This is an absolutely true story
”First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named
after me.” - Steve Martin
For years Willie has worked at The Methodist hospital with an
employee population larger than some successful cities. It even had its own zip
code. She never met with owners or presidents and folks were given performance
reviews with little fanfare. Having spent her years in the Coast Guard and then
Methodist, she had no idea about
the private sector.
She had set her sights on working at the V.A.
Hospital (Veteran’s Administration) in Houston. Actually, she felt entitled. She
had been in the Coast Guard for ten years, mostly with a
good record until she was put out because “she didn’t represent the C.G. in a
uniform well. Yes, they actually said and did that to her. Ten years of faithful
service, and she gained a little weight and she was out. I found that
reprehensible. She had many stories of her time in the C.G. and she
loved it there. She just couldn’t let go and spent every day of her life looking
back instead of forward. I felt if she did in fact get the position she craved,
perhaps she could let some of it go.
Her other reason she felt entitled I didn’t quite agree on. She was from the
deep South and try as she did, she couldn't shake her history. She lived in an
atmosphere of bigotry growing up in Alabama She felt the V.A.
hired an inordinate amount of minorities to meet their EOC, (Equal Opportunity
Commision).. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. I couldn’t’ actually
say. I feel there is a minority of whites in Houston and so we will see that
ratio in the work place. I do not think it is a hiring/racial thing, I just
think it is availability. But every day I had to hear about it. When she was at
Methodist, it was a big problem
with her. She felt if she got hired by the V.A.she would be at a fair advantage.
In the interim, she was going to work for a small organization. The irony of
all of this is, I actually worked on the design of this particular V.A.
and once it was finished and all the kinks worked out, I never thought I would
enter those doors again.
She could never understand about my coming and going in business. I would
work for a firm for 6 months to a year, mostly on contract, mostly repeat
business engaged by my Engineering firm, Willie and I put together, MD Tech, it
was a drafting/graphic’s art company. But there were occasions where I was “let
go”. Though there were occasions they simply did not want to do business with
me because WIllie would harangue them for payment, however, that is for another
post. . I really for the most part, had and have a good business partnership
with most firms, however,there were occasions that I was "let go" almost always
for the same reason.
Discrimination. One of the very worst was Roy Harper and Associates. When I
started working there, he was so happy, far beyond satisfied with my abilities.
He was a friendly sort and would engage me in long conversations about family
and the like. For my daughter’s high school graduation, he was going to come to
my house and make crawfish for the family party. He was very excited about this
and asked that I come to pick up his cooker the day before so he could just
bring himself, and the food... He heard me speak of Willie, but apparently
thought nothing of it. That changed quickly.
When Willie and I showed up at his house, he acted very strangely. Willie
looks very butch with a flat top typical clothing of Polo shirt, jeans and
tennis shoes or boots. He chose to pass judgement. He knew we had been living
together for several years. But please, I was a valuable worker and a good
person. You would have thought he was just told his house burned down. He took
me aside and said he wouldn’t be able to make the party. My heart sank. I had
folks from all over the globe coming. I immediately knew why of course, but felt
certain that was the end of that behavior. When I came in to work the following
Monday, he called me into his office.
“Dianne, please understand that what I have to say is no direct judgment of
you as a person and employee”.
I gave him credit for the eye contact and the folded hands.
“You know we build many churches and we cannot afford to lose revenue for
standing on principle” .
He continued with the yadayada, but truly, I actually understood where he was
coming form. And this was not my first trip on a sinking ship. No, it happened
at BDMI, (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and a few more companies that would take me to
task for a certain hypocritical liability.
I actually stayed at Harpers through the week to complete an expansion on one
of those churches. He trusted me enough to leave me there that Friday night. I
finished up, turned on the alarm, locked the door and put the key under a rock
where he told me. You would have thought this would have dissuaded Willie from
getting a position where her boss was in her business every day, but she was
determined. It was going to be different for her. So I created resumes and cover
letter, faxing them to the several organizations she plotted. One of them was a
dental firm, who actually hired her.
And then she got the opportunity to experience having to work with the owner
of the company you are with,. It was full of gossip, cheating, stealing
upstaging and aggrandizing and she seemed to thrive. She heard the tag line:
Hate the sin not the sinner. She didn;'t seem to mind. Until she slipped in
the laundry room on one of my negligee’s, one of the few times she was doing
laundry, and busted her leg up pretty badly.
We spent hours in the E.R. at Houston Northwest
Hospital. It was like the early days of Cook County in Chicago where there
were no free rooms. They had to reset her leg and made things worse. It is
called reducing. Yet, they never reduce anything and you can tell when a doctor
is doing it. Everyone can tell, because in spite of the massive amounts of
Demerol, there is some screaming going on. They did this several times. I got
into it with the Doctor and begged her to call my orthopedic doctor who fixes
everything pretty quickly and painlessly. But she refused. She was an intern and
she was going to do it herself. I begged and begged.
Eventually someone must have called because over the P.A.:
“Dr. Know-it-all, Dr. Fitzgerald is on line 4 for you”. I pick four because
that is how many times she “reduced” Willie’s leg.
Well Dr. Know-it-all was incensed “Did you call him!!! I told you not to call
him!” (I guess doing what’s right is not as important as doing what’s
What…wait…WHAT!!! Is this China? Am I really not allowed to do this? I told
her no I didn’t as she had done so much damage to Willie already I didn’t dare
put Willie’s LIFE at risk. Her leg was already looking like a mangled extension
of what it should be!
Thankfully Dr. Fitz told her to stop what she was doing. One reduction should
have been enough. Two was already looking dangerous, three “WHAT THE HELL SCHOOL
DID YOU GO TO ANYWAY???”
The nurse who called shirked sheepishly by and told me she made the call,
then immediately begged me to not tell Dr. Know-it, and she said she used the
term Doctor loosely.
After all, do you know what they call a doctor who graduates at the bottom of
her class? “Doctor” . Even lawyers lose their ability to practice – well, to get
a decent internship at a law firm if they don’t graduate at the top 5% of their
class. And if you graduate at the bottom, you get a job as a “person with a law
degree” I know this. I worked at an Engineering firm where one of the Mechanical
Engineers quit his job all pompous and everything
"I'm going to Law School, I am going to move on up from all you loosers!"
…he returned. He graduated at the bottom of his class. Because he had a “law
degree” they made him the Office manager. He did nothing but chew tobacco, spit
in a cup and recite racist, bigoted and homophobic salutations. When I asked him
where I could get a “Black’s Law
Dictionary” for Devon, he gave me his. Still in the packaging.
So things settled down at Houston Northwest
Hospital and Willie was allowed to leave with a temporary cast on her foot
with an appointment to see Dr. Fitz the next day. And Dr. Know-it was put on
probation. It seems that was her first day as the lead intern and what a bang-up
job she did! Literally.
After seeing the Dr. Fitzgerald, she was slated for surgery the same day and
she had to have several pins and a plate in her leg. This should have been a
pretty standard conclusion, but we were not so lucky. When making the fusion,
they needed to use donor bone. Which works very well in fact, if you don’t
smoke? Willie was not going to quit, so an injury that should have rectified
itself in 6 weeks dragged on for months. And then years. The little Dental firm
she was working for could not oblige this and since they were not backed with
the same employee morality issues as large firms, Willie was put out. She had
worked her best, but the pain was too much.
The private sector job told her they couldn’t keep her. She was all “OH my
God, I am gonna sue, they can’t do that etc. I simply smiled and said, yes they
can, and yes they do. No need for I told you so."
“Fuck that, I am never going to work for any company smaller than ten
thousand employees”. I.e. the government.
Willie had been out of work for some time. Her leg was too painful to even
take her across the room. She truly enjoyed convalescence. She said It is the
part that makes the illness worthwhile.
But she continued to smoke so the donor bone wouldn’t take. I told her I
didn’t give a shit if she smoked, but secretly I hated it. Especially when we
were in restaurants. My dad made a statement one time about smoking sections
being like having a peeing section in a public pool. He was a lung transplant
recipient and he always got a table at the demarcation line; i.e. the table next
to him was a smoking table. Anyway…yes she continued to smoke. And being a
cripple, I had to buy those cigarettes. So I was a little fucked myself. But I
got her back, I never told her I bought them at the Indian Burial Ground
convenience store down the street.
They finally re-operated, but that did not work either. After 8 months, and
me being the primary bread winner, we finally found a renowned specialist in the
medical center who operated yet again. The second operation they should have
removed and replaced the hardware. They did not and yes, we tried to sue and no,
nothing came of that.