I don’t know whether the weather will improve.

21 03 2011

Friday was a magical day here in New York. No, the Mets didn’t do something good (I said magical, not miracle). But we did have borderline record-setting beautiful weather. 78 degrees and sunny. For those outside the US, that would be around 25 degrees. Doesn’t sound quite as impressive, but there you go.

I had the foresight to request the day off (did I mention that it was also the day after St. Pat’s?) so I got to spend the day roaming the city. In New York, those first gorgeous days send everyone the same message–get half naked and get to the park!

Clients aren’t exempt from these urges. When it’s finally beautiful out, who wants to spend the day cooped up in a counseling office? Kids want to hit up the playground, parents take their frighteningly untrained pit bull for a walk, teens want to walk around in packs of ten for some reason.

So we blame it one the lovely weather, and chase our clients down.

Then it gets to be July and August. 100 degrees, hot and muggy. Well, who wants to come see their social worker then? It’s time to try to catch the shuttle bus to the pool, drink a 40 on the stoop, run through an open fire hydrant.

Still, it’s the weather’s fault. So we keep on chasing.

Sometimes it rains. Who wants to go out in that? Little known fact: a majority of my clients are made up of a combination of sugar and salt. They melt in the rain. Also, umbrellas do not exist in the Bronx, so that simply isn’t an option. The same goes for snow. And who wants to go outside when it’s so damn cold?

I’ve gotten all of these excuses from my clients, generally all in the interest of the kids. “It’s too cold to take the baby out.” “I don’t want to take the kids out in the rain, you know my oldest has asthma.” “My mother’s going to take them to the pool, it’s so hot outside.” “I don’t take my kids out in the rain.”

That last one is a direct quote. I’m sorry, but I’m allergic to ridiculous.

The weather is one of those many variables that hugely impacts out work. I can’t help getting a little cranky when someone calls to say, “Oh, I don’t think I can bring the kids, it’s so nasty out. Would you mind coming to the house instead?” Certainly. Upon obtaining my license, I was also made weather-proof. It’s one more thing that social workers and boots have in common.

As much as I try not to let such things impact how I feel about my clients, walking to someone’s house in freezing rain, or sweltering heat, and finding that they’re not there and didn’t have the courtesy to call…well, I’m only human.

“The courtesy to call” is something I wish people had a little more of. I don’t know exactly what the problem is. We make an appointment, you come to it. I think that’s a pretty basic part of being a person and living in society. It’s weird. If I had an appointment as a kid, I was going. If I broke a bone on the way over, one of my parents was calling. Just not showing up wasn’t an option. It simply was not done.

Of course things come up. Kids get sick, babysitters cancel, and I have had more than one person call to tell me that they have diarrhea (hint: excuses don’t necessarily have to be specific.) A phone call goes a really long way.

Just the other day, a fairly new client did have the courtesy to call. Unfortunately, his appointment was at 4 pm, and he called around 6. His mother told me this, and also explained that it was pretty much my fault for not having been there. I explained that my work day ended at 5, but I was there until 5:45. “Well he tried to call.” If a woman has not learned by age 42 that calling two hours after a missed appointment is not sufficient effort, then I don’t think there’s anything I can do.

I try to work with people. I explain that I have other families I need to see, and I can use a cancelled appointment for one of them, if I know said appointment is going to be cancelled. I try to make people understand that if they show up hours or days late for their scheduled sessions, I might be unavailable, and that it’s nothing personal.

I also put forth the notion that we live in New York, not San Diego. Hibernating when it is too hot, cold, or wet only leaves us with about twelve days in which we can leave our homes. Sorry, but I’ve got things to do.

Except, I’m not sorry. I really do have things to do. And even though the NYC weather seems to be working on a bipolar diagnosis (yeah, it’s kind of snowing now) life goes on.

Even though I’m freezing.

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4 responses

21 03 2011
mjfrombuffalo

It’s probably a symptom of the overall problem that led them to be on your caseload in the first place 😦

21 03 2011
socialjerk

In some cases, yes. And then there are also the people who are looking for any excuse, because they feel that they should be done with services, or didn’t want to engage in the first place.Which brings forth the tricky issue of dealing with this clinically, checking your own frustration, and not driving them further away.

There’s also some cultural issues at work, in which being two hours late is being on time. I also remember working with kids who were refugees from Sudan, who wound up living in Syracuse and had never heard of a scarf. Them, I think I would have told to stay home!

21 03 2011
sarahk

I think what it boils down to is that we’re getting paid to do it and they aren’t. I used to skip class in college any time it rained because I didn’t want to go in the first place. I still went to work though (hello, paycheck!)

21 03 2011
socialjerk

True, to some extent. Looking at the motivation is important, though it’s not as if money is the only incentive. (Not that I need to tell a fellow social worker that!) I rarely skipped class in college, because I was playing a lot of money for it, I liked a lot of the work I was doing, and academic failure is the only thing that frightens me more than clowns. I would say that a majority of my clients have goals for their families that they see the services we provide as helping them to reach, even if they didn’t come in for services on their own.

But there’s a weird power that the weather holds over people as an excuse. It’s funny how well known it is in the office. When I was came in today in what I can only describe as a craptacular storm, the first thing the receptionist said was, “Oh, you know no one’s coming in today!”

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