Freudian Slips: A Hefty Move to Olfactory Purgatory

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

July 10, 2005

A Hefty Move to Olfactory Purgatory

"Ooh that smell. The smell gets around you." -Lynyrd Skynyrd
Mother Nature provided clues that it wasn't the best day to move a client or pack fillet of fish on a bed of white rice for lunch. The ninety degree temperature and oppressive humidity caused the day to wakeup inside me. My shirt spot unprofessionally with wetness. Hastily exiting the company car, I failed to take in my immediate surroundings. My preoccupation proved to be a costly mistake on that fateful day in 1998.
My agency provided case management to Katrel but I would have an unwitting accomplice in this Freudian Slips caper. Alicia had Katrel on her caseload from a child protection standpoint. We shared responsibility of the fourteen-year-old boy. Alicia convinced an aunt to take Katrel into her home so we needed to uproot this non-ambulatory, non-verbal, profoundly retarded boy with cerebral palsy. Family is rightfully first in the child welfare system.
Luggage, however, is practically a luxury. I wish I could buy every last one of my clients decent luggage so they didn't look like drifters when they relocated. I had moved Katrel four times in the last seven years so he alone qualified for my good intentions more than any other client on my caseload. I am sorry to report Katrel had no luggage on the day of his move. There just aren't enough hours in the work day.
Closing out Katrel's paperwork at the kitchen table with his foster parent derails me. It is taking me longer than I figured to reconcile his finances and get on with the physical part of the move. Alicia pops through the front door looking all spry in a summer dress and sandals. I could hear her visiting with Katrel, who quietly stewed in his wheelchair plotting his next great escape. Katrel needed close supervision because he had Houdini in his blood. If left unguarded, he would escape from his wheelchair and go AWOL. There really isn't a word in the English language to describe run away attempts by the non-ambulatory. Exemplifying mind over matter, Katrel could scoot away wheeling his powerful arms atop the platform of his disabled hind limbs.
"Good morning, Alicia." I greeted, peeking my head into the living room full of the two of them.
Alicia turned and smiled. "How are you making out, Joe?"
"All of Katrel's belongings are packed. The bad news is that everything is tied up in those green garbage bags by the front door. We have to use garbage bags to move him."
Alicia gave me a look like she had seen this indignity carried out too many times before in her career.
I joked, "Looks like a Hefty move."
Alicia grinned. "How about I start moving his things while you finish up the paperwork?"
"Okay, if that is okay with you." I obliged. "Who wants to transport Katrel in their car?"
"I have a bigger trunk for his wheelchair."she said. "I'll take Katrel and his chair."
"Whatever bags don't fit in your car, put them by the curb down by my car. I'll load them when I get finished here.'
I returned to the kitchen, where I worked on securing the Medicaid card, counting medicine pills, matching prescriptions to the medicine bottles, and a dozen other mundane tasks off of a checklist. I heard the front door swing open and close about a half dozen times before I got the paperwork organized. As I walked through the living room to leave, I noticed that all the garbage bags had been moved. Alicia, Katrel, and the manual wheelchair have disappeared from sight. I double stepped outside where I was relieved to see Alicia fastening Katrel's seat belt inside her car. Moving days and runaways are not comparable. After I thanked the sponsor for caring for Katrel, my exodus was complete.
"You made quick work, Alicia." The plurality of the move had paid dividends. "I'll follow you to the aunt's house because I don't know where she lives."
"She lives only a few miles down the road, Joe." reassured Alicia. "We will be there in no time."
When I got to the company car, I saw two green garbage bags resting curbside in front of my car door. Fearing Alicia would get too far ahead of me, I literally tossed the green bags across the backseat of the car. I scooted into the driver's seat and took off to a trailing position behind Alicia, who owned a lead foot and familiarity with the town.
Less than a minute into the ride, I noticed a terrible stench. Pew! I made quick work of rolling down my window. The first turn of the steering wheel shifted the cargo causing the stench to permeate from the backseat. Keeping my eyes on the road, I tried to fathom what smelling so rotten would be considered a keepsake for Katrel's new home. Once the smell reached epic proportions, I pulled my polo shirt up over my mouth and nose as a counterbalance. I imagined looking like the Frito Bandito through Alicia's rearview mirror but appearances fall by the wayside in a case of survival of the fittest. The smell suffocated me even while breathing though a poly/cotton blend mask. This was olfactory purgatory! I rolled down the passenger side window and cranked the air conditioning to circulate the air but tornadic winds couldn't improve this smell. For my mitigating efforts, I fell back in my pursuit of Alicia but I had to get to the bottom of this. I contorted my neck around to sniff out the problem. A bed of steaming rotten crab carcasses teaming with live maggots were littered across the backseat. What the frick? My mind spun for an explanation in this theatre of the absurd.
I quickly figured out the error of my ways. The garbage bags that I grabbed curbside had nothing to do with my client's move and everything to do with a summer crab fest. I felt asinine upon realizing I had loaded rotting trash into the car. The thin sun-soaked trash bag liners spilled the crab shells about the car. I could tolerate the crabs but not decomposition and maggots too. I pictured the rice in my lunch coming to horrific maggoty life to putrefy the fish. I gagged. Unable to take the smell any longer, I started to wave down Alicia for her to pull over when we arrived at Katrel's new home. I stumbled out of the car, doubled over, and almost vomited until my last ounce of professionalism saved me from an even more embarrassing situation.
"What is wrong?" asked Alicia. She moved towards me. "Joe, are you all right?"
My breathing was spotty so I chose my words wisely. "Did all of Katrel's bags fit in your car?" I mustered.
Alicia asked, "Yes, why?"
"That is what I was afraid of." I gasped. "Look what I brought along for the ride."
I shamelessly showed her the crustacean mass murder inside the cabin. She pinched her hand to her nose and retreated backwards. After a round of deserving 'Oh my God's!' we both started laughing. I tried to swear Alicia to secrecy but this story would be destined to be told countless times. Who wouldn't repeat this moving experience?
Alicia only knew the shell of the story. Shell-shocked, I left work for the day to go home and clean up the mess. I had to resort to hand-picking the crab bodies then vacuuming maggots and tiny shells with reckless abandon. My clothes seemed permanently pressed with the smell of fish so I trashed them. I showered. Toweling off after the first shower, I still smelled traces of crab. I showered again. Over the next few days, I shampooed the carpets without the slightest improvement. A cocktail of air freshners, Carpet Fresh, moth balls, and fresh orange peels couldn't return that car to normal occupancy. I consulted care care professionals and owners of limousine company with no makeover results. That smell had become so embedded in the car that not even a fire hose and Mr. Bubbles could reverse its stink. I became a laughing stock at work driving around in a smelly car that was a shell of its former self. There were plenty more fish in the sea but there wasn't another fish cart like that on the open road. I got to get this kid some luggage.



Blogger Zelda Parker said...

OMG Joe,
Bubba thinks that all we do is talk on the phone, drink coffee and take two hour lunches. Humm!

7:22 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Oh, you poor thing! What a side splitting rendition of one day in the life of a social worker!!!!!....I laughed until I cried at your discomfort. Forgive me, please! I couldn't help myself, you do have a great way of telling a story.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Karl said...

Such is the life of a social worker, especially State social workers. Not all the glory, trips, bonuses that people think of!

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure can relate to this type of story. My co-worker and I get into this kind of trouble about once a week. When we call our boss we don't even use our first names. We just say this is Emily and she knows we've done it again. Great writing Joe. Liked it alot. Could picture the whole thing. Emily

6:21 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

How is that for a crabby co-worker.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

There is little glory on the battlefield.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I didn't eat white rice for a month.

7:41 PM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

How the HECK is it that all these things happen to YOU? If I ever need a little excitement in my life, I think I'll ride tag-a-long with a social worker! I'll sniff the car out, first, though...

9:53 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Active caseload and magnet for irony. Thanks for visiting.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

hahahahahaha! just as i remembered......

10:27 PM  

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