Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Man. Not the Man. So very The Man. Really, Not the Man

I wear a badge and ride in a shiny red truck for work. My charming disposition alone allows me access to most every building in the city. What? Oh, perhaps it's the badge and truck, not my winning wiles.

I go to various Co-ops for organic self-regard and free-range smugness, where I/we have been members since before half the bakers were lesbians and/or vegans, and I get the cold fish-eye of liberal, anti-authority resentment. 'Screw you, Man.' I browse for the same shit everyone else browses for, but I get the hard-inflectioned demi-curiousity: 'May I help you?' 'What are you looking for today?'

Eight-dollar-per-# strawberries, is the answer, just like every working man.

When I shop co-ops with my work partner, he gets more of the same, leavened with a frisson of liberal guilt: He, too, wears the badge of shame patriarchal war-machine, he has a mustache...but he's brown-skinned! Holy conundrum, Fish-fan-man. We want to hate The Man for keeping us down and thwarting our struggles, yet we're not allowed to be mean to minorities, lest we be seen as intolerant... Oh, the agony. (And, yes, Ben appreciates your Free Tibet stickers on the Subaru.)

When we do inspections on Lake Street, the mercados and tiendas are generally run by immigrants getting exploited in Sabri-owned shitholes. We walk in, badges and radios and vested authority, and we're met w/ dull terror and long-standing mistrust. I can understand it. I try to explain we're doing inspections on every building in the city, but between cultural and language barriers, there's enough wariness to prevent ease of interaction. I feel for the store workers, and I also have a responsibility to prevent asshole landlords from exploiting immigrants, whether in the stores or the shitty living quarters above, to the point that a small fire turns deadly.

I'm certain many inspectors come in w/ enough Minnesotan baggage that the exchanges aren't polite or helpful. Ben and I speak decent Spanish, and try to be flexible, but the wariness remains. End result, also, is that the fines on the building will cause eviction or harassment of these legit workers. Sad deal, but I can't let them work/live in deathtraps.
We had a debate about which was more tragic/pathetic (generating of pathos, ie) of our first couple calls this morning: woman w/o insurance having some sort of seizure; bone skinny, racked with bruises and skin infections. Unsure if she'd been beaten or just took such horrible care of herself, and smoked so much for so long, that her skin had no perfusion. In a dark, dingy, dusty, depressing house with two equally cowed, frail adult daughters, and two hard-looking, sullen men. OR, the pair of adult alcoholics who, after a bottle of vodka and case of malt liquor (per usual), fell over, whereby he struck his head, then a few hours later fell and struck his head again. He was so cocked we couldn't get a coherent word out of him, other than some bragging about being a Marine and being ready to kick our asses--so, a typical drunk--but his pupils were disturbingly unequal and his breathing was labored and the foam at his mouth didn't seem like toothpaste. His old lady was no better, absent the head trauma. She went from concerned about him and whining at us to help him to HOWLING that we were hurting/killing/hurting him, and WHY WHY WHY were we doing it?!?!?!?!? when we started to load him to get to the hospital. Drunken drama, with a possible brain bleed to boot. Sad and stupid.

It's one of those days that the accumulation of stupidity and hard-times, plus shitheels and walking tragedies, plays hard with tempers and timing, and the wrong tone/word shoots out at the wrong call. As if the enslaught of pointless shit outstrips my humor and patience, and then the call where it's in full demand, all I've got is a headache from too many smoke-choked apartments and no humor from too many self-created dramas.

Is there any wonder it's hard sometimes not to be a glue-veined prick to the smugly insolent at the co-op?

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