Saturday, December 1, 2007

Nobody, nothing, disregarded

This is the fourth post in a chronological series. Don't start reading here until you've read three posts back and worked your way up the posts to here.

Martinez (cop#1) asked me how I felt right then. I said, “I feel fine.”

“Now, May, have you had any alcohol tonight or have you taken any drugs that weren’t prescribed? Are you on anything now?” I think I flinched since I am not a big consumer of alcohol and I haven’t ingested an illegal substance in over 20 years. Instead of saying, no, you moron, do I look strung out to you? I just took one of those deep-breath-sigh combos of annoyance and said, “I don’t understand what else I need to say so you can understand there is no problem here. I’m fine. Really. If anything, I am mortified that you are even here and even more mortified that you think you need to be.”

“Honestly, you’re really making me feel very stressed. I have to work on this presentation for tomorrow. My PowerPoint isn’t finished. If I don’t get it finished and I’m not sharp for the presentation, I can kiss my job goodbye. This presentation is for our funding. I’m not sure what I can say to make you understand how critical this is. You’re taking time away from me getting ready for one of the most important professional days of my life. Do you want to see the PowerPoint? I’m not making this up. If I were in any danger, why would I be so concerned about my job?”

Martinez, at this point, had obviously made a decision on his own, and he didn’t give a fuck about my presentation or how important it was. I could see he either didn’t believe what I was telling him, or else he just didn’t care because he had his own agenda.

I thought I had made it very clear that I was tired, but I was not suicidal. I was not a danger to myself. I was not planning my imminent demise. I just wanted to eat my rapidly dehydrating cheese and crackers, work on my presentation, and relax. I had a long day ahead of me the next day and I needed to be well rested for it.

#1 again repeated, “Well, we still think you need to talk to someone tonight.”

I again countered, “OK, I’ll call my therapist. My husband is here. He’ll even watch to make sure I do it.” At this point, the anxiety was killing me, but I knew I couldn’t let it show. I desperately had to pee, but didn’t want to announce that. I was afraid they would say I couldn’t be trusted to go to the bathroom without a chaperone, and there was no way in hell anybody was going to watch me pee. I felt humiliated enough at the realization that I had no control over what was happening to me right me then. I was utterly powerless and it felt devastating.

Martinez looked at me and said, “Well, May, we have a set of procedures we follow when we’re concerned about someone’s well-being. What we want to do is take you to talk to some people who we know will do an expert evaluation. We’ll take you to the ER and if everything is OK in the evaluation, you’ll be right in and out.”

I had a very quick thought, Nobody is ever right ‘in and out’ of an ER, anywhere, ever.

“Define ‘in and out.’” Number one looked taken by surprise that I was questioning this. I’m not gullible. I’m not all that uninformed about hospitals. He said, “Oh, if everything is OK, you’ll be in and out in an hour.”

I looked him in the eye and said, “I’m not going. This is unnecessary and I have things to do tonight. I told you I’m fine and I don’t understand what the problem is now. If I can’t do this presentation tomorrow, I will lose my job. Do you understand that? I can’t afford this kind of field trip, but for whatever reason, you think I need it and I just don’t understand why. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Martinez looked over at #2 and #3 and then back at me. “What I’m saying May, is that we are not here to judge you. That is not what we do. We really think you need to go and see someone, though.”

“What happens if I say no and I flat-out refuse?”

“That means it will end up the same, but I’ll have about three hours of paperwork to do. It would be much better for you if you came voluntarily.”
(Voluntarily? How is there any sense of voluntary involved here??)

I looked around at all three. “OK, you aren’t coming out and saying whatever it is I’m supposed to figure out here. Let me see if I get it. Are you saying I actually have no choice and I am being forced to do this against my will? Are you saying that it doesn’t matter what I want or what I say, I have to go?”

More knowing looks passed among the law enforcement triumvirate in my living room.

“You see, May, we really are not judging you at all. Part of our job is to make sure you’re safe. We are not mental health professionals, so we can’t make that determination, so we need to make sure you see someone who can evaluate you professionally. Do you have to go? I wouldn't say that. You have a choice--you can go with us voluntarily or make me go through a lot of complicated stuff. I don’t think you want to leave here in handcuffs.” Handcuffs? Aren’t they for people under arrest? Unruly people? Dangerous people? Criminals? What the fuck had I said that warranted this?

I was starting to feel nauseated by the stress and the horrible realization of what was about to happen to me. I asked if my husband could come with me—drive me there, in fact. He could follow but not be with me, and no, he could not drive me there. “Wow, I really am being punished. I can’t imagine why the guy at Diners Club gets all of the accommodation and I get punished. Could I just call him back and apologize nicely? Will that fix it? Is that what this is about? I said a bad thing? I made the Diner’s Club guy mad, so now I have to be punished? Please let me call him back and I promise I’ll tell him I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to make him mad. At least let me finish my presentation and come back and get me then. Is there anyone else I should apologize to?”

Numbers one and two looked at each other. Martinez said, “May, we are not judging you. Why are you feeling paranoid and like you’re being punished? We are here to make sure you’re OK. We aren’t mental health professionals, so we aren’t trained to determine that.”

So, you aren’t trained to determine that I’m OK, but you are trained to determine that I’m not OK and I need psychiatric intervention? I didn’t dare ask as I knew I was perilously close to letting the mouth run ahead of the impulse control centers in the brain. Frontal lobe, do your job!

I was finally scared. Deeply frightened. Panicked. Resigned to endure the inevitable, and it felt oppressive and overwhelming. I certainly had no frame of reference for this and no idea what to expect. They let me change my clothes, at least. I chose silky black warm-up pants with an elastic waist, a fleece, and slip-on shoes. Nothing with a drawstring or a shoelace, lest they think I was trying to dress for suicide. I put on my coat and grabbed a book—just in case I would be sitting around for awhile. Had I known what was coming, I would have chosen a better book.

Before we left the house, #3 said, "We have to check you over before you can get in the car." My head snapped around and I looked at him. “What??” I found that there are actually degrees of humiliation, and I was obviously experiencing them in sequence. I just didn’t know where the scale of humiliation topped out and it was starting to worry me.

They frisked me. In my own home. I was patted down and my purse was rifled through. I was stunned. I hadn’t committed a crime, but I was going through the whole criminal transport protocol. I froze. My shoulders slumped forward. I tried not to cry. Nobody was there to comfort me. My husband stayed in the kitchen, cooking his dinner and feeding the dog.

If there is a moment in my life when I understood the word “alone” it was right then. I had spoken but been dismissed as unreliable. I had pleaded, but my words were irrelevant. I was not to be trusted because some totally vindictive dickhead at Diner’s Club (CitiBank) said I was a mentally ill wing-nut with suicidal tendencies. Fuck him, up the ass with something very sharp.

I had to sit in the back of the police car, having my head pushed into the car like they do with bad people. Criminals. Was I now a criminal? In the car, the officer told me that although I was not going to City General Hospital (which I later realized was only for his own convenience and time management), I wasn’t going to the small private hospital I had asked for, either.

“They’re on divert status there.”
“But my doctor is on staff there. That would be better for me, and since I’m not in any emergency situation, they should take me.”

Silence. Eventually, he said he was taking me to Providence, which was farther from home than I wanted to be, but not a scary place like City General. I was shivering. The back seat of the cruiser was absolutely claustrophobic. Even though I’m short, I had to sit with my knees turned to the side and my feet under the seat in front. I had to wear a seat belt, even though it was pinning me to the seat. It also turns out that even when a cop car is turned off and unlocked, the back doors are never unlocked and can’t be opened from the inside. Ever. I was trapped. Hopelessly trapped with my knees twisted and my ankles smooshed against the hard plastic (who knew?) of the back of the front seat. It was #1’s car. The other two had already taken off together.

Martinez asked me what I did for a living. I was in absolutely no mood for chit chat, especially not with him. I couldn’t stop shivering, but despite this, I wished I hadn’t brought a coat at all. I didn’t want to have to keep track of it later. I told #1 what my two jobs were and left it at that.

“Now, you see May, that’s a reason to not to take your life. You’re doing good work that really helps people. They need you.”

I wanted to say, “Buddy, listen. There are about 25 sociology grads and Peace Corps returnees waiting to hand over their resume to my boss before my chair is cooled off. It’s not like my leaving will mean a deficit in social work and education. Instead, I said, “Good thing I have no plans to commit suicide, then. Of course, now that I’m not home to work on my grant funding presentation, there’s a good chance nobody will have my job.” I was having more and more trouble concealing my irritation and annoyance.

Martinez glanced at me in the mirror. “You see, May, a lot of people think the police just work with crime and accidents, but another part of our job is to take care of and protect good citizens in our community, like you. We care about your safety and well-being and we are here to make sure you have the support of community professionals.”

This was the point where I almost snapped. It had to be the most patronizing thing I had ever heard in reference to myself. Here is what I wanted to say, to scream in his ear through the Plexiglas divider: “Don’t even, for one second, pretend like my life matters to you. You don’t even know me, you never knew I existed until two hours ago, and for all you know, I am evil. Don’t patronize me by patting me on the head and saying you care or that my life matters to you. That is a lie, lie, lie and you insult me by saying it. You don’t care. We’re going through this exercise so you and the city can cover your asses and address liability issues. After you dump me on the doorstep of the hospital, you will never see me or even so much as think about me again. It’s not like you’ll check in later to see how things turned out. It will be erased from your brain before you pull out of the hospital parking lot on the way to your dinner break. I am nothing beyond one more call on the radio in the course of today’s shift. Do not insult me by thinking I believe you when you say anything about me matters to you. I am not stupid. I am not na├»ve. You offend me by thinking I am, which you obviously do.”

I kept perfectly quiet, silent, and tried not to burst into tears, and stared out the side window to watch my neighborhood pass by in the dark. We pulled into the loading area for the ER. I could only hope that I would ditch the cop and spend my inevitable waiting room time reading my book in peace. If I couldn’t be home, I wanted to be left alone until the next round of interrogation.

Yeah, that was a nice thought.

More later. I'm drained.


Spilling Ink said...

ohferchrissakes. It sounds to me like it should have been pretty obvious to them that you were okay. I hope your presentation worked out and it didn't cost you. I can't imagine what an awful night that was for you. I hope you had something, ANYTHING, going on inside to keep your mind busy with something other than what was going on in that moment.

May Voirrey said...

Apparently nothing was obvious to them. I couldn't think about anything other than what was happening. I had to stay clear and focus. Not that it helped.