piper calm down a little after the first couple episodes?

  2. Years ago, during a period I now refer to as the “Vodka Years”, a minor altercation with the law resulted in a sentence of seven days in jail, which I was allowed to serve on weekends. I didn’t care how god-awful the jail might be; I’d never been there but I assumed it was similar to the ones in neighboring counties. I was to go in Friday evening, leave Sunday morning and it counted as three full days. I figured I could stick anything out for 36 hours. I arrived wanting no trouble, obeyed orders, kept to myself but within two hours, a girl wanted to fight me and began provoking me. I still don’t know why- It was a couple of minutes before I even knew I was the target of the insults and obscenities she was screaming. It was like every bad after-school special and every bad female prison movie combined. She finally convinced me she was determined to fight and I stood up just as a guard showed up. She called another guard and said we were both off to solitary but two other girls intervened on my behalf and succeeded. I was vindicated and had escaped a dreaded solitary confinement. Later, dinner was served along with the usual beverage: Kool-aid served in paper cups. I’d never been locked up anywhere that didn’t allow folks two or three cups of drink since they were so small so I took two off the tray. Seconds later, a guard started screaming, asking who “stole a cup of drink?” They’d only brought one per inmate, it’s all they allowed. I kept cool but when they threatened to shut everybody in the pod down I took the cup out from under my bunk and ‘fessed up, saying, “In Davidson and Forsyth County, they give you two or three cups so I thought you guys did too. Sorry.” I was thrown into solitary immediately, no reading material, no pen and paper. But it was quiet. No worries about podmates who’d been there a month or more who slept all day and played cards loudly all night. I passed the time filing my nails on a rough spot I found on the wall, did a million crunches, topping my records as a game. And I slept like a baby. The next morning, I organized a rousing rendition of “Ninety-nine bottles of Beer on the Wall” with the other girls who were around a corner and down a corridor but not quite out of earshot. They repaid me for saving them from lockdown by making phone calls for me and relaying conversations between my boyfriend and me, and one even played my role in a game of chess, relaying moves and making mine for me.
    The weekenders had to shower and dress out in jail attire upon arriving. Street clothes were held until release but I was surprised to learn we could keep plain white bras and plain white socks on our person. Before checking in the next Friday, I cut a tiny slit in my sock at the cuff and stuffed Xanax inside, pushing them far enough inside that they couldn’t be seen. I had enough Xanax to purchase all the Kool-Aid I wanted the next weekend and a half and still sleep like a baby, despite being deprived of my exclusive accommodations. In fact, I was so calm it didn’t occur to me to start an argument so I could go back to the sanctity of solitary but it worked out. Buck up, Piper!

    • Thanks for commenting and sharing your story! Very interesting to hear from someone who has actually experienced this. Spending an entire weekend in solitary sounds a lot harder than Piper’s 4 hours. And it sounds like you handled it a lot better than she did!

  3. Yeah, I’ve often commented that it might be nice to have 3 hots and a cot (fer FREE!). And, what scares me about any sort of jail is the other ‘maroons’ in there (violent types, don’t-cha know) who might seriously hurt me – I would be begging for solitary!! 😉

  4. Given the opportunity and just out of curiousness, I once tried to see how long I could go without talking. At All!! Three days as it turns out, wasn’t that hard either. Only started again ’cause I had to go back to work. I found it sort of refreshing, like a little Buddha vacation or something. Plus I didn’t have to talk with any IDIOTS! Ha!. Glad you’re back 🙂

  5. Not knowing anything about solitary confinement; do they let you have books? If so, I could do a month, easy. If not, after doing all you suggested then I would start writing that elusive first novel in my mind for a few hours a day. But primarily I would sleep; don’t think I will ever catch up. She must be a real whiner.

  6. I really do love your perspective on things. The only thing I would add as an activity is visiting with those imaginary friends I abandoned in childhood. And doing my best Jimmy Stewart-from-Harvey impersonation, which frankly, is not very good. Sigh.

  7. I was so happy to see this post! I was about to contact you to make sure you were okay – I hadn’t seen anything from you and I panicked. I can’t be the only person out there spotting idiots!

    I haven’t seen this show ~ but already I am annoyed. 99% of people would love a day in solitary confinement. You don’t have to work, cook, clean, put gas in your car, grocery shop, have boring conversations with others just to be polite, do laundry …

  8. Loved this post! I recently finished watching Orange is the New Black and Piper just pretty much annoyed the shit out of me when I was done with both seasons. She is totally dramatic and her actions are just plain dumb at times. I still can’t wait to watch more episodes though for some strange reason! Haha.

  9. I’m agreed with you, and that letting alone that she is not aware we’re all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life 🙂 because what could be worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it? Sleeping? Exactly my first idea: I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake …
    Nice post!

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