Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Throwaway People

            You have them in your life too.  They're throwaway people. They mean nothing to you. Your life goes on with or without them. 
            You ride the train to work every day.  You're insistent upon never being late so you get there about 20 minutes early as a rule.  Now you have 20 minutes to waste. You may as well talk to people to kill the time.
            Your first one was Randy.  Randy is about - well just over the official retirement age - and he works as the station ambassador. 
            "Ever since I retired, I'm going downhill."
            "What do you mean?"
            "I've got a doctor for everything - a high blood pressure doctor, a diabetes doctor, a neurologist - last week I couldn't speak.  My wife called the ambulance.  It was a mini stroke."
            "I'm so sorry."
            "Now I have to see a kidney doctor. You have something to do with medicine, right?"
            "Yes, why?"
            "Let me show you the reports."
            He stood up with difficulty - apparently didn't have an arthritis doctor yet - and carefully took his worn brown leather wallet out of his pocket.  He opened the billfold section and gently removed several typewritten pages each folded into 8 parts.  One by one, he unfolded them and handed to me.
            "Well, this is good. The CT scan of your brain was normal. And this laboratory report shows some damage to your kidneys - not bad, really but not normal."
            One report at a time, week by week, month by month, the results of additional tests were reviewed. 
            "They're talking about dialysis," he said one day. 
            "I hope it doesn't come to that."
            It has been about 3 years now since Randy has worked at the train station.  The rumor was that he was on dialysis and too depressed to talk to the other station ambassadors when they called.
            You hope that this won't have the dismal ending you worry about for Randy.
            The tall lady with the leg cast said she worked with the county. 
            One day she said, "I like your dress. Where did you get it?"
            "At a little shop nearby but I can't remember the name of it.  I have the card at home.  I'll bring it in for you."
            It's been at least 2 years since that conversation. No one knows what happened to her.
            You hope one day she will return. You still carry the card for her.
            Jim was a pudgy guy.  He got less pudgy each month on his diet.  By the end of a year or two, he was downright slender.
            Jim was retired but still working.  However, he was going to retire again really soon.
            One day he mentioned his little dog and that became a daily conversation.
            "We had to rush my dog to the veterinarian.  It isn't good.  He has a huge mass in his lung. His labs are all out of whack.  He is on life support and has an IV.  He's got pancreatitis.
I had pancreatitis and it was the most pain experience in my life."
            "Well, surely they're giving the dog pain medications."
            "Yes, that's why she's on life support.  They're keeping her sedated. My wife and I are supposed to go on a cruise this Friday for 4 days. We don't know if we should cancel."
            "Well, it's going to take the dog at least 4 days to recover and if she's sedated and on a ventilator, she won't know.  You should probably still take the cruise and hope that the dog is much better by the time you return."
            "That's what my wife said. We'll probably go.  I found some miracle medication online to cure lung cancer in dogs.  It's extremely expensive but I ordered it.  We don't want to lose her."
            You smile kindly and know that now is not the time to speak.
            Shortly after that Jim stopped taking the train.
            You ask about him and learn that he finally retired.
            You wonder about the dog and you wonder about miracles.  You secretly hope for  miracles.
            There are others:  the county attorney whose cousin decided to take the day off from work at the Washington Navy Yard on that fateful day. The person at the desk next to hers was murdered.
            There's the young man who works as an IT person for a religious organization. His young son is autistic.
            There's the nice woman with ankylosing spondylitis and a frozen shoulder who converted from Judaism to Catholicism when she was a teenager and whose entire family converted because of her.
            There's the blind woman. She got you one day, didn't she? She was talking to the person next to you but you were unabashed in your eavesdropping, weren't you?
            She was being evicted from her home and was in fear of being laid off at work.
            You managed as unobtrusively as you could to chase her off the train and put three  twenties in her hand.  That was all you had in your wallet or it would have been more.
            All throw away people.  People who aren't part of your life and never will be. People without names and with faces you cannot recollect.  Disposable. 
            Not at all important in your life.
            We all have them.

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