On Being a Person in a Meat Suit…


It is so hard to be a person, isn’t it? So very hard. I’m not talking just about being a decent human being, which is nearly impossible some days. But, the basic daily chore of waking up and dragging ourselves out of bed every day can be terrifying. We walk around in the meat suits assigned to us, navigating through obstacles created by other people in meat suits, the weather, or God and His counterpart. It is so hard.

Sometimes we succeed as people. Last Valentine’s Day, I advised a man in the grocery store floral department that the wife he claims has a brown thumb would appreciate a fresh bouquet of roses and some chocolate instead of the live orchids he held in his hand. He was grateful (so were the orchids). But, sometimes we think we succeed and other people point out how we did not. I feel like we need a customer support line (1-800-OHE-LPME) just to own this meat suit and have this existence. What do I do when hold the door for someone and they act annoyed and refuse to make eye contact or utter a quick “thanks” as they pass?

People are the best… until they are the worst.

I sat in a doctor’s office waiting room yesterday and there were two people behind me who I labeled the worst for the day. I didn’t see them, I heard them. In my mind, they were a man in his late 70s wearing starched jeans with suspenders, and his female companion of about the same age wearing a floral dress and sensible shoes. They were sitting right next to each other but speaking as if they were on stage. I was reminded of the old TV show Hee Haw, all they needed was a cornfield and a scarecrow. It was impossible to hear anything else, impossible to have a conversation with anyone, impossible to try to read or even think anything except “shut up shut up shut up.” He was telling jokes – some of them racist, some of them misogynist, all of them old, and none of them funny. She was laughing too hard, like she was on the front row of a comedy club and just found out it was going to be a Netflix special.

The other people in the room were clearly uncomfortable, annoyed, and embarrassed by this couple. We were all – every race, age, and gender – on the same page. As a group, we hated them and wished they would cease existing. We sat in silence together as they offended literally everyone in the room.

When the nurse called my name, I leapt out of my seat and ran to her like Johnny Olsen had just hollered “Come on down!” My hands were waving in the air and I cheered. The remaining patients laughed softly, but I could tell they were jealous of my good fortune. My name had been called.

While I am proud of us for not causing a scene, I’m also ashamed that we didn’t cause a scene. Those people were the worst, but in our complicit silence, we definitely weren’t the best. We kept the peace, but at what price?

After discharge from surgery, my sister drove me to the pharmacy for my pain medicines. The pharmacy tech said the doctor had sent the prescription to another location. The response to my next logical question was “no, we cannot not transfer that type of drug without the doctor’s instructions.”

We drove to the other pharmacy which didn’t have the drug on hand. They would order it and I would have to come back tomorrow. “What do you mean?” I asked. The young woman behind the counter repeated what she had already said and I had, of course, already understood. She suggested I call my doctor to have it sent to the first pharmacy. I couldn’t because my cell phone was dead from being off the charger all day and I had no idea what my doctor’s number was. I stood there blinking as if I expected her to look in her pocket and discover the medicine in there. She apologized like it was her fault, but of course it wasn’t. I blinked again and just walked away without saying any of the words that were clearly visible on my face. I heard her call another apology out to me, but I just let the door close behind me without a backward glance.

Then, right then, I was the worst person.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? We can be the best person and the worst person. We don’t even have to change clothes. We wear the same meat suit every day and it makes it impossible to identify bad people from good people. I can tell who is a fireman or an employee at On Cue, but I can’t determine their goodness until I interact with them. But, even then their goodness isn’t static, it can go away at any time. Like my medicine, it can be at another location, inaccessible until tomorrow. Maybe we should all carry meat tenderizer in our pockets – to sprinkle on them, and also on us.

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