Today was my first day as an intern at a community mental health outreach program. I find myself obsessing over the type of intern I will be, as there is already another intern from my master’s program currently on site whom no one seems to like very much. Interns conjure up memories of frustration, endless hours of re-doing whatever work they did, as well as the phrase “as useless as an asshole on your elbow”, so I want to make certain that I am such a phenomenal proto-employee that everyone forgets that I’m actually paying them to work there.
However, only one thing stands out from my first day as an intern, which is that I have received what the other staff members apparently call the Larry Experience. I would henceforth like to dedicate an entire category to Larry, a middle-aged case manager who works on the community treatment team of which I am now a part, and if today is any indication, a man who will be providing the bulk of my entertainment for the next eleven and a half months.
Today I shadowed Larry as he drove around the west side of town on his normal Thursday rounds, which include visiting about thirteen people to dispense medication and picking up several others for a shopping trip to Meijer’s (apparently the greatest store in all of Michigan, as I have been haughtily informed by many Michiganders weary of my ignorance. It is essentially a homegrown super Wal-Mart). During the course of the day, I learned a little bit about Larry: besides living in the boondoggles with his wife (”Just the way I like it. We lived in the city [apparently meaning Ann Arbor, a town of less than 150,000] fer years, and I just got too fed up with it. The other day I shot a deer off my porch. I couldn’t do that in the city”), Larry is a frequent garage-saler, junkyard and scrap metal collector, and enthusiastic recycling center shopper. The reason? He has a goal of selling at least $100 worth of the crap he finds on Ebay and Craigslist. Our tour about the community included a covert on-the-clock stop at a recycling center and used-goods store, at which Larry purchased two books for a total of $1.06. “I can get at least eight bucks on Ebay for that Jimmy Buffet biography,” he boasted in the car, then followed up with, “That cashier in there’s a real bitch.” (Apparently Larry is rarely charged the sales tax by the center’s cashiers, but this young lady did it anyway–he thought out of spite.)
As we drove on, Larry opened up to me even more. I learned that he grew up as an army brat and that his father was posted at the world’s largest nuclear arms facility, which unbeknownst to me is located in upstate New York. I learned that his favorite pet as a child was a skunk, an experience he likened to having a household cat. The skunk was with his family for many years until it chewed up an extension cord one day and electrocuted itself. (”I was real sad about that,” said Larry.) After we visited one client, a middle-aged woman who had just been released from the hospital and was on a heavy regimen of anti-psychotics and other medicines to counteract their side effects, Larry offered, “Gotta be real careful with that Coumadin [a blood thinner]. I knew a guy once at a group home, the staff gave him double doses of that stuff and he ended up oozin’ blood out of his cheeks.”
Here’s Larry on the wonder that is Craigslist:
“That Craigslist is somethin’, that ‘Rants and Raves’ section. If you go to the Detroit one it’s all about racism. Racist this and racist that. The Ann Arbor one’s about Whole Foods. Except last week they was going on about vaginas. Just going on and on about vaginas.” Pause. “I got a wheelchair I can fix up, I think. I’m gonna try to sell it on there.”
Larry’s warnings about co-workers’ perceived touchy points:
“Dr. Miller is a great lady. You can tell if she’s had it with a client’s shit because her ears start to turn red, it’s real funny.” Chuckles, then glances sidelong at me and adopts a confidential tone. “And just so you know, she’s actually a lesbian. I’m just tellin’ you, you know, so you don’t stick your foot in your mouth when she’s around.” Farts loudly. “Oops. ‘Scuse me.”
And Larry on the struggles facing men in the United States today:
“I just finished buildin’ a poll-barn, gonna get my workshop all set up in there.” Pause. “I’m gonna install a urinal, too.”
Me: “Oh really? So you don’t have to run inside if you’re busy working on something?”
Larry: “Yep, that or go outside. You know, you can get arrested for peein’ in public?”
Me: “But don’t you live in the country?”
Larry: “Yep, but I can’t risk it. They catch you, and you get a record as a sex offender.” Laughs and slaps meaty thigh. “Can you believe that? They’re wantin’ to turn every man in America into a sex offender.”
Check back for more on the life and loves of Larry, which I will update every week. If today is any indication, I will have enough material to publish when it’s all over.