The last time I'd seen the poop house family, (including all nineteen animals, and all of their piles of feces,) it had been a Saturday, I'd gone out and purchased toilet paper, bread and bug spray for them because they lacked the money and the wherewithal to go out and do it themselves, I noticed the most horrendously awful "heat rash" I'd ever seen, and I'd been informed that Millie might have lymphatic cancer. I didn't have a great weekend when all that went down.
I typed up my weekly paperwork, and turned it in. I turned it in because I didn't want to be tortured by thoughts of the poop house all weekend long while dreading doing my paperwork, so I just got it over with... I still had no such luck. All weekend long, I was tortured by the idea of this kid living in the conditions I'd seen. I was baffled at the state allowing it. I was troubled at the idea that the family had squandered their state check and Martha's paycheck on SOMETHING, and yet had no toilet paper or bread. Needless to say, I was bothered by the cancer issue. I was really having a rough time trying to put all of this on a back burner so that I could have an actual weekend and a bona fide personal life, (which was to become a running theme of my time as a social worker). Many of you might not get that last statement, but the thing is, when you're working for the people I was working for, you were constantly told that you needed to do everything in your power to not take your work home with you, and to leave all your work cares at the door of the last client's house... Of course, then they made us carry work cell phones so that we were on-call 24-7 for those clients, even on those weekends when we should've been more worried about what movie to go see, instead of, "How the hell am I going to find an open food bank to get these people through the rest of the weekend on a Saturday at 4:30 PM?" To boot, they made us turn in paperwork on the weekends in such a way that required everyone to make a special trip to the office at some point during their weekend to do work-related paper work which had to be done AFTER all of your client meetings for the week, and BEFORE the office officially opened on Monday.
Those things made it a little tougher not to think of clients on your own time.
Those things also made having a personal life a lot tougher.
So after my weekend was spent thinking about things I had no interest in thinking of, (namely poop, bugs, cancer, clients, and the like,) the weekend came to a close, and it was back to the daily grind of going to see the poop house family along with all of my other clients.
In the meantime, my weekend was sufficiently ruined by thoughts of the tediously disgusting work with the poop house family which persisted, even through the otherwise pleasant haze that a couple bottles of wine afforded me.
On the first day of my work week, I did all of my other work and saw all of my other clients... (because apparently the poop house wasn't amply sufficient in ruining my life). After I finished my typical daily run through other people's misery, I drove to the poop house. I continued my normal pattern of cursing and snarling involuntarily with my increasingly worsening facial tic. I changed into the poop shoes, and braced myself for the smell before opening the car door... The day was about to go down the drain... But as I was about to learn, that was all that was going down the drain.
I walked up to the disgusting door. I knocked and surveyed the ever-growing pile of garbage on the front porch as I waited. Mitch answered the door. He said that he was going to put the dogs in the bathroom before letting me in. He closed the door. As I waited, I continued to look at the huge pile of festering garbage on the front porch of this "home." I continued to wait... and wait.
Five minutes later, I figured that I'd caught busy Mitch by surprise, and that he was attempting to do a minimal amount of cleaning before letting me in. It was a safe assumption.
When the door finally opened, and Mitch let me in, I reeled and gagged at the odor, which seemed worse than usual. There was a new dimension to it. Usually it was merely the unbearable odor of cat urine, all kinds of animal poop, and hot garbage... There was definitely something new this day. There now seemed to be the added foulness of rotting food of some kind and swampy mildewy water.
"Mitch, I'm not going to beat around the bush, and I don't mean this to hurt your feelings, but I just have to tell you, it STINKS in here!"
"Oh... That's the sink."
"The sink? What's wrong with the sink?"
"It's clogged. That's why we haven't done the dishes."
"Ok, so that's the reason for the mountain of dirty dishes I'm seeing behind you there."
"Yeah, we haven't been able to do dishes since Friday."
"Why didn't you say something when I was here on Friday or Saturday?"
"Well, we thought we'd get a plunger and that everything would be fine."
"And did you get a plunger?"
"Yeah. but it didn't really help."
At this point Mitch led me around the landmines of dung that the animals had left behind, and toward the kitchen sink. As I looked at the mountain of dirty dishes precariously heaped on the counter, and I worked hard not to gag or vomit at the intensifying odor of rot and filth. I was also very VERY careful not to accidentally bump into anything, including the counter, which was crawling with a thick brownish coating of roaches. I couldn't control the internal desire to be out of this house as soon as possible. And I was about to get the jolt that would push me over the edge and make me want to run away screaming.
"Mitch, before we get to this, how is Millie? Any news on the possible cancer?"
"Oh, yeah, she's fine. The antibiotics are working to reduce the swelling, and the doctor called and said she's going to be fine in a few days."
"Oh, good! You all scared me with that cancer thing!"
"So, what's going on with the sink that the plunger can't knock out?"
"Well... uhh... you see... "
Mitch then picked up the plunger. I was close enough to the sink to see that there was about a centimeter of standing water in the bottom of the sink which was semi-translucent.
"Mitch, have you guys tried something like liquid plumber?"
"Well, I don't know that that would do any good."
Mitch nervously thumbed at the handle of the plunger. His downcast eyes let me know that there was more to this story that he wasn't telling me.
"Well, I don't think liquid plumber is designed to do anything for this particular kind of clog."
"What? WHY? What the heck kind of clog do you have that something like that won't do any good?"
Mitch then issued his reply, but instead of saying it with words, he SHOWED me.
Mitch stuck the plunger over the drain and pumped it a few times. He then pulled it away from the drain.
I was utterly HORRIFIED at what I saw.
(Keep in mind that this is a whole other dimension of HORRIFIED in what was already a horrific situation... And my additional horror might be an indication that you need to go and get a receptacle in which to contain your own violent reactions at what's ahead... I recommend something rather large and preferably concave.)
As the plunger cleared out of my view of the drain, I saw what had come up in the plunging process.
Considering that this sink was primarily used to wash the household dishes, I was expecting nothing more than chunks of soggy food because these people didn't strike me as the type to do a thorough job of scraping the plates before rinsing and washing dishes. But chunks of soggy, semi-disintegrated food was not what washed up in the plunging.
In fact, I don't think there was a single particle of food in all of the drain back-wash... But then again I might have been distracted by everything else that did wash up.
As the drain back-wash settled enough for me to realize what had come up, and I visually processed the items in view, and mentally come up with a way to comprehend what exactly I was looking at, the reality of it took several seconds to sink into my psyche.
I, for one of the VERY FEW times in my grossly over-articulated life, was rendered totally and utterly SPEECHLESS.
If I hadn't been afraid of what might enter my mouth, I'd have stood there agape and agog with the horror of what I saw.
NOTHING ELSE had washed up, and by nothing else, I mean NOTHING else, other than about a thousand dead roach carcasses.
[I will pause momentarily here so that you might vomit and afford yourself the natural reaction to such an image, and an appropriate amount of time to recover from this revelation... Keep in mind, that since I was standing there, in front of my "client" I was afforded no such opportunity to genuinely react, and no time to recover... I think that you'll find that with this pause I'm being quite generous. --All better? Me neither. But we must press on, because there are many more horrors ahead. Though I think now that you know this, you better understand why I took longer than previously forecast to get through creating this post for your reading pleasure, because understandably, I didn't want to revisit it... And I don't want to revisit anything else that is yet to come, but I will. For you. But please remain patient with me. I'm fragile.]
Oh, so now that you've had time to comprehend what I just told you, don't just cast it aside. REALLY LET IT SINK IT. PROCESS IT!
As I stood still horrified and unable to think or speak, my mind raced, but I was unable to grasp a hand-hold on any of them as they sped by.
I mean, picture yourself for a moment in this situation. You're already horrified at the state of the "home." You already struggle to breathe because the air is stifling, stagnant, acrid, and foul. Generally, the only thought that runs through your head in this situation is how to breathe as shallowly as possible, or how to get out of there as quickly as possible, or maybe even how to best ensure that you don't carry any contaminants from any of the critters out with you. If you have the mental capacity to get past all of this, all you can do is mentally detach and fantasize about an industrial sized bottle of hand sanitizer, a super-heated steam shower, and a job which doesn't require you to venture into the earthly portal to hell on a daily basis... Perhaps something as spectacular as a job with the fine folks at the Clorox companies... Somewhere where germs are endangered, and kids are clean, happy, and healthy. Your brain is already doing all it possibly can to prevent you from having a mental break which might cause you to either find give up on reality and figure that this lifestyle is acceptable, or go on a murderous rampage... Either way, the circuits are overloaded as it is. But to round out the picture, you have to think enough to talk to your clients about the unacceptability of this lifestyle. You have to think about ways to improve things. You have to formulate manageable tasks for these imbeciles. You have to supervise them as they work on these tasks so that you can ensure that they get done. All at the same time. All while trying to breathe and to keep from fainting or vomiting. It's a lot to process all at once.
And now you have to engage your clients. And you have to engage them about the thousand dead roaches which just washed up out of the kitchen sink drain. And you have to formulate a way that they can work around this problem until you can come up with a way for them to genuinely solve it... Which is also something you will have to do when considering that they are impoverished and can't afford toilet paper and bread, let alone a plumber for a proper fix... Not that any self respecting workman would ever cross the front lawn, let alone the threshold, or the poop minefield... Nope this is all on your shoulders. Congrats! And for all of this you get a pitiful paycheck, no retirement plan, no paid holidays, no health benefits unless you want those taken out of your measly paycheck, and no appreciation. Man, how did you luck into a job this awesome?
Can it possibly get any better than this?
If by better, you really mean A LOT WORSE, then yes.
Yes, it can... And it will.