Jan. 6, 2018

MacGyvers In The Making

by Eric Wilkes (author's profile)


MacGyvers In The Making

Remember the T.V. series on ABC called MacGyver? It was the show where some dude could make an atomic bomb with a lighter, a battery, and a paper clip... or disarm an entire country with nothing more than a laptop, a cell phone, and a sundial. Well, here in prison, we've got quite a few MacGyvers of our own. Granted, I don't see any of these guys as ever being in a T.V. series with their little concoctions, that probably aren't any more bizarre than what MacGyver learned to make in kindergarten. However, considering what they have to work with in here, I must admit that I have been amazed at some of the useful devices that I've come across. Likewise, if you continue to read on, you may find the ingenuity of these MacGyver wannabes a little interesting yourself.
Oh, if you happen to be an ex-com, don't go getting all excited. I mean, it's not like I'm going to expose something new that could help you bust your buddy out of prison, or disclose some kind of secret way to break into the D.O.C. computer system so you can change his release date. These are just simple knickknack things for the general public, and I would be willing to bet that every one of them has been on the officers red flag list longer than I've been down.
Tools: In the area of tools, you've got a couple of devices that I myself have used in the past. They involve transforming the guts of a "AA" battery into a sewing needle, and the shaping of a pen clip into a screwdriver. This category also includes the creating of a lighter with nothing more than a couple of batteries and some steel wool, the making of a battery charger with some wire and the fluorescent lights in our cells, and the building of a sterno (prisons version of a Bunsen burner) with the bottom half of a soda can and some lard.
Enjoyment: This category includes the pleasures of being able to listen to the T.V. through a radio, thanks to the electronic whizzes who know how to take an FM transmitter from a standard Walkman radio, and strategically connect it to the speaker wire of the T.V. We also have one of the first things I learned, how to make a deck of playing cards with 13 milk cartons. Then we have the individuals who cannot quit their addictions. They have discovered that you can take those brown paper towels, soak them in coffee, and voila you have rolling paper. Other addicts have learned to create a buck, (prisons version of an alcoholic beverage) by simply curing a mixture of water, sugar, and fruit in a trash bag. (preferably an unused one.)
Comfort: In this category, my favourite has always been the ability to make eye covers from a trimmed piece of cardboard, a sock, and some elastic. (There's always going to be a light on somewhere, that irritates you throughout the night.) If the temperature is at an uncomfortable high, the easiest way to make yourself an A/C unit is to put a trashbag over the window and cut a hole, so that at least the breeze from outside is blowing your direction. If the temperature is an uncomfortable low, many times you'll see guys wearing skull caps made from some old long johns.
Personal Hygiene: There isn't really too much to mention regarding this category, and I swear on a stack of bibles I have never tried either one. However, I was told by my informants in here that they have seen guys use toothpaste as an acne medicine, and others who have use hot water and sugar as a body wax.
Making Money: In this category, we have MacGyvers who will use their talent to earn money, and others who will use it to steal money. A tattoo artist, for example, has to first design and construct his tattoo gun, usually from a battery powered razor. Then, the making of his ink is going to take the changing of something like kitchen grease, hair gel, or (are you ready for this?) haemorrhoid cream. Quick question. Why are they called haemorrhoids anyway? They should be called asteroids. At any rate, the thief's job is a lot easier, because he can make a lock picking device from a sliver of a soda can.
Saving Money: Being the tightwad I am, I was a little uptight when my combination lock started sticking and jamming up. Fortunately, before spending $6.99 (plus tax) on a new one, a MacGyver in my dorm showed me how to create some graphite dry lubricant from a #2 pencil. It not glides like it's brand new. Other money savers refuse to spend $4.69 on a new watch, if just the band breaks. So they'll use the back strap from one of their crocs as a wristband. Another favorite is the saving of $3.04 on a raincoat by using a trash bag, with a head size hole in the bottom, to cover themselves. (Preferably an unused one.)
Cooking Utensils: The chow hall isn't the only place a prisoner can eat. I know I would much rather enjoy my meal in the comfort and serenity of a cell. This was made much more convenient at a particular camp I was at, where each cell had its own heater that was operable 12 months out of the year. So the transforming of that room heater to a stove was quite effortless. However, that's not the way it's been at any other I've been to. So you have a gadget known as a stinger, (prisons version of a heating element) that some guys will make from a piece of plastic, a belt buckle, and some electrical wire. Oh, and don't forget about the sterno I mentioned earlier. That could be very useful in this category as well.
So there you have it folks, just a few examples of the type of inventive handiwork developed by the men of D.O.C. I'll admit, their devices might not be as brilliant as MacGyvers creations, but they are a lot more conceivable.


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Replies (8) Replies feed

uncguy4321 Posted 1 year, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 1 year, 10 months ago   Favorite
Eric, it's great to see you're still blogging. I'm John -- I wrote you a few times about 4-5 years ago. Been catching up on your latest posts and of course I enjoy reading them. I saw you're currently in a big group setting now, yes? 60+ guys all in one big room? I can completely see preferring a 2-man cell to that. I occasionally watch a newish reality show called '60 Days In' on TV. It looks semi-fake at times but those jails are in that configuration -- a ton of guys, all out in the open, etc. It would drive me nuts. I'd constantly think some crazy guy would do something while I'm asleep. Anyway, if you've caught the show, I'm curious what your thoughts are about it. If it looks scripted, real, etc. I saw something about a "birthday beatdown"...which I guess is exactly what it sounds like.

Anyway, take care, hope to see you continue your writing. -- John

Tiptonator Posted 1 year, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 1 year, 10 months ago   Favorite
Eric, I have been reading your blog for a while now. It's hard to imagine doing a life sentence. I would never justify what you have been convicted of, but from all I have seen you write I have a deep respect for you. Your writings have helped me considerably. Your writing helps others, which means that you are bringing good back into this world. Bringing good into the world should be every humans main focus. I really enjoyed reading your new kid on the block story. It really shows a 1st hand perspective of a newbie inmate. I hope my short note has given you a little break from where your at and inspired you at least a little. Sincerely, Tipton

Eric Wilkes Posted 1 year, 10 months ago.   Favorite
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rjudd11 Posted 1 year, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 1 year, 9 months ago   Favorite
Hi Eric, Just writing to say hello. I enjoyed reading the MacGyver story. As a Yankee I appreciate the maxim "if it's broken, fix it, if you can't fix it, throw it out, make do with what you have, or do without." Creative repurposing is a great skill to have.

Keep writing. I'd like to hear about things you're reading, too. I told you a while back about the program here in New York that lets the incarcerated take classes and get college degrees. Any sign of that in Fla. yet? It's worthwhile.
--Best wishes, Bob the musicologist

uncguy4321 Posted 1 year, 9 months ago. ✓ Mailed 1 year, 9 months ago   Favorite
Eric, you asked if I minded you using my quotes -- not at all, of course. I saw that on your profile page before I wrote you recently and was glad to see it. And in case you didn't know, there are many other people in prison who write on this site, and although Ive only seen a small group of others, they aren't as good as yours.

Thanks for asking around about 60 Days In. From the few episodes I've seen, this "birthday beatdown" stuff seemed like it wasn't necessarily bloody but seemed more violent than a playful punch on the arm. I don't know for sure, of course. IAnd it seems fake sometimes only in that the fights always seem to happen in closed-off rooms, etc. Also, like you said, it's jail, so I assume many of them know of the show, and since the cameramen are actually IN there with them at times doing interviews, they have to know they are probably on a show like 60 Days In. In the show, they take average people and put them in jail for 60 days -- if they can handle it. Usually you'll see a guy who's got a big mouth and thinks he is tough but asks to leave early when he actually gets there.

I am actually quite surprised, pleasantly, that BTB got my msg to you and your msg back to the site in under a month. Kudos to BTB for doing this.

Take care, keep writing!

Eric Wilkes Posted 1 year, 9 months ago.   Favorite
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Eric Wilkes Posted 1 year, 9 months ago.   Favorite
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rjudd11 Posted 1 year, 9 months ago. ✓ Mailed 1 year, 8 months ago   Favorite
Good to hear from you Eric. (As you know, there's a significant delay-- today is 3/15)
Interesting: we share some interests here. I play scrabble a lot (on line w/ my 87-yr-old mother) and enjoy coming up with unusual words like qat and xi. I bet your French friend would do better playing French words! Imagine playing in YOUR second language. Best word last game was quahog. I like learning languages: working on Spanish and Portuguese. Sign language would be tricky. I like Dale Carnegie's book a lot too -- important lessons to be learned there. And I like astronomy: used to subscribe to Sky & Telescope, had a telescope when I lived in California where there were fewer clouds. And I like MAD, gave my brother a subscription for his birthday last year for a laugh. I haven't actually seen a copy since I was a kid, but they were a lot of fun.

I'll send you a maze. I like those kinds of puzzles too.

Keep reading and writing,

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