Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Shut Up And Get Lost

I was asked for help by a senior citizen that I know to find out information on assisted living facilities in this area. They want to return to D.C. and they needed help in making new arrangements, as they see their abilities to continue living alone as diminishing. I was happy to oblige. Driving through some not very nice parts of the city, I couldn't help but notice how many slummy apartments bear these baronial names like..."The Newport," "The Willoughby Arms," "Bodleian Court," when they should really come clean and call themselves "MS-13 Mews," or "Carjack Crescent."

Where I was headed was a gated campus, quite spread out with two levels of retirement living: Independent and Assisted. There were even levels within those levels: three in Independent and five in Assisted. I began by being cleared by the guard at his post house and barricade, then I was directed to drive a distance to the "Town Center."

"We followed Debbie's directions to the "T."
So did the guy in the red shirt."

Upon arriving, I approached the information desk where Debbie, the "Communications Specialist," was chastizing a repairman. I know she was Debbie the Communication Specialist, because it said so on her tag. This was a sprawling community involving many roads, many buildings and many hallways, and this man was lost, trying to find out where he was supposed to go next with his toolbox in hand. "Shut up," she said to him. "I want you to just shut up and listen to me." This was an older gentleman, I should add. I paid heed to Debbie's convoluted directions, and I realized I wouldn't be able to find it myself. "You go down two miles into the area that is still under construction (no name road), then you go right, then you make another right, then you make a left, then you make a right, then a left, right, left. This will dead end, and then you make a left, then a right, left, left, right."

"Debbie said I was mean?
You go back to Debbie and say, "Eff you Debbie. EFF YOU!
...and here's five ways to eff yourself."

"You enter the building. There will be another mean lady, just like me, at a desk that will look exactly like this one. You mustn't care that she is mean. She is just mean." (I swear on a stack of Bibles she told him this). The poor soul. He had to ask her to repeat it, and I shrank back. "Listen! If I wasn't on the clock right now, I would come around from behind this desk and bite you!" Then she proceeded to give him the same directions again. He stumbled off with her last warning that if he got lost "just ask someone else."

Noticeably missing in the plant arrangement:
The Peace Lily

After this a resident shuffled up to the desk to retrieve a package, and I wanted to scream at her to run for it. This was in the Independent Living section, thank God, because if it was Blissful Dale (not real name) which is the Assisted Living section, those people would be in B-I-G trouble. When Debbie got to me she directed me to the door past "the plant there on the floor on the left wall." I almost wanted to toy with her (since there were three plants at that spot) and say "Which plant, Debbie? The first plant, the second plant or the third plant? The Philodendron Selloum, the Dieffenbachia or the Chamaedorea Elegans?" Leaving the campus, I couldn't help but think that Debbie learned her communication skills from Little Richard.

"Shut up. I said SHUT up. SHUT UP!!!"


Anonymous drew said...

"MS-13 Mews," or "Carjack Crescent."

I love it! A while ago, I was trying to encourage "truth in advertising" by renaming the 'Backstreet Boys' to the 'Cul de Sac Queens'. I don't think these boys ever grew up on the streets, let alone the "back streets". Pretty little panty-wastes. But, I've digressed....

I would have taken the tech-guy's defense and let that "bad reception"-ist have it square between the eyes. If I EVER hear anyone belittling someone like that, I tend to get pretty irrate. She would have known NOT to anger the man with the bluish-purple face with the scream in his eyes as he tries to gnash out "pleasantries" to avoid the inevitable explosion.

A conversation might have gone something like this, "Okay -- I'm the profit, and you're overhead. Let's begin again, shall we?" (I actually used that line once at a grocery store when the person laughed at me when I asked if they had boysenberry preserves.)

I would have followed up my request for directions to the receptionist with directions to the site administrator's office for staff complaints.

Well, your story pressed all my hot buttons. {chuckle} I applaud your ability to sit still during these events, my dear Cube. It must ONLY be, in part, because you know you will have something RICH to blog about upon your return. };^>

4:52 PM  
Blogger Stef said...

This makes me sad. I don't know much about the facilities that my grandmother is currently in or that my late grandfather was in, since we're not very close to that side of the family, but I have a feeling they were not the most pleasant of places. I just watched "In Her Shoes," and what struck me about that movie was that it seemed to be doing a real sales job for a quirky, bright, shiny, happy elderly community that can't possibly exist. Whose dream world is that? I hope you've found a much better option for your elderly friend.

And, your "talk to the hand" lady? That had me cracking up out loud!

5:21 PM  
Blogger ThaiMex1 said...

"you go right, then you make another right, then you make a left, then you make a right, then a left, right, left. This will dead end, and then you make a left, then a right, left, left, right." ... on an X-Box those are the 'secret codes' you need to get full, maximum firepower to your ionization denebulizer to defeat Shubb-Niggurath in Quake II.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

It really bothers me when people are mean to older folks. What do you get from being mean to grandma and grandpa aged folks?


9:01 PM  
Blogger cuff said...

Some people are just mean to be mean. They think somehow it's edgy. What a drag. I hope you find a decent place.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Miss Penny Lane said...


It has been too long since I've read your blog... are you off the beach and back to DC??

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Dave EE o said...

Cube, you got me wantin' some Little Debbie creme filled cupcakes... I'll have to settle for chips and salsa and a Newcastle Brown Ale ...

4:44 AM  
Blogger zeldafitz said...

Ooooo boy, welcome to the wonderful world of "assisted living"! You have to turn into sort of a pit bull/"advocate" and it's such a fine line because you don't want to alienate the staff--fearing they will gaslight your relative or friend--but...

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You've put him under some type of sexual spell; I can respect that. But Debbie: pastels?"


9:35 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

If I should survive long enough to need assisted living arrangements, will you please shoot me and put me out of my misery?

10:34 AM  
Blogger Kate said...


About 2 years ago my husband's friend Jack sold his Hill home and moved to an assisted living spot in Ballston, I believe. A very independent guy at 84 he loves it there. I will check with Frank for info. Also I work with people who run the Green Project funded by RWJ. One fellow in particular has contacts in the area. Will let you know.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Drew: I love your "Cul de Sac Queens." I'm always amazed at what conversations are out there for the blog grabbing.

Stef: It is sad. I hated to think of that bombastic bitch being let loose and rude to the seniors. What was really fascinated was there was I, a stranger, and she didn't even mask her behavior for my benefit.

Thai: Did you reach into the cereal box for the prize, rather than wait?

Mometary: What you get is a lot of future bad karma laid on your head. Those assisted living people need care more than ever, not some abusive creep.

Mass: I'm making the rounds on their behalf and getting the printed material to pass on. I've been projecting into the future wondering what fate awaits me.

Miss Penny: I've been back in D.C. since late November IF you were following my blog, Missy. ;) Just teasin' ya. Good to see you back.

Dave? You're a mess. :)

Zelda: This is what disturbs me. These people don't have anyone to be their advocate except the employees and then they bark at them? Not good. Debbie should seek new employment at the DMV.

Reya: Amen. I was thinking the exact same thing.

11:01 AM  
Blogger The Lily said...

Just as long as it is in DC.

Apparently the state of assisted living/nursing homes in VA has gone down the can.

Thefts, abuse, neglect, negligent VA code violations. The Post did a few articles on it last year.

Then again, I can't imagine that DC is any better with help like that. Holy cow.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Smash said...

This hurts my heart. After my father had a stroke, he had to live in an assisted living facility for a few years. The workers there were cruel and would steal clothes and movies from him as he watched, knowing he couldn't get up and do something about it.

12:20 PM  
Blogger mysterygirl! said...

Oh no. I hope there is a happy ending to this story. I'm terrified of those places.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Claire: It's bad across the board, I think, from the high end places on down...they've all got their problems, and it's a growing industry as we all live longer now.

Smash: And unfortunately you hear stories like your Dad's again and again of neglect, abuse, thievery.

Mystery: There are truly horrible. I've never heard of a solid, decent one. The one I wrote about was on the more upper end of things..and yet they had charming Debbie, working the front desk, so you ask, "How can that be?"

1:10 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

While "Assisted Living" does conjure up sad images of nursing homes and neglected old people - I must say some of these places are quite nice (not sure about the ones Cube ventured into).

I would live there myself if I could convince someone I was over 55.

That said, I understand the sentiment of what is portrayed to be "going off to die".

For years we tried to convince my grandmother to move out of her condo in chilly Minnesota and into Assisted Living (very nice accomodations - like a luxury apartment with help staff) down in the warm South. She refused. Months later she developed problems where, long story short, she could no longer swallow and made eating very difficult if not impossible. She had 2 choices: Move into an assisted living facility with a feeding tube or die. She chose the latter, and a week later was gone.

Some people just want to go out on their own terms, I guess, and I can certainly understand that.

3:14 PM  
Blogger playfulinnc said...

There's nothing more frustrating than a "communications specialist" who can't communicate.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Tales From the Club said...

My aunt is a "communications specialist" in the grand tradition of your little friend Debbie. Family gatherings are always fun, especially when her kids are acting up: "Jeremy, just shut your freakin' mouth, keep your darn feet under the table, and eat your stupid ham." Such, precise, clear directions that Jeremy alwasy follow right along. Right ...

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Hell! I hope you DON'T recommend that place to your friends! That's what you want to see when you go to a place meant to help older individuals...one of the employees yelling at an older person. Nice...

3:38 PM  
Blogger brando said...

That doesn't sound very fun at all. Good on you for hooking up that lady tho.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Johnny said...

Which way to the new post?

ahahaha! :p

1:17 PM  

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