‘What do they call watermelon in Mississippi?’ or, scenes from a nursing home.

21 Feb

Unless the girl is a part of an old-age-home prostitution service, this is fake. It's probably part of a "how many things can you find wrong with this picture" old people activity kit. (I count 9.)

The company I work for has some nursing homes they are contracted with. For the most part, these places are soul-squashingly sad antechambers of death, so when you find people who still have some positive energy left, it kind of blows you away. It’s probably why they hire so many people from the Islands (Jamaica, Barbados, etc.) to work there. Most Americans would be walking husks within 6 months, but these people come in with so much positivity and happiness, they can go 5-6 years before their life-force is drained away.

One day, I’m working there late, like 7-8 o’clock, and this Islands nurse comes down to ask the Island front desk guy to help her with something. The guy is busy fixing the security camera monitors and doesn’t stop at all, just says in a rushed voice, “I cannot help you now. I am very busy. Time is money. We are in America now.” Then he breaks into a big smile and stops doing everything. “Just keeding Mama, show me what you got dere.” It was one of the coolest, sweetest things I’ve ever seen. (Yes, I said sweet. Sorry, but I don’t know any other more masculine word for it.)

Then there was this old black guy with some kind of disease sitting up in bed schmoozing with the floor supervisor who brought him the bbq wings he had ordered from a Chinese takeout place. I go in to fix something in the room, and the supervisor is saying something like, “The whole place smells like bbq chicken now. Everyone’s gonna want some from you.” The guy says, “I know. Then I give them some and now we friends. Maybe some ladies want some chicken too, know what I mean?” He’s smiling ear to ear, so I say, “A wing for a woman? Not a bad deal, if you ask me.” He laughs and goes on a bit. Then he says, “You Jewish, right?” I say, “Yeah, the yarmulka give it away?” He laughs. “What’s your name?” I tell him my name, which, being Hebrew, he can’t pronounce worth crap. He tries a few variations, then sees it’s getting awkward and gives up. I try to de-awkward the conversation: “It wasn’t my choice. You don’t get to choose what they call you.” He laughs, “Yeah, where I’m from, they used to call me nigger. I didn’t choose that one neither.”

Another time, this old Korean lady, who I’d never seen say a word to anyone, is singing a solo to some Korean karaoke song playing off the speaker system in front of a whole group of patients and staff. Just seeing her actually still alive, enjoying something, actually doing it well, was surreal.

Here’s a few one-liners from another old black man who spends his time wheeling himself around the nursing home and telling jokes to everyone. To the office of black Island nursing administrators: What do they call watermelon in Mississippi? Nigger steak. (“What was dat, Nene?” ‘He say wahtamelon eez called niggah steak.’ “Niggah steak? Ah don’t get eet.” ‘Haha. He’s a funny mon.’) To another patient lying in bed: What do you call an HIV infected patient in a wheelchair? Rollaids.

I guess the nursing home isn’t too bad a place to visit, as long as you focus on the positive. And if you have the door code to leave when the night-time cries of the damned become too much to take.

[And, please ,before you get your knickers in a twist for me saying “nigger”: I don’t normally use the word. This stuff actually happened.]

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