Thursday, March 01, 2012

Mad titties, or the varieties of human experience


I haven't mentioned it here yet, but I'm once again gainfully employed and have been since December. I don't know why I haven't let the news slip even in passing on this blog, especially since the tumultuous events of the past several years have become a near-constant topic in this rarely visited corner of the artist formerly known as the information superhighway. Now that I'm no longer praying to a deity I never believed in to strike me dead, I'd like to raise a glass to my first three months of regained sanity and another glass to hopes of continuing trends in no-longer-looney-tunes monkey business. I'm not being that hyperbolic. I was nuts. I wasn't really a person anymore, just a kind of slug-robot-sad-old-country-song hybrid. Because I have an amazing wife, I am still here and I am employed. If she wasn't a part of my life, my last few years would have been an extended, real-life, tragic version of the first three episodes of season two of Eastbound & Down. I would also be dead, a homeless alcoholic, or the accidental cockfighting impresario of Ciudad Juarez.
I am now a case worker for a state Health and Human Resources office, deciding if people qualify for food stamps and/or Medicaid. My new job requires extensive training because I have to learn a lot of state and federal policy and apply that policy to individual situations using a needlessly complicated computer system while talking to needy, hungry people who are sitting in front of me or talking to me on the phone. I also have access to all kinds of private information about these people, which can get me fired if I compromise it in any way. Since I'm a new guy with a limited caseload who's only partially finished with training, I sometimes have to help out in the front lobby. This part of the job is pretty mindless, consisting of finding out why people are visiting the office and giving them a corresponding ticket with a number on it that will eventually be announced over a loudspeaker. I don't mind doing this because I know it's only temporary, and I also don't mind because it's some pretty amazing people-watching. Frighteningly, the lobby is massively overcrowded about two-thirds of the time, thanks to the Bush/Obama never-ending war economy. (A retired Army vet who recently started working there told me that our beautiful government was spending one million dollars a month on Gatorade delivery alone. Halliburton contract employees made $95,000 a year hitting the play button on DVD players in base media rooms. That was the entirety of the job. And that's the small-potatoes, anecdotal shit.)
The shortcut to the point is, I see a wildly varied cross-section of humanity. On Tuesday, a chubby boy with corn rows and glasses, estimated age of nine or ten, walked into the office. I said hello. He stopped, pivoted in my direction, lowered his head and glared directly at me with withering contempt over his glasses, hands on hips, foot slowly tapping. He then walked over to the security guards, gave them the same silent stare of disdain, and strutted over to his mother, whose application was being screened. He stood next to her and began loudly tapping the wall with his open palm. Two or three minutes later, this same boy sits down in the vacant chair next to me at the front desk and makes himself at home. "My dad's a security guard, so whenever I go anywhere, I just start being a security guard," he tells me, by way of explanation. "Shut your mouth," he then yells at the security guard sitting directly across from me. A woman comes up to me with a new application for aid. I direct her to the coworker behind me, who can help her set up an Internet account. "(Name redacted) can help you get started," I tell the woman. "(Name redacted) is gay," the kid tells the woman. He then turns toward me and whispers conspiratorially, "Did you ever notice how gay this day is?" Another woman comes in for help. The boy sighs, leans toward me, and says, "Oh boy. Here comes another crackhead." A woman tells me she's just been accepted for Medicaid and asks me when her benefits take effect. "A year and a half," the kid tells her. Several women come in who speak only Spanish. The kid starts talking to them in Spanish. My high school and college Spanish has slowly been coming back to me at this job. I can understand him. He says hello to each woman, then tells them that he's in love with them and wants to give them a good time. The kid then informs the male security guard that the guard has "mad titties." Finally, the child's mother and both grandmothers tell him he has to go wait in the car. On his way out, he says to me, "Here, have a Taco Bell hot sauce packet." He then takes a Taco Bell hot sauce packet (mild) out of his pocket and places it on the desk in front of me and leaves.

3 comments:

allison said...

This is a very fine story. I am thrilled it is true.


P.S. The word verification guessed the someday name of my someday child: Ntagg Torldwin. Back to square one.

Dr. Mystery said...

I wonder how often he carries Taco Bell hot sauce in his pockets. Daily? Weekly?

allison said...

You never know when you might need to spice things up. That kid is ready.