Camel Hair Coat Meets Poor Sick Folk (Part I)

[See also “Behind the Locked Doors of Inpatient Psychiatry.”  Today at Hutchings Psychiatric Center we meet Dr. James Megna, currently director of inpatient psychiatry at Upstate Medical Center.]

            Yesterday I finally met with Tom Buckel, the man, healthy, wealthy, lawyer, legislator, who’s been jerking me around for weeks.  I wanted to talk to him about Medicaid transportation.  We talked on the phone long enough for him to get sufficiently interested to schedule an appointment with me, which he then canceled an hour before we were to meet.  We rescheduled.  He re-canceled, again an hour before we were to meet.  By now, I was upset and he was mad at me.  Figuring him for just another damn loser of a politician, I called his “boss,” Mark Stanzyk the legislative floor leader.  (Previously, I had had several conversations with the committee head, Sam Laguzza, and the legislative newbie, David Stott.)

            So I called Stanzyk and we talked for half an hour.  He said he would bring it up in the Democratic caucus the next day, Tuesday.  This is where it starts to get really interesting:  Stanzyk, Laguzza, Buckel and Stott each thought they were the only person with whom I’d spoken.  Stanzyk said he would get back to me; he didn’t.  I called him on Friday, hoping he would tell me something that would make it unnecessary to meet with Buckel, who was upsetting me and apparently to no good end.  Stanzyk said he was looking into the procedures for the county letting a contract but “I’m not a lawyer.”  (It doesn’t take a damn lawyer to read government policy regarding the letting of a contract.  ‘If the contract is over a quarter of a million dollars, it has to be put out for bid; it has to be re-bid every three years’—something like that.)  So Stanzyk said if he didn’t get back to me within a week, then I should call his assistant.  Neither one of us mentioned my scheduled meeting with Buckel, so I figured I still had to take it.

            Saturday morning, Buckel calls about half an hour before the meeting.  Shit, I think.  He’s canceling again.  But, no, he was calling to confirm the time—actually, to tell me he was coming fifteen minutes early.  Okay, I accept that without argument.  Then he asks what my agenda is.  My agenda?  Less than forty-eight hours ago, I moved from the place I’d lived for five years.  I stand there—amidst all my piles of cartons, barefoot because I still can’t find the socks—struck dumb.  I have no agenda.  I just want to get this guy going on the case.

            I had just spent an hour trying to figure out what to do with this meeting.  Should I start with background on Medicaid transportation?  Start with a story about an old lady getting dumped because of Medicaid transportation?  Make a passionate plea?  Sit back and let him start?  Is this a time for logic or a tug on the heartstrings?  Recount history or lay out a plan for the future?  I had not reached any conclusion about how to proceed, and this legislator-lawyer-man is demanding to know my agenda.  I stand mute.  He goes on to say sharply, “You’ve had conversations with Stanzyk, and if this is just a rehash—.”

            I snap, “I have had one conversation with Mark Stanzyk” and say something about not knowing they’ve talked to each other, which causes Buckel to snap, “Of course I talk to my colleagues!”  Listen, you son of a bitch, I think, I have spent seven years on this damn project and just getting one bullshit bureaucrat to talk to another bullshit bureaucrat can take up to six months!  Don’t give me any “of course!”  You don’t know my world and you don’t know what I’ve been through, and just don’t give me any “of course” shit!  So I propose that we focus on laying out a plan for solving this problem.  Now that he’s completely put me on the defensive, we’re going to meet.

            I sit at the computer, staring across the snow-filled parking lot at the evergreen trees and Grace Church, thinking.  Another man once asked me the same thing in the same tone:  What is your agenda?  I don’t have agendas; I have priorities.  Maybe this business of having agendas is a guy thing.  So what are my priorities?  Better said, what is my goal?

            I think back to the beginning and how I got into this whole thing.  All I wanted was to get to the doctor on time and without a big hassle.  So my goal is Medicaid transportation that meets state and federal standards for about 30,000 poor sick folks.  I am tired.  I am a senior citizen with a dozen diagnosed illnesses and I have been packing and unpacking cartons for a week.  I simply can’t take this anymore.  I decide that if Thomas Buckel, Esq., gives me one bit of hard time, I’m going to cry.

            With these people—these men who are politicians and bureaucrats—I have never once cried.  In pre-feminist days, when I was a young, naïve secretary, I learned that if you let your boss see you cry, then he’s won.  He’s in control and you’re not.  Women who cry don’t advance in public life, but I’m sick and tired and maybe it’s time for tears.  Maybe it’s time to let The Man know that he’s supposed to be taking care of the widows and orphans, not making them cry.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, disability rights, Government Services, Poverty, Power, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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