Personal Hygiene

VINCE

Today I was moved out of the six-man room into a more traditional two-man. We call it rolling the dice: Who will I get as a roommate? Well I did alright. My cellie is roughly 55, retired, and has a few too many DUIs. He will be my roommate for the duration of my stay in Moose Lake.

He’s clean, quiet, smart, and he has coffee!

We spend an hour or so getting acquainted and it becomes obvious that we’re going to get along. Another big step. I am now comfortable. Tomorrow morning I finally attend the orientation to Moose Lake. The future looks promising.

Once I get a job, the time will fly by. I have put in applications for every available position in every department. And although I have heard that anywhere in the kitchen/diningroom is the worst possible place to work, I believe it is where I will be most valuable. Unfortunately, they will probably not want my opinions or advice. I do hold a food safety certificate from the Minnesota Department of Health through 2015, so I may be eligible for something better than “general worker.”

ANNE

Three years ago, despite all his food safety training, Vince got Salmonella. He was violently ill for a couple weeks and couldn’t work. He didn’t want me to visit him until the worst was over. His friend Seth tended to him; I’ll leave it to Vince whether he wants to provide any of the gory details. When I finally saw him, the skin on his hands was bright red and hard from the prolonged dehydration.

He didn’t have health insurance so he racked up some substantial medical bills. Since Salmonella is a potentially fatal communicable disease, the Minnesota Department of Health conducted an investigation but couldn’t determine the source of the infection. Was it from Vince’s work as a cook? Did he get it on his friend’s farm—or while hunting? Any contact with animals, dead or alive, or their feces, could have done it. So his medical costs weren’t covered by Workers’ Compensation, and his employer didn’t pay sick time, so he was just (sorry) shit out of luck.

Whenever things like this happen to my son, I hear the voices of condemnation and judgment in my head. They say it was his fault that all this happened—he didn’t finish college so he wasn’t at a safe desk job with health benefits and paid sick leave. He didn’t have any savings. Maybe he was high or drunk and didn’t take the right precautions….

This is something we are particularly good at in America; we blame the poor for their plights and we hold on to the illusion that if they just worked harder and kept it up for another five or 10 years, they could become successful—in fact, they could make it big!

I am grateful for Obama Care. It’s not perfect, but at least once Vince is out he’ll have health insurance.

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