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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wal-Mart, Mental Illness, A Futon And Lots Of Frustration - an ALL MY DONUTS story

Al, unfocused, but he has a curio cabinet coming.
In a previous post Moving The Mentally Ill - Like Herding Cats I wrote about my friend Al (not his real name) and the craziness of moving him and having another helper, Jacob (not his real name) help. All three of us have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, and it made for an interesting and if you look at it from the right perspective, a rather humorous day. Al needed my help again. So I we went on a journey that included Wal-Mart, Mental Illness, a futon and lots of frustration.

Al is a very good guy, but he completely lacks any sort of focus. I wonder how he manages to get anything done in his life. For Al, the days are not chock full of activities. He's on disability, he lives an austere life in a studio apartment. His days are spent going to church, an AA meeting, walking, walking, eating, taking a bus to visit friends or a family member. Not too complicated.

This past Sunday morning, a friend of mine, Don (not his real name), called and asked me to call Al and help him pick up a futon at a Wal-Mart. I said it wouldn't be a problem, called Al and made arrangements to meet him about 9:15 that morning.

When I arrived at Al's apartment, he spent a lot of time explaining to me the details of a curio cabinet he was getting from a neighbor. He also spent a lot of time trying to figure out if his rods and pulleys above his windows were for curtains or vertical blinds. Then, he explained the curio cabinet again.

Getting out of Al's apartment became a project. Most people just head for the door. We did that several times, but each time, Al realized he forgot something. "Oh, my wallet." To the door. "Oh, maybe I should take the receipt." To the door. "Ooops, forgot my keys." To the door. "Let me show you where the curio cabinet will go." After six attempts, we made it into the hallway.

Wal-Mart was less than a quarter mile from Al's senior apartment. I'd never been to this Wal-Mart, but I noticed something strange - there were dozens and dozens of handicapped parking spaces. We had to park a ways from the front door, even though very few cars were in the lot.

Inside Wal-Mart, we were greeted by a tiny elderly man that seemed upset we weren't taking a cart. We didn't need one, as made our way to the Customer Service counter. No one was there. We waited and waited. Finally, a very obese woman shuffled over behind the counter and said, "Ca a heh ya." Either she had very lazy speech habits or her tongue was way too big for her mouth.

We asked how we would go about picking up this futon. She babbled a bunch of stuff at us. At one point, I swear she said, "Yaba daba do." But it might have been something else coming from the big pink tongue hanging out of her mouth.

In the back of the store, where we were directed to go, things were not much better. In the pick-up area there was a staff meeting going on. Seven or eight employees were scattered around the area as a manager read through all of the new promotions going on. Al and I stood right there and were never acknowledged for about ten minutes. Then, Al disappeared.

I started looking around for him and he was talking to himself, looking for the manager of the store. "I know the manager." Well, maybe the manager wasn't there at 9:45 in the morning on a Sunday.

Now, we're walking around electronics, up and down aisles. "Al, the lady said to wait by the bikes and someone would be there to help us. We better go back."

"Are you sure?"

"Al, let's just follow directions."

"Ok. That's a good plan. My curio cabinet is going to match this futon real well."

Anther ten minutes of waiting in plain sight of  the staff meeting when the manager finally asked, "Do you gentlemen need help?" Well, duh and double duh. We certainly weren't looking for jobs.

"Oh, you're the guys with the futon," said a young man behind the counter. "We'll get it for you."

Out came the futon, a metal frame, wooden arms and the cushion banded in a square with plastic banding. We asked for a dolly or a cart. Another guy who either had a speech impediment or was mentally challenged ran and got a cart. It was a little 3 foot cart, useless for us.

Al started explaining to everyone in the back how the arms of the futon were going to match his curio cabinet. I was just trying to get us headed to the parking lot with the futon.

After some grumbling, the mumble-mouthed guy and the young kid figured out that they were going to have to carry it out for us - isn't that what customer service is supposed to be?

It was a very light futon and was not a problem. It barely fit in the back of my truck.

At Al's apartment, we ran into a geometry problem. The futon did not fit through the door due to a center leg that we couldn't wiggle around the door frame.

Since you have to be at least 62 to live in this building, there are a lot of old characters hanging around. The area "assistant" was sitting outside and we rounded him up to see if we could go in through another door. He had a wooden leg and hobble us back to the service elevator. No luck.

Al and I went back to the parking lot and took a good look at the futon. I finally said, "Let's try this," and we flipped the futon to where the seat was perpendicular to the ground. Since the back was shorter than the seat, it slipped through the door with ease.

"Hey Leo, you look like a pimp," yelled an old guy who seemed to be the big talker in the morning lobby group. Leo was dressed in a green plaid suite with a green patterned golf shirt. Pimp, I don't know. Used car salesman, polyester poster child or 1970's suit revivalist was more accurate.

Al told Leo about his curio cabinet.

We managed to get through the doors, into the elevator and up to Al's floor. He wanted to go the wrong way. "Al, to the right, to the right, to the right."


"Right, buddy. You can do it. GO RIGHT!"

When we got to Al's door, he explained to me how nice the futon would match the curio cabinet. Through the door we went and placed the futon in the middle of the studio apartment, a few feet from where the curio cabinet would go.

We had to run down to the lobby to retrieve the cushion, which we left on a couch. Mr. Big Talker was still picking on Leo and he shouted, "Oh, boy, I'm glad that's yours. You don't want to leave stuff like that laying around. It will get snatched up real quick around here." My first thought was, "No one in this building would have the strength to carry the cushion away." We could have left it there all day.

Once up in Al's apartment. Al did his usual, he walked around in circles and kept talking about the curtains and the curio cabinet. I did the little assembly necessary and we were done. It took an hour for the whole project, but it seemed like three.

Al always treats me to lunch when I help him. We went to Denny's and I brought my laptop. He watched all of my YouTube videos and laughed his ass off. We spent three or four hours at Denny's.

Al, like a lot of people who are retired or on disability, don't have easy access to people in their lives. They savor social settings and don't seem to care about time when they have a chance to have company and conversation.

Al, a former Marine, won't have to sleep on the floor anymore. All it took was Wal-Mart, A Futon, Mental Illness and lots of frustration.

Related article:
Moving The Mentally Ill - Like Herding Cats - an ALL MY DONUTS story

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