Sunday, March 27, 2005

Waxing Cynical

Those who know me personally have heard both these stories repeatedly, apologies in advance!

When I first got to my current job, there was a programmer there who was known to be a bit weird. He would make 'tick' noises on occasion and if he was concentrating heavily, he would click his tongue and hum. He later described how he was in a horrible automobile accident where he was driving along and the next thing he knew, he woke up a month later in a hospital where they had him hooked to an array of tubes. He'd state that he was different before the accident. I guess in his previous life he was a computer tech, not a programmer. Since he willfully admitted that he had suffered some degree of brain damage in the accident, I used to joke with him that when he was 'normal', he was a computer tech (as I am myself) and after he was brain damaged, he became a programmer. (HA! A computer joke...oh...that's why no one thinks its funny...except for us smart computer people that is!)

Many years later, I was doing involved in a wiring job at a plant where they were hooking up a new quality inspection room. Heading up this project was a man we'll call Roy. Roy was known to be a good worker, and repeated firings and departures had left Roy number two at the plant, despite the fact that he was just a lab tech supervisor. Under his supervision was an attractive, intelligent lady (I'd call 'girl', despite the fact that she was at best, five years younger than I) with whom he was known to be spending a wee bit too much time with, at least for a man who is married and has two kids.

On a particular day, they had moved a piece of equipment over by the inspection room, and I was showing the contractor where to wire the network jacks up. Roy came over to check it out. Roy's obviously a real hard worker, but of course, I know something he doesn't, in about two weeks they were to announce the closing of this very plant. I doubt he would've worked all that hard had he known that particular piece of info. We'll never know for sure of course, because an hour later Roy came to inspect an issue with the moved piece of equipment and in an ensuing accident with this machine, he lost his sight and received an unhygienic frontal lobotomy. To this day (and forever hence from what I've heard), Roy lives in a special care facility where it was marked as great progress when he remembered he was to have visitors. These visitors were his wife and kids, whom he had no knowledge of after the accident since all his memories, and most have his capacity to make memories, were lost.

The last story was an uncomfortable one for my wife and I. Had I scheduled the wiring job an hour later, I would've been about a foot from the broken machine. My wife and I both conceded that we would not want to live in such a situation, but I wonder, is that our call to make. The person Roy is now, is not the person he was before the accident, any more than the person in the first story was the same 'people' before and after his accident. My brother, who works with people who are dependent on feeding tubes offered as much when he said that people in such situations ARE different, but they ARE people, and there ARE people out there who care for them (including himself).

I wouldn't think any less of Roy's wife for divorcing him in this case, but that would take some moxie. It would be easier to live a lie than to convince yourself that the body you see before you no longer contains the person you once loved so dearly, and that you're not just abandoning them because of some 'illness'. In fact...I bet it would be easier to kill that new person as a misguided act of mercy, than to admit the fact that the person you loved so dearly actually died quite some time before.

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