Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adventures in Sitting: The One that Broke Me

There was a time, y'all, not too long ago, that I was living in the valley of kittens and rainbows. Every patient, regardless of ailment or creed would get a blanket, a sandwich, and a smile (if the medical situation allowed). People weren't incapable of evil- sometimes their disease states just made them grumpy. Even my rowdy drunks didn't mean any harm- their curses and threats were forgotten by them before the next time they request an urinal or sandwich. If you were kind to them, I thought, people would respond in kind.

Oh to be young and naive! A shift in the drunk tank soon cured me of that.

Entering my shift in the drunk tank, I was given report of my 3 patients. There was Ms. Opportunist in the middle, Mr. Passed Out in the back, and Mr. Two-faced in the corner. Mr. Passed Out was passed out, Ms. Opportunist was sitting comfortably, and Mr. Two-faced was sleeping in his stretcher- he had been like that all day, the tech told me. Ok, that's fine, I replied, anything I need to know? Nah, they've been quiet all day, she said.
I was all set. My cart was equipped with water, sandwiches, and whatever else. Mr. Two-faced rolled over and woke up.

Mr. TF: Hi, miss, can I get a drink of water?
S: Sure, here you go.
Mr. TF: Thanks a lot, you're really nice.
S: It's my job.
Mr. TF: Miss, can I get just another glass? I'm parched.
S: Sure.
Mr. TF: Thank you so much. That really hits the spot.

He was very polite and kept to himself- he was easy-going and quiet. He asked for a sandwich half an hour later, stating he hadn't eaten in a day or two. No problem. He was very thankful for it- so thankful, he asked for another one. Again, no problem. He was comfortable, I was comfortable, things were good.

I checked his vital signs and breathalyzer- he was on the cusp of sobriety where the residents might release him, but still a few points higher than the dogmatic new resident might like. He asked whether he was going home, so I let him know it would be a little while longer. No problem, he said.

He was as sober as was possible for a chronic drunk, I could tell, and was getting restless. I let him go to the bathroom. When he returned, he perched on the edge of his stretcher. He acquiesced when I asked him to sit back all the way, though.

Without warning, he got up and walked to the side of his stretcher. Warning bells sounded in my head.

S: Hey Mr. Two Faced, what are you doing?
Mr. Two Faced: Just looking to see my stuff is here.
S: When you're done, can you please sit in the stretcher?
Mr. Two Faced: Sure, honey, anything you ask. Where is my stuff?
S: Isn't it back there?
Mr. Two Faced: No, where is it?
S: Let me check in the back closet..
Mr. Two-Faced: is it there? My big bag full of all my clothes?
S: Hmm, no, I didn't see it. I will call the nurse to see if she saw anything in the section you came from.
Mr. Two-Faced: Aw ****, I can't believe you guys lost my ****. again! Twenty times I come here, twenty times I lose every *** **** thing I own. I am homeless, y'know, I dont have much. **** me. **** you.
S: I'm calling the nurse, hold on.
Mr. Two-Faced: No, Get a manager over here, right now.
S: Mr. Two-Faced, I am doing all I can to locate your belongings. Will you please give me a minute, sit for a bit and we'll see what's going on?
Mr. Two-Faced: All my clothes! I don't have nothin'. All my ******** clothes. You guys better have a lawyer, cause I'm suing your ******* ****** for all it's worth. Take my clothes, eh? You'll pay for it.
S: Nobody here wants your clothes, Mr. Two-Faced, we're searching for your stuff right now.
Mr. Two-Faced: **** you. All of you are losers. You're phony. You pretend like you care then you lose all my ****. Well **** you.
S: I didn't lose anything. You were here before I came in.
Mr. Two-Faced: You work here, you lost my ****. End of story. You don't give a **** if I live or die or if I lose all my ****. You rotten *****!
S in a soft voice: I do care, Mr. Two-Faced. I'm really sorry you lost your stuff- really, I am. We're doing our best to find it and it has only been a minute since I made that call. Please, just hold on and I'm sure your stuff won't just disappear. Nobody here would want your clothes.
Mr. Two-Faced: **** you. I want a manager. RIGHT NOW. Go on, do your job, call the ******* manager cause I am gonna sue all of you *******. Dirty ******, what are you waiting for?

At this moment, Ms. Opportunist- can I please go to the bathroom?
S: Sure, but come right back.
I watched her from the door as Mr. Two-Faced starts pacing and screaming at me again. I have never had anyone scream at me like that, voice breaking from all the strain. What did I do to deserve this? I FED him, I thought with revulsion. I am keeping homeless psychotics like this alive so they could abuse me and abuse the system.
Mr. Two-Faced: This place sucks! All you could do is feed me bull**** about how you care and ****, but you don't give a ****. None of you care. You're heartless ******* who don't care if I live or die.
S: I do care, Mr. Two-Faced. I'm sad you can't see it.
I watched Ms. Opportunist come back out of the bathroom... and run out the door. I had completely lost control. Backing out of the room as Mr. Two-Faced tried to swing at me, I called security, and to my horror, burst into tears.

He had turned a switch and I was unprepared for his sudden outburst, after 12 hours of mind-numbing work already. He had been testing me and knew exactly which buttons to press. I cried for you, Mr. Two-Faced. You are just too broken, biting the hand that you were so thankful for, that fed you not too long ago.

Security jumped on Ms. Opportunist, pinned her down, brought her back, and restrained her. Mr. Two-Faced was thrown out. Mr. Passed Out was still passed out. And I grew up a lot that day. I will never forget the screeching voice, the angry eyes, and the semblance of civility that he put on when I first met him. Should we meet again, I have some choice words for Mr. Two-Faced.


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