Rats


So we had a meeting this morning—well, actually, we had a meeting Monday afternoon attended by A Bunch of People in Charge, including but not limited to the VP for Parking, some guy I never met, the director of Patient and Guest Relations, the Nurse Manager and Ron Fish, who ain’t in charge of crap but nobody’s told him that yet.  He’s a pretty big guy; looks like he could hurt you but he’s in so much back pain that he couldn’t hurt a butterfly with serious intentions.

So they had their meeting.  I never was clear what it was about but I think they want me to stop being so mean to their nursing staff.  I think their nursing staff needs to put on their big girl panties and deal with the hard stuff.  Bunch of middle-class white girls who want everybody to say please and thank you, which, from my point of view, is asking too much.

Between my depression and the drugs to treat my depression, I ended up homeless and in a Salvation Army shelter with a rat climbing up my bed.  And I’ve been poor since I went on Social Security Disability in 1991.  The VP for Parking is such a rich white guy that he actually thinks rich and poor can be equally polite.

In the shelter, they would bring us these big plastic garbage bags of leftover hamburgers from Burger King.  You know how many cold burgers you can eat before you lose your appetite?  So one day some really, really fine activity got canceled—it was some kind of highfalutin reception and when they canceled it, they brought us all the food.  God almighty, it was fine.  Every kitchen surface—chairs, tables and counters—was piled with big bakery boxes that contained absolute Class A hors d’oeuvres.  There were sweet pastries and dainty sandwiches and delicate fruit thingies and just plain the finest stuff you can think of.

So we started to eat it.  We ate it delicately and with finesse, not to mention napkins.  We were courteous and served each other.  There was so much—more than we could ever hope to eat in one sitting—and then the Bitches in Charge came in and took it all away from us.  They said we were scheduled to go to another Salvation Army residence and have rice and beans with them.  We got loaded into the van and went and ate rice and beans and when we got back all the boxes and bags had disappeared.  The staff took them home to feed their own faces.  We never saw another bite.

So fuck the system, okay?  We are poor people.  We stand in endless lines to beg for help from hostile government workers who have been told that there are quotas and they are not to approve our applications for help.  If you happen to be disabled then you get forced to sit behind the stage at the War Memorial or alone in the back of the Civic Center.  Joanie Mahoney, County Executive to us all, shut down the Human Rights Commission.  Denying people their human rights is one quick way to save on the budget—but it’s us, the poor people, who need our rights defended.

Medicaid was illegally denying me transportation to the doctors because I blew the whistle on them politically, so I went to one of the free legal clinics—lawyers, absolutely positively for sure—are not going to work for poor people—and I asked a lawyer what to do.  Basically, he told me that there was nothing I could do.  Then, as I was wheeling out the door, he asked why, if I was denied Medicaid transportation, didn’t I just take a taxi?  Because a taxi, one-way, cost $25 and my monthly income was about $750.  Rich white men are either goddamn morons or excruciatingly naive.

Poor means living in HUD-subsidized housing where everybody is poor and when somebody drops off a dozen loaves of day-old bread then the first and the fastest get it, and everybody else gets nothing.  Poor means reading in the Post-Standard every friggin’ day of your life how it’s your fault that the middle class is suffering.  Poor is being the subject of bigotry and everybody in the grocery store thinking it’s their business when you pull out your benefits card.  Poor means disrespect and humiliation every second of your life.  Poor means the police don’t work for you; they work for the person who’s giving you a hard time.

Poor means not having bus fare to go to a free concert, let alone buy a newspaper to learn there will be a concert.

My father was a college professor; my mother was trained as a social worker but worked raising five children.  I was gently raised in a 14-room house with stained glass windows, floor to ceiling window drapes, a chandelier in the dining room and linen napkins and tablecloths.  Gently raised, but not happily raised.  God did not exist; anger was our daily bread, and when relationships got tough then we each withdrew to our own room.  We never learned to work out problems, only to withdraw from them.

And when the rat was climbing the bed, I had no skills to deal with it.  I do now.  I know how to deal with all sorts of rats.  And you tell me that these women in hospital who attend my demise are not rats?

Now how the hell am I supposed to know that?

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 American medical industry, Depression, Government Services, Medical care, Onondaga County, Poverty, Values and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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