Friday, December 19, 2008

nervous work.

She was fidgeting. Her toe tapped. Her leg shook. She sat in the corner chair—a green plastic one with little plastic noodles on its fraying edges; wringing her hands, touching her hair. The tissue in her hand was getting wet, evident from the tiny flecks of cotton that sprinkled on the linoleum floor like raindrops. It was quite obvious: she was nervous.

But really it didn’t surprise me that her palm was soaking the Kleenex or that she kept touching her hair. She’d come in for a recheck on her blood pressure, which previously had been alarmingly elevated.

Perhaps more than her nervous habits, my eyes were drawn to her body stature. It was obvious her ankles had lost definition years ago. The cotton house shoes she wore were dirty and the socks that lined them barely made it to the crease of where her ankles should have been. Those little plastic noodles were barely visible—her bottom & thighs covered the entire green plastic chair past its edges. Belly protruding. Breasts resting seemingly comfortable around the level of her tenth rib.

I think my reaction was similar to what many people’s reaction would have been: I felt sorry for her. She had to be at least four inches shorter than me, making her the “average” height of an American Woman. And at 300+ pounds, her height wasn’t handling her weight as well as it could have. Her stature inevitably caused her pain: knee pain, stomach pain, back pain; our bodies were not meant to fight with a center of gravity thrown off kilter by an excess 300 pounds, nor was our blood supply meant to be choked by an abdominal girth of hormone-producing fat cells. Although she could breathe & fidget & shake her leg, each day was a struggle for her cells…a struggle that one day she would lose, possibly sooner than expected.

Through a series of questions, I discovered that she was living with her mother—and had been for the past decade-or-so. She hadn’t had a job since she rounded the track at thirty years old—at least 15 years ago. Her bills were paid each month from an envelope that was delivered to her mailbox: a disability check.

Her disability? Apparently she “got nervous” at work.

I had to clarify the situation with my attending. Because in all honesty, I couldn’t believe it was factual. Here is a woman, in her mid-forties living each day without a job while the government paid for her non-contributory existence.

His answer: YES.

And I can’t get her rounded ankles or tissue raindrops or tapping toe out of my head today. Because this morning I woke up with a painfully swollen arm. And Monday morning I got nervous to go to work. And Jon had a bad day on Tuesday. And one of my parents had the flu yesterday. But we all showed up. And either I need another dose of sympathy or I’m quickly becoming hardened to this tainted world we live in.

This week I’ve heard stories about third-generation welfare families, workers who are addicted to pain pills & suing their employers for workers compensation because they fell in the bathroom & got a goose-egg on their forehead. I’ve heard stories about factory workers who are overworked & injured on the job without any form of compensation, daycare workers who are filing claims because they are required to lift the children under their care that weigh over 40 pounds, and the requirements of businesses to hire people less-than-qualified (physically or mentally) for the job description.

And it just doesn’t seem fair. In fact, it isn’t fair at all. In a case-by-case fashion, it is NOT fair: sometimes to the injured workers, sometimes to the employers…but 99% of the time to the taxpayers.

The taxpayers who are paying for this woman to sit on her couch & walk to her mailbox to pick up her “paycheck”. The taxpayers who are paying for his morphine so that he won’t have withdrawls. The taxpayers who are supporting the economy run by businesses that are forced to employ workers that are less-than-qualified for the jobs they are given for fear of discrimination lawsuits.

The taxpayers who “get nervous” somedays at their jobs too…but who keep working.

1 comment:

Alex! said...

Preach it sister! I struggle daily with the same issues and am not proud to say that people in my family are some of those who are "taking advantage" of the taxpayers. It's a disgrace to our nation. The land of the free is quickly turning into a land that is easily taken advantage of.

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