A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || July 13, 2004 || 8:20 pm

Like bailing water with a teaspoon.

Most people find the reams of paperwork and red tape the most frustrating part of their jobs. Not me. During a supervised visit today a father asked me today if I ever caught a break (and didn’t my wrist hurt?), as every time he sees me I am shuffling papers from school and/or work. I looked at him and laughed.

“No, Wayne, I got more paperwork than God.”

But it doesn’t bother me, this sort of tedium. The most frustrating and taxing part of my job is the sense of futility and disappointment that seems to be just around the corner most days. It waits to hit me during the moments when I am giddy with a client’s successes, or reeling from some silliness.

And there are moments of silliness. Take, for instance, the call I got from a worker a week-and-a-half ago.

“Um, I need to tell you something…you know the kids that you were hauling around in your car for five hours yesterday? [ed. note: three under five, school enrollments and a lengthy supervised visit some two counties away]

“Welp, it seems they have a pretty gnarly case of headlice.”

People, I have ten fucking miles’-worth of hair and three children of my own. I sprayed my car and my bedding down no less than five times, and the children (whom I have since seen/carted around on several occasions in the interim) had their heads cleaned up within twenty-four hours. No traces of lice rearing their ugly little transparent bodies within my sphere of living, but I have itched continuously for the past ten days. Like now? Sitting here at my machine, pounding at the keys? I have paused no less than seven times in the space of fifteen minutes to examine the source of a ‘crawly feeling’ on my right leg and the back of mine cranium.

That’s pure comedy, folks. Distracting and time-consuming, but indeed funny as all-fuck.

And there are the moments of shining optimism; a quiet, soaring hope resides in my chest when I see someone scrambling to get their lives and homes back in order. Because, you know, there but for the grace of God.

I’ve got this one client who may well be my first success story since I’ve started working in this field. Oh, I’ve had a couple of them come close, only to drop the ball at the last (and I mean the last) second.

This gal, however, is fighting like hell for her kids and her equilibrium. She’s been doing everything required of her. An eighth-grade dropout, she gets up at six-thirty every morning to attend GED classes. She finished her parenting classes determinedly and quickly, she found good, suitable housing for her little family. A couple of weeks ago, after countless applications, she got her foot in the door and landed an interview with a neighboring county. Said interview went well, and she was excited about the prospect of starting work. In the two weeks since she landed this job, she has been nothing but smiles and good words; she is empowered, and that is a feeling that she has not been able to wag around in her chest for most of her life. I know this, because I can see it in her eyes.

Last week she put Mister Good-For-Nothing, her verbally (and I believe at one point, physically) abusive husband out and asked for –no, DEMANDED– a divorce.

“It’s been eight years wortha hell, and he ain’t doin’ nothin’ to help me get these kids back in this house. He had to go.” He had missed his parenting class the night before (not the first by a longshot) and taken the television, VCR and kids’ movies while she was away at work; he pawned them and more than likely went off to toot up on the proceeds.

Today at one of the twice-weekly visits (one supervised, one not) with the babies, I noticed she looked uptight, sorta sad and fidgety all at the same time. I asked her what was wrong, only to find that she had been served with an eviction notice this morning. Seems that Mister G-F-N had not been paying his share of the subsidized rent he had assured her that he was paying.

To some people, two-hundred and twenty-three dollars might as well be two million.

I told her to enjoy her visit with the kids, I was going to talk with the landlord, “Don’t! Worry!” This woman is desperately trying to land on her feet and I for one am trying to help her find some solid turf. Mister G-F-N is sitting up in a trailer somewhere, waiting on her call begging him back and that doesn’t need to happen. After a ten-minute conversation with the property manager, a handful of phonecalls and a couple forms filled out and faxed back and forth, arrangements were made to catch up the arrearages and even pay her electric bill this month. Next step is to make ole G-F-N eat his parting words: “Once I hittat door, you ain’t gettin’ no help from me with them kids.”

I was happy that one less thing to worry her was in the way; we ended the visit, she went off to work and I loaded up the children to return them to their foster parents’ home. As I drove toward the entrance of the complex, their heads quickly began to nod in anticipation of the nap that a long drive most always induces in wee ones. I pulled up to the highway.

There, standing dead-center on the yellow lines, was a two-year-old boy.

Cars were busily whizzing past; whether they didn’t see him, didn’t have time to react to seeing him, or didn’t care, I dunno. I was going for the door latch when a lady in a green SUV (and here is where I tell you drivers of SUVs everywhere that you have received a Stay of Utility Vehicle Ire from me as a result of this woman’s actions) quickly pulled over, jumped out and pulled the baby toward the safety of her vehicle.

I rolled down my window, explained who I am and who I work for and then told her I’d get turned around post-haste. I pulled out of the apartment drive, hung a U-ey and pulled up in front of her vehicle. She was already on the phone to the police.

In my line of work, I have found through trial-and-error that it is best to have an ‘emergency kit’ in my vehicle at all times. It contains snacks, boxed juices, a handful of toys and a package of baby wipes. Due to the fact that it was hotter than four hells out today and to the aforementioned busy traffic area, I thought it best to leave the carseated minions in my air-conditioned back seat precisely where they were. I passed out snacks and juices, explained that I would be just behind the car, and that I’d look in on them in just a minute. They were happy.

The lady from the green SUV was most assuredly not. Tall, slim, fortyish and attractive, she held the baby’s hand loosely as she spoke with the police dispatcher and looked as if any minute she might turn into an emotional brickpile right there on the pavement. She was shaking and very near tears. Throughout the ensuing conversation, she kept saying, “All I could see was that baby getting mowed under a car,” over and over.

I was on the phone with the on-duty intake worker from my office while we were waiting on the police to arrive to make the requisite reports; it was then that the mother came swirling up, snatched up the baby, asked where he was found and then went back from whence she came with nary a ‘thank you’, much less the emotional display that hearing your baby was playing in the midst of a (busy, so busy) highway should elicit.

It was then, when the baby was away from her and couldn’t see, that the woman let out a wolf-wail and began to cry. I comforted her as best I could given the circumstances.

An hour later I stormed into the office, found the work coordinator and drug him behind a closed door.

“I fucking hate this fucking job!” I growled, voice gaining volume.

“There I was, feeling really great, because someone is going to make it. Happy, you know? Very near -–so close to!– being a part of delivering three wee ones back to their momma, then I end up having to start the process for the removal of two that live four!…fucking!…doors!…down!

“For shitsakes, it’s like bailing water with a damned teaspoon.”

11 worked it out »

  1. CNL 7.14.2004

    That whole baby-in-the-road thing was God telling you, “Good job getting that family fixed up. Now, how about taking care of this youngin’ for me?”

    Some people were born to be G-F-N’s, some were born to be angels. You my friend, are one ass-kicking angel. ;-)

  2. ntexas99 7.14.2004

    It sure as hell will knock the wind outta your sails when something like that crosses your path. Hange on to the knowledge that you really are (yes, really) facilitating someone getting their life back in order.

    Obviously the four doors down needed someone to rescue them, and so you were placed exactly there at exactly the right moment. Had you not witnessed the child on the highway, nothing would have changed in this child’s life, right? This child needed an angel, and there you were. So simple.

    Even a teaspoon at a time will eventually change the water level. For one tiny child, one single teaspoon keeps them from drowning. Remember that.

  3. gjoe 7.14.2004


    thank god someone saw that chile.


  4. Smed 7.14.2004

    Holy shit. You just achieved hero status. At least you care about your work. That much is clear. My mother worked for thr W.I.C. program about 10 years ago, and she had pretty much the same stress you currently do. Sometimes you feel it does not matter. Well l, you prolly saved that toddeler’s young life.

    Pitty children cannot defend themselves. Would be a much better world I think.

  5. SmedRock 7.14.2004

    Holy cow! You have officially reached “HERO” status I think. Stay with it. At least you have a passion for your work. You may be saving that toddelers young life. Keep up the good work, Troop.

  6. Sol 7.14.2004

    Thank you for what you are doing. I know that a teaspoon doesn’t seem very big, but when we get all our teaspoons bailing together…things will change.I have to believe this and knowing there are people like you out there help so much.

  7. Clenched Hans 7.14.2004

    ….(said in Paul Harveys meter, tone and diction)…..and that little boy, on the busy highway, saved by the two good Samaritans on that hot Alabama summer day, grew up to be: Simon Frakes.……………(extra long pause)……… You know him as the founder of “The sacred water church” personally responsible for the largest mass suicide murder since the Jonestown Massacre.

    And now you know…. the rest of the story.

    I just had to make light of something and a dark “Paul Harvey meets the Twilight Zone” twist of fate is about all I can muster.

    In AZ, we have had a spate of bad events as of late:

    Sick Assed Bastard

    and middle of page:

    Sick Assed Bastards

    On that particular one, the mother returned home at midnight to her boyfriend of 5 months and when checking on her daughter (whom the boyfriend had been watching) felt something amiss, and ran across the street to borrow a blacklight from her neighbor. As she was checking out the baby, the two sick bastards ran away, police found them cowering in a neighbors yard.

    Personally, I cannot even fathom how you do it. It’s all I can do not to perform acts of “social purification” just hearing about such stories. In your shoes, I’d have snapped and be actively dishing out those most deserving of tender lumpings.

    I guess in your own way, you are…the “invisible hand of God” job you were doing on your client’s deadbeat POS abusive husband is priceless.

    To use your own tag line: “Rock on witcha bad self”……oh yes, and screw the liquor store tour, when your ready to “cull the herd”, give me a call.

  8. Mac66 7.14.2004

    I once worked for a lady like yourself whom was in Social Services in San Jose..In fact they had a mobile health unit just for street people…Once asked why she kept at it, when she offered up that only two in a hundred actually were able to be returned to society….She told me if she could help just one person, one family or one kid, her whole effort was worthwhile…I have great respect for those like you, who give their all for the social ills of our society…

  9. J.Nel 7.15.2004

    I am fresh to the social service field… This is my first job out of college, and I am working with foster children who are in need of MAJOR placement stabilization. The image of bailing with a teaspoon was one of the best I have heard… It made me laugh, not because it was funny… But because it is too true. I could use a good success story, my past expirence in corrections lacked them greatly, and I have yet to see one where I am now… I am now learning to look at every client’s babystep as great progress, and a little success story in itself… That has kept me from going crazy so far, hope itkeeps workin!

  10. Jettomatika 7.15.2004

    Jnel: I hate to sound like a horrible cynic, but my best piece of advice is to invest yourself enthusiastically, but expect screeching failure at any second. I’ve had people I just knew, Knew, KNEW were gonna make it, only to have them slide right back down into the garbage and jump around in it gleefully: “I’m baaaa-aaack, WHEE!”

    And love those kids with all you have. It may be the only affection they ever have, or ever will, know.

  11. KC 7.15.2004

    I mean..sometimes i am just surprised at where i see inspiration and edification. A story that by the end should’ve had me LIVID, instead made me very happy that there are other people who’ve got the eyes to see when someone needs help, and is not afraid to put her own comfort and (alleged) stability on the line. It’s one thing to throw ropes to drowning peole..but toactually get in the water, to go into their world, at their time of need….be it children or the parent(s) trying to make a better life for themselves and enjoy one of the BEST things that ever happened to them(kids!!), ya got juevos big enough to put Mexico to shame!


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