So, along with my business partner Olivia, I’m just about ten days away from opening Chico Community Acupuncture. I moved out to the North-Central valley of California to follow my dream girl to her dream job in what Honora Wolfe likes to call “the land of fruits and nuts.” I figured we’d fit right in.
My girlfriend moved out here first to start her job, while I finished up acu school in Boulder. We moved our stuff out courtesy of Southwest Airlines’ free baggage policy – me lugging two 50-pounders each time I came out to visit. What was left fit into the back of an aging little Ford Ranger we acquired just for that purpose, and when I finished up at SWAC I made my final pilgrimage out here. Why all the moving details? I’m getting there, stick with me.
So, the bed of aforementioned Ford Ranger was the recipient last week of a set of lockers – like the kind they have in high schools. They were hand-me-downs from a friend who’s moving out of town. We thought they’d be super-cute décor in our barely-furnished apartment. Had we realized what we were in for, common sense might have trumped our thrift-store interior design notions. These lockers turned out to be super-heavy, and they were in the truck before we anticipated the predicament – our second-floor apartment. I’ve got to say the idea of these two girls lugging those lockers up stairs struck fear into my heart. And rightly so. Until I remembered…
Chico is a college town. As I was biking along yesterday I saw a hand-painted sign on a trailer advertising “College Student Hauling” Aha! Hire a couple of strong-backed students! Problem solved.
So, I arranged to have them come over last night, and I waited in the parking lot, scanning incoming traffic for a couple of burly college kids. Instead, though, a classic El Camino arrived, with yard tools in the back and a family in the front: John, mid-50’s, his wife, mid-40’s, and their kid, about 12.
Shitttt. Shit, shit, shitty me. Just pay someone else to do the hard work. To do the dangerous work. Really? How far was the $25 we had negotiated going to carry those three? I wanted to call the whole thing off, to stop the whole scene, but I didn’t know how to. Waves of classist guilt crashed in my ears as I watched them wrangle the lockers onto a hand truck and slowly, slowly drag them up-up-up-up the 15 stairs, mom and son pulling from the top, John supporting and directing from below. I watched stupidly from the bottom of the stairs. All my best intentions swirled uselessly around me, the confusing complexity of all of our human-ness mixing with the smoke from my pregnant neighbor’s cigarette, as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with her.
The family worked well together, and made it to the landing without incident. As they deposited the lockers in the living room, John released his hold and grabbed his right elbow, shaking his head with a clear combination of regret and pain. At this, through some grace of the universe, I released myself from my ouroboros of paralysis. I connected. I asked questions.
Turns out he has tendonitis in that elbow, made worse because he uses it to compensate for a torn rotator cuff. Also turns out, I’ve got some ideas about what to do for that. I offered him a free treatment, mentioned the sliding scale, and scrambled around to find one of my brand new (are they even dry yet?) business cards. He’s had acupuncture before, and it helped, but he couldn’t afford to keep going.
I now realize what the sliding scale is to me. It’s the ethic – a simple code of behavior – that expresses my morals. It’s how to act. It’s what to do, in a free-market world that all too often strips our human transactions of all common sense, all common decency, all common courtesy.
So, he’ll come in for treatment. He’ll pay what he can. I’ll do my best acupuncture.
This is going to heal so much. This is who I wanted to be when I grew up.