Freudian Slips: Ziggy and a Stardust Memory

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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.

January 22, 2006

Ziggy and a Stardust Memory

A few years ago, I received a needy client on my caseload. Ziggy is a good-natured fellow but he had a knack of getting emotionally attached to his social worker. Ziggy exacted unrelenting high maintenance. He always needed to know your schedule just in case he wanted to reach you at a moment’s notice. If I told him I had an appointment in the Arizona desert, Ziggy would find me in a driving sand storm. The inventor of Caller ID had a guy like Ziggy in mind.

Servicing a client like Ziggy, who lived only two miles away in my small hometown, is an even greater challenge. If I even hinted to Ziggy where I lived, he would think nothing of showing up at my doorstep at supper time like an awkwardly funny scene straight from the movie What About Bob.

When I got Ziggy on my caseload, he already outlived a string of social workers. I sensed the clear and present danger just reading over his file before I met him. Keeping Ziggy at arm’s length seemed not only an objective but practical survivor skills. So I promised myself to discourage co-dependency by setting boundaries and not divulging personal information.

My first scheduled field visit to Ziggy’s home convinced me that he and I lived entirely too close. Forget about it being eight thirty in the morning, Ziggy stood out on the porch waiting for my arrival.

“Is that your car?” a voice asked. “How long have you had it? Do you own two cars? I have seen a car like that around town. Maybe I saw your wife riding in it. You do have a wife don’t you? Never mind I see the wedding band. Congratulations.”

“The one and only Ziggy R. Palpatine I presume?” I greeted while stepping onto the porch. “How do you do? My name is Joe Tornatore.”

Always friendly and gracious, Ziggy invited me inside. Wee children scampered around the modest house in various stages of dress and play. Ziggy had enough children to cover the infield of a baseball team but there were questions whether he and his wife could raise an only child. After giving me fair warning that all the children have head lice, Ziggy offered me an open spot on the fabric couch to sit down. I respectfully declined his hospitality. Over the next thirty five minutes, I stood stationary in the same spot. I discussed relevant issues in Ziggy’s life to his satisfaction. When we started to only regurgitate the same topics of conversation, I felt it appropriate to end the house call. Ziggy, however, never understood the true meaning of goodbye.

I explained, “Listen, I got to head to my next appointment in Swedesboro. It was glad meeting you and your family. I will contact the school nurse about the kids.”

“Are you sure that you gotta go now?”


Truth of the matter, I had no such appointment. I felt the need to keep Ziggy off balance so he didn’t get used to my routine. Instead, I headed directly back to my satellite office to shuffle paperwork.

About two hours later, the ring of the phone had a different tone to it.

“Joe Tornatore.” I answered the phone.

“Man, you made good time. This is Ziggy. I thought you said you had an appointment.”

“Never mind. What is up?” I asked.

“Ugh, I spoke to the school nurse and good news. She said the children could return to….”

“Glad you worked it out on your own, Ziggy.” I interrupted. “Kids need their schooling. Sorry to cool your jets but I am heading out in the field now. Got to roll. Goodbye.”

I must have left Ziggy holding the receiver in his hand. I hopped in the car and traveled thirty one miles east to my main office. About an hour into a staff meeting, the phone rang off the hook. A colleague left her seat to answer the phone. She issued me a head nod that the phone call was for me. Phone calls are usually held at the front desk during staff meetings. Walking to the phone, I started to worry about an emergency on my caseload.

“Joe is that you?” a familiar voice asked.

“Who is this?”

“Ziggy, silly. Who else? I took a chance that you might be at the other office. You weren’t answering your other phone, you know, the one I talked to you at this morning.”

“I remember Ziggy. I remember. I’m in a meeting now. I trust that your reaching me is important.”

“Joe, I forgot to mark it on my calendar. What day did you say you would be coming back out to my house?”

“I didn’t say if or when I would be back, Ziggy. I’ll talk to you later about that. I’m busy now. Don’t call me back today. I am working late into the night.”

“Is it that Swedesboro situation?” asked Ziggy on a need to know basis.

I crisply hung up the phone.

Six hours later, life found me in the snack aisle of the neighborhood ACME. I was on my own time trying to accomplish some food shopping. Straight ahead of me, Ziggy and his kids wrestled for control of a bag of pretzels. I kind of did a double take hoping this might be a mirage in that Arizona desert. The encounter is the stuff Freudian Slips is made of - irony, spice and everything twice. Ziggy sees me before I can even invent a stealth escape route. The unbridled expression on Ziggy’s face proved to be a forerunner to his commentary. His beady eyes put the range in range rover.

“Still working, huh?” related Ziggy. “Joe, you’re going to make life tough on me. Westville, Swedesboro, Clayton, Hammonton, all in one work day. Man, you’re all over the freaking map. I’m never gonna be able to keep track of ya!”



Blogger Merci said...

We've all had our Ziggys, haven't we? Frustrating and endearing all at once. And the potential to be a one man caseload.

We have these competing needs as social workers - the need to be involved and committed (in the sense of the word meaning 'dedicated,' which often leads us to the other sense of the word) versus the need to maintain a professional relationship that does not foster dependency.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

social workers have all had Ziggy!

4:52 PM  
Anonymous paxromano said...

but could he play guitar?

Never mind, lame Bowie joke at your client's expense

5:30 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

if I mentioned that, it might be considered stringing the reader along.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous larry said...

we don't really get alot of sandstorms here in the AZ desert...
more like dust

10:32 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I stand corrected.

12:03 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Sand or dust, it's all the same to us Joisey people. Funny post, sad too! Thinking this person is responsible for raising children has me at a loss for words, so, no comment about this state of the union.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Maja said...

I feel guilt just from reading that, and I don't even know why!

2:42 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

As you know, there is no entrance exam on parenting.

Explore your feelings. Get back to me. lol.

6:22 PM  
Blogger E said...


You may have to consider moving now!

10:48 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

left that town in a pile of dust.

12:39 AM  

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