Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Grand Tour

       This installment needs to be prefaced with a reminder of my bad eyesight. I am completely blind in my right eye and legally in my left. My left eye is about 20/1000. The biggest problem relevant to the following events is visual acuity. I have a tough time recognizing facial features. I can do it, but I often mix up people who resemble each other. I look for hints to help me along—voice, hairstyle, clothing, and mannerisms. But even with all these things considered, I blow it from time to time. I messed up here by confusing Chrystal with Victoria.
       Yes, you read that right. I spent the following pivotal events with Chrystal believing her to be Victoria. They had similar heights and similar builds as near as I could tell. Both were brunettes who wore their hair in a ponytail. Both wore glasses. The easiest way to tell them apart for me was Chrystal wore regular clothes to work while Victoria wore scrubs. Perhaps it is because of this big difference, I never paid attention to any other differentiating factor. Maybe it is because I did not see Chrystal that often. Or it could have been because I liked Victoria in spite of it all and disliked Chrystal because of it all. For whatever the reason, I was cruising two assisted living centers with Chrystal and Nicole b. while I was confident it was Victoria. It was a weird mistake, but I made it. I will drop a reminder or three along the way for emphasis, but keep the mistaken identity generally in mind throughout.
       This tour started early Saturday morning. Neither Chrystal, nor Nicole B. wanted to give up their Saturday for this. I do not blame them. I did not want to give up my Saturday, either. But I was going to get lunch out of it, so okay. Wisdom said I needed to keep as quiet as possible on this trip. These folks had a habit of interpreting anything I said in the most twisted, logic defying manner an accepting it as gospel truth in their agenda of getting rid of me while not appearing malicious. They were horrible at it, but sometimes the amateurs or more dangerous than the professionals. So I remained stoic and aloof during the trip to the first facility. Chrystal and Nicole B. talked about work and family. I received no hints the former was not Victoria.
       I also unburdened with any hints of what an assisted living center looked like. I half-heatedly watched the promotional video from the second place we were to visit, but those things are always bovine manure sales pitches. You have to ignore the presentation and see things for yourself. As it turned, the first impression was an all around disaster. The lady giving us the tour had a plastered on, toothy smile about anything and everything to the point a gun battle could erupt in the hallway and she would have chalked it up to the facility's vigorous activities program.
       Everything in this place looked like it was from the '70's at the latest. Maybe it was that old, or maybe the filth gave it that appearance. At one point as we were passing by a corner, a developmentally disabled men leaped out of nowhere, got right in my three-quarters blind face, and shouted, “Hi!”
       “This is Fred. He's very friendly,” said Plastered Toothy Smile lady.
      “Indeed,” I said under my breath. No easy task, actually. Fred reeked of body odor. I could barely catch me breath during this extended invasion of my personal space.
       Chrystal was already getting the vibe I was souring on the idea of assisted living. I was not hiding the feeling too well. I became even worse when shown a room. These things were the size of a broom closet. Residents got a single size bed and a dresser. The only natural light came from a tiny window. With the walls painted a dingy white or yellow—I could not really tell—the place was drearier than a nursing home. It brought back memories of Vietnam POW describing solitary confinement at he Hanoi Hilton. I was definitely not sold on the idea of living here. If this was what assisted living was all about, I wanted no part of it. Chrystal moved into damage control mode at that point. Plastered Toothy Smile Lady offered a tour of the dining room, but Chrystal said we should be on our way instead. It was a smart move. Inspecting the food service would most certainly give me more ammunition in the argument that was definitely coming in a few minutes once the car doors were safely closed.
       In my defense, said facility was penalized by the Department of Health and Environmental Control for roach infestation and unsatisfactory food preparation, so I was not being unreasonable in my distaste for the facility. But the damage was done as far as my first impression of assisted living. Leading that particular horse back into the barn would be no small task. I was not going to initiate the conversation. They were not going to be able to claim there was a manic outburst on my part. 
        Chrystal took the bait. “What did you think, Jamie?”
       “I think you all are crazy if you believe I am going to live in a rat hole like that. I am just going through the motions to get you all off my back. I want the feeding tube started back up before I lose anymore weight. You can turn this care around and pretend you all are a healthcare facility interested in doing your job.”
       “You'll have to talk to your nurse about starting the feeding tube back up,” Chrystal said. In hindsight, it was a strange response considering victori was my nurse and i assumed she was Victoria.  my first clue something odd was up emerged.
       “I can't do that until Monday, so let's go,” I said.
     “Can we at least go to Conway since we have an appointment?” Chrystal asked.
       “Fine,” I tersely said.
      The three of us rode in silence for about thirty minute. I considered it a blessed silence, but I assume Chrystal and Nicole B. thought it was awkward. Nicole B broke it at about the thirty-one minute mark by asking Chrystal something about work. The two of them began chattering away yet again. I screamed internally.
       The Conway facility turned out to be nice. Too nice, in fact. The only available spaces were apartments I could not afford. For whatever reason, we toured them, anyway. This trip was becoming an even worse disaster as not only did it appear assisted living for me meant something like the Hanoi Hilton from the morning, but I also got to see the far superior living arrangement I was going to be missing out on. Chrystal realized this was slipping away from her fast. No one from corporate or Qakhven was going to be happy if they could not get rid of me.
       Again, I was not going to initiate any discussion of the issue once we were back in the car. Chrystal did not approach the subject, either until after lunch. I guess she thought it best to keep the peace until after a sit down at Apple bee’s. I spent my time concentrating on a quesadilla platter while Chrystal and Nicole B continued bonding. But once we were back in the car..all bets were off.
“What do you want me to tell them, Jamie?” Chrystal finally asked about fifteen minutes into the ride back to Oakhaven.
       “Tell them they can forget me pulling this feeding tube. “
       “You said you wanted it pulled so you could leave.”
       “Then I said no. I wanted to consult with Dr. Lilly first. Then you all went crazy,” I said. “if you all believe I wanted it pulled, why have a conference meeting over it? Why attack me personally? Why try forcing an improper discharge? You all are just going to have to start acting like professionals.” I told her.
       “We are professionals,” she said.
       “Then act like it.”
       “We have.”
       “Bull. Spying on my Facebook? Making up fanciful accusations? How is that professional?”
       “Then put your Facebook on private!” Chrystal was getting riled up. This was the first hint, though never confirmed, she had been the one to look at my Facebook page. As her title was Technical Director, she seemed a likely suspect.
“It is on private! Somehow, you looked, anyway! And you just assumed I was some violent maniac without even asking me about the posts. You put me one on one without even contacting my therapist.'
       “Dr. Hiatt isn't going to violate your confidentiality.”
       “But he is not going to let you abuse me, either! Besides...you could have had me evaluated. The first thing Dr. Lilly asked when Sonya stopped into his office with a lawyer is whether anyone had examined me.”
       “We didn't have time for that,” Chrystal said.
      “Don't give me that! You didn't want me evaluated because you knew there was nothing mentally wrong with me! You could not afford for that to be written down on anything official!”
       “We have other residents to protect!”
       “From what? Garfield?” I yelled.
       You can always tell when you are winning an argument with a woman when she begins complaining about the way you are arguing. Chrystal through this one at me. “I've been polite to you this entire time, and you have continually been rude to me!”
       I need to remind you even though this is Chrystal, I thought it was Victoria. As such, the accusation of my alleged rudeness rolled around in my mind. I did not think I had been rude to Victoria at any point. At least, I had not meant to be. So now I was bothered I may have treated Victoria badly in the recent past. She had a tough job as Director of Nursing. She had to strike a balance between maintaining my health and keeping management happy. We were often opposed in this regard, but I tried to cut her as much slack as possible.
       Chrystal, on the other hand, copped an attitude from the moment I met her. From refusing to accept any explanation for my being placed one on one to lecturing over my ingratitude to warning me in no uncertain terms to watch the content of any emails to her in light of my 'aggressive' and 'badgering' behavior,” she was someone who could not claim to have been nice. I guess it was a small blessing I had mistaken her for Victoria or else this scuffle would have escalated. As it was, there was quiet for quite a while before Chrystal said anything else.
“I don't see why you want to stay as much as you hate everyone,” she declared out of the blue.
       Maybe it is a personal quirk, but I think we someone uses the word hate instead of dislike or contempt is not taking the matter seriously. Hatred is an irrational emotional response. I was not being irrational about anything here. I was, however, irritated at the accusation. So I said something I should not have even though it was cleverly making a point.
       “Most of the people working under you don't like you.”
Chrystal bristled at he declaration. “Well, they don't have to like me.'
       “Exactly,” I said.
      Out of all the things I said to everyone during this whole ordeal, this is the only thing I still feel guilty about. It was a nasty thing to say even if I was trying to make a point. But it is doubly so because I thought I was talking to Victoria. As one with a close relationship with virtually all the nursing staff, I was privy to their low opinion of Victoria. (spoiler alert; Victoria has since quit to become a floor nurse at a regional hospital because she felt the director of nursing job was more than she could handle. ) regardless, I did find it amusing both Chrystal was not surprised those working under her probably do not like her, nor did she wonder how I would know they felt that way about her. Corporate/Oakhaven were always wondering how I knew things I was not supposed t know. Maybe she chalked it up to my mysterious spy network.
       Thing were silent again until we pulled under the Oakhaven carport when Chrystal spoke again. “what do you want me to tell them/”
        I decided to end on a peaceful note. “Look, I am sorry if I was rude. I'm in a difficult situation.”
       “I don't understand your situation, bu I can sympathize,” she said.
I am still baffled to this day why she did not understand matters or how she could sympathize considering how large a role she was playing in making my life difficult in the first place. But I let it go like Elsa.
       “Ask them why I should have to pull my feeding tube, damaging my health, just because they have acted improperly.”
       She agreed, but I have all confidence the question was never considered or probably even asked. She might have been just a baffled by my final statement a I was over hers. Whatever the case, we had hit a major bump in the road. But at least I got a platter of quesidillas out of it.

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