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Charlotte’s Busman’s Holiday in Oakland, California

Charlotte’s Busman’s Holiday in Oakland, California
February 25th – March 7, 2001

This latest little adventure of mine began when my clinical supervisor (from my other jaunts to see dialysis patients twice monthly Blythe, California, and to go to monthly social work training and staff meetings in San Diego, California) asked for volunteers to go to Oakland for a week or so to help out in the clinic there.

I wasn’t sure when I put my name in the hat if my other supervisor in Arizona would be willing to be spare me for a week or two, but that turned out to be no problem. There were many personal things to anticipate – especially a return to Northern California where we lived from 1976 until about 1981 and revisit old memories and an opportunity to go up to Paradise to visit my husband’s grave. On the professional side (which we must remember is the real reason for the trip) was the opportunity to work in a different environment with a different population and cultural mix of patients (hemodialysis versus peritoneal dialysis, inner city versus rural in Blythe and predominantly urban, middle class in Phoenix). I was very happy when the approval came down from the various high places up the working chain.

Of course I didn’t look forward to leaving my family behind, including my wee lad, Angus – and this gives me an excuse to insert a picture taken in our back yard of my pride and joy –


and our new little addition to the family, Xochitl’s now six week old baby, Karsten – but off I went anyhow!

(Thought I’d better put a picture of the baby in, too, or you’d think Angus was my favourite!)

Getting on the road was a wee bit of an adventure. I didn’t want to pay for the expenses and then worry about when my reimbursement would come through, and the company didn’t have any direct bill hotels, so an advance check was the only option. By the time we got the paper work taken care of, the check had to be written, not typed, and manually, not electronically, signed. My bank had a wee bit of a problem taking care of that, so this bright spark here thought she’d (I’m meaning me, by the way) go to one of those Check Cashing places to take care of it. Needless to say, I found one nestled halfway between the tattoo parlour and the topless bar in a little strip mall shopping center near our local community college – makes you wonder what those students are learning, doesn’t it?

This is my membership card in the check cashing club!
This is my membership card in the check cashing club!

I learned a lot that day – including how important bullet proof glass and locked doors and police alarms are in certain establishments – but managed to leave this fine place, gratefully clutching the $$$$ that would mean I wouldn’t have to sleep in my rental care (which was, fortunately, a direct bill) somewhere near Golden Gate Park. When I came home from this transaction I told my children the patrons of this nameless and blameless establishment were singing the praises of Bill Clinton (and I’m sure, all of them forgetting or choosing to ignore the fact that his friend Rich was somewhere in Switzerland with 48 million of our dollars which I’m sure the dozen people standing in line behind me could put to some good use). My dear family could only gasp in awe and exclaim, "Oh, Mom, you didn’t open your mouth and say anything did you?" I assured them I have figured out at last what it takes for me to keep my mouth shut – it’s my advance check on the other side of the glass and no way for me to get it or my money unless I make nice to people I seriously disagree with!

When I came home from work the next night, Xochitl and Kevin had a little going away present for me – an attachment for my key chain filled with pepper spray. They said they thought it made a nice little addition to the eye poker outer, the whistle, and the miniature Swiss Army Knife I already have on it!

And so, bright and early Sunday morning, there I was – bags packed and ready to go; expense account Charlotte with plans to work hard, eat fish every day in a different restaurant, and come home safe and sound to my family. Seems like I did because here I am to tell the tale.

But, seriously, it truly was a wonderful experience. We have about 120 patients in our Oakland facility, all of whom were very welcoming and kind to me. I did a lot of work related to basic living needs – medical insurance, food, housing, transportation, utility payments, etc – and am looking forward to going back and doing some follow up work assisting patients who would like to find work or job training, and also beginning some needs assessments and counseling related to quality of life, educating patients regarding rights and responsibilities and patient involvement in their plan of care, and moving on to increasing patient abilities to identify psychological, social, and medical problems and become more independent in resolving them.

I’m very fortunate in being employed in doing work that I love, and being able to support my family in a field I have become very committed to. And I’ve only nine years or so to retirement – but if my bosses keep treating me this well I just might stay on a little longer.

Hope you enjoy my Oakland adventure as much as I did.



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