Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Am I my brother's keeper? You bet I am!

I was speaking with a friend over the weekend. He confided in me that he had heard strange sounds emanating from the next apartment over. The sounds progressed from what he perceived to be "rough sex" to a woman's voice saying: "stop, you're hurting me!"

He vascillated between calling Salt Lake's finest and doing nothing, not wanting to alienate his neighbors and certainly not wanting to create a stir.

I once said that I felt I had earned a Masters in Public Administration and/or Political Science during my tenure at the SLC Mayor's office. I can cite codes, ordinances, rules, regulations ad nauseum. Why ad nauseum? Because I have seen it work over and over again, and then the converse - it has not worked. In this case, it didn't.

I told my friend in no uncertain terms - or Annette speak - whichever your prefer - next time you are in doubt, make the call. If you think someone is being hurt, call 911 - ask questions later. Remember the guy who was watching porn in his apartment a few months ago? A neighbor heard loud noises, thought a woman was being sexually violated and his door was battered down by public safety officers. They are called that because they are charged with the safety of the public. I gave him the non-emergency number 799-3000 and told him to keep it close to the phone. I hope and pray that he will never have to use either number, but if it saves a woman's life, I know he will do the right thing.

In that vein, I was shopping on Sunday after a beautiful church service - yeah, yeah, I know - my ox was in the mire, I needed medication, vitamin water, the New York Times, the New York Magazine and chocolate! That was how I kept the rest of my Sabbath day holy. Have you ever experienced a manic person off their medication even for one dose? Trust me, not a pretty sight.
I miss my old pharmacist - it was like Cheers or the Bayou - everyone knew my name. They knew what medications I took, what my insurance was, what the copay was and during the last year without insurance, helped me to price match with Costco and figure out the cheapest way to keep me healthy. Kelly is from Iran, beautiful and lives in her Federal Heights home with a beautiful daughter who hangs out at the JCC. Joseph is a pharmacy tech - he has great ties and a winning smile. Another tech is from Iraq and yet another from Utah. They all know me, because they understand what personal service is - that which we lack when we seek assistance from a "Big Box Store." I am now reduced to going to another pharmacist - not a locally-owned one, a huge chain, and judging from the outspoken New Yorkers comments, they should be out of business. I have an analytical mind and have a business and customer service evaluation background - I am never not thinking about how to improve a process. The staff at the Avenue's Smiths all know of my work among the homeless. I switched veins and volunteered at the 4th Street Clinic during the year of transition before I left SLC. They will try to find time to volunteer at that clinic, along with countless other healthcare professionals, disgusted by beaurocracy, paperwork, red tape and the general mess which is sometimes called "the best healthcare in the world" - great healthcare if you can get it.

That Sunday, I asked for my prescription to be delivered for free - as advertised by the HUGE a-frame sign on the sidewalk in front of the store. I had to use the ladies room. The pharmacist said that there was one available (note - all stores have them, but they keep it a secret so that we, the paying customers, won't use them - they might actually have to unlock a door - imagine that! or worse than that - a homeless person - GASP! might actually come and mingle with the common folk. I wandered around the store - not a blue shirt in sight. I actually don't like the staff in that store, but since I am a dedicated walker, my options are limited as far as using another pharmacy.

There was some sort of meeting taking place and the usually surly staff exited the hallowed area known as the "back stock room" - I know this because in another life, I worked overnight stocking shelves at a big box store in Michigan. I did this rather than teach preschool as I had previously, so that I could be at school and volunteer with my sons during the day.

I don't know what happened in that meeting, but let's just say that there was definitely some major tension permeating the store. I didn't dare ask anyone for permission to use the sacred holy back room to access the bathroom.

I made my way to the front of the store and stood in line - the line was deep, as usual - too many customers and not enough cashiers. I am meeting with the store director to address this and will send a letter to their corporate office to share the scene that unfolded before my eyes.

The cashier needed assistance from another individual - maybe if I worked for minimum wage at a job that wasn't great I would be surly too - then again, I did that for a couple of years and was NEVER surly. He yelled at her, everything but obscenities when she asked him to please open another register. I was shocked, as were the 10 or so people who witnessed the event. She was near tears. "Does he always speak to you like that?" I asked - "I plan to call the manager and let them know what I saw here today." I have spent enough time in the store over the last few weeks to know that there is a morale problem and a staffing issue. "Please don't say anything." She implored. I told her that if he had the nerve to speak so degradingly to her in public, in front of all those customers, he was likely beating his wife, or doing some other nefarious thing.

I will always speak up when I see an injustice. I had a saying that hung on the wall of my cubicle in my Salt Lake Office - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!

You had better believe we are our brother's keeper.

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