SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
March 24, 2013

The Case Worker

 

The evidence was there from the start. Dumb circumstance had muscled me into some extremely desperate and unpleasant measures, and against every shred of better judgment and simple human dignity still lurking around in me, I contacted one of the biggest blindo agencies in town to see if they might be able to help me out some. I’d done the same thing twenty years ago, and all they did was offer to sell me a used closed circuit reader. I didn’t want or need a used closed circuit reader so I told them to just shut the file and leave me alone.

            About six months after first contacting them this time, I was finally told that I would be hearing from my new case worker any minute now, if I hadn’t already.

            Two weeks later I was again told that I would be hearing from my new case worker any minute now if I hadn’t already.

            A week after that, I finally heard from my new case worker, who sent me a letter. Now, think about that one for a minute—a professional case worker at a blindo agency, someone who spent her working days dealing with blindos, sent me a letter. I wasn’t even certain it was from her, but my upstairs neighbor read the return address and I made a logical jump. Given that her phone number was presumably written in the letter, I called the people who originally warned me she’d be calling, got her number from them, and called her myself. Already I was starting to recall why I’d recoiled in horror from this same agency twenty years ago. Useless, useless people.

            Well, she eventually called me back, but thanks to her accent I had a difficult time piecing together most of what she’d said. There was little unexpected in any of it, until she told me that I was to meet her on Friday afternoon. Then Friday morning. Then Friday afternoon again—no, the morning was better for her, so we better make it the morning.

            “All right the morning then,” I said, trying to be as cooperative as possible. “Where am I meeting you?”

            She tossed an address at me, telling me it was in Manhattan, even though the address in question was obviously in Brooklyn. In fact it was in one of the messier neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

            “You mean Brooklyn?” I asked. It was entirely possible there was a little street in Manhattan with the same name, but I doubted it.

            “Oh yah, Brooklyn, whatever.” She then tossed a phone number at me, a room number, and another phone number.

            “Um,” I interrupted before any more numbers cluttered into my head. “My writing any of this down is pointless, as I won’t be able to read it. Is there any way you can email the details to me? That way the computer can read it to me.”

            There was a long silence on the other end.

            “Do, ah, you have email there?” I ventured carefully.

            “Oh yah, we got email.” She didn’t sound real sure about that one.

            I rolled my eyes. “So . . . could you email me that address?” I’m not one to get frustrated with a fellow Luddite, but she wasn’t a fellow Luddite. She was a fucking moron. There’s a difference. I tried to give her my email address and found that apart from being a simple moron, she also appeared to be illiterate. “Okay, never mind,” I said, giving up. “I’ll find it.”

            “Doan you got Access-A-Ride?”

            “No, I do not.”

            “Ooohhh,” she said,

            Yes, well, it seemed things hadn’t changed much on the old city agency front in the past couple of decades. She sounded like a real doozy. The sick thing about it all is, in spite of my frustration and in spite of my solid conviction that I likely wouldn’t find anything useful there, I was kind of looking forward to meeting this woman—my new case worker—in person, just to see how deeply, unimaginably, profoundly dumb she really was.

            At the end of our brief and pointless conversation she promised she’d email me all the details (pretending that she knew what email was), but that she wouldn’t be able to do this until the following afternoon, forgetting she had never gotten my email address.

            “Super,” I said before hanging up.

            The email, needless to say, never arrived but I still ventured out on Friday morning thinking I might somehow be able to track her down. I knew roughly where the building was, what floor she was on, and her name. With those three bits of data, how hard could it be?

            Turns out it wasn’t that hard at all, though sitting in the agency’s waiting room I was reminded again why I so steadfastly try to avoid the company of the blind. What a bunch of assholes, whether they’re clipping my heels with their canes as I’m trying to find my way around a new building, chatting loudly with the receptionist as I wait patiently in line, or fiddling with their hand held devices (conveniently equipped with voice software so I can hear exactly what kind of stupidity they’re up to), just like all the other assholes.

            “So how you get here?” my new social worker asked as she led me back to her office. “Access-A-Ride?”

            “No” I said. “I took the subway.”

            “Well, we gotta get you on Access-A-Ride.”

            “I don’t want Access-A-Ride.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the word “cripple,” but I can never be sure.

            For the next boring hour, she filled out forms, asked me the same damn questions every bureaucrat asks, and made lots of promises. She wasn’t, much to my disappointment, the raging idiot I was hoping for. No, she was just another paper pusher with a heavy Spanish accent.

            “So you send me your resume, yes? You email it to me.”

            “Okay . . . but I’ll need your email address.”

            “I sent you an email yesterday.”

            Jesus, how long would she carry on the ridiculous charade that she knew what email was? “Well, I never received it.”

            “But I sent you an email yesterday!”

            Maybe I should reconsider that earlier assessment. “You may well have, but I never received it.” I should’ve taken the hint from the fact that all the forms she was filling out were paper. In fact there didn’t appear to be a single computer anywhere in the building. It was entirely possible that within the city cripple agency community, “email” involved standing on the roof with a couple of flags.

            “Well when I send you that email, you send me your resume.”

            “You bet,” I told her, though I wasn’t going to hold my breath on that one.

            “In the meantime, here’s what we going to do,” she went on. “In about a month you gonna hear from another agency . . . ”

            “Hey, that’s super.”

            “ . . . an’ they gonna come to you house for mobility training.”

            “So . . . they’re gonna show me how to use the cane I’ve been using for twenty years now.”

            “Right. We gotta make sure you safe, ‘cause if something happen an’ you get hit by car I could be sued.”

            “Uh-huh. Well, I ain’t fallen on the tracks yet.”

            “We still gotta do it. Then you come in here for a low vision exam.”

            “Bet I pass.”

            “Then we get you to a social worker, an’ she get you all set up with Access-A-Ride. An’ after that you get a computer skills test, ‘cause I don’t wanna send you to a job an’ have them tell me you can’t use a computer. That looks bad for me.”

            I was starting to get the picture here. Her whole job it seemed revolved around covering her own ass. Makes sense I guess, but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to be a part of it.

            She made a few more promises about what the agency would do for me, handed me an explanatory booklet I’d never be able to read, and we wrapped things up. I put on my hat and coat and let the cane flop open. “All right then,” I said. “So in other words all this gets underway after you get that resume from me?”

            “That’s right.”

            “All right. I’ll just wait on your email, then.” Given that she never did bother to take down my email address, I left the office confident that that was that.

 

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