“She needs to understand that she is a white woman talking to a black woman and I can make her life hell…”
She had been caught stealing lollipops from two different nurse stations.
Fistfuls of lollipops.
Apparently she was the last patient of the day. She took suckers from the pod area where she had been seen by my partner, then had walked around to the opposite side of the clinic to my pod, an area that seemed empty because we were through seeing patients. She reached behind the counter into the prize basket that was stashed under there. She grabbed one fistful and shoved it into her purse. As she was about to shove the second fistful into her purse, a staff member who had come around the corner quietly spoke up.
“Can I help you?”
The woman jumped a bit and turned.
“My daughter likes these.”
“How many do you need?”
“I’m just taking a few. These.” She waved the hand with the suckers. It was way more than a few.
“But I just saw you take another handful.”
“This has never been a problem before…”
“We have those for kids when they get blood work done or get an immunization.”
“My daughter is a patient here, too.” Anger and indignation radiated from her. It was clear she felt entitled to as many lollipops as she wanted.
“That’s fine, then.” The staff member could sense it was escalating and at this point just wanted the woman to move on.
“I tell you what, I guess I will just need to find another doctor!”
Silence hung in the air like a menacing animal ready to pounce.
The woman shoved the second (actually third) fistful of candy into her purse, stormed into the office manager’s office, and proceeded to rant about being accused wrongly of stealing, gave an inaccurate account of the episode, and then stated that she intended to make it a racial issue.
After she left, the office manager told the staff member that she should have handled it differently.
In point of fact, I saw the whole thing from my office. I watched the interaction between the staff member and this woman. The staff member handled it very diplomatically, I thought. I am not sure how she could have handled it “better.” Do I only feel that way because I am a white woman, too?
“It was just a bunch of suckers, Doc! We don’t have to lose a patient for a few suckers, do we?”
The fact is the woman was stealing. She was stealing our expensive organic, no corn syrup, no-dye lollipops.
How many more fistfuls would she take if someone did not intervene? Compared to the other stuff we have had stolen from us, this was nothing but if you give the impression you are not paying attention, it opens the door for other thefts. We had just had a temporal thermometer stolen again that costs hundreds of dollars to replace…
When someone gets caught red handed, they do one of two things:
They leave quietly with maybe an apology (or more likely no apology) and never return…
Or they raise holy hell and try to make it appear as if they themselves were the one wronged.
We have all done it at some point ourselves. Sometimes we really start to believe it, our rewrite of the events. It allows us to live with ourselves.
All of this is human nature.
We are all victims of our humanity, no matter what our race. We cannot escape it and as such, none of us is “better” than anyone else. I recognize this. I have no idea what is going on in this woman’s life. I cannot sit in judgement of her per se.
How many did she need?
Who knows if she will make more of it? Will she complain to corporate? Will she write scathing online reviews? Slam us on our patient satisfaction surveys? This is not the first time something of this sort has happened here and I know it will not be the last.
There is a part of me that is sad that this has to distract from all of the real, true acts of discrimination in this world.
And then I start to worry.
It will eat at me for days.
Should it have been handled differently?
There are a lot of things that I write about as posts that stress me out. I anxiously await how it will be taken, watching the likes and comments. This is one of those posts. I feel as if I lack credibility as a white woman. Who am I to even speak of this sort of thing and I fear that anything I say will be taken the wrong way.
And yet I feel compelled to write about it because I feel trapped by it…
This is how I set myself free.