Photo via Flickr user Ulrich Joho
Editor’s Note: This article is for entertainment purposes only. Do not attempt to reenact anything mentioned in this article.
No one should have a selfish reason to help their fellow man, but I didn't know this when I was 17. To beef up my extracurriculars on my college applications, I volunteered at a nursing home. Working for free was an uneasy concept, but I considered it a means to an end. I needed to get the hell out of my town as soon as possible, and college seemed like the easiest solution. Applying to college meant I needed to appear like a dedicated member of the community—nobody needed to know that I would be stoned as shit at the nursing home.
My manager was Rose, a tall, bubbly white lady in her 60s who ran all the activities for the residents. She had an amazing ability to glide optimistically through the nursing home even though the smell of chemical cleaner and death permeated every corner. While Rose and I set up the day’s activity, the residents milled around us like dormant zombies. Some lucid patients held conversations, but others sat in the library shitting and screaming profanities until someone came to help. On my first day, a resident named Dot called me the N-word twice, and right before I left that evening, Oscar, another resident, tripped me with his cane. I remember getting up off the linoleum as he laughed. Right then, I decided that I’d be high for the rest of my tenure as a volunteer.
Blazing before work never quelled the horror of the nursing home, but smoking allowed me to tune out the swearing and moaning—I could have level conversations with all the residents no matter how unhinged they were. Dot and I spoke every day for at least a few minutes. As soon as I entered her room and said, “Good morning!” she started swearing to herself under her breath. She typically threw at least once big fit as I left the room—something along the lines of, “That Mexican is stealing from me!”—but I always strolled out unfazed.
After a few weeks, I started getting very baked before my shifts. Sometimes I’d leave a packed pipe in the car so I could blaze a little bit on the job. One day, I was coming from one of these personal sessions when Rose asked me to help her set up an activity. She had split open a few pumpkins that were left around the nursing home after Halloween; the pieces were stacked up in the center of a long table. There were 12 chairs at the table, and a plastic plate and a spoon for each pumpkin. I herded some of the residents into the room, and then Rose began explaining, “Everyone is going to get a spoon and a piece of pumpkin. We’re each going to scoop our pieces onto our plate and dump it into this big bowl. Then we’ll gather it all up and do something fun with it.” Simple enough. Rose demonstrated, and everyone at the table started picking up their spoons and pumpkin pieces.
A slow-motion melee ensued. Each participant began handling their pumpkin flesh in gnarly ways. The woman seated in front of me jammed her middle finger into a pumpkin, and Oscar picked up his piece and started biting it as if it was a slice of watermelon. Dot looked me right in the eye and spit onto her pumpkin. Several other people dropped their pieces on the floor and tried to retrieve them by kicking them around. I watched, stunned, until Rose nudged me to start regulating the activity. I grabbed pieces off the floor, trying to collect them. Somehow, the bowl in the center of the table was filling up with pumpkin bits. (God knows how many bodily fluids were mixed in there.) After a grueling 20 minutes, the ordeal came to an end. As I started cleaning up, Rose whisked the bowl away. Being freshly stoned made the work even more repulsive, and I began counting the days until my volunteering stint would end. How long did I have to be a good person for a college to accept me? I decided I’d finish out the week and then find paid work.
I went into Rose’s office the next day to tell her that I’d be leaving. When I entered, I found her sitting in her chair with her head buried in a filing cabinet. I spotted a perfect slice of pumpkin pie on her desk. At first I thought I might ask for a piece, but then the events of the previous day’s activity flooded my brain. I gagged a little. Rose’s head suddenly popped up from the filing cabinet, and in one clean motion, she shoved a piece of the pie into her mouth. “We made pie! Would you like some?” she asked. I almost threw up all over her desk. She kept eating the pie as I explained that I could no longer volunteer. Every time she took a bite, I stammered a little. Chewing the last piece, she said, “Well, nothing lasts forever. We know plenty about that here!” and then laughed.
On my last day, Rose walked me to the exit and wished me well. A few residents sat in their wheelchairs near us. Rose put her hand on one resident’s shoulder and said, “We’re all going to miss you!” From behind me, I heard Dot say, “Good riddance, you dirty, fucking thief.”
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