The following is an excerpt from my memoir, Saturation
I turned back around without saying a word, glopped some food into a bowl and took a seat at a table next to the beverage cart. The longer I didn’t say or do anything, the angrier I got. I couldn’t eat. I could hardly sit still. I didn’t appreciate being that pissed off and I resented being so uncomfortable. “Jennifer, is something wrong?” The woman next to me asked. “I am pissed off. I am so pissed off.” I seethed. “Why? What happened?” Someone else asked with a mouthful of food. I stared for a moment before answering. “Did you hear what they were just talking about in the lunch line?” I asked, looking bewildered. Without waiting for anyone to answer, I blurted, “Did you hear Lany?!”
“Who’s Lany?” Asked our newest resident.
“She just called us pigs.” I said, standing up. I could not let this go. Lany had every right to an opinion of us, but I wasn’t entitled to overhear it. How could she allow herself to be overheard while making such an ugly comment? She’d just bumped into my arm and knew exactly how close to me she was standing. The intensity of my anger caused me to shake. I walked over to the staff table where she sat facing the room. We made eye contact before she returned her focus to the woman next to her. “You and I need to talk.” I spat. Lany looked up at me, feigning surprise. “Is something wrong, Jennifer?”
I glared at the woman she’d been speaking to in the lunch line. “Yeah, something is very wrong! I just overheard what you said in the lunch line!” Lany wiped each corner of her mouth with a napkin and looked around the table. “Okay.” She said. The dining room became silent as 30 residents listened. Lany blinked at me. “Okay,” she offered again. Adrenaline surged through me.
“I know that you know I overheard you in the lunch line. My question is – where do you get off making a comment like that within earshot of another resident about the rest of the residents? I yelled, sweeping my arm out toward the room. “How dare you call us pigs! That’s OUR food! We pay for it with out tuition! If you want to insult us and call us names, you need to do it in your office after you shut the door so I can’t hear you!”
Lany stopped blinking and started flaring her nostrils. I wanted to high-five myself. “Jennifer, I’m not sure what you think you heard, but whatever it was has clearly upset you and for that, I apologize.” She offered evenly and softly. “You just told her,” I yelled, motioning to the woman next to her, “that you’re astonished by the amount of food we put on our plates! She agreed with you and said she’s starving and then you called us Pigs! Do you not remember saying that ten minutes ago as you waited behind me in the food line?! You knew I was standing right next to you! You’d just apologized for bumping into my arm!”
“Jennifer, I don’t remember exactly what I said ten minutes ago. If I said something that offended you, I apologize.” She repeated, quietly. And that got me hot. She was trying to inject everyone, even me, with doubt and it infuriated me even more. What a bitch! “Well, I happen to remember exactly what you said ten minutes ago. I’ve been sitting over there at my table fuming about it! You should be ashamed of yourself and you owe every resident here an apology, not just me!”
I figured I’d better stop talking at that point because I was so wound up, I thought I might be losing my train of thought.
And then a second wave hit me. “This place is supposed to be a professional business and a treatment center where we’ve come for help, and you’re the assistant director?!” I shouted. Staff members at Lany’s table were becoming clearly uncomfortable. “We’re supposed to be able to trust you! And you’re sitting there looking me in the eye pretending you don’t remember what the hell you just said. Un-fucking-believable!”
I stormed out before anyone could say or do anything. Lunch was only half over and by leaving the dining room early without permission, I’d just broken a rule. We weren’t allowed to leave early. If we finished eating before break, we were supposed to sit and visit with our peers.
I stormed outside to the smoking tent and imagined I might very well get kicked out of treatment for what I’d just done. I figured it was called “causing a scene”. The treatment center had a ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ rule. However, some offenses were so monstrous, one offense could count as three. Smoking inside the building, violence and being intimate with another resident were three offenses I could think of off the top of my head that would get a resident kicked out immediately. I knew walking out at lunch time would amount to at least one strike against me, but confronting Lany in front of the entire house? That had to equal like – – – seven strikes. She was the assistant director.