Friday, July 16, 2010

Surrounded by idiots...

and feeling quite at home.

I have been living through a bureaucratic nightmare. I tried to book a mammogram. The 12 -month-after-you-were-first-told-you-had-cancer-check-up. The one-year-to-see-if-we-got-it-all-the-first-time-we-cut-your-breast-off-check-up. The don't-let-the-ones-you-love-miss-an-appointment-check-up.

I'm still too traumatised to recount the conversation with the receptionist but I'm happy to share its low point that occured about half-way into a 10 minute attempt to get an appointment time this side of Christmas 2014.

She: What's your date of birth?

Me: 24/6/1973

She:, are you sure you've been here before?

Me: Great question. Thanks for checking. I'm not sure. No, not sure at all. Perhaps the 5 times I've been to your offices in the last 12 months for the following reasons - to be prodded and pricked to test for cancer, to sit with my husband and be told I have cancer, to be given a little cottonwool filled mini-pillow to stuff my bra with after the operation to remove the whole of my right breast, to check that the disgusting scar that replaces the aforementioned boob was healing, and then to hear about what other poisons and burning would be recommended to prevent cancer returning - perhaps, just perhaps I made all that up.

Patience, lovingkindness and empathy for my fellow travellers seem to have disappeared from within me and been replaced by intolerance, frustration, pride (unjustified feelings of superiority), and worst of all snip-snappiness.

What do you think? Is it too much to ask of the people around me that they at least learn to argue properly, do their jobs with just a smidgeon of common sense, grow a brain cell in their left hemisphere to complement the lonely figure in their right????

1) A contractor is sending me letters quoting a piece of legislation that is expressly inapplicable to our situation. Not arugably inapplicable. Not a grey area worth discussing. Expressly inapplicable. Is it my job to do his job and help him find the appropriate section of the particular Act that he can use to sue me?

2) I have a new pain on the right hand side of my chest - most likely a muscle pulled while I writhed on the floor in disbelief at the latest idiot piece of mail that arrived last week - but who'd want to take chances? The hospital won't let me see any of the seven oncologists I already know and love. They want me to go back to my GP, get a referral, book a test at Canterbury breastcare, see para 1 above, and then just before I die, see one of the seven so they can wish me luck on the other side.

3) A lawyer helping me with another matter (ever since I blogged about not needing food stamps I have become a magnet for the disaffected clamouring for cash) left a message for me at 4.50pm on Friday. I returned her call at 4.52pm - she'd left 'for the day'. I rang the following Monday to be told she'd gone for that week. Agreeing to leave a message with her PA I received a message informing me that the PA was away until Wednesday. I called the main reception desk again - is anybody from your firm intending to work ever again? They're called the School Holidays, not the Everyone Sacha Might Need this Week Holidays.

Do I think I'm going to die? Not at all. Do I wish for a few hours of respite from consciousness? Heck yes.

Me feeling at home amongst the idiots comes from the unnerving reflection that I am as stupid as them. In fact, I'm worse. I know enough about human falibility to know that not everyone is on top of their game all of the time. Mistakes get made, the wrong options presented, inappropriate decisions taken. Let's imagine what my 'idiots' might be going through? Divorce, threat of redundancy, sick children, financial pressure, lack of self-actualisation, nothing to wear, uncertainty about what on earth to cook for tea, falling out with co-workers, bit of 'flu, winter blues, stiffling bullshit bureaucratic rules, chillblains, parking tickets, missed the last episode of Glee regret, and/or general malaise.

J.K Rowling makes a compelling case for imagination as a vital life skill in the Commencement address she made at Harvard one year. If you haven't watched it yet, you should, and let me know that you hadn't so that I can refill my glass of unjustified superiority. Google 'J K Rowling Harvard speech'. Perhaps my lovingkindness is returning - those instructions were for my mother's friends who pop into visit this 'blogsite' - it's a BLOG - from time to time.

Her thrust is that imagination is not only a rich source of Muggles, and Quidditch, and morality tales, but is indeed the foundation of all empathy. The ability to imagine the world from another's perspective is the door into understanding what it might be to live in their shoes. Or in their barefeet.

The temptation when I feel set upon by the morons of this world is to wallow in despair and rail against the hopelessness of it all. But if I force myself to spend 10 minutes with J K Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert (as you know her TED talk on creativity is an all time favourite of mine) and Seth Godin and Awul Gawande and (not for the faint-hearted) the Hyberbole and a Half blog of Allie, I find my mental game lifted and persepctive returning.

I am thankful that I am surrounded, not by idiots, but surrounded by people, just people doing their best with what they have on any given day; and that for the most part, I feel quite at home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... too