Josh the Activist

A clumsy and unsophisticated nine-year-old controlled Josh’s gnarled body though he biologically approached middle age. I had only seen Josh from afar and, based on his diminutive frame and immature behavior regarded him as a vaguely simple-minded young adult. His spasmodic pigeon-toed gait and palsied gestures advertised his physical condition before he opened his mouth. We met when he moved into my room. Up close, his weathered face revealed his age. I also realized that he smelt funny and wore an elastic band around his head to keep his generic black glasses in place, just like the pussy kid in your grade school. He immediately started jabbering, tried to introduce himself. I guess he got sick of my repeatedly begging his pardon, so he finally used a twisted finger to point to the nametag on a pair of his briefs. He seemed to take for granted that MS had ravaged his speech until it was all but incomprehensible; I didn’t sense nurtured acceptance with integrity, but constantly reinforced defeat.

Long before Josh became my roommate, I’d seen him in the hall complaining about something or other to the male charge nurse. In a heavy Nigerian accent the smarmy Neanderthal¹ angrily reprimanded Josh: “Stop your whining right now! You should be thankful! The government takes good care of this place and we take good care of . . .” He curled his upper lip: “. . . People like you. Anyway, you’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Another time Mr. Gold marched into our room to rebuke Josh in front of a CNA and me. (Nobody had witnessed their confrontation in his office, and Mr. Gold loved to belittle residents and employees in public.) It amused me that the dwarfish administrator presumed to demonstrate authority by shaking his tiny finger at Josh: “I’m sick of your complaining! You don’t know how good you’ve got it! You’re a child trapped in a man’s body and it’s about time you accepted the reality of your situation like a big boy!”

Frequently, ignorant lowlife residents passing our room blurted to their companions: “That be the crazy room. Hyeh hyeh hyeh hyeh!”

The heat or air conditioning at the warehouse routinely failed, invariably during a cold snap or heat wave. City-wide overload didn’t cause the failures, rather a bush league maintenance staff confused by newfangled machines with moving parts created the SNAFU’s.² (If the rest of the warehouse provided any indication, the owners had chosen inferior [cheap] heating and cooling systems.)

During a July heat wave the air conditioner predictably crapped out and the warehouse became atrociously hot. Newspapers and local news broadcasts warned of a heat advisory and stressed the hot weather’s potential adverse effects on the elderly. The vigilant warehouse administration decreed the resident’s well-being top priority (plus they wanted to avoid lawsuits). When evening snack time rolled around the CNA’s served an extra Styrofoam cup full of watered-down generic Kool-Aid (the CNA’s called it “juice”) along with the usual one or two stale generic cookies. (“Snack time” is a tradition in nursery school.) One day during the heat wave, Josh didn’t wait for the relief of an extra ration of generic Kool-Aid; he peeled his clothes off and ran from the warehouse into the sweltering afternoon.

I had parked my wheelchair on the front porch where I sat smoking a cigarette. (At that time, even ridiculously hot weather couldn’t discourage me from smoking.) I happened to glance to my left and saw Josh, quite naked as he emerged from the fenced-in patio. He trotted ahead to the sidewalk, then continued down the street. Passing cars slowed and honked their horns. Two giggling CNA’s rushed out of the warehouse, stopped and asked me which way naked Josh had scurried. One of them clutched a bed sheet.

By then I had become indifferent to the shenanigans of batshit crazy gimps; I silently pointed, finished my cigarette and wheeled back to my room. Three minutes later the CNA’s returned Josh wrapped in the bed sheet. Through sputtering laughter they asked what had prompted his display. He earnestly explained that a televised student demonstration had inspired him to “boycott” the intense heat. He didn’t specify whether he held God responsible for the weather or Mr. Gold responsible for the malfunctioning utility.

Josh’s wee genitalia caused the CNA’s to snigger for the next few days.

¹ This asshole interrupted a CNA trying to get a point across to me and said, ”Let me. I know how to talk to these people.” He once drew a CNA’s attention to me and smirked while he told her, “You’re looking at half a man.” He represents legions of primitive subhumans who flood this country to work in the health care industry—and I use the term “work” loosely. They strap the burden of a horrible reputation on the backs of intelligent and hard-working new citizens.

² I recall a three week stretch of no hot water available on any of the three floors. I hadn’t been banished to Calcutta, and didn’t feel that the administration’s poor management should force me to daily suffer a cold shower. I complained to Mrs. Bonita several times. She claimed that the maintenance staff waited for the delivery of a “standard part” and until they received it “there’s nothing we can do. Sorry.” (The warehouse is in the third largest metropolitan area in the U.S.) Mine was likely the sole complaint since very few residents seemed to properly bathe more than once a week—and some not even that often.

4 Responses to “Josh the Activist”

  1. Ian Says:

    simply put, i’m in awe of this site and your stories. i cannot imagine going through all of the shit you have, let alone being cognizant enough to remember the details and write it all down years later.

    could you please catch us up with what your life is like now? as it stands, we’re still stuck feeling bad for the shit in the past without the knowledge of how you got from guy-who-can’t-move to guy-who-is-writing an-amazing-blog.

  2. jim k- you know me Says:

    yeah dave, what he said! start a new blog for the current times!

  3. Kelly Says:

    I also wish you had a more fleshed out About Me page or something where we can have a tiny peek, however brief, on your life today. Also wanted to share a writing tip from Writing Tools, which I’m now reading. The author points out how powerful it is to deliver small news with big, dramatic language and big, serious news with nothing but the facts, no added drama or opinion. I think this chapter would be more powerful if you left off your own opinions (Neanderthal, for example) and just let the people’s behaviour speak for itself.

    Really good imagery of Naked Josh, by the way.

  4. Paco Says:

    Done.

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