Women in the Big House

It surprised me to find that wherever elderly women congregated, fights broke out. These are women in their 80s mostly, bent over with walkers. All I’ve seen so far are verbal squabbles and I often don’t get what they’re even about.

But you see it on Level C which is the lowest level where Wellness department operates. The Wellness operation is I suppose a good euphemism for nurses’ station. There a laminated sheets of paper with numbers on them, like a bakery.

You wheel yourself down, grab an 8.5 x 11 laminated number (yes, letter size) and sit on a red wooden-framed chair across from other waiters. The idea is that you go in order of arrival: first in, first out — in computer talk that was a FIFO stack.

Usually there is a person who doesn’t realize it is their time to go in. It could be that they’re blind. Or lost track. Often they just have lost track of their number. And a chorus of “Number Six! You’re next!” starts up.

Number Six! Is called out from the Wellness station.

Usually this is enough. Number Six slowly raises herself from the red cushioned chair and waddles her walker or Rollator into the Wellness Station.

Then there’s always a woman who says to someone, you’re next.

I know it.

You know it? I don’t see you moving.

I’m not describing either of these women because it is never the same two.

HOLD ON. This is the next day and this morning the men were fighting. There’s a guy in a Mets uniform that was going down to the C (Basement level) to get medicine and in the elevator he was prodding people to go with this cane. A real rush to be the next number to go to Wellness and get his daily meds.

When we got to C level there was a slow walker in front of me, and I was being patient waiting for her to grab a number when the Mets guy pulls ahead of both of us, a narrow path being open and grabs the next Wellness number.

Oh he is a winner. Then he sits down across from me and tells someone that they’re next. He’s wrong about that but the fella tells him he’s wrong, smiling. Everyone knows who is nasty and who is nice.

But the Mets guy isn’t through. He moves his chair so it is closer to the Med room. And he begins directing who is next etc. So he gets his meds, and then I get mine, and I find him waiting for the elevator.

He complains to me about the place having too many walkers. That they should be banned. In his day… blah blah blah

Then the new food staff get into the elevator. There was a big food meeting for the inmates the other day. That was hysterical. It went something like this:

There’s a big room called the activity room. At one end, facing the audience, three people are sitting at a fold out table. They are the kings and queens of the place. Carlos is the new food admin, to his left is Katerine the Great (I believe she’s president of some council); how she got to be president – nobody ran against her; anyway she isn’t well liked and to her right, the trinity is completed by Marge who looks like Shelly Winters in her later B-Movie phase.

I slept through the first half of the meeting in my room, and arrived a half-hour late. Allan was talking. He’s a zen-type guy who has an opinion on everything including the fact that I haven’t shaved in a few days. He tells me that I can buy a razor at the store on the corner if I want to.

Anyway, there must be 100 people in the room with walkers, and Allan rises and takes the microphone and starts talking about there being too much sugar in the sweet potatoes.

A bearded guy, Harold, kicks my chair he’s laughing so hard. I ask him what he’s laughing about, and he tells me that the sweet potato guy gave the exact same spiel during the first hour when I wasn’t there.

Then the third woman in the trinity at the main table pipes up about how she likes the sweet potatoes. That she appreciates the extra sugar. Then someone I’ve never seen starts to mumble, without opening her eyes: sweet potatoes, sweet sweet sweet potatoes; and somebody nudges her and she says, I was just singing about sweet potatoes. What’s wrong with that?

Then Shelly Winters tells the singer to quiet down; there are other people who want to talk.

I’m so sorry, is that you Marge?

Yes it is me and this is the food meeting, not karaoke .

Oh, the little singer squeaks. I didn’t mean to offend. And continues mumbling something about potatoes. Hash potatoes in the sky. Now I wonder, why oh why.

The chef, is there. He’s been sent over like a Gordon Ramsey without the attitude to fix up the food service, and boy is he patience personified.

“We’ll be serving soup with each meal,” he says.

Which causes a near riot of: no onions, I’m allergic to onions; no tomatoes, they give me hives; no celery, I can’t digest it; no beans, they give me gas; no this, no that.

And the chef just waits for the rumble to die down and says, we’ll pass around a sheet where you can right down what foods you’re allergic to.

Sweet potato pie, please; sings the potato lady.

And with that, the Mets guy stands up, and pushes his way through a sea of walkers.

Published by Dave

My name is David Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City. Or I was before I had two strokes. I now write from a Nursing Home. https://dave-beckerman.pixels.com

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