We’re running out of chairs
Good evening everyone! Let’s get started
Therapist: I’m your group facilitator, Mason Meanswell, PsyD, Ph.D., LCSW, MFT, BFD. For those of you who are here for the first time, make yourselves comfortable. Sorry we’re a little crowded! Maybe some of you regulars — law enforcement folks, armed services members, medical first responders, anybody in a uniform — could scooch over and make room for some of our guests?
Fish and Game Warden: What about us? None of you flatlanders think about us until a badger gets trapped in your garage.
Therapist: Absolutely, and I appreciate you correcting me. We want to include you and all the people whose positions involve risk to themselves. But how about we avoid stereotyping others?
F&G Warden: (grumbles) Fine.
Farmer: Think you’re an unsung hero? Anybody here ever seen what happens when a tractor overturns or somebody falls into a silo?
EMT: (raises hand) Had to pull this guy out from under the business end of a combine one time, and by the time we got to him, you couldn’t even . . .
Therapist: Thanks for the affirmation, but let’s move on, shall we?
Veterinarian: I just want to say, it’s not “All Creatures Great and Small” in my world like everyone seems to think . . .
Farmer: You run a small pet clinic, don’t you?
Veterinarian: Your point? Ever been bitten by an iguana? Or had a chihuahua go all Cujo on you?
(sniggers and murmurs)
Therapist: Everyone who’s here feels endangered by virtue of their profession or identity, and we agree to respect that, okay? I see a lot of new faces tonight — would any of you like to share?
(Uncomfortable pause, coughing, rustling)
Therapist: I see someone in back raising their hand. Welcome! Please tell us how you’re endangered.
Someone in Back: I teach fourth grade in a public school.
(another pause, punctuated by a few derisive snorts)
Therapist: (to the room) Remember, this is a safe place for everyone who wants to share. (to the teacher) I see. Can you tell us more?
Teacher: Where do I start? Four years ago I was just overworked and underpaid in an crowded classroom with not enough resources and the lowest per-pupil spending of any state besides Arkansas, but then came Covid, which half our parents don’t believe in, and getting shut down, and having to teach fourth-graders over Zoom, try that for a mental health challenge, and then being told to go back into the classroom while our hospitals are at max capacity, and then the governor goes out of town and the lieutenant governor makes it illegal to wear masks in the classroom, and then the governor gets back and we can wear masks again, so that creates more chaos and confusion, and now I’m teaching both in the classroom and online at the same time, and then vaccines and everybody loses their minds about that, meanwhile the legislature says its okay for school staff to carry concealed weapons so now I’m worried that Hank, our assistant janitor who’s always been kind of wild-eyed is now packing heat, but then there’s a ray of hope when the governor prioritizes education spending, but now this year the legislature is floating every kind of school-choice and education spending account you can think of, which would mean even less money per-pupil in the school where I work, and when I gave a lesson about why we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday last month, three parents went to the principal and demanded I be fired for teaching critical race theory.
Therapist: Would you like some water?
Teacher: Also not a day goes by when I don’t walk onto campus and wonder if today’s the day when a gunman shows up with an automatic weapon, and will I be able to get the kids inside and under their desks and the door locked and the windows blocked in time, or will I get caught in the crossfire between the maniac and Hank?
(silence in the room. No snorts or sniggers)
Therapist: I see. Thank you for sharing. I see another hand raised back there. How are you endangered?
School Librarian: Everything the teacher said, plus I work in the Nampa School District where last year one email from one parent got 24 books banned, including The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Tony Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
Therapist: I see. Wait . . . what? Why?
School Librarian: The parent said they’re pornographic. So I had to take all those books off the shelves and box them up like they’re nuclear waste or else lose my job. And now I’m afraid to tell my neighbors what I do for a living.
(more hands go up)
Pharmacy Technician: I hear you. Two state legislators just proposed a bill that’ll make it a misdemeanor for anyone to administer Covid vaccines. So, like, I could go to jail just for doing my job at CVS.
EMT: What?? You’re kidding. That’s nuts.
Pharmacy Technician: I know, right? But I’ve got a copy of HB 154 right here. (reads aloud): “A person may not provide or administer a vaccine developed using messenger ribonucleic acid technology for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state.” That means mRNA vaccines, as in the ones from Pfizer and Moderna. Which are like, the ones we administer.
EMT: What the actual fu. . .
Doctor: (leaping to her feet) Why’s that so hard to believe? I’m an OB-GYN, and ever since Idaho passed one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation, I can’t treat someone with an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage without worrying that I’ll go to jail — in my case, for a felony. My family has lived in Idaho for five generations so I hate to do it, but I’m moving to Oregon.
Fish and Game Warden: You better head all the way to Portland, then. ‘Cause the legislature just passed the Greater Idaho bill.
Doctor: Wait — that’s not real, is it?
School Librarian: Oh, it’s for real. HJM1, a House Joint Memorial, authorizes the legislature to open talks with Oregon to relocate our borders — to move, like 63% of Oregon’s land mass into Idaho.
Doctor: Oh, dear God.
Therapist: I sense there’s a lot of difficult feelings in the room . . .
Firefighter: You need five degrees to figure that out?
Therapist: . . . but before we unpack all that, there’s a woman who’s had her hand up for a long time. Ma’am, would you like to share with us why you’re endangered?
Woman: It should be obvious. I’m a woman. In Idaho. A corpse has more bodily rights than I do. (sits back down, puts head in her hands)
A Person: (leaping to their feet) I feel your pain, sister. Until I got treatment for gender dysmorphia I was seriously ready to kill myself, and now I’d be fine except I’m terrified the legislature will make my hormone treatments a crime too. Also, it’s hard to find a good therapist who’s available anymore, so I was hoping . . .
Therapist: About that. We’re just about out of time for this session, so I have to take this opportunity to announce that, due to funding cuts and my near-terminal case of burnout, tonight is our last session. Thanks, everyone, please stack your chairs before leaving, and best of luck with feeling safe in Idaho.
I have been thinking about you living in Idaho ever since I read about the bill to make it illegal to administer the Covid vaccine. What the heck is WRONG with these people? I can’t even…
I can’t either. You can’t even get across to them what a laughingstock (or horror show) they’re making of the state. I promise you, most people here are very nice. Unfortunately, they’ve voted in some real crazies.
Proving yet again that wit can do more than weapons when it comes to blowing up bad ideas! Thank you for this very funny but tragic piece, Jan. It deserves a wider audience. Perhaps you could send a copy to every representative in the Idaho state legislature, or better yet stage it!
Many thanks, Susan. Hm, a staged version on the steps of the Idaho state capitol building — now, there’s a thought. Unfortunately, the representatives in question are unlikely to get the joke.
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