Writing the Memoir: Waiting, Juggling, and a Small Kindness

While editing my memoir, I came across this passage from when Savannah was 4 or 5 yerars old. I thought I'd share it and give a shout out to one of the local businesses that keeps the faith and continues to make Austin Weird: 

I was given a clip board with all the requisite personal information to complete. I sat in the waiting room with Savannah's completely limp, thirty-eight inch long, twenty-two pound body draped over me in varying, precarious positions, juggling the clipboard. The pen was greasy, as if someone had run a stick of butter along its length prior to our visit. It slipped from my grasp and dangled at its tether.

“People are disgusting!” I said to Savannah.
cartoon of a man Juggling a quadriplegic child and a clipboard in a waiting room by David Borden
Juggling the Quadriplegic Child in the Waiting Room

I had become adroit at this balancing act. We squirmed and slithered, trying to use gravity to our advantage. At one point, Savannah almost took a header before I caught her and her octopus limbs. I situated her on my lap, supported by the crook of one elbow. I jerked the clipboard with a quick snap and the tethered pen swung up and landed on the papers. I had just started filling out the forms when she stiffened and punched me (she’s very good with an uppercut).

“Damn it!”

The greasy pen fell to the end of the string.

I completed the forms the best I could, shifting my burden while the clipboard slowly slid away. My writing was barely legible, jagged with odd slanting as if scrabbled with my non-dominant hand.

“Can you believe all these questions? I bet they don’t even look at it.”

The old Vulcan Video on 29th Street, Austin, Texas
My old Vulcan Video Store, which has since moved to North Loop
Savannah and I have gone through this dance a million times in a million waiting rooms, and not once has anyone ever offered to help. In all these doctor offices, with the child and the diaper bag, one-handed, signing her in, at all the check-out counters, trying to write co-pay checks, never did anyone offer assistance. It's easier to ignore us than acknowledge we exist, better to look at a computer monitor than make eye contact. The only people who ever assisted me were the clerks at Vulcan Video, who kindly held my sales slip and checkbook steady, so I could pay for my video. They did it every single time with eye contact and a smile. As a result, I'm a loyal Vulcan Video customer and always will be.

One never knows what people are going through. Sometimes a small gesture of kindness can make someone's day. The medical staff that ignored us were "too busy" in their crazy, mixed up world of monetizing our pain and suffering. Our interactions, ironically, were more transactional than at a for-profit business. The clerks at Vulcan treated me like a person, not a "patient" or a "consumer."

That's all I ask.

I'm not saying anything radical here. The largest hospital corporation in Austin knows they have a problem with "customer service." They've been running an ad campaign on TV and billboards proclaiming they don't do "healthcare," but "humancare." The first time I saw the ad on TV, I burst out laughing.

At least they have a dark sense of humor.

I hope they hire the clerks at Vulcan as consultants. Or maybe they should hire me. I'll give them a three hour training workshop in which I'll say over and over: "The people who come to you may be living with tremendous pain (physical and/or emotional). Meet them where they are. Look them in the eye. Treat them like people. It's very simple. Hold their checkbook steady for them."

#Vulcan #video #Austin #KeepAustinWeird #CustomerService #VulcanVideo #healthcare #writing #SpecialNeeds #disability #parenting


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