October 25, 2006

Backhanded Compliments

I had blood drawn today. The lab technicians at my HMO (Kaiser) are generally friendly and I've gotten used to seeing the same smiling faces each month. I used to think they were smiling because they enjoyed their jobs. But as I was sitting with a needle in my arm trying to think about anything but the leaching I noticed a plaque a few feet away on the wall. It read:

The Member is:

...the most important person in the program. Without the members there would be no need for your positions.

...not a cold enrollment statistic but a flesh and blood human being with feelings and emotions like our own.

...not someone to be tolerated so we can do our thing. They are our thing.

...not dependent on us. Rather, we are dependent on them.

...not the interruption of our work but rather the purpose of it. We are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.

These techs were smiling because they were living under a threat. Who knew I had feelings and emotions similar to these people! I deserved to be treated like a human? What a novel concept! They should have added a few more lines of clarification for these employees who seemed to need to specific instruction on the art of social interaction:

If you prick the member does he not bleed?

If you tickle the member does he not laugh?

If you poison the member does he not die and if you wrong him shall he not revenge and cost us millions in a malpractice suit? (thanks Will!)

I imagine Kaiser erected this plaque to make me feel empowered, but unfortunately the real effect was to make me feel sub-human. Nevermind the not-so-subtle threats it conveys to Kaiser employees about how they are unemployed bums with out us. Did my technician really need a plaque above his head all day telling him that I matter? Kaiser thinks so. I imagine Kaiser put out a survey asking employees their honest perceptions of us and then made this plaque to correct their incorrect assumptions.

Maybe I should erect a similar plaque at my house to boost moral.

Your Family Is:

...not a black hole for your energy, emotions and talents. Rather they encourage you to lose these things altogether so you have less to stress about in the long run.

...not a wasted long term futile effort. It is only through futility that you learn patience and have the opportunity to try again and again and again...

...not as fun as traveling abroad foot loose and fancy free. But at least you don't have to talk to those smelly Europeans every day.

...not the reason your house is a filthy pigstye. Consider that you were pretty bad at cleaning to begin with.

...not always the unwelcome company you perceive them as. You want somebody at your funeral don't you?

I think it would look stunning on cherry.


Adam said...

Best. Post. Ever.

i think when you wrote that description of your "family" what you meant was penny. i don't make your life harder, do i? i clean up way more messes than i make, don't i? not half, mind you, but i am certainly a net contributor of emotional support and energy, aren't i? i am not a black hole sucking your will to live, am i? am i? WHYYYYYYYY?

compulsive writer said...


Rachel said...

This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, you're better than a Hallmark card. Brilliant! Cherry would be lovely.

Lisa M. said...


You're so clever.

OH, I still laugh about the "is that your dinnr"

(I so have been living in the bozark mountains for too long!)

Lindsay said...

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Thanks for a good chuckle!

And I agree: it WOULD look stunning on cherry.

A Payne said...

Now I know what I am going to get everyone one for Christmas. Should I print your manifesto on t-shirts or baseball caps?

Th. said...


Gewhiz, save some compliments for me, people!

josef said...


salutations... not sure if you've gone to heirloom yet, but i put an enticing comment on la eats... after reading it i am most certain that heirloom bakery will be on the forefront of your mind, sticking out like a french fry on a salad:


peace out.