Category Archives: Opinion

No-Visitor Policies Do Harm

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*Legal note: this is written under the auspices of both employee safety and in the interest of public health and debate. This commentary is almost universally applicable, regardless of geography. The policies I’m complaining about have negatively impacted thousands of lives without furthering our collective public health interests. They piss me off because people don’t understand the implications until they affect them personally. (Which might well be the national motto for the United States.)

Not all healthcare facilities and hospitals adopted a blanket approach, precisely because such policies wrongly isolate patients and reduce the quality of life of everyone involved. To those who properly implemented precautions without simultaneously severing the vital family-patient link, I thank you. Were such a facility nearby, you can be sure that you would be my first option for all healthcare services. The idea that a family cannot interact in person with their family member when they are ill is one of the most abhorrent ideas I’ve dealt with as an adult.

I have serious concerns about the no-visitor policies healthcare facilities adopted when covid made its appearance. Most of these policies weren’t based on science; they certainly went too far. When I see ‘heart-warming’ videos of long-wedded couples communicating through windows, my heart doesn’t melt. It hardens – and against those who insist that isolation in lieu of reasonable precaution is in the public health interest. We allow millions of Americans to wander in public without taking basic precautions. We are not making good decisions as people, as citizens, or as businesses.

Though it says something less than positive about me, the above angers me. It’s not an irritation that can be overlooked. I see the impact that misguided and poorly-executed policies have on real people. Your mom, sister, grandmother, son, daughter, and friend. Now, me.

Perhaps my inside view of how healthcare works discolors my opinion. Healthcare is a mammoth business. We routinely forget that healthcare is at our service. Though it is a business with a mission, it is one that should focus on the human impact of policies. They all say they agree, though when I outline my argument that demonstrates the no-visitor policies to be draconian, their faces harden and they fall back to a “trust us” stance. Failing that, they aggressively insist. After all, they hold our family members hostage inside their facilities. What can we do? Before you think that ‘hostage’ is too harsh a word, I suggest you drop a family member off at an ER without knowing they have policies that endanger your family member and isolate you from them.

Is there any other business you can think of that operates this way? By invoking the label of public safety, they can hide any motive or lack of reasoning in a policy that harms your interests. The fact that not all hospitals adopted blanket no-visitor policies logically indicates that there is strong disagreement among experts. In my case, it was nonsensical.

I did not have a voice in these policies. No family member did. As you’ll see through my emails, my presence in a hospital as a visitor constituted LESS of a risk to hospital staff than even those very hospital workers. One of the dark secrets of our covid response is that we failed to test each and every healthcare worker. Even while we were in Phase I, we didn’t test. Although the state mandated that surgical candidates would have to be tested prior to entry into the hospital, efforts to test healthcare workers at the same level of sensible precautions were stymied. The motive for such decisions probably jumps into your mind in the same manner as it does for everyone else. The public interest would have best been served by universal testing for everyone in a healthcare facility, followed by stringent testing on a scheduled basis thereafter. This can be done without fear of dismantling the healthcare industry. It would, however, make us all safer.

It is true that it would expose the fact that healthcare workers are working while infected with covid. How many might be up for debate but it would be foolish to insist that the answer is ever ‘zero.’ We can’t fix a problem by ignoring huge variables. Even though I’ve said it already, my commentary is couched inside the box of the public health interest. Only the most feeble arguments would stretch to claim that my mentioning it somehow lessens the confidence of our healthcare industry. The industry is staffed by fallible people, as is any other field such as aviation, police, or engineers. People try to do their best. When policies are shown to cause harm, they need to be modified in the same way that ‘best practices’ evolve within healthcare.

Although I intervened in the cases of others when they were fighting hospitals needlessly keeping them at a distance from their loved ones, I knew eventually the policies I loathed would affect me personally. I had several conversations with my wife. During each, I repeated that I’d rather risk a lower chance of survival in exchange for the simple human right to have her visit and watch over me and my care. It is for the same reason I’ve instructed her that I don’t give consent to ever be airlifted anywhere. I trust my local healthcare facilities. I trust them more because proximity increases the chances that people who know me will be able to visit and observe my care. I do not want to ever be in a facility that denies her access to me unless it is a prison. Weirdly enough in the case of a prison, she’d still be able to visit.

Hospitals of course weight varying interests when establishing policy. Covid, though, has caused a lot of decisions to be made with inadequate information or in fear of liability. You, as a family member, are powerless to appeal, threaten, or sue hospitals for their policies.

One of my friends in particular was forced to endure days of being away from her dying husband. She finally was allowed to see him shortly before his death. I think Northwest Arkansas was on the verge of mounting an insurrection had she not been granted access. All those days they were separated were needless and harmed the public interest. Anyone looking at the issue from a wide perspective agrees that blanket no-visitor policies only serve to hurt human beings. They are written to protect hospitals – which already enjoy immunity and liability protection. If you read my emails below, I address the futility and stupidity of these policies that prohibit loved ones from seeing their family.

During those weeks, despite the fact that the policies did not affect me personally, I wrote opinion pieces and contacted as many interested people as I could to object to these horrific no-visitor policies. The silence from those who could have made sensible changes was astonishing. The same was true regarding efforts to test everyone working in healthcare.

My mother-in-law was rushed to the ER. She was suffering from what we presumed to be diabetic shock. We all met at the ER entrance at the hospital. No one was allowed to enter the ER with her, despite her deteriorating condition and her complex medical condition. A State Trooper, complete with gun, badge, and uniform sent a clear message to my sister-in-law that family members were the problem.

My mother-in-law is 80. She sat in a chair unattended for quite a while, getting worse. No one was there to insist they be cautious with fluid intake, insulin, or the other things that were vital to her proper and safe care. My mother-in-law’s inability to have someone there as her advocate and loved one contributed to a level of care that suffered as a result. Now that the moment has passed, the hospital can claim this to be untrue. As we’ve discovered once again with our recent riots and the events that precipitated them, events that are recorded or witnessed are more difficult to excuse away. Prior to covid, one of the best means to improve a patient’s care was to have both companionship and oversight for that patient. Those will diligent family members directly improve and suffer fewer health complications than those who don’t. No-visitor policies have stripped patients of the right to have oversight by those who care for them.

I wrote the hospital through its portal. My goal was to request permission to assist in better care for my family member, as well as provide companionship. I knew that the approaching holiday weekend would increase her isolation. Here’s what I wrote:

“My mother-in-law is in your facility.

I work at another hospital. I’m COVID-negative and get screened each day.

I’d like to know why I am not allowed entry into the hospital to visit my mother-in-law.

She was admitted through the ER without a COVID test. I also know that even though hospitals are testing all elective surgery candidates, they are not testing all employees within the facility.

IF you have a method to allow me to visit, please advise me as to the protocol.

Thanks, X Teri”

Someone wrote back:

 

“Thanks for reaching out to us and I’m sorry your mother-in-law is ill. If you will send your phone number, I can have one of our nursing leaders call you. I’m copying our Interim CNO in case she is able to respond by email but I think a phone call would be easier.
These are certainly tough times for everyone and we are sorry for the pain and inconvenience these temporary policy changes on visitation are causing. As you know, they are in place to minimize risks of patients or staff health being compromised, particularly since many people are asymptomatic before they test positive for covid.”

In short, the above is a “No, you may not visit” response.

The next day, I received a reply from someone else, presumably higher in authority:

“Teri, ____________ copied me on your request to evaluate the possibility of visitation at _______________ hospital. As I am sure you recognize, this is a difficult time, the surge of Covid patients has required administration at our hospital, as well as the region, to place restrictions on visitor access. These efforts are to mitigate any possible exposure to our patient population already managing their illnesses or post surgical recovery.

We have made available to our staff access to ipads or recommended the use of phones to support face time calls and discussions with the nursing and physicians if requested by the identified contact family member to provide additional means of support. Nursing staff are available 24/7 to connect with families.

I can empathize with the challenges this places on families but safety is our priority at this time as we continue to care for our community.

Please reach out to me personally if you have any additional questions or needs.

Thank you for your understanding.”

 

Here is my reply:

 

“Thank you for replying.
 
My first name is X, as unusual as that is. This isn’t a “gotcha” email. Please don’t interpret this email as an attack. I am writing it in one fell swoop to voice my objection and concern.
 
I have a family member in your facility. I know that her initial care was less than desirable due to no one being allowed to accompany her during her initial ER visit. No matter how the issue is characterized, she did not receive the care she could have, precisely because the adopted no-visitor policy prohibited her caregiver or another person from being present. This absence needlessly caused the healthcare workers to lack information that would have affected both the timeliness and effectiveness of her treatment. I don’t expect anyone to enthusiastically agree with my assessment. It is, however, a hard truth – and one supported by the facts.
 
I understand the issues surrounding covid.
 
One of the things that has long puzzled me is that while hospitals pre-test elective surgery patients, we still haven’t tested all healthcare workers.
 
Statistically speaking, we know that we have covid-positive healthcare worker cases. We had the opportunity prior to resuming surgery schedules to test each team member at our local hospitals. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t do so.
 
This continues to trouble me greatly as I see families grapple with the ‘no visitor’ policies. I knew it would eventually come around and affect me personally.
 
Knowing that “we don’t know” whether healthcare workers continue to expose patients is an issue that I can’t get around. While I, as a worker in a healthcare facility in Northwest Arkansas, get screened daily, have been tested for covid and follow routine precautions each day, can’t assist in the healthcare of my family member. This disconnect isn’t logical and doesn’t serve my family’s interests or those of public health.
 
While I still would not agree with the visitor policies most hospitals have adopted, I find it illogical that hospitals are not doing everything possible to help our community; such efforts would include testing each and every team member at your facilities. It certainly would allow for those of us in healthcare and who have been tested to be allowed to see our family members.
 
The fact that I’ve been tested when most of your staff has not should be sufficient justification to be allowed to wear PPE and see my family member. Once you see it written that way, it is hard to continue to see fit to disagree with my claim that I should be able to visit my family member.
 
I don’t expect my reasoned response to draw a change of heart for your hospital.
 
I’ve argued against these policies from the day they were implemented.
 
Each of us is exposed and exposes others on a daily basis. It’s true that we might hopefully reduce our involvement, the statistical truth is that we have passed the point of logical precautions.
 
While it might be easier to issue a blanket no-visitor policy, it is one not based on consistent logic or one taking into account the needs of human beings when they are ill.
 
I only wrote back in the futile chance logic would prevail and I’d be allowed to visit my mother-in-law.
 
Absent that, I did not want my silence to be interpreted as agreement with a policy that goes too far and without merit to the extreme of impacting our companionship and oversight of the care our family member might receive.

 

The first person wrote me back, instead of the person higher up. A holiday weekend was approaching. It’s likely the higher-up was off for the holiday.

“X – thank you for copying me on this. I am not a clinician but what you say does make sense to me & I can assure you it will be discussed. In fact, we all know that – in ordinary times – we encourage involvement of family members & other caretakers. ______________ checks email regularly and would encourage you to reach out to her or the house supervisor any time you want to discuss a concern or have a question. Again, I’m sorry for the issues that have led to these temporary very strict policies”

I waited and heard nothing directly about my appeal or request. So, I wrote both of the people I’d heard from:

“I know the holiday probably exacerbated _________’s lack of enthusiasm to attempt a reply to me. I forwarded the email to you because you were the first point of contact for my issue. Each day that passes with rules that force distance between family members is one that cannot be reclaimed.

In your reply, you said something critical to my issue: “…these temporary very strict policies…”

From a family point of view, the policy that prohibits me from seeing my mother-in-law isn’t temporary. It could very well be permanent. I know people who experienced that very issue. They didn’t get the chance to speak face-to-face with their loved ones. They’d entered healthcare facilities without oversight and companionship. And they died in those conditions.

While I objected to these policies when they did not personally affect me, I’m flummoxed to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced them how needlessly draconian they are. Because I have a view from the inside, I know that these policies are blanket policies and do not generally advance the objective of public safety that they purport to. In my case specifically, they only do harm.

I enter a larger healthcare facility each day, get screened, and have been tested for covid. Yet, when misfortune touched my family, I was somehow classified as the general public and denied access to my family member. I’ve been tested for covid, which is far and away more than the overwhelming majority of healthcare workers in your facility can say.

Additionally, your healthcare workers live and work in one of the hottest hot spots in the United States. They eat, shop, and move about among a high concentration of people who do not wear masks and do not observe proper social distancing. Your healthcare workers, the ones caring for my mother-in-law, come to work after such exposure each and every day. Even though I work in a similar but different environment, I am lumped in with the general public, despite being tested and despite following protocols when out in public.

It is lunacy to deny me access to my mother-in-law. Factually speaking, I present LESS exposure to your staff and other patients than your own healthcare workers.

It’s easy for me to get preachy in these emails. On the other hand, hospitals are places where people experience tragedy daily.

When people are ill, especially as old as my mother-in-law, there is no such thing as temporary.

The policies you are enforcing might well be permanent in my case. I don’t know how else to say it.

When logic does not intersect with law (and voluntary rules), the effect is that people needlessly are harmed.

If hospitals don’t intelligently and scientifically lift these burdensome and needless restrictions, the same policies may one day befall you and your loved ones.

Again, I didn’t expect a reversal of policy but I honestly hoped that sense, logic, and compassion would prevail.

I’m still waiting. I’m not the first. And it is a further tragedy that I will not be the last.

X”

I haven’t received a reply, of course. Two days have elapsed. I wrote them a final email, after hearing nothing in response.

“Given that I wrote Saturday and did not receive a reply, I am assuming that my emails weren’t bumped up for further consideration? I didn’t know if there was an appeal process or if an edict had been announced that allows for no variance. I know that some patients were allowed visitors in the interim.

I can understand if you would have said, “The matter is closed.” I wouldn’t be happy, but it at least it would have been a final statement.

Since this issue came up for me personally, several people have reached out and provided me with details about other families and how they were dealt with. I have a lot to consider going forward.

Under the assumption that no one will reach out to me again, I’ll close by saying that it was wrong for _____________________ to prevent me from being with my mother-in-law in the ER and thereafter in her room. It’s a policy without logical footing and one which inhibits the public health you’re charged to protect.

Thanks, X”

As with thousands of others, the hospital has artificially and needlessly robbed me of my ability to be with my family member.

Looking at my case specifically, it is a fact that I present less of a risk to patients and staff than the staff members working in the facility do. I can prove I’m not covid positive. I can enter using PPE that eliminates the risk. Meanwhile, staff members caring for patients at the facility that denies me entry are working, shopping, and living in one of the hottest hot spots per capita in the United States. They haven’t been tested. They walk among a community that does not protect itself by wearing masks or social distance at a rational and reasonable level.

They are a bigger risk than I am.

I’m been tested. They have not.

Anyone who doesn’t question these policies hasn’t had the misfortune of watching their family member needlessly suffer.

My mother-in-law moved a few months ago from a remote location to Springdale in part to be closer to medical care when needed. We’ve visited more in the last few months than we have in years. Ironically, hospitals have worsened that wound of isolation by refusing to allow me to see her.

One hundred thousand people die from infections they receive while in healthcare facilities. This was true before covid.

The workers caring for my mother-in-law haven’t been tested, even though it is an obvious step to ensure the public health and employee safety.

Somehow, I’m the problem?

These policies must go. They must be replaced by sensible public policy and hospital rules that take into account the interests of the whole patient.

Test all healthcare workers, both now and on a scheduled timeline.

Allow designated visitors, even if a covid test is required.

Ask patients and visitors to sign a liability form, to address the primary and obvious reason that hospitals continue to abuse their discretion regarding visitors.

Require masks in public.

Or..

Continue to do the same.

.

.

.

P.S. The hospital responded to my appeal request on Friday, days after my mother-in-law was discharged. It’s hard to make this stuff up.

 

 

 

 

I Have A Question

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I’m still waiting for a reasonable, honest answer to this question: why did the State of Arkansas fail to require a Covid test for all healthcare workers?

You’ll note that the Governor goes out of his way to classify correctional carriers and other sectors. Notably absent? Healthcare workers – one of the single most important possible classifications to track.

It has always been in the public’s best interest to ensure that all healthcare workers are tested, yet proposals to do so have been unceremoniously shown the door like a drunken Uncle on New Year’s Eve.

We’re required to get flu shots each year, among other things.

We mandated that non-emergency patients be tested, yet did not conduct a baseline safety test to benchmark how many of the healthcare workers helping them might be carrying the virus.

Knowing how many healthcare workers have the virus would give us insight into the behavior leading to getting it. After all, healthcare workers are presumed to be the most cautious and educated about this sort of public health hazard. Their infection rate leads to immediate recognition of how well what we’re doing is working.

When I point this out to people, they get that recognizable and confused, puzzled look on their faces, the one that immediately indicates that they assumed that sort of thing had happened.

It hasn’t.

This kind of question falls under “public safety and worker safety” guidelines, so I of course am unconcerned about asking such a reasonable question publicly. I’ve asked it at least 500 times in the last two months.

I’m still asking.

It’s the right thing to do, even at this late date.
– X

Food For Thought(less)

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This post is a wild mix of fun facts, commentary, and anecdotes about my life. If you’ve ever ridden a rollercoaster while stitching up a hole in your own abdomen, this post is for you. I give you my word that at least one thing will make you ponder.

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“I knew my instincts were right about how stupid the guy was. Blondes kept telling jokes about him.” – X

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People look at me like I’m crazy when I mention déjà rêvé. It’s a cousin of déjà vu, except it’s the sensation you’ve dreamed the moment instead of experiencing it.

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“Yes, he listens carefully. The problem is that he’s the only one talking.” – X

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I was born in Brinkley, Arkansas, inside Monroe County. My Mom’s maiden name was “Winston,” we lived on “Easy Street,” and my first pet’s name was “Grandpa.” Some of that’s true if you’re guessing passwords.

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While I’m not going to cite the amount of beer supposedly lost in beards in the U.K., I am mentioning it only because it means someone has studied and calculated the amount. It reminds me of when I was younger and read “Innumeracy,” and discovered that hair growth rate can be expressed in MPH. (It’s also partially responsible for why I love the measurement “furlongs per fortnight.”)

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Related to the above, it’s also why I cringe a little when I hear someone say, “it is a fraction of the amount” or something similar. 7/6 is a fraction – and it’s more than 100%.

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If you don’t have two-factor authentication turned on for everything important, you’re in trouble. If you don’t know what that is, please comment below and provide the last 4 digits of your social security number and a photocopy of your Blockbuster card.

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Bela Lugosi, Jr., noted vampire actor, was buried in his cape. That’s not the part I find amusing. He was married five times. Are they SURE they know how his wives died?

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I spent most of my life saying “I have two siblings.” It’s hard adjusting to saying a different number. I’m fascinated by the idea that my long-lost sister is more well-educated, nicer, and honest than all the rest of us combined.

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I think Edward Cullen of “Twilight” would have been more interesting had he suffered from Arithmomania like Count Von Count (from Sesame Street) did, and as most vampires did in traditional vampire stories.

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“I had a brush with death, followed by a comb with injury.” -X

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Using physiological comparison software, I realized on Tuesday that my paternal grandmother is more of a man than I’ll ever be. I’m not sure which of us I’m insulting by saying so.

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Infrequently, someone will mock me for choosing my first name based on a coin flip. They look at me confusedly when I told them that Portland, Oregon got its name the same way. Had the coin landed on its obverse side, it would be “Boston, Oregon.”  (“Obverse” side is a clever way to call the coin toss when it’s thrown. Most people will say, “What the hell side is an obverse?” You, therefore, win on the vocabulary high ground.)

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I’m anticipating the next wood-cutting season. I’ve found someone who’ll cut me a few ricks of manchineel wood for a few people. You’ll have to google this to figure out the joke. Who knew such a tree existed?

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I took one of those courses in Intense Conversations. After meeting my first practice partner and to break the ice, I said, “Yes, I do have a collection. I now own 347 different skull fragments.”

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The term “buttload” is actually a legitimate measurement. I could explain it to you, but you wouldn’t believe me. Look it up for yourself.

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Regardless of what the McDonald’s window worker intended, what she said was: “Pull forward to #1.” I should have done exactly that, even though I was next to the highway. Next time, I dare her to tell me to pull forward and #2. It’s gonna get ugly.

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While I’m no arborist, there’s such a thing as a “fruit salad tree.” I like to mention it from time to time just to see who’s following the conversation.

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“Kill them with kindness,” the woman obsessed with optimism told me. Thanks for the felony conviction, lady.

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The first time I almost entered the U.S. Army, I was going to be in the U.S. Army Band. People with musical ability should consider it to be more realistic of an option than becoming a professional athlete. Also, it’s rare for a trumpet-player or guitarist to get shot. Unless they play “Freebird” in the wrong chord.

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Beth’s grandfather used to say, “She went to Muskogee!” Beth now uses it as a veiled threat to imply that bad kids go there.  Few people know that Muskogee is the only dictatorship in the United States. Okay, I made that last bit up, but you did kind of wonder for a second, didn’t you?

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“Quotation marks are the devil’s hemorrhoids.” – After reading a blowhard grammarian say that everything about grammar that needs to be said has already been said, I coined this new phrase.

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Of all the things that I cite for keeping me alive in my youth, I credit these: Grandpa, Grandma, band, books, Barbara, and an ongoing belief that somehow life couldn’t be the sum of what I experienced.

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“The Consequences Of My Own Actions” is a book I definitely don’t want to read. Ironically, this will be another consequence of my own inaction.

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I have officially petitioned to become the next Secretary of Defense. (Preferably of the United States.) In my first act, I will order that all bombs be replaced with glitter bombs. Not only will a fifty-five thousand pound bag of glitter exploding a mile over a city send a clear message, but it will keep everyone cleaning for an eternity. Additionally, pretty much everyone will look fabulous.

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They told me to put on “big boy pants.” Now, I look ridiculous with my legs stuck in really tight pants. Even though the effect is ridiculously slimming.

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“I talk to my brother twice a day. Luckily, I limit each call to three words per call.” – X

(Hallmark card in the making?)

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A lot more people would be vegetarians if they had an official hat.

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I think we can all agree: anyone asking someone to sing a high school alma mater song or fight song should be charged with a felony. If elected President, I will abolish these immediately, or that they all be sung in Gibberish – since that’s what it sounds like anyway. My sincere apologies to the three people in the country who like them, along with the five Bologna Ice Cream aficionados.

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“People put us in some strange positions. Monday, the mechanic put me into the lotus position and it took me an hour to extricate myself.” – X

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“Let there be delight…” is a phrase we can all get behind. – X

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I often say, “I look forward to serving you” while doing customer service because it’s a Hannibal-inspired statement more than one of service.

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Many people know the word “schadenfreude.” It’s not a German word anymore. It’s English – because we stole it. It’s okay to say it started as a German word, but not to insist that it still is. It’s a subtle difference, but one that purists and the grammar police should note. A few people know that there’s an English-language equivalent: “epicaricacy.” But if you hear someone use it instead of “schadenfreude,” you can be sure they should NEVER be invited to a party.

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My wife Dawn was actually born in Springfield, Illinois. Her mom Julia got kicked out of the state for illegally boxing without a license. Part of that statement is true.

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One thing you don’t see a lot of historical shows are squirrels. That’s weird because squirrels were one of the most common pets in early United States history. They were easy to acquire, keep, and replace. Also, people often mention their scratchy claws when objecting to their domestication. Those same people often have toenails that resemble the fingers of Nosferatu.

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The once ubiquitous breakfast cereal of corn flakes was invented by a desire to prevent masturbation. And not just at the breakfast table, I presume?
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The Be-Nice Social Media Meme Quandary

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I’m not a fan of a quick recap or drive-by. I want three shotgun blasts to the thorax, using words, just to be sure. I’m obligated to kill the “be nice, you don’t know…” meme – and bury it under an avalanche of words.

A popular meme and motivational cliché challenge us to be nice to people because we don’t know what invisible battles they’re fighting. (Maybe their anger, mistreatment, and lashing out is motivated by something else.)

Duh!

That’s true for literally everyone, each day – unless we’re surrounded by sociopaths and mean people. Most good people swallow reactions to misbehavior constantly, without comment or repayment. As an outsider, you don’t know how many times someone might have overlooked being treated rudely or mistreated. We only see the consequence and not the long hill of effort to be kind that preceded an outburst.

It’s reciprocal, though, that expectation of kindness or overlooking someone’s inexplicable mean behavior that affects you. You’re not logical if you extend the benefit of the doubt to one participant without also extending it to the other.

People secretly fighting invisible battles should stop blame-shifting honest reactions on the people who are unaware of the circumstances.

We are all jerks; luckily, we’re just jerks on differing schedules.

Reciprocate and assume that I might have a bad day, bad life, or a particular circumstance myself.

Be honest with me and I’ll probably tolerate you lighting my toes on fire.

Like all clichés and generalizations, it’s almost meaningless to ask people to assume that all misbehavior results from an unseen struggle. We’re all going to say and do stupid things, especially hurtful things that we might not have intended to be so harsh.

Most of us are around a few people who lack basic decency. They gaslight and lash out regularly, then use any of our honest reactions against us. They’re the worst. They prey and thrive on the drama.

I’m around two of the worst sociopaths I’ve ever met on a routine basis. They’re toxic, angry, and abusive. They are masters at manipulation. It’s exhausting and needless. They always have an excuse to pardon their horrendous behavior.

P.S. I know this post is potentially contradictory, accusatory, and perhaps upsetting. Maybe I’m having a bad day, though.

So do as the memes demand and give me a break.

You don’t know what’s going on in my life.

Whatever it is, though, it’s my responsibility to throttle my misbehavior, angry words, or discourteousness before asking you automatically to give me a pass. I expect the same from you. It works 99% of the time.

So, enough with the “Be nice, you never know” positivity memes. They’re vacuous and defy the complexity of human emotions and interaction.

Good people need not be told. Bad people don’t care. And sometimes, we can be both.

 

What Exactly Are They Sending You?

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I wrote the draft of this post years ago, precovid.

Years ago, I remember watching a “60 Minutes” segment and seeing a railroad car carry chemicals to one destination and then refill with apple juice, without being cleaned between fills. When I worked at a dairy, I was surprised to see that clumpy, black, clotted milk would be put in the holding tank to save money, because as long as the main tank passed inspection, it didn’t matter if someone shoveled manure into it. It’s true that pasteurization awaited the milk.

To frame it another way, though, you likely wouldn’t eat a bowl of ice cream if you knew it had 1% manure in it, no matter how safe it might be to eat.

I saw other things which were more troublesome while working in the poultry industry, which is plagued by food-borne illnesses and contaminants, even though they constantly assure us that every conceivable measure is being taken to ensure a safe food supply, even as they speed up processes, reduce costs and USDA inspectors, and reduce human intervention. If human beings are involved and profit is a primary consideration, it is no stretch to imagine all possible scenarios where corners might be cut. People inevitably cut corners, especially people who are pressured into working faster, with fewer people, and whose profit margin shrinks as they take the time to do their job more safely.

PSA: You’ve all seen the delivery drivers throw packages in and out of their trucks, across fences, or into swimming pools. If you haven’t witnessed it personally, the internet has probably shown you a few examples of packages being tossed like beanbags all through the delivery process. Even when they don’t throw or mishandle packages, they are constantly falling over, rolling, or upended during handling and transport.

I won’t mention any companies by name, of course, but some bring you clothes, electronics, food, and toys for your children. It’s convenient.

You don’t think twice about it, I’m sure.

Without being specific, a huge range of things is shipped by carriers. They can send diagnostic samples, clinical samples, blood, human tissue, and about a 1,000 other things you’ve never thought about. I’m surprised how many people assume that such things are segregated on other carriers or trucks. They are not. Also, it’s important that people know that the classification systems used to determine what can be shipped are a little dubious. Some items are recycled medical devices which are treated as highly infectious inside their point-of-use, yet are packaged and transported on the same trucks as your personal items.

The same drivers you see throwing packaged from across the yard are often the drivers transporting the things I’ve mentioned.

Whether they are hazardous or not is at times subject to opinion. Many times, no one knows what is inside the boxes. Even if they do know, speed demands that the packages be handled quickly, not carefully. The packaging is at the whim and mercy of anyone who took the time to ensure it was sealed properly or not. Anything in the distribution chain, however, is subject to the same treatment that you’ve watched on YouTube videos. You can Google the issue for yourself. You’ll be surprised at what can be sent on the same vehicles as your children’s toys, clothes, and food items.

It’s a small leap in logic to assume that these unmarked packages sometimes containing hazardous materials spill, going out onto your food packages, baby toys, or laptops. You then touch them without ever realizing that they have been exposed to waste products.

Many delivery and shipping companies use contractors. These contractors control their own processes, pay for their own vehicles, and so on while using the logos of the respective companies. Speed and efficiency are prized factors at every step of the delivery process. If you didn’t know, many drivers often resort to urinating in containers in their vehicles, no matter whose packages they are handling. Think about it the next time a driver hands you a scanner to sign your name.

Although I have not expressed my point very well, it can be summed up this way: if you receive anything shipped, you should assume that careless people handled the items and that anything you receive might have been contaminated accidentally or negligently at any point in the process. Further, reducing costs tends to drive what processes and training are in place to protect us.

Those videos of drivers throwing your packages are simply the visible consequence of our poorly-managed distribution system.

 

A Sign Your Boss or Job Sucks

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Do you want to know a sure sign you work somewhere where either the organization is terrible – or the boss is?

If they want to limit discussion to only your reaction, rather than the actions, words, or circumstances which triggered you, it’s a poor organization. Even people accused of murder have the opportunity to detail the timeline of events that preceded the alleged crime.

People are complex. Most people rarely flame out or over-react.

If your boss fails to listen, regardless of how ‘busy’ he or she is, it is likely the job or boss sucks. If it becomes a pattern, it is a certainty.

If your boss vocalizes the idea or emails any insinuation that your concerns are trivial, you work for a poor boss.

If someone uncharacteristically lashes out, you need to stop and examine what happened – as if human beings are involved. Forget the check-boxes and paint-by-the-numbers nonsense that HR insists that you use. Good HR representatives are compassionate, but it’s vital to remember that their primary responsibility is toward the company, which by definition is impersonal.

Good people don’t lash out or lose their sh#t unless they’ve been ignored.

In the last few years, most of us have witnessed the role of HR diminish from watchdog to whitewash. As organizations silo their areas, poor managers tend to become worse managers – and without anyone properly keeping an eye on them.

So many of us tolerate stress, mismanagement, misbehavior, or other cumulative craziness without a comment. Without warning, the valve blows and we react.

The boss rarely understands that we might be around a toxic employee or drama llama, or that employees are expected to do too much or tolerate behavior that would never be forgiven outside of work. Because businesses are running leaner or management is less well-trained than previously, the issues tend to flame out with greater consequence.

I see this becoming a worse problem as managers focus on metrics and impersonal considerations ahead of our humanity. As we emerge into a postcovid workforce, I predict that there’s going to be a great deal of backlash with this, even though many workers will continue to work from home.

When managers shift to priority management, especially during a crisis, people have fewer ways to vent their grievances. Despite the fact that most bosses grow to despise this part of their job, it’s actually more important than ever that they grin and bear it as they listen to their subordinates. Even if they don’t appreciate the alleged severity of the issues, failing to provide a release valve will hurt everyone. Pressure always leaks out of the organization. Whether it leaks out harmfully depends on the individual who is being ignored.

While it is simply my opinion, I think organizations need to stop leaning toward efficiency. Most people do their jobs well without micromanagement. The human component, the part needing attention, is suffering now more than ever. I see it in real-time.

I know the agony bosses suffer when they listen to a lot of complaining. It works precisely like a marriage, though. If you stop listening, you’re going to find your stuff piled in a flaming heap in the driveway.

Besides, in my experience, the terrible bosses who do this sort of thing are the worst when someone does the same to them. They will destroy the entire business if necessary if they are judged in a vacuum and without being afforded the opportunity to explain why they lost their sh#t.

 

A Problem For Everyone

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Note: Precovid, I was waiting on someone to get back to me on a particularly grim allegation. They lost their nerve. This isn’t a fun post. It’s just commentary I had to significantly pare down to avoid being sued by the organization involved in the allegation. Whatever we hear on the news, people talk and tell their stories.

For whatever reason, I’ve been reading a lot lately about abuse and abuse of authority or position. I know a couple of incredible stories involving people locally. Both are quite simply shocking and fascinating. Those stories aren’t mine to tell. Even though it might surprise some of my acquaintances, I sometimes get to hear accounts of things that you’ll never see on social media. I’m inclined to write about such things. For every incident of abuse or rape, many more go unreported.

A friend sent me a link to one of the databases identifying the “credibly accused” clergy of the Catholic church. We’ve since learned that a huge number of clergy simply had their names omitted from the list. A few thousand of those credibly accused also continue to live normal lives, in all manner of occupations, without being required to get help, register as a sex offender, or comply with any of the other restrictions placed on people in the general public who’ve committed the crime of abuse.

The topic swirls around me periodically due to books, movies, or stories that intermittently surface about the church. There’s always another bombshell, another revelation, in part because a group of old men thinks that secrecy will quell the truth. It is astonishing to me that those in charge of a church would ever seek to silence the truth, especially a truth which reveals that the institution has a serious problem. I keep waiting for people to stand up and say “Enough!” It’s not disloyal to your church to demand accountability. It’s disloyal to fellow humans to fail to do so.

From there, I opened the box of curiosity that led me to other cases locally. I have an inside view of a couple of them. What we’re told publicly is seldom most of the story. So many victims fail to come forward. Those who do are pitted against a variety of obstacles that impede and shame them, especially if the abusers are backed by organizations or have wealth to subvert the legal system to avoid accountability. A local case here wherein a professional abused his clients drove home to me that no amount of evidence and testimony will get someone convicted if they have lawyers to stymy the process.

Another friend reminded me of Priest Joseph Correnti, who called Tontitown’s St. Joseph home from 1995 to 2002.

He admitted to abusing children and then committed suicide the next day.

His actions weren’t revealed publicly until years later, after statues and places of meditation were created in his honor. A couple of victims came forward, one of them to sue. As well he should; the church participated in a scheme to protect and conceal the worst among us.

“It just doesn’t seem like he would have hurt somebody” are the words from one parishioner, upon hearing the revelations about Correnti. Those words echo in my ears. Like so many other Northwest Arkansas professionals, whether they be clergy, dentists, doctors, lawyers, police, or teachers, it’s important to remember that these predators do not have in fact wear a headband with the word “Danger” on their foreheads. I mean no harm toward the parishioner, who was surprised by the priest’s abuse of minors. A good head always strives to see the best in people.

I am surprised, though, that people still say they are surprised by abuse with a straight face.

When the evidence is presented, it’s part of our duty as adults to attempt to examine it.

If you understand that 1 in 25 priests was accused of abuse, it would stand to reason that you would, in fact, NOT be shocked that one of those is hiding in plain sight in your congregation. Those who abuse are precisely the people you trust; anyone and any occupation can be guilty.

If you have any experience with human nature, you know that monsters hide behind smiles, charity, and opportunity. Just because someone was an angel to you does not mean that they are doing some serious perverse things in secret. As I’ve written about before, a lot of friends have shared their stories of abuse with me, whether it was sexual, emotional, or physical. Many of them were put in the position of hating or accusing people who seemed to have lived lives of morality and respectability. Even though I have examples other than my dad, I want to scream when people find it hard to believe that he committed armed robbery, killed someone, beat his family, and so on. I’ve since learned other things about him that don’t rehabilitate his reputation.

People you knew growing up were abused. People you may know are guilty of abusing others. Given that I know several people who were abused when they were younger, I can say with certainty that a lot of predators live(d) in Northwest Arkansas. Most of them, even if accused, are walking around freely among us.

There are a lot more clergy guilty of abuse – and a lot more victims that we’ll never hear about. The victims of this abuse are listening to us as we bicker and argue about the issue, much in the same way that women who’ve been abused or assaulted sit in silence as their friends and relatives say some spectacularly ill-advised things about the subject.

It’s not anti-Catholic to discuss priest abuse. It is, however, unreasonable to fail to address this sort of thing aggressively. If clergy are abusing people, it’s on all of us to report them. What particular religion, position, or church is involved is irrelevant.

One of our greatest tools to combat predators is to stop the ongoing nonsense of secrecy. If a pastor, therapist, or priest is involved, feed him to the criminal justice system, independently of whether he gets help. Stop focusing on controlling publicity. Such secrecy damages the entire organization’s credibility.

The reason I know that there’s still a huge problem, aside from the statistics, is that when I bring this issue up, I get a lot of anger from those who are members of the organizations. This signals that the shield of secrecy is still very much at play. Until people demand accountability from their church, the church won’t address the issue completely. The cycle continues.

One of our most adult realizations is that anyone can misbehave no matter what organization they belong to. We should embrace the possibility that their misbehavior does not necessarily reflect on the entire organization. Sometimes, it does, especially when the organization or its members align to conceal the problem or defend those who have no grounds for defense.

The church cannot reach a minimum level of trust until it trusts everyone with the full accounting of what’s happened in the past.

Every human system is going to have humans who abuse it. It is no shame to oust those abusers publicly. Don’t defend them or the organization that continues to fail the people who are abused. There is no defense.

It isn’t a Catholic problem. It’s a human problem, one we should discuss.

We hear so much about the Catholic church precisely because of its size, reach, and influence.

We have to stop allowing people to resist open discussion when cases arise.

Beanfield’s & Trombone Pants Syndrome

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In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” Douglas Adams described the alien Vogon spacecraft this way: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

While the description is metaphorical nonsense, it makes perfect sense. This is the sort of whimsical logic that appeals to me. While most observers would think it isn’t reflective of who I am, they are mistaken.

I recently tried another food which is nothing like the name would suggest. Somehow though, it eclipses the source inspiration for texture and flavor. In addition to a flavor that is plant-based, you don’t have to idly wonder how close to the pig’s anus the skin you’re eating might have been prior to being a pig carcass. When it’s fresh, it definitely fulfills one’s texture-based cravings.

On my last trip to my favorite cabin, I was shopping using the ‘anything goes’ method, one which is characterized by pure whimsy. On one of the aisles, I saw Beanfield’s Vegan Cracklins. The grocery stores in Eureka Springs and Holiday Island offer selections that are often unique, right alongside the expected staples of a smaller town grocery.

I’ve tried Beanfield’s bean chips. I loved the Pico de Gallo flavor. They aren’t available in my customary stores. I’ve been banned from Whole Foods ever since the incident on April 24th of 2019. Okay, that isn’t true either. But I like to think I made you wonder, just for a second, what I did to get banned from Whole Foods.

It sounds like a prank, doesn’t it? While I like putting fried pigskin in my mouth as much as the next guy, something about the packaging appealed to me. I picked the “Spicy Nacho” flavor under the mistaken notion that it would be the one my wife would enjoy the most. I usually choose based on whatever is the most outlandish.

Available in Chile Limon, Spicy Nacho, Ranch, Korean BBQ, and Frozen Bat’s Testicles flavors, there’s a flavor most will like. That last one? It isn’t real. They do, however, also have one labeled as “Aged White.” I can only ASSUME it is aged white cheese flavor, instead of some older gentleman named Archibald, Harold, or Bernard. Popular fads aside, most people don’t want products that are made from, or smell like, actual people. The people that do want to buy such products are not ones you should invite over for a game of poker unless you’re prone to self-loathing. Take note, Bachelor fans.

I didn’t buy them because they are vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein, or high in fiber. I bought them because it sounded weird to me.

My wife decidedly disliked the Spicy Nacho flavor, allegedly because it was ‘hot.’ Being of Irish, Scottish, and English descent, even white bread is a bit on the spicy side for her.

The texture is ridiculously crisp and the flavor pervades each cracklin.

For conservatives out there, eating this will not turn you into a liberal. You’ll experience a mild urge to tax and spend, so keep that in mind as you try them.

As with all bean products, over-consumption allegedly will give you Trombone Pants Syndrome. It’s not fatal, no matter how much your family groans and writhes as you all cluster together in the living room watching Netflix.

P.S. Eating these is what made me so buff.

 

Quick, Change Artist

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This is my infrequent post about what’s been said and written before.

If we are doing things right, we change. It usually happens incrementally and may pass unnoticed. At times, we also change in precipitous upheavals.

Our opinions, our underwear, our hair, and our viewpoint.

Those of us who share what we’re thinking run a much greater risk of what we’ve said being used to bludgeon us later – even if we no longer believe what we once did. In some cases, we never believed it.

Thinking out loud is impermanent; writing out loud leaves a traceable mark.

Even when we’re being authentic and unafraid of scrutiny, what we say and write is routinely perverted into its opposite.

I’m a moving target. It’s not because I’m being obtuse or evasive. Okay, obtuse maybe.

I learn new things. I change, adapt, and surprise myself. One thing that doesn’t surprise me is my ignorance because it is the default state for humans. We’re blank slates. We learn. We unlearn. What we continue to believe is a choice of action or inaction.

If we’re lucky.

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life. It will happen again. I’ll change my mind.

What once seemed so damned obvious is now clouded and obscure. Things I ‘knew’ as right now seem ludicrous. This process won’t change, not if I’m lucky.

If that bothers you or disarms your ability to point accusingly at me, I’ll buy you an ice cream cone. You can either enjoy it or put it on top of my head. It’s your choice – just as it’s your choice to embrace the fluid nature of what we know, believe, and put into practice.