As I may have mentioned, I drive a small bus for a senior center. I transport people to places they need to go, e.g., doctors appointments, physical therapy sessions, mental health programs and the like. Some I transport because they cannot drive. Most I transport because they can no longer afford a car, or even to call a cab. For transportation — and for the health care appointments to which I drive them — they rely on one state program or another.
Most of these folks are old, and all are incapable of work. They either room in a revamped single family dwelling ministered to by minimum-wage immigrants who cannot speak English, or they molder away in some relative’s basement. Unless they started out with several millions of dollars, they’ve long since burned through their savings and are now “burdens on society.”
The ones who still have their mental faculties are depressed, if not despondent. And why wouldn’t they be? Of whatever use they once were to society, they are useful no longer. Moreover, beloved spouses have either died or are themselves feeble and enervated and living where their needs can be met. Children, hassled by the Bush Era Depression, are too broke and overworked to come visit.
One of my favorite passengers, an elegant woman of the theater, has been laid low by a nasty stroke. She has enough money to live in one of the better places. Once or twice a week, I take her to a mental health clinic run by the state where, in an effort to dispel her depression, she gets some righteous dope. It doesn’t work. Fighting tears, she told me that the man she loves, and who loves her, lives in Florida but the Depression has cost him his wealth. He can no longer visit; they must content themselves with phone calls and letters.
One day, when I’d been early, she asked me to drive though the parking lot of a nearby theater that’s close to the clinic. She wanted to see what was playing. Looking at the marquee, she said, “You don’t know what I’d give to go see a movie.” But she can’t, for the trip and the admission are not in the budget. Her life, she says with grim resignation, can go on for years — perhaps a decade or more. It’s a twilight existence of dope, meals, TV and bedtime, day after stultifying day.
There’s something wrong with this picture.
Frankly, I don’t know what to recommend. I’m not even sure there is an answer. So for the next few months, I’m going to keep a diary and see what trends I can spot and will let you know.