Today was officially the last day of a 10 year social services career. It ended quietly, perhaps fittingly the way it should have; just me and one client. The other one who is usually there had committed himself earlier in the week; hallucinating and hearing voices. He will return next week, a change in his meds and the side effects that go with it. I'm glad I'm not there for that. Instead me and the other guy spend my last shift going to the mall, grabbing some snacks and watching TV until shift change.
It was a good time, basically just baby-sitting a young-at-heart adult. He's a funny guy and our running joke was "I want my two dollars", a line from Better Off Dead I kept throwing at him because I bought him a coffee the night before and I knew full well he would not ever pay me back. I showed him this clip on youtube so he'd better understand why I kept saying that to him.
So I told my last client it was my last day and he was surprised and not surprised. Nobody had told him and I was asked not to so that the clients wouldn't be affected negatively. I don't understand that reasoning as the turnover is so high these clients continually have a revolving door of new staff coming in and out of their lives. May as well let them have some closure. Some workers give up, thinking they can make a change and finding they can't so go to live the dream elsewhere. Others, bitter ones like myself, know we can't do a thing about their lives. Shit happens and life goes on.
And so it goes, shit happens and I am moving on.
I remember this one defining moment, about six months ago at a different home, a different company. I arrived to start the first of three nights, my usual shift of 11pm to 8am, in the care home which had become my home away from home. I was nearing 4.5 years with this company, about 3.5 years of nights at this house, home of four men who lacked any means of communication, mobility and dignity. I liked the night shift as it was quiet, I worked alone, had plenty of time to write or read or studied (I began to moonlight/daylight as a mortgage broker although when I started I hoped it would be the other way around). I even spent a couple of months playing PS3 as I avoided writing.
Anyways, I opened the door and immediately smelled feces, or 'BM' as we referred to it, as if shortening the word bowel movement took the stigma out of what it actually was; shit, poop, turd, crap, excrement. I smelled shit. And because I have become an expert on shit and its various forms, smells, consistencies etc I knew this particular odor was from the guy I shall call Jeremy. Jeremy is on a feed tube, which means we plug him into a bag of beige liquid which goes into a hole in his stomach slowly throughout the day. Every day he gets a fleet, which basically makes him shit the beige liquid out. Sometimes I wondered why we just didn't put the beige liquid directly into the toilet, eliminating the middle man.
So I walked through the house to Jeremy's room and opened the door. The FIRST thing I see is Jeremy's shit-covered ass, the good ol' one brown eye staring at me like some HP Lovecraft creation. His legs wee being held up by one staff so the shit wouldn't get on Jeremy's bedding. Another staff was wiping his ass with those little wet wipes you use on baby bottoms or dusting the inside of your car. She wiped a little shit off Jer's ass, threw it in the wastebasket, repeated the process.
I could see Jeremy's head up, looking at me in the doorway. I remembered laughing at this sight, Jer and his shit-covered unblinking asshole staring at me. I think I even said to the two staff I was about to replace for the night, "I have to get out of this job."
But I didn't. I sucked it up for a few more months. I needed the guaranteed paycheck the job gave me. So I had to clean up a few asses every night for three nights a week. I took note of who had what kind of shit or pissed themselves and logged it into a book that was never checked. If I was lucky, I only had to deal with urine on some nights, which has another type of universal smell that will never be forgotten.
And then I got that little push. I was fired. Ironically, for nothing that I should have been fired for. And I will admit there were definitely things I did I should have been fired for but I'm going to keep those specific confessions to myself.
I was just trying to make it my holidays, have a month off and quit on my terms. I didn't get to do that which sucks, as will anyone who has ever been fired will tell you but so be it - shit happens. I challenged our manager over a dryer hose I offered to fix. Instead, she threw everything but the truth at me (which she didn't know) in a meeting with our executive director. They threw out a working dryer because the dryer hose was wrecked (which is what I pointed out). In the end I was fired for admitting I wore ear buds at work sometimes and apparently told someone it was okay to leave a client's guard rails down, which was an outright lie. But the earplugs, they felt this meant it impeded my ability to change diapers, do laundry and prep the next day's supper.
My union wanted to know if I wanted to grieve my firing. They wanted to know if I really wanted to return to that house, to get paid $18 hour to change diapers for basically four economic units that are kept alive only so they can chew down a mixture of brand-name pharmaceutical pills four times a day and the Company can bill the necessary agency for all that they do to keep them breathing and pooping and living valuable lives.
Did I want to keep the job? The one that made me miss half my weekends with my kids, the one that found me being tucked into bed at 8.30 am by my 4 then 5 then 6 year old? The one that made me chronically tired? The one that gave me an opportunity to write near everything I've done over the last four years? No, I was done. I was given 24 hours to sign the papers saying I agreed to a small buy-out and to not discuss what happened which is why I am not using the company's name in this blog.
But again, I digress. I didn't want to keep this job centered around shit. So, in this strange road I'm on, I'm not, finding some fruition in the financial world. But it seems a bit tenuous at best right now, as if at any minute I'm going to be told this was all a large misunderstanding. Maybe that day will be tomorrow, maybe the next.
But until then, shit will always happen. It just happens but at least I'm finally not the the one doing the wiping.