Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Roll Lady

I entered the cafeteria at Women and Children's Hospital in Mobile just hoping to grab a quick lunch to take back upstairs so that Sarah and I could eat together. When one of the girls is hospitalized I sometimes takes on a floaty, surreal kind of feeling. This was probably my state of mind when I entered the cafeteria... Just kind of on auto-pilot looking to do the next apparent thing, (like eat lunch), and return quickly.

Sarah was hospitalized on Monday. Her pulmonary functions had fallen and she was running a fever. This is the 3rd course of I.V. medications she has had in the last four months. Further, Dr. Sindel has been seriously concerned about her weight and nutrition levels. He is convinced that her lack of weight gain and current low nutritional levels are contributing to her roller coaster of illness of late.

I have struggled with an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, given I have absolutely no control over what another person injests into her body. Coaxing and cajoling usually only does one of two things: creates a power struggle between Sarah and I, or leaves us both feeling frustrated and angry. Still, I have this tape in my head that plays and says, "You are Christy: CF-Mom Extraordinairre. You should be able to fix this."

So, entering the cafeteria that day, my emotional, mental and spiritual state was probably not what it usually is. That is precisely when I encountered the woman hereafter referred to as "The Roll Lady". She was wearing a lab coat and a badge indicating she was an associate professor for USA. I noted that she was probably some type of doctor. We waddled through the line side by side getting our food. I ordered chicken parmesan and turnip greens. She ordered the vegetable plate, which is advertised to be three vegetables and a roll. We were shuffling through without incident until she reached the roll display. The only bread available was corn bread. She asked the gentleman at the roll station if they had any more rolls. He indicated that they did not. In the mean while, I moved over to get my unsweet tea, while The Roll Lady began impuning the gentleman's family heritage because there were no longer any rolls available. Somehow, she made it to the check-out line right before me, so I was again stuck.
I'm not sure why people look at me and think, "I need to talk to this person," but she seemed to assume that I would be a sympathetic ear to her cause.

"Can you believe they don't have any rolls? They aren't even that good. All they have is cornbread. It is a mix and they add sugar. I'm not eating that."

I gripped my styrofoam tray and gave a non-committed type of "Humph".

"I mean, if they are going to advertise a vegetable tray with a bread they should have a roll. There isn't even one DAMN roll to be had!"

This is probably the point that I looked at her badge and noted her associate professor status. I remained silent this time and shifted my eyes awkwardly around hoping she would be quiet given my lack of response to her delimma.

Instead, she turned to the gentleman in front of her, "I'll bet I have to pay the same price even though I don't get a roll."

The gentleman paid for his lunch, tucked his head down, and scurried away from The Roll Lady. Unfortunately, now there was no one between her and the cashier so she really let loose. She opened her styrofoam container to show the cashier what she had gotten. The cashier said,

"One vegetable plate."

The Roll Lady boomed, "Why should I have to pay the entire cost of a vegetable plate when there aren't any DAMN rolls?"

The nervous little cashier lady called to a passing cafeteria helper, "Do we have anymore rolls? Can we get this lady a roll?" The boy rushed away without answering, just shaking his head.

The Roll Lady returned her gaze to me and said loudly, "I mean, if they are going to offer a service, they ought to be able to provide it! All I want is a DAMN roll! That isn't too much to ask."

The cafeteria was jammed with people and every eye was staring at The Roll Lady. She paid $2.06 for her meal, (Yes, a whopping $2.06- That's correct.) and stepped to the other side of the line to continue ranting while I paid. I watched as the little cashier pleaded for someone to get the crazy Roll Lady a roll. And, briefly, I thought about putting her in her place.

"Listen here, Roll Lady!" (I had already named her that in my head.) "It is certainly not anyone's fault that they ran out of rolls. The cashier has nothing to do with the preparing of the food, so cursing at her isn't going to help one iota. Further, your badge says, 'Associate Professor'. Are you meaning to tell me that you have a Doctorate Degree and you are acting like this in public? Not only public, but in a hospital where there are sick children? Right now, I am here with my daughter, who is receiving I.V. antibiotics for the 3rd time in four months, and I don't intend to listen to your crazy, abusive self ranting about a lack of rolls. Shame on you! Apologize to everyone in this cafeteria and be gone!"

SIGH. I thought about saying it. I kind of wish I had said it. But, I didn't. I stood there quietly and scurried quickly away from the crazy, ranting Roll Lady and the whole scene.

When I returned to the room, I relayed the Roll Lady story to Sarah. I also looked on USA's website to see if there was a picture of her somewhere. I fully intended to out her on my blog. Alas, her picture was nowhere to be found, and I didn't note the name on her tag. Thus, The Roll Lady shall remain anonymous. But, maybe, just maybe this little blog will make someone think long and hard before becoming a Roll Lady themselves.