In the back of my mind, I spent the day searching for what would be my next blog post. To my disappointment, that topic punched me in the gut on my way home this evening. Let me tell you about my day.
First, I should set the scene. I work in a small city, but for a major corporation with about 2,000 employees at my particular location (there are many). A company that big in a town this size, perhaps in any town, leads to parking problems, hence I ride a company-provided shuttle from a rented parking lot to the office, 3 miles away. I’ve been doing this for 11 months. It’s routine and I’m fairly familiar with each driver.
Today was a regular day on the job. I made some progress, worked on a couple of documents, and even handed in a final draft of one to my editor so I was feeling pretty good about my day when I headed home. As I’m standing outside of the main entrance, I’m talking to my mother on the phone when the shuttle I’ve been waiting on pulls up.
My first thought was oh no, not this guy. The driver is truly the only driver on the afternoon shift that I dislike. This man has no sense of social etiquette, professionalism, or personal boundaries in conversation, but his voice has a polite tone so people are often fooled by him. He gives me the creeps. (Other drivers have told me I’m not alone.)
Oh well, I thought to myself. I’ve just gotten off of work. I’m more than ready to go home–you know the feeling–I’m ready for a dinner date with my mister and it’s January, I’m not going to stand outside and wait 10 to 15 minutes for another shuttle when I could already be at my car if I just take this one. (Side note: Mister is what I call my boyfriend. Boyfriend just sounds juvenile for a man pushing 40.)
Anyway, I suck it up, say my best friendly hello, and take the first seat. I’m right behind the driver. (I always take this seat when I’m first in so I can be the first out.) The driver attempts to strike up a conversation even though he sees that I’m on the phone, so I try to respond, but also point out that I can’t really chat with him at the moment. He gets out and walks around, I’m assuming to stretch his legs. Eventually, 10 or so more passengers climb in, he comes back and radios to the other drivers that we’re heading out so they can head in.
I’m still on the phone with my mom getting an update on grandpa, who may have just taken a turn for the worse. This is a call that I’ve been dreading for years. As she is telling me this news, I hear something that infuriates me to my core. At this moment, I imagine myself with blood streaming from my eyes and ears as my blood pressure has rocketed through the roof and headed straight to Mars!
The extremely loud driver had just made a joke over his walkie-phone to another driver (we’ll call him Ted) about Ted’s senility and whether or not dementia had finally set in. This idiot goes on, but at this point, I can’t hear anything he’s saying. I’m fully enraged and ready to pounce. For a split second, I thought I was going to lunge at the man. I pictured it vividly and if there hadn’t been other passengers, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have.
Let me point out that as I’m on the phone, I’m crying. I’m trying to hide it so that at least not EVERYONE on the shuttle knows it, but I already had confirmation that the man in the seat two feet away is aware and I’m certain the driver is too, along with anyone else in the front half of the bus.
I have never in my life held back as much as I did in that moment. Maybe I shouldn’t have, maybe I should’ve embarrassed this man in front of every passenger riding with us. Maybe I should’ve screamed and cursed, maybe I should’ve thrown something, maybe I should’ve politely explained to him why he is an utter imbecile with no sense of his surroundings, but I didn’t. After all, I do need to keep my job. Instead I dug my finger tips into my seat, bit my bottom lip, and loudly told my mother who asked what he had said that I would repeat the inconsiderate, moronic remark when I was in a more appropriate setting.
That’s my long-winded way of getting to my topic, which is: Some things are NOT funny. I love comedy and I’m a fan of comedians who say everything is fair game, sometimes I even agree with them, but the shuttle ride from work is NOT a damn comedy club! I didn’t walk into a show knowing nothing was off limits and I could be offended, all I did was head home from work.
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
That last one doesn’t just go for writing. Know your audience. If you’re in even a semi-professional setting where you don’t know everyone, it’s probably best to not make such jokes or comments. You never know what someone is going through at any given time and regardless, dementia is not funny. Alzheimer’s is not funny. Does watching someone you love, someone you’ve idolized since birth, forget who you are and wither away into nothingness sound funny to you? No, it doesn’t. Do you know why? BECAUSE DEMENTIA IS NOT A DAMN JOKE!
This disease has become the biggest curse of my life; it has become my biggest fear and my greatest cause. If you’re still with me, sharing my day, first of all, Thank you! Second, please, PLEASE think before you speak. Please know that this is a disease that destroys families. There’s nothing funny about AIDS or cancer, and there’s nothing funny about dementia. If you’ve been touched by this disease, I would love to hear your story too.