Friday, August 15, 2014

Untold Story of Elan, pt.2

Here I am pulling again, watching a new kid in The Corner. “Pulling” is Elan-speak for “staying up all night” aka working the graveyard shift. There are a couple different kinds of pulling. I am pulling on the SP, which is short for Support Person. Every time a child is sent into isolation then another kid like me is assigned to his SP. Since The Corner is 24/7, someone needs to be assigned to stay up watching him at night to make sure he or she doesn’t try to escape or get into anything they aren’t supposed to be doing. I guess we can’t just lock him in the room because there are windows that they could escape from. Not to mention the suicide risk of leaving a Corner student alone. If the kid kills himself, how is Elan going to collect his “tuition”?

The Corner is a chair is shoved where the two walls meet in a room isolated from the rest of the population. You are placed in the chair. You are inches from the wall, just enough to keep your knees in place and to make sure you don’t try to do anything that you aren’t allowed to do. You cannot talk, slump in your chair, move around, stretch your legs, or stand-up. You sit in the chair all day. At midnight your mattress is brought from the dorm and thrown onto the floor of your isolation room. You sleep on the mattress while an SP pulls on you in a desk-chair blocking the door. The next day you are woken up at 7am and brought down stairs to quickly shower and brush your teeth. Then from 7:15am until midnight you are facing the corner of the room again. If you try to do anything you aren’t allowed to do then your SP calls CHIEF and you are restrained and often times put into zipties. The worst thing about being ziptied is that is makes it much harder to eat your lunch or dinner when it arrives. Being in The Corner is hell, at least 1/3 of the people in The House have been there at least once. The usual time is a few days, but being in for a few weeks is not uncommon. Being put in for a few months happens as well. One or two people have been in for the better part of a year.

When your Corner time ends, you are taken into the Dining Room to receive a General Meeting. After the GM you are returned to the population as a Shotdown. A lot of kids resist, react, or “act out” during the GM so they are taken right back up to The Corner after everyone “gets their feelings off”. This process can go on for months and months. The thing about the Elan Program is that you won’t get kicked out. And there lies the real power of The Program. Everything that you can possibly do will be dealt with by the system. Once you get into Elan, don’t expect to be released.

Another form of pulling is called “Night Owl”. That is a kid chosen to keep count of everyone in The House, all night long. Since we have both boys and girls here, there is one Night Owl for each gender. And since Elan is not stupid enough to allow a boy and girl to be alone together while everyone else is asleep, an adult is brought in to break up what The Program calls a “1-on-1”. This adult is called the Night Guard and is paid by Elan to come in every night. We have 3 or 4 Night Guards who all come in on different nights. The Night Guard calls a “run” every 10 to 15 minutes, from 1am until 8am. The boy Night Owl stays in the boys bathroom all night. When a run is called he pops out and goes in and out of all the dorms counting the boys while they sleep and then shouts his “count” to the Night Guard who records it. The boy Night Owl then switches with the girl Night Owl, who is guarding the back door Zone of The House all night. He guards the Zone while she goes through the female dorms and counts them. She shouts her count and then goes back to her Zone. Since the Night Guard sits on the Zone guarding the front door, him and the girl Night Owl have both exits covered all the time, all night. The boy goes back into the males bathroom until the next run is called.

The “run” consists of walking into each dorm with a flashlight to count the sleeping bodies. You are required to lift the covers off of everyone to make sure they are not wearing shoes or clothes. This makes getting a decent night’s sleep in Elan very difficult and you eventually learn that if you wrap your feet in the blanket, you will be woken often. The Night Owl also shines the flashlight into the closets to check that no jackets or shoes are missing. Lastly, they walk over to the window and see that it is closed and they give the screen an examination to make sure it hasn’t been cut. It is also important to check the heaters in winter. They need to be clear because someone may try to cause a fire as a distraction to make a get-away.

This process is then repeated in every dorm.

When someone is in the Corner and another kid is on his SP all night, then the Night Owl also has to climb up the steps as part of his run and physically see us and add us to the count. I am that SP right now, and that is why I have the time to write my story into the margins of this book I am pretending to read. But every 10-15 minutes, I have to listen for his approaching steps so I can hide my pen and pick the book up to my face. If the Night Owl came up and caught me sleeping on my post then I would be in a lot of trouble. He would wake up another High-Strength to take my place and I would retire to my bed in the dorms. When I woke up I would be shotdown. Falling asleep even for a second while pulling SP on the Corner is a very serious breach of security.

Shotdown is the lowest position in The House. The only person lower is the Corner student. If you are a shotdown (verb) and a brand new resident gets thrown into The House that day, then even he or she gets to eat before you do. As a Shotdown (noun), your job is to scrub a small section of the floor with a sponge all day. Shotdowns are chosen to do all the bad things in The House: scrub trashcans, showers, toilets. All day, every day. For days or weeks straight.

So falling asleep is not an option for me. Even a long blink at the wrong time and I am screwed if the Night Owl catches it. In Elan, you are always being watched, even in the middle of the night while you are forced to watch someone else.

During the day there is a system called Headcounts. Every ten minutes, from 9am to midnight, there is someone running through The House with a clipboard and a Headcounts sheet. The Headcounts sheet has the name of every single kid in The House. It looks like a piece of graph paper, with the names going down the side followed by a string of boxes. We have codes for every part of The House: SC for the Service Crew room, BO for the Business Office, X for the Security room, DR for Dining Room, etc… Headcounts goes through the entire House in about 6 minutes, records where everyone is, and then gets his run signed off by the Chief, COD, and Staff, in that order. Each may decide to double-check the run to make sure it is accurate. An inaccurate run could get you shot-down. Most New Residents have no idea that Headcounts is running all day.

As part of Headcounts, every so often the Coordinator-on-Duty calls HOUSE IN THE DINING ROOM and the Zones echo the call. Everyone, except Corner kids and their SP’s, are expected to immediately flood into the dining room and enter their chairs with military precision. During this time the Expeditors are also paying close attention to anyone who moves too slow or anyone not looking directly up front or slouching in their chair and this is all Guilt. Once everyone is in their place, which should take about 30 seconds by Elan Program standards, the Coordinator-on-Duty (or COD for short) reads each name and each person says YES after there name is called. This naming ritual happens 10 or more times a day, reminding everyone that running away is not a smart idea.

Headcounts runs from 9am to Midnight. From Midnight – 1am, runs are made the Dorm Night Owls. 1am – 8am, runs are called by the Night Guard and carried out by the Pulling Night Owls. From 8am to 9am, runs are called by the COD and carried out by the Pulling Night Owls. In Elan, you are never NOT being counted. For as many years as you are doomed to stay here.

Besides a 24/7 system of counting the children, 24/7 Zones that protect every exit and entrance, and an entire caste system of people with clipboards observing you all day; lets pretend that you do manage to get out of 1 of the 2 doors that lead outside. The only place to run is directly into the Maine wilderness. Deep wilderness that is covered in snow most of the year and guess what: you don’t have a jacket or boots. You were dressed for the Dining Room because that is the only place you are allowed to be dressed for. Every single morning a Strength with a clipboard records what every single kid is wearing. Wearing too many clothes is not allowed and if you do it you are called a “split-risk” and taken back in the dorms to change instead of eating breakfast. Wearing dark-on-dark is also not allowed unless you are a High Strength who has earned those privileges. You don’t even have enough hair on your head to keep warm because Elan only allows long hair to High Strength who have earned it!

But it doesn’t matter if you split in Winter or split in Summer, there are another set of guards in the woods around Elan. I used to think it was a scare-story that the Staff told the Strength and the Strength blindly passed on to the non-Strength. Until I reached a position that allowed me to pull and I could watch these guards exit the woods in full camo, get into their cars and then drive home when their replacement showed up. Also, the Night Guard has a walkie-talkie and I can hear him constantly chatting with them. It must be just as lonely waiting around all night in The House as it is waiting around in the forest. Anyways, the point is that 24/7 forest-guards do exist. So even if you can miraculously make it out of The House, you now have a new threat to deal with.

Anyone who tries to run away (or in Elan-Speak: split) from The House, is punished with The Corner and GM’s upon their capture. If you try to resist capture after making your escape them you will also be charged with breaking the “No Violence” Cardinal Rule and you will end up in The Ring.

Elan School is now closed


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