Sunday, June 27, 2010

No, Sir, YOU Don't Understand

I had a customer this week, an elderly man, tell me that I did not understand.

I am not exactly sure what he thought or why he said this. I assume it is because his copay was ridiculously high. He was mad, irate even, at the cost. I must say I would have been angry too. I would have been angry with the out-of-touch doctor who prescribe based on what the latest drug rep thought. I would have been mad at the drug company, I may have even been mad at the drugstore... but I would not have been mad at my cashier. You see, I do understand. I understand what it is like to work and work and work and work. I understand what it is like not to have health insurance that properly covers my medical expenses. I understand what it is like to choose between health care and food. I do understand, sir, I do.

What you do not understand, sir, is who I am. You do not understand where I come from. You do not understand my financial, emotional or physical situation.

Let me explain to you where I come from, at least:

I come from a neighborhood called Valley Gardens, in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the 47th state. Yes, we are a part of the United States thankyouverymuch (here is the Wikipedia: South_Valley). You see, I lived in a very poor community, in a very poor state. I was also, unlike in most of this country, the racial minority. I am Caucasian, white, g├╝era what ever it is you might want to call me. The only African American, Black, whatever other racial term, girl lived next door to me. We were best friends from the time we were three years old. She is still one of the most important people in my life.

Let's top this all off with how smart I was. I was the nerd from day one. I skipped kindergarten for the most part (me and Luis, always competing). I made friends, and enemies, easily. I was naive and sheltered in a pretty harsh environment. I knew girls who were pregnant right after they'd hit puberty, no later than sixth grade. My middle school had no lockers and no unlocked bathrooms -- too much violence. I was both an outcast and a part of the cycle. I was not accepted by all of my classmates, but I was protected all the same as part of the pack. They sure didn't bother with me, but they did not tolerate others bothering me either. I was shit, but I belonged to them, I was their shit.

Then I went to a Catholic high school thinking it would be my out, my salvation. Little did I know I was more outcast than ever. I did not have money. I did not have successful, rich, influential parents. I did not come from a long line of alumni. All I had were my wits, and growing up where I did, I had them in spades. I knew how to charm parents, teachers and fellow students alike. Still, I waited for the bus to take me home, to the same neighborhood, every night.

I would not, sir, trade who I have become, for anything in the world. I owe my existence to that world, to that neighborhood, to that barrio. I am who I am because of, not in spite of, where I am from.

So you, sir, do not understand.

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