Thursday, February 21, 2013

Human Nature: Frustration

I was wrapping up a call with my supervisor, figuring out how to help a guy pay for a prescription for intestinal parasites, when two other people in need showed up at the door. 

The couple was looking for a place to stay for the night--which was complicated because the lodging also had to allow their old dog, who they were toting around wrapped in blankets in a kid's red wagon.

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I was eager to deal with the couple and send them on, because Aaron (let's call him), who needed the prescription filled, was already heading to the pharmacy. He didn't have a phone, so we'd agreed that I would do my best to figure out how we could pay for it, and he would stop by the pharmacy to discover whether it had been paid for. I didn't want Aaron to arrive there before I called, and miss out on the medicine--but I needed to use my credit card and then be reimbursed...and I didn't want to read out that number over the phone while Mike and Ashley (let's say) sat in my office awaiting their turn.

Sooo. We came up with a hotel that would accept the dog, I filled out the necessary form, and explained that they'd have to get it validated at the police station, which was up the hill 2 miles away, and then they could go to the hotel--which was back downhill, 6 miles away from the police station. Ordinarily I can give people bus tickets, but with the dog... 

"We can walk," Mike said. "Uphill is better than down, because the handle thing broke, so we pull the wagon with a rope." 

"Downhill it runs into us," Ashley added. Well, they'd have to come back downhill, I pointed out, but maybe they could let the wagon go in front of them instead of behind... 

Although I felt badly that the lodging I could offer required a long walk, I needed to usher them out the door and make my phone call to the pharmacy. Then Mike asked, "How can we get a hot meal?"

Oh, man. I could offer them a hot meal, but it is an additional 2 miles past the cop shop--and that would result an 8 mile walk to the hotel. So instead, I checked the food we had on hand, and came up with a bag of cookies, a box of Cheerios, and a jar of peanut butter. 

"Ooh, I like peanut butter," Ashley said, "but I don't eat it no more because of that time it had salmonella." I looked at the jar of perfectly fine peanut butter in my hand and tried explaining that that was an isolated incident, several years ago. No dice. They accepted the bag of cookies. And started their uphill journey.

I beelined to the phone and called the number Aaron had given me to pay for the medicine. But it turned out that the number led not to a pharmacy, but to a health food store, of which Aaron was apparently a member, since the number he'd given me was a membership number--not a prescription number. And although they did have alternative medicines for parasites, the clerk and I quickly stalled out over what Aaron had expected to accomplish by giving me his membership number and calling it a prescription. 

Look, I know that people have the right to take care of a dog and to choose herbal remedies or to not eat peanut butter because a batch of it was contaminated in 2009. And if their choices thwart my ability to help them, that is their business, not mine. But somehow telling myself these things did not have much effect on my frustration with Aaron, Mike and Ashley, at the meager results of our encounters, or at the self-imposed obstacles we stumble over in an attempt to live our lives.      


  1. And these are the clear and obvious obstacles we inadvertently set up for ourselves. But they're only clear to others, never to ourselves. So Aaron keeps his parasites and Mike and Ashley keep their dog and I keep gaining weight because exercise is too much trouble today. It's my health I'm tripping up here, and it's all my own decision. So, can anyone else identify obstacles they have place for themselves?

    You, my dear, are a hero. I know you are up to your ass in alligators, but you keep trying to drain the swamp!

  2. Patricia, the long and winding reality show sounds 'bout right. And that's no help for frustration. Oy veh.