Safety First

The security people who worked at the warehouse established themselves as two-bit blundering oafs whose previous employers never entrusted them with any genuine responsibility—imagine a small handful of lobotomized Mr. T’s who formerly blew leaves. They wallowed in impotent authority by bullying and browbeating clearly innocuous residents, visitors, and medivan drivers.

I don’t mean the residents Mr. Gold had stationed behind a table in the lobby. The handpicked batshit fossil on duty would motion to a guestbook while politely but sternly ordering residents and visitors to sign in or out. Mr. Gold and an array of visiting psychiatrists had stressed the importance of this “job” to appointed residents and reminded them that people at their age needed to keep busy. These self-important coots reminded me of the retiree “greeters” at Wal*Mart, or grade school children who think they’re superior to their classmates because the teacher chose them to clap erasers. (In all the years as an inmate in the warehouse I only once or twice signed their silly book. Nobody ever reprimanded me.) Occasionally on weekends a clueless but ambitious adult drone from the kitchen substituted for them. (I can empathize; I used to work in a shithole kitchen for minimum wage while I dreamed of a better life. Then I got my driver’s license and moved on.)

A stubby woman obsessed with purple, Mrs. Bonita took control of the warehouse from Mr. Gold after I’d lived there for several years. I never quite understood the circumstances and don’t gather either person involved possessed the backbone to ask their bosses pointed questions. Mrs. Bonita treated staff members and residents a smidgen more respectfully than had Mr. Gold. She made her secretary take down the hand printed Our Gang signs that cluttered the plate glass entryway. During her reign the food slightly improved and she bumped dinnertime up twenty minutes (this change in schedule seemed arbitrary to me—red flag!). I initially entertained high hopes for Mrs. Bonita but she soon revealed herself little better than her predecessor. A progressive ass-kissing pawn is still an ass-kissing pawn.

The neighborhood surrounding the warehouse appeared benign but became somewhat foreboding after you discovered its true character. Mrs. Bonita hired a fairly large man to act as security guard on weekdays from 3:00 pm until 11:00 pm. (Gangstuhs need their sleep so they cease operations well before midnight; they retire especially early on Saturday nights in order to feel refreshed for Sunday morning services.) The new security guard seemed to think that his job gave him the right to thrust his nose into everybody’s business.

The rooms in the warehouse were equipped with telephone jacks but Public Aid didn’t cover the cost of phone service. Anyway the administration discouraged communication with the outside world (though they’ll likely vehemently deny it). They lied to residents when they claimed that the city had zoned the warehouse in some mysterious way that made a landline phone ridiculously expensive. I not only bathed regularly and “talked all fancy,”* I owned a cell phone. Many CNA’s also owned cell phones and used them while they were on duty. Mrs. Bonita wanted residents to delude themselves that their lives were worth a tinker’s damn, so she composed a memo banning CNA’s from prattling into their phones while on the job. The secretary posted copies of the memo at strategic locations throughout the warehouse.

One evening at about 7:00 I needed to make a call, grabbed my cell phone and wheeled into the hallway to play hide and seek with a signal. Immediately the security goon’s body jerked to attention like a dog catching the scent of a bone and he lumbered over to me. Towering over my wheelchair he pointed to the phone and gravely parroted an abridged version of the new administrator’s directive:

“Mrs. Bonita, she say cell phones not allowed.”

That the administration delegated any authority to someone so profoundly simple-minded astonished me. “But that rule only applies to CNA’s on duty.”

He chuckled but maintained the stern demeanor befitting of a security professional. “See, Mrs. Bonita, she the boss and she say no cell phones.”

I repeated that the rule targeted CNA’s on duty, to which he emphatically shook his head. The secretary had taped a copy of the memo onto the wall next to us. He ripped it down, meant to offer proof of his conviction by reading the memo aloud.

Though the guy was probably in his mid-thirties, he read with a sluggish staccato monotone and stumbled over multisyllable words like a slow child struggling with remedial text. After clumsily reciting the entire memo, he still couldn’t grasp its explicit intent.

He looked up, pleased with himself as if quoting the simple document in front of him qualified as a major accomplishment: “See? No cell phones allowed.”

“But you just read that the rule only applies to CNA’s on duty.”

After few seconds of confused silence he repeated: “Mrs. Bonita, she say no cell phones.”

I called him an idiot and suggested that he piss into a live AC outlet. Visibly shaken and angered, he spat some remark about my mother. I returned to my room imagining that curiosity might motivate a lummox like him to seriously consider my suggestion.

* When I arrived at the warehouse, I naively assumed that that employing proper English and a varied vocabulary when I spoke would prove me a mentally competent person. But doing so only confirmed the astoundingly dimwitted staff’s suspicions that the stroke had fried my cognitive abilities. Stupid people tend to blame external forces for the many behaviors and notions they can’t comprehend.

2 Responses to “Safety First”

  1. sudont Says:

    “Stupid people tend to blame external forces for the many behaviors and notions they can’t comprehend.”

    Yet, so do ostensively intelligent people. They believe in sky gods, virgin births, and all kinds of nonsensical theology. Someone please tell me why? Or, rather, how?

  2. Kelly Says:

    Ah, first I laugh out loud and then I feel a pang of guilt for laughing out loud. 🙂 K

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