No Soap

The staff at the warehouse operated within the law when they strongly suggested to an unwashed resident that they shower. But the same series of laws prohibited the staff from forcing soap and water on even the most slovenly detainees. Filthy stinking elderly patients that couldn’t wash themselves and grubby odious mentally handicapped adults that didn’t know any better enjoyed certain personal freedoms bestowed by clueless politicians. Flunkies that paid little attention to their own hygiene enforced these token rights and knew that a resident’s “refusal” to shower meant less work.

Bobby, my roommate for a few months at the warehouse took full advantage of the right to refuse a shower. His unbelievable reek bludgeoned anybody that entered the room. Some charlatan had diagnosed Bobby as mentally handicapped when in fact he was just a phenomenally stupid and lazy waste-of-life. On the occasions that his sister visited he’d demonstrate a tenuous command of the English language as he happily jabbered—he deadpanned primitive sentences when he communicated with the staff—and they’d both laugh at how he “be connin’ the man.” Then she’d regale him with comical tales of her crack-smoking antics and humorous descriptions of her dweebish johns.

Government-controlled convalescent homes teem with ignorant ill-bred dump trucks of failure. I don’t mean people whose families don’t belong to a country club. I’m talking lowlives that harbor an attitude of entitlement and can’t or won’t differentiate between the natural scent of a human body and the offensive funk of unwashed armpits, crotches, and feet. I‘m aware that some people are born into insanely dysfunctional situations over which they have no control—life is grossly unfair from the get-go. But when people reach their teens they either choose to raise themselves or indolently follow the path of least resistance.

One of the few people who had the balls to regularly visit me in the warehouse showed up one day, wrinkled his nose and commented on the stench before he said hello. The next time I spoke to him, he mentioned that he’d informed the nurse stationed on my floor of Bobby’s overpowering miasmic odor. She thanked him for making her “cognizant of the situation” and promised that she’d tend to it immediately. I told him he’d wasted his effort. Nurses bide their time in convalescent homes until they manage to land real jobs.

I complained multiple times to the administrator, an evil sawed-off sycophant unburdened by a conscience. Twice I pled my case to the head nurse, a bitch on square wheels nicknamed “Chicken Legs.” One afternoon more than a week after I’d given up on a reasonably hygienic roommate, the head nurse accompanied by a CNA barged unannounced into our room. Her voice competed with dialogue punctuated by a laugh track blaring from the television on Bobby’s nightstand. She tried to coax him into the shower room; he argued that he’d taken a shower the previous day but his odor betrayed the lie. Then it dawned on me that he hadn’t showered in literally weeks. After less than a minute of horseshit debate she convinced Bobby that a good scrubbing would make him feel better. As a patent dimwit he didn’t exactly wield nerves of steel.

On cue the CNA presented a towel, a washcloth, and a plastic squeeze bottle of liquid soap to Bobby. Meanwhile the head nurse turned his television off, then steered him by his lower back out of the room while she repeated her assurance that he’d feel better after showering. He breathed through his mouth and wore a pitifully dumb expression as he shuffled out the door.

He returned three minutes later wearing the same clothes he wore when he left. The familiar stink slapped me and I knew that like a mischievous child he had only pretended to shower. I immediately went and complained to the administrator but he just chuckled and claimed that his hands were legally tied.

Bobby eventually exposed himself as a thief and started using the floor next to his bed as a urinal though the bathroom loomed only a few feet away. (The staff’s acceptance of slothful residents who pissed onto the linoleum floor while lying in their beds amazed and disturbed me.) But it took Bobby’s thieving to convince the hyper-businesslike shyster administrator to banish him from our room on the first floor to a ward on the dreaded third floor—kicking him out would have meant lost income. My now ex-roommate’s rugged stink lingered for a few days. More Bobby later.

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