posted by Doranna Durgin
It's taken a long time for this one to sink in, but I'm finally getting there.
When I was younger, I often took people by surprise. I was assertive; by unconscious default I approached situations as though expecting not to be heard, and so I made myself crystal clear from the outset. But others were often taken aback; they felt I was in fact adversarial.
So I worked on that. Over time, I softened my approach. Oh, not perfectly, but it's always on my mind; I forever fret and worry about whether I've been too blunt. I've learned more neutral language; I've learned to quiet my body language.
And guess what. It looks like no one listens any more.
A few years ago I went in for a minor surgery--gallbladder. I spoke to all three of the anesthesiologists in the hospital's line-up; I made a special effort to do this. I made a special effort to have it put on my record: "Do not give me morphine. Morphine will make me sick. Very, very, very VERY SICK. Just Don't Do It."
My first clear memory upon waking in the recovery room, in some considerable discomfort but not yet verbal, was of the nurse saying, "Here's another couple milligrams of morphine. That'll help." And in my anesthesia-fogged brain, I thought, "Another!?"
And then I commenced to get very, very, very VERY SICK. And then the muscle spasms started. And then the diaphragm inflammation. These years later? It's still a problem that flares up now and then.
In recent years--my dark side thinks it has something to do with my entry into middle-age--I've had repeated little incidents out and about in the world. Young sales guys dismissing my knowledge in an area I've been researching since before--well, you know. Repeated incidents in the medical community in which I explain that I'm sensitive to drugs, and the doctor nods and acts as though s/he is listening, and then proceeds to screw up my life for some significant amount of time. And hey, I think I've been clear to the point of rudeness during all this, but gosh, it always seems to take them by surprise.
And then there was this thing with Connery--you know, the attack, blah blah blah. Anyone who reads here already knows what happened. At the time, I didn't shout, foam at the mouth, cause a scene, or otherwise toss lightning bolts. But I described the attack and bite, repeatedly--and then I was stunned when the show chair dismissed the matter. I now think he didn't hear me--or didn't believe me, don't ask me which is worse--but what really upset me happened later, when I learned that in community background discussion of the incident (because it's a small world!), no one had a clue that Connery had been bitten.
Was it because I didn't cause a scene? Because I was exhausted from the weekend, stunned from the incident, and trusting that if I spoke clearly, it would be enough to be heard? Was it simply because I've reached the age/status of the invisible-unless-I'm-pitching-a-fit? And what about those previous experiences, wherein people pretend to hear but don't...and ultimately I'm the one to pay a price beyond mere inconvenience?
Honestly, I don't know. And though I feel there must be a balance of shouting it out and going unheard, I obviously haven't been able to find it. Truth is, I want to believe there's a balance...that if I say things in just the right way, those to whom I am speaking will listen. But my other little voice says...you know, maybe that's putting the blame on the wrong half of the interaction. Because I have, after all, said what I've said. I've said it clearly. I've said it unmistakably, and even repeatedly. I've had it put in writing.
Establishments that take care of animals--groomers, vets--usually have a little code for those animals who are difficult to handle. Biters, scratchers, fighters...they get a little red dot on their chart or some other subtle warning--something the staff will see, but the owners won't notice or assign meaning to. And those animals...they may not be the most appreciated patients and customers, but by golly, one pays attention to them. One is alert. One watches for the signs that things might be going awry, and that teeth might shortly be making an appearance.
Enough is enough. I'm ready for a little red dot.