March 23, 2011

Bad At Math

how much is this worth

The following story is fiction.  Any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.

The doctor was at work doing the usual, which means patients, and a 20 year old hispanic man bursts through the door and right away the doctor knew he was in big, big trouble.

The man wore sunglasses, the kind of one solid plastic band around the eyes that you don't wear unless you're insane.   He locks the door behind him and shouts, "if you give me any shit, I'm going to fucking kill you." That was his opening line, the next few lines were derivatives of the same.

He was yelling in English, but at about three threats in he says, "I want a translator--" so he opens the door and the secretary (hispanic) that had come to the door to see what the yelling was about steps in, no, he pulls her in, locks the door again, and goes back to yelling.  "You're fucking dead, do you hear me?  Fucking dead!"

One other thing: he has a gun.

Putting it together later, yes, there will be a later, the doctor had seen that man, Juan, once before.  He had demanded Xanax max dose three times a day, and in the subsequent negotiations it was agreed that as long as the guy could provide clean urines he could get one Xanax half dose a day, along with the other medications.  Deal?  Deal.  So he got a script for 14 days, "come back then and we'll see how things are."

Somehow Juan had taken the 14 tablets as a personal insult, he expected 90, even though it was clear that it was only for two weeks, and however he figured it in his brain the doctor was screwing him.  So he came back-- three months later-- looking to show the doctor he messed with the wrong guy.  "You think you're going to play me?"

The room they were in was the size of a large closet, about 8x8 square.  The door opened inwards, then there's a desk, and then the doctor-- so the desk is in between the doctor and the door.  The waiting room is full and it's right outside that door, so everyone can hear the yelling, but no one can see the gun.  Not yet, anyway.

The problem, logistically, was that even if the doctor wanted to jump him, he couldn't-- Juan is  blocking the door, and the desk is between them.  If he comes over to hit him, then they're close, but with that desk in between, the doctor was completely at his mercy.

The other problem, the GIGANTIC problem, is now there's a woman in there with them, and she can't get out because she would have to open the door into herself (she'd end up behind the open door) and then move towards him to get out.

Patients yelling at the doctor to give them Xanax is nothing new-- they threaten, they yell, they posture, and it's all part of the game.  The doctor had always played the game respectfully,  cool, calm, no anger, and he let them, nonverbally, understand that he respected the power that they had-- if they wanted to, they could kill him-- but that the job is the job, nothing personal, you're not getting Xanax not because I hate you but simply because I don't think it's right.  And he let them know that he'd do whatever else he could for them.  Sure some people left angry, but they left. 

And when they yelled he let them, let them go on for so that they felt like they had delivered their message, and eventually cut them off;  ultimately they just need to feel that they chose to let him go, not that they were turned away or rejected but that it was their choice to move on,  and when they left that would be the end.  It happened about once a week to him and all the other doctors, it's just the nature of the business and there's no billing code for "pissed off xanax seeking guy."

But this guy was different, this guy wasn't looking to get something.  This guy came with the specific intention of killing him, he wasn't looking for more xanax or anything else.

And he wasn't psychotic, he was logical, specific-- just very threatening.  "You think I'm playing?"  "I'm going to tell you what's what."  "You think you know me?"  Every gangbanger movie cliche, as if he was reading from a script,  but if that guy stayed true to his character then this was going to end very badly.

So Juan locks them all in, and she's scared, and the doctor is scared.  Because now, with her there, he was completely sure he meant to kill them.   Before she came in, it was between him and Juan only, and he might be able to talk him down, but when Juan brought her in it was clear he wasn't worried about being caught or identified or collateral damage, he just wanted to kill. 

So he yells for about 30 seconds (it felt like an hour) and then the doctor tells him that perhaps he can get him some Klonopin, which is a lot like Xanax.  The Klonopin was incidental to the argument, but he figured that if he could get this maniac to focus on something concrete, turn it into a treatment or at the very least a transaction, in which he could be "given" something, the guy might back down just enough to not kill everyone. 

But the problem was the woman.  She was scared but also... irrational.  Would she try and run?  Would she try something stupid?  Was he going to kill her, too?  He had to get her out.

So the doctor turns to Juan and says, "but I need your insurance card to make sure I can give you Klonopin."  That was a lie, but it was a distraction, turn the focus to something else.    Juan gets his wallet out muttering, "he wants my card now, my card, this fucking (something) wants my card."  And he gives it to the doctor, and the doctor hands it right to the woman and says, "I need a copy of this immediately.  Immediately."  She hesitates, she's unsure, she moves towards the door slowly but Juan lets her pass.  Thank God, he thinks.  It's going to be okay.

Wrong.  As soon as Juan closes the door behind him, he goes ballistic.  It was like he remembered what he was there for.  "You fucking [this], I'm going to fucking [that]!" and etc.  Whereas before he was waving the gun around, now he kept his arm locked, gun pointing towards the floor.  He's still yelling, cursing, threatening.  The gun is there and it's pointing down and it's simply waiting for him to decide to raise it.

Again, even if the doctor could disarm him, he can't because of the desk.  He can't throw anything, there's nothing else on the desk.  He can't run.  If he stands up, he'll get shot in the chest.  If he ducks down, it forces Juan to lean over the desk, which means he'll get shot in the back of the head or the spine.  

This was the plan: turn to the side and let him shoot him in the shoulder or arm. 

What did he think about?  He thought about his kids, how sad they'd be that their father was dead.  They would cry.   He thought about how this nut would eventually get caught and the kids would have to face the man who did it and listen to his words and the words of everyone else.  The kids would have to look around at an insane world that tried to explain everything with lies.  And then they'd have to go home and grow up.  "That's life," someone would tell them, because it's true and that helps.

He also thought about how stupid this guy was, how terrible he was at valuing things, he had decided that his life was worth throwing away over... what?   He wasn't stealing his car, there wasn't anything of value at stake.   Xanax?  He could have gotten it anywhere else, easily, anytime.  Revenge?  It wasn't like the doctor had raped his sister, he had just not given him something.  But somehow in his calculus this grudge was worth carrying for three months, worth killing someone over, worth 25 years in jail.  This wasn't psychosis, this was a man who was bad at math.

The plan is to give him the shoulder, take it in the shoulder, and not turn, not go down.  

Then the woman comes BACK.  What caused this woman to come back is unknowable, but she opens the door and it bumps him because he's in front of it.  So he turns around to see who's coming in and he grabs the paper out of her hand and he sort of flings it at the doctor. 

But everything is different now, because the door is wide open, and everyone in the waiting room can see them. 

So the doctor, as calmly and with as much authority as he can muster, looks at the paper and says "ok, I can give you 30 tablets of Klonopin with this."  He tried to make it sound like that was what they had been talking about the whole time, a treatment, a transaction.  It wasn't about the doctor, it was about the pills. 

Juan reflexively says, "no, Xanax," and the doctor responds, "no, all I can give you without a urine (drug test) is Klonopin," and Jaun says, "I want 90 of them."  And the doctor says, "only after the urine."

Whatever calm exterior he displayed was not mirrored on the inside, and while he was trying to show steady penmanship he made a mistake- and he wrote Xanax instead of Klonopin.   It just came out.  So now Juan sees the doctor writing that, and the doctor has to decide if he was going to give it to him that way or not.   But if the reason he was still alive was that he had turned it from something personal into a treatment, then handing him the Xanax was an admission that it was, after all, not a treatment but a stick up.  And maybe that would remind Juan that the doctor had screwed him the first time.  So the doctor says, out loud,  "dammit," tears up the script and rewrites it.  Doing the job correctly. 

Juan took it, made a few more threats, and left.  20 minutes after that the police finally came, and while they were there he called the clinic and said he was coming back to kill the doctor because he only got 30 tablets.  A man who is terrible at math.

When the doctor went back to see the patients who stuck around, all of them, men and women, told him the same thing: "Yo, man, I had your back, if anything happened, I was going to bust in here."  Of course they would have.

What's unsettling, however, is that Juan had been in the waiting room for an hour before the doctor even got there, muttering to other people that he was going to "fuck him up."  But no one said anything.

There's not much more to the story, except that the doctor went home, felt a little shaken, had a drink or three, debriefed with some people and not with others, and eventually 3am came and he went to bed.  And when he woke up it was gone, merely a memory, it all felt like it happened a decade ago.  That's life.