A patient at my paying job grumbled one day that he had been refused dental floss. I keep a container of floss at work, and decided to give him the whole thing. On my way off the unit to get it, I asked another care team member if it’s true that patients aren’t allowed to have dental floss. It is true: a determined person could potentially harm herself with it. The patient’s nurse confirmed that and suggested it would be better if I brought one of those little plastic single-use floss things (which one sees lying on the sidewalk everywhere one goes, which is revolting), but I only have actual floss, so I just brought two short pieces, definitely not long enough to fashion a noose from.
I had told the patient I was going to bring him dental floss, so I did, but as I performed this act of mercy, paranoia blossomed and grew acute. I could hear my boss asking, “What? You gave a helpless patient eight inches of deadly dental floss?” The image was so vivid that I returned to the patient’s room to ask for the second piece of floss back. He gave me the used one, too, and made it clear he thought the whole thing was ridiculous. I buried both pieces of floss in the trash container in a staff restroom.
A bit later, I came upon a family member trying to find his wife and escorted him to that unit. Along the way, I introduced myself as the chaplain on duty and he asked jovially, “Do I call you ‘Father’ or ‘Sister’?”
I said, “‘Father!’ I feel it has a more authoritative ring in our patriarchal society.”
When we parted, he shook my hand and said politely, “Nice to meet you, Father.”
Pursuant to the arrival of my new slightly larger refrigerator and noticeably smaller stove, Tom came over and pulled the refrigerator away from the wall so I could clean behind it. The building manager estimates my old refrigerator was purchased at least 40 years ago. It’s amazing that it lasted so long. The area behind and under it was definitely in need of attention. Since it was so filthy back there, Tom also pulled the stove out, and what was behind there was even worse, including an area that seemed to be coated with hardened oil.
Then I remembered F.’s habit of balancing a pan lid on the back edge of the stove while he was cooking us one of his (wonderful) breakfasts: eggs, potatoes, tortillas. I am sure that’s what caused all that oil to end up on the floor behind the stove, which means that at least had not been there for 40 years.
As swap day arrived, there was less and less food in the refrigerator and certainly no produce. The day the new appliances were due, I had a meal that might be called Walnut-Anchored Greasy Sesame Millet Mound.