Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Siren's song for the crazy

I have a super power. I have an invisible force field around me that draws in people with "issues". They can sense my force field and are inexplicably drawn to me. They pour out all their problems to me as I stand stunned in an aisle at Wal-Mart. They talk to me on the street, on the bus, in restaurants, at coffee shops. I can't do anything about it. I have a sign that flashes above my head in neon reading "Please, tell me your life story, I care. I really do."

I really don't. However, since I can't turn off my sign or stop the drawing energy of my force field, I am compelled to meet a bunch of odd and troubled people. Maybe that is why I went into the field itself -- this way I get paid for what I was already doing for free.

For the most part, I do care about people and their problems. My family and friends? Heck yes! I want to hear the stories, share experiences and offer advice, etc. Strangers I meet on the street while I am minding my own business?? Not so much. And yet, it is unavoidable.

This is part of the reason I try to avoid downtown. The downtown attracts all the sorts of people one would think it does. Along with the hipsters, the artists, the yuppies, the cool people, it also draws the street people and the crazies. And sometimes, both in one.

I work in a place where I come in contact with street people on a regular basis. They may not know "me" as a civilian, but rather only can place me when I am filling my occupational role. I am cool with that. However, I still run into them in my non-work hours. I never seek them out, I only acknowledge them when they do me (that's the rule I follow) but I do stumble across them.

Tonight, I went for coffee with a friend to a downtown place. As she was getting coffee, I made eye contact with a young man across the patio. That was my first mistake. The key to avoiding all people and their stories is to never make eye-contact. I have not yet perfected this. The young man sauntered over to my table, told me his life story in 5 seconds or less and gave me a bracelet. I gave him $3 (why do I never learn?) because I felt guilty about him giving me a bracelet. Then I shooed him (politely) on his way.

Not 30 minutes later, another client came by. This one recognized me after a bit and started asking me questions about agencies, etc. I tried to send him off politely, but I was losing my patience. I wanted to go out for a drink with a friend, but ended up running into clients. It is ever so. It is seldom I go anywhere that I do not see a client, meet someone who could be a client, talk to a stranger about a problem they are having or see something that needs intervening.

After this many years, I am used to it. In most cases, I don't really mind. It is a little frustrating at times, but I guess all super powers come with their downsides. This is mine. I just wish I could charge my agency for it. Like a consulting fee or overtime. I'd make a killing.


  1. My mother retired after 30-some years as a social worker and case worker for the welfare department, so I know whereof you speak. She was constantly accosted by clients with questions or wanting advice whenever we went to grocery or department stores. It was a bit unsettling for her especially because often us kids were with her when she came in contact with these people, and often the things they wished to discuss weren't exactly approrpriate for our ears. I guess it comes with the territory, but it hardly seems fair. I agree; you should be able to charge your department for your time! :-) Hey, maybe when you go out on your own time you should consider a disguise!! heh

  2. This same power seems to be a genetic trait in my family. It seems like most of us have it. So when my brother and cousin came to visit me in Vancouver... well, we have LOTS of interesting stories. (and though it wears a little thin sometimes, it did make my time riding the bus a little more entertaining.)


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