The Bagel Cutter | Christopher Warren

The year was 2009.

I was 26, 5’10”, 262 pounds of pure lard, and had been incarcerated all of 90 days, looking down the barrel of a 20-year case. 

Because I had fled the country, I was being treated to a tour of the United States by bus and plane, chains, and holding pens.

On this particular day, I was in Oklahoma City at a transit center. To be clear: I was a fish out of water. Around me everywhere were convicts of every shape, size, color, background, and disposition. This was not a world in which I had any experience – I was a mortgage banker (‘was’ being a critical distinction).

So I took great pride in small victories. Like, getting through the day without an altercation, or being accused of being a child molester, or yelled at for not following proper shower waiting etiquette. And on this morning, I had a small victory.

Each morning the staff served a prison-style “continental” breakfast that came with a rock-hard bagel. For the past three mornings, I had been bemoaning the condition of the bagel, its lack of freshness, and the overall inability of anyone to produce a toaster or some cream cheese. And I was absolutely sick of eating in such an uncivilized manner: just shoving the damn thing in my mouth.

If I only knew then that over 10 years later that’s how I would eat all of my meals! But then, I was still not grounded in my new reality. So I set about in an effort to mold the world into an image of my liking.

I wanted my bagel cut, in half, cleanly. And I would figure out toppings and heating next.

So I broke apart a prison-provided shaving razor and attached the blade to the end of a pencil I took from my shared desk with my cellmate. A cellmate who hated living with me, but I only understand that now, some 11 years later. And I used my new device to cut my bagel. So I could eat it in a civilized manner.

And what does one do with a victory but share it with someone?

So later that day, long after my precision-cut bagel had been consumed in a manner that would have made Elaine with a Snickers bar proud, I placed a call to my dad.

I looked forward to sharing a sure sign of ingenuity in trying circumstances. But these prison pay-phones not only recorded everything but have computer software that flags certain words. As in, immediately flags certain words. So when I proudly told my father about my “bagel cutter” as I called it, he had a different word for it: “sounds like a shank to me son.”

Well, I moved the conversation on to a different topic. About a hundred seconds later I was still on the call, but could see about six different uniformed prison guards rush into our unit, and go directly into my cell. My voice caught. My dad asked if I was still there. Two of the guards were now exiting the cell heading towards me. 

The phone was hung up, I was cuffed up, and found myself in a room with multiple guards, a prison detective (SIS), and my offending bagel-cutter was sitting on the desk in front of me. There was no cream cheese, nor a bagel, to be seen anywhere.

I explained calmly that I didn’t know things like this were against the rules: I was just a mortgage banker in a world I didn’t understand who just simply wanted a cleanly cut bagel.

One guard laughed outright and the SIS officer looked at me with a look on his face that was both bemused and dumbfounded. I told him to pull up the call and listen to the whole thing. They did. On the speakers of the computer.

Now all three were laughing. After a stern lecture, I was sent back to my cell without further punishment for this bagel cutter.

But my punishment was waiting for me in the cell. The guards, when they had searched my cell, took my cellmates water-bag (a trash bag filled with water used for curls or other exercises). He was highly pissed. The cell door shut. My education continued…

Signing off from Northern California, Bagel Cutter a distant memory,



The Best Cheesecake Recipe


Share this post
Notify of'
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] The Bagel Cutter | Christopher Warren […]


[…] The Bagel Cutter | Christopher Warren […]


[…]   Prison Jobs, Prison Cash, Prison Phones | By Noah Bergland   The Bagel Cutter | Christopher Warren Related […]