Gretchen’s mood, as well as her judgment, wasn’t helped any by a letter she received at the clinic. The letter congratulated them on being selected as one of the test sites for the Dignity Initiative’s Adult Diaper Dispensation (ADD) program over the next year. At first she thought it was a mistake, but an embarrassing phone call to the program’s administrator revealed that one of her very own board members had applied on the clinic’s behalf. It was Patrick, an old-timer who had fought term limits the hardest. She didn’t bother calling him. She called the board chair, Frank, who was a muckety-muck partner in a law firm. She was disgusted to learn he knew about it. She wrote a letter to the executive committee explaining they had to withdraw and why, and couriered it to each. That got a response. They were polite but said the money was needed. Reading their letter, Gretchen fought the urge to reply by saying, “So, the staff can turn a few tricks if need be?”
But clearly action was needed. The next meeting was nigh. When Gretchen sent out the agenda she added “Dignity Initiative inservice” as the first item after Review Minutes. She made sure “Refreshments will be served” was on there because she wanted good attendance. Carefully, she selected Buffalo wings, salted cashews, wasabi peanuts, iced tea and, as a special surprise, cold beer, and set them out on the reception desk. As they trooped in, exclaiming as they saw the snacks, she urged them to put their things down in the waiting room, grab something to eat – have a beer! – and soon the meeting would start.
San Francisco had recently become the first county in the country to officially give up on the idea of clean, accessible public bathrooms, available to all in need without regard to payment. The unpropertied in SF were just beginning to walk around with bulgy seats now that all General Assistance recipients were issued a box of generic diapers along with directions to the city shelters, a pamphlet explaining abstinence (UCSF had a grant pending to study the effect of Adult Diaper Dispensation (ADD) on homeless people’s adoption of condom use versus abstinence-only), and $6.95 to get them through the month. The Dignity concession was doing a brisk trade at Pier 39 for unprepared tourists on a budget; a one-day Fun-Pak went for 8.99 but did include two Maxi’s, a plastic Dungeness crab key-ring and a coupon for one Buena Vista Irish Coffee. Dignity Has Never Been So Disposable. A virgin diaper was going for five American Spirits on Sixth Street. The Sheriff’s Department had to fight for, but got, toilets in their renovated facility.
Bureaucrats who may or may not have been wearing a small pin on their lapels, a pin in the shape of a diaper, a stars-and-stripes-waving flag-type diaper almost wing-like from a distance, may or may not have attended a conference in the Caymans to sit in the louvered sunlight of a hotel’s banquet room, listening to presentations such as “Contained Defecation for the Economically Disenfranchised: A Cost-Benefit Analysis.” One of them may or may not have been on the board of a small clinic in San Francisco. None of the conference participants gave any thought to the number of cups of coffee s/he consumed. The conference center had plenty of restrooms. No extra charge. All fees underwritten by the Dignity Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to community development, medical research, and K-12 education. Please take an annual report. Dignity Has Never Been So Within Our Reach. Earnest modern alchemy, how to make the base substance into cold cash. Magicians, start your engines.
“I’ve talked about grief, how we are tempted to minimize, to look on the bright side, to do this thing they call ‘moving on.’ I told you everyone was going to give you conflicting messages, ‘Oh, we know how sad you must be, give yourself time to grieve, blah blah blah, while the next thing out of their mouths is something like, ‘But one of these days you will feel better.’ In other words, your misery is making us uncomfortable so hurry up and get over it.
“You know better. Grief, like any emotion, should never be minimized. It’s like those people who gulp aspirin every time they have a little headache or their temperature goes up. Nature gives us pain for a reason and many a research study that shows that letting a fever run its course is actually healthier than getting rid of it. Though I would never tell you to toss out your pharma-widgets, your anti-depressants and whatnot. I just ask you if you really understand you’re taking them to avoid your unhappiness.
“Let’s go back to some basics.
“One of the primary benefits of Transcendental Misanthropy is empathy expressed as hostility. I just love paradoxes. When you take the time to set events in motion that make others unhappy, you’re helping them understand your pain better. It’s a win-win.