I had my first public melt down the other day.
I was at a health insurance reform vigil at my Senator’s office when some poor young political campaign staffer made a mistake. He asked me how I was doing.
I just couldn’t do the “socially correct” happy talk and say “Oh, ok.” I looked at the poor guy and said, “You really want to know? Or is this just a passing social-obligation-you-feel-the-need-to-fulfill?”
The he made the even bigger mistake of saying, “Oh no, I really want to know.”
Facing him squarely, I stepped to the edge of his 18 inches of socially acceptable “personal space.” I told him the following:
“Not well. Not well at all. I have no job. I can’t get any benefits. I can’t get food stamps. 401K? Gone. Savings? Gone. I have to take care of my sister’s bills too since she can’t find a job either. You want me to go on?”
And here’s where youth and inexperience really showed. He said, “I know what you’re going through.”
I lost it.
“No you don’t. You haven’t got a clue. You have a job. You have income. You don’t wake up each day and wonder.’ how the hell I am going to pay the electric bills this month?’ You haven’t got a frickin’ clue. You don’t wake up and say, ‘Property tax bills will be coming in and I have to figure some way of paying them or we’ll lose houses.’ You don’t say, ‘I never thought I’d feel like a load of garbage, discounted, devalued, and kicked to the curb. I apply for job after job after job and hear nothing…nothing! I have a college degree in frickin’ accounting and I’m applying for anything and everything from cashier to flipping burgers to warehouse work. And I hear nothing.’ You don’t say, ‘I have no idea if I’m well or sick, I’ll just live with physical pain every day.’ You know what I’m going through?! You don’t know. You haven’t got a fricking clue.”
By that time, a good friend put her hand on my shoulder. I stepped back. She whispered, “You’re scaring the boy.”
“You’re right. I really don’t know what you’re going through,” he said, eyes lowered.
“No you don’t.” By that point I sounded a bit saner. “And neither does your candidate boss. So you tell him to give me a call if he wants to find out. I’ll keep it simple for him.”
I turned away and returned to taking pictures of the gathering. I had a purpose again: to shoot rally pictures. Having even that temporary purpose made me feel better.
About a half hour later, a lady who had been waving signs at passing cars came by and leaned over to me. “What you said to that boy, back there...” I rolled my eyes and said, “Oh I know, I guess I kinda went off on him. I should apologize.”
She grabbed my arm and looked me square in the face and said in a low almost menacing whisper. “Don’t you dare apologize. Don’t you dare.”