Read Part 2
Many warehouse residents were elderly and/or near death. The chintzy bastard administrator, Mr. Gold couldn’t justify paying a trained therapist to work with a resident, only to watch that resident waste any newly learned physical strategies by dying. The warehouse bosses promoted easily manipulated CNA’s who excelled at making beds and emptying bedpans to revered positions as physical therapists, much like teacher’s pets are chosen to clap erasers. Stupendously lazy young residents didn’t care about the administration’s tacit ban on competent therapists; they rationalized that their own lack of ambition demonstrated a mature acceptance of their bodily deficits. Or maybe they realized physical independence meant an end to their mooching.
During the months following my stroke I entertained the notion of permanently using a walker—a world-class pebble in my shoe but slightly less so than a wheelchair. (Little did I know I was jerking off into a fan.) I couldn’t imagine the unqualified CNA/therapists at the warehouse doing anything other than getting in my way while I struggled to walk maybe ten feet, then complaining that they were laden with paperwork and my time was up anyway. I enrolled in an outpatient therapy program at the rehab hospital where I had been a patient prior to my stint in the warehouse.* Though the staff at the hospital had treated me like a retarded animal, the administration employed well-trained therapist who knew what they were doing and seemed to regularly use soap. I scheduled a recurring ride twice a week with the medivan company that served the warehouse.
Medivan/paratransit companies emphatically drill this important rule into their driver’s thick heads: Always back wheelchairs up the van’s ramp. Once, after a therapy session my driver tried to save a piddly amount of time and energy by pushing my chair up the ramp. Of course it spilled onto the cement with me in it; like a Benny Hill skit where lightning strikes a child’s tricycle and the fully-grown rider clings to it as it topples sideways, while “Yakety Sax” squawks slapstick chaos on the soundtrack. Retribution from his employer concerned the driver more than my well-being. He immediately spoke with mock horror in a loud theatrical voice so passers-by could hear: “Wh-what you be doin’? I didn’t give you no permission to be wheelin’ yourself!” Well aware that he had fucked up big-time, he obviously wanted people within earshot to believe that my retarded overzealousness had undermined his studied professionalism and landed me on the pavement.
Medivan companies enforced a policy that required drivers to radio the dispatcher to report such incidents promptly after they occurred. The driver was also obligated to ask the passenger if they wanted to visit an emergency room, regardless of how clearly unnecessary that question may be. When the driver radioed the dispatcher, he emphasized that he meant to follow procedure e.g. back the chair into the van but explained that the patient (me) “took it upon himself” to attempt wheeling up the ramp. The driver conjectured that I’d “learned [my] lesson” when I fell.
The van parked next to the warehouse, the driver lumbered into the back of the vehicle and bent over to unstrap my chair. He seemed to be experiencing problems with the straps; he remained bent over with his ass jutting in the air while cursing under his breath. Without warning he ripped an exceptionally odorous fart. He didn’t to excuse himself, just kept fumbling with the straps. I called him on his incivility and remarked that the foul reek disgusted me. He looked up and matter-of-factly replied, “Well, you don’t be expectin’ me to, y’know, break wind in front of them normal peoples in [the warehouse] do you?”
Five minutes later he barged into my room without knocking. He whined that he had lost his personal set of keys and commanded me to check my pockets for them. I didn’t budge and suggested that his crack-addled mother shouldered the blame for his slow wit. For a few seconds he appeared confused, then his eyes bulged and he sneered while he promised: “I’m tellin’, I swear I am—then you be all sorry.” He stomped out of the room and slammed the door; I never heard from him directly or indirectly again.
* I had long before realized that nobody at the warehouse would, despite their claims, help me achieve even a modicum of independence. But they were eager to teach “skills” that would mold me into a lifelong obedient resident; my presence at the warehouse contributed to the sum of a check the government sent to them every month.