15 October 2006

Backward, PA

My first time working as a volunteer for the local Democratic Party was nothing short of an adventure. Starting only a month from Election Day, I counted on a hectic schedule and some disorganization, but Murphy's Law stole the show.

Two other people helped me canvass a neighborhood, all three of us participating for the first time. We middle-class white folk were assigned to a neighborhood that was:
The people there weren't very receptive to our invading of their quiet, desolate space with pleas to go vote and make a difference.

Nothing was accomplished except a change in my perspective: some people only appear to be poor because their priorities don't line up with mainstream society. The houses were ratty -- no windows, a dilapidated front porch, and a broken front door -- but everyone had DirectTV satellites and good-looking cars.

A few observations and budget calculations later, a voter who agrees with either the Democrat or Republican platform would become very confused. I figured that with Pennsylvania's new minimum wage of $7.15/h, a single-person household living on a full-time minimum wage income would not only rise above poverty level, but also fund an inexpensive car and a cell phone to boot. My conclusion? Raise the federal minimum wage and cut back on welfare spending.

That places me at odds with both major political parties in the U.S. right now. I'm also a pro-life Democrat. And I'm not alone in either idea. Welcome to my corner of the country, which I fondly call Backward, PA.

14 October 2006

An ER That Deserved Its Closing

One summer, I developed severe dehydration while working at Camp Sheep Macky. My father, distrustful of ambulances and the area hospital, drove me home an hour away to an even worse greeting. Mom accompanied me in the waiting room of the Emergency Room, where the receptionist, after hearing of my condition, promptly allowed me to nearly lose consciousness for a half hour before remembering to admit me.

Once in a hospital bed, in a customarily indecent gown, a nurse took my vital signs, and left me alone for another half hour. Nobody so much as offered a drink, even after I explained my situation. A second one entered the room, stuck a needle in my arm, and let me whither for yet another hour. (The Emergency Room? Hey, my life is ticking away here...) The doctor (who, on a visit the previous year, mistook an eye infection that nearly blinded me for a bad allergy attack) came in and fetched my dinner, the least they could give after my rough time. He asked how the IV drip was going. I pointed to the needle in my arm, which was not connected to any machine. I heard the man holler "Oh my God!" and rush out of the room.

Another hour later, dinner was served. The doctor returned and again asked how the IV was doing. Deja vu. This time, however, a team of nurses returned in a swift 15 minutes with a machine. Unfortunately, none of the five had any idea how to work the brand new computerized machine, nor did they do a very good job of comforting me. By some miracle (I think someone finally read the instruction manual), the thing actually worked despite the confusion. A full 6 hours from the time I arrived, I was free to return home.

I cheered the day a rival hospital bought that place and took over ER operations.

12 October 2006

Tomato, To-mah-to, Just Keep It off My Burger

My mother and I had been worn out by a rough day, so we ate out at Perkouts, hoping for a pleasant dinner (translated: "any meal not requiring the effort to cook or clean"). Mom orders something appetizing, looks up from the menu and tells me, "You can have whatever you want." Being a man, I have no sense of atmosphere, so what do I do in a fancy restaurant? I want my cheeseburger, so I order a cheeseburger, one that Mom could've bought me for half price at MacDanny's across the street at that. Being allergic to raw tomatoes, I took care to mention to the waitress at the end of my order, "...and no tomato on that burger. I'm allergic."

After waiting 20 minutes for a burger that probably took 5 to cook, the waitress returned with our orders. Can you guess what appeared on my burger? (Hint: if it weren't, I wouldn't be telling you this story.) At this point, Mom wanted me to fly into a rage, but all I could think was, "Well, maybe they made a mistake. Let's try this again." I informed the waitress of the mistake, being careful to remind her, "...and no tomato. I'm allergic, and I can't eat a burger that has one on it."

At this point, Mom wanted me to be angry with the waitress, but seeing that she wrote it down correctly, this made no sense, but I did have the strong urge to tell the cook where to stick his tomato. After another short delay, a fresh burger arrived. I'll leave to the imagination what was hidden underneath the meat patty. So I again tell the waitress what's gone wrong and check her order pad to make sure it was written correctly. I added the standard reminder: "...and no tomato! My burger is inedible with a tomato on it."

This time Mom's arguing with me because I just had to order a damn burger in the middle of a fancy restaurant. It's now inexplicably my fault that her meal is being interrupted by my complaints. How dare I try not to die eating my food. After what seemed to be an eternity, the waitress arrived with burger number three. Quick, what's under the lettuce? (If you guessed anything besides "another tomato," please re-evaluate your sense of humor. Thank you.) I asked the waitress if I could have something else instead, but she insisted that I had experienced my last inconvenience. I can only imagine what she did to that poor cook because the next burger was perfect.

Yes, that's right. A Perkouts employee required four cheeseburgers to remember that one of them was supposed to be without tomato. And of course the incident cost me dessert because Mom, who at this point was more steamed than her vegetables, had finished her meal before I took my first bite.

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