Here’s one of the good things about having an appointment at my Rheumatologist’s office, it’s right next to the mall & since I almost always make appointments when the kid’s are in school I can usually treat myself to a quick, guilt-free, kid-free, pop in. I’m a firm believer that you have to take little moments for just you when you can…right?
My appointment was this past Monday morning & I had only been in the mall a short 15 minutes when I decided that even though it wasn’t even 11a I desperately needed a slice of pizza. The food court was relatively empty, it was still well before the lunch rush, & right after I sat down with my slice of cheese I noticed a group of what appeared to be mentally handicapped adults at the table across from me. There was one man in a wheelchair with his head turned towards the ground, a few women who were quietly sitting at another table & two of who seemed to be caretakers.
My inner voice kicked in & reminded me not to stare & just as I was about to turn my gaze in the other direction the male caretaker called, in a very loud, assertive voice to the woman at the end of the table. He had a thick, island accent so I couldn’t quite make out her name but it sounded like “Annabelle”. For the sake of the story let’s just say it was. “Annabelle” he called, “Get up! Get up! Come here!” The woman looked like she might have Down’s Syndrome & from her grey hair I would guess she was in her 40’s or perhaps even 50’s. She slowly got up from her seat a table down from the man’s & with a downcast gaze walked towards him, once she was in front of him he told her, in the same loud assertive tone, even though she wasn’t more than 2 feet in front of him, “Jump! Jump!” She tried her best but only accomplished a little bounce.
I was taken back by this, did he really just yell at this woman to jump? Perhaps I misunderstood. I must have. His intentions were made quite clear however with his next command, “Dance! Annabelle, dance!” She did an odd bounce & with one hand she waved a beat in the air. He fell onto the table with laughter & reached out with one hand to the female caretaker across from him as if he was looking for her to agree about how hysterical this was. She smiled, shrugged & went back to reading something from a notebook in front of her. He then barked to Annabelle “Sit down! Come on now, sit down!” She slowly walked back to her seat, not once looking even slightly like she had enjoyed this.
You can only imagine my shock at what I had just witnessed. I was horrified, I mean, was I processing this correctly? Had he really just treated her like a circus animal doing tricks for his sick entertainment?? What happened next clarified any confusion I might have had.
He did it again.
Not 30 seconds after she had sat down.
“Annabelle!! Get up! Come on, get up!! Come here!” She looked a little confused, still downcast head, & walked over until she was once again in front of the man. “Dance Annabelle, come on jump!” She tried as hard as she could but her feet didn’t even come close to leaving the floor. He cracked up laughing again. Just then a third caretaker showed up, & the man dismissed her to sit down again.
At this point I was seething mad. I started quickly thinking about what to do. I looked around to see if anyone else had seen this. Maybe someone else would have the same look of both heartbreak & disgust and together we could do something. But no one. A few guys eating their bourbon chicken, another woman snacking on a salad, but no one seemed to be watching the horrible travesty that I had just witnessed.
I stared at the man. This wasn’t the look of death mom stare, this was the I hate you with all of my heart you killed my puppy & you will pay stare. At the very least if he knew someone was watching then maybe he would stop. He met my stare, and held it. To the point where I got a twitch of uneasiness, perhaps even intimidation, & looked away.
I sat there eating my pizza, occasionally looking over & meeting his glance again, trying my best to let him know my utter disdain, but here’s the thing, besides a nasty glare I didn’t know what the heck else to do about it.
There didn’t seem to be anything that would let me know what home or school they were from. I thought about going to up this man & demanding to know where he worked, but one, I doubt he would have told me, it was already quite clearly conveyed that I was NOT happy with him, & two, to be honest, I was kind of scared of him. This was a mean person. A person who had no conscience. It’s not like I was going to tell him how wrong what he had done was & he was going to have some great revelation. I started to think about what if he turned that mean streak towards me? I was all alone. What if he followed me out to my car? Of course these thoughts of mine could be teetering on the verge of paranoid but when you only have a few seconds to decide what to do some crazy stuff can fly through that frazzled little brain of yours.
In the end I left. I felt horrible about it, like I was in high school & had seen a bully torturing another kid & instead of helping had turned away & had gone on to class. It made me sick to my stomach but what else could I have done?
Do you ever watch the John Quinones show “What Would You Do?” In it they have actors play out situations in public & then wait to see what normal everyday people nearby would or wouldn’t do. Once, they had a girl who was clearly beyond intoxicated being picked up by a sleazy guy who was trying to get her back to his hotel room, some standerbys intervened & advocated for the girl who wasn’t able to say no. You get the point. The thing is whenever I’ve watched this show I have always been completely sure that I would be that person to help. I would be the one to stand up & say something. Here I was though, in my own real life “What would you do?” & I did nothing.
I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days & here’s what I’ve come up with, I can be disappointed in myself all day long but that won’t change what’s happened. This poor girl was being mistreated by the person who was entrusted to be taking care of her. I suspect by their apathy this was just a little peak into how they might treat all of their patients. What I can do is try to report this man. I can try to figure out what home had an outing to the mall that morning & just maybe it can be brought to the attention of the facility or perhaps this woman’s loved ones.
So two questions that I hope you’ll answer for me…
1) Honestly, what would you have done?
2) What can I do now? I’ve tried googling to find homes in that area & it’s not so easy to figure out. This happened at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD on Monday morning around 10:45 am. Any ideas??