Full moons and random weeks
Published 21 July 2017
As I write this we are coming off the back of a full moon. Around the world a range of research has been conducted to determine whether there is any truth to the theory that the full moon changes people’s behaviour or causes spikes in antisocial behaviour. No scientific causative links have been found. And yet here we are, riding out an intense week and saying to each other “Full moon last night!” That statement is met with a lot of nodding and concurring. It means something to us, even if its purpose is to bring some sense of meaning to a week that just seems to have reached a new level of randomness.
There appears to be a lot of methamphetamine around this week. Rumours from the street suggest it. Anecdotal chit chat suggests that the hospitals are run off their feet with it. Our observations of interactions, pacing bodies, whispered exchanges, the way certain groups are hanging together all suggest it. Our eyes see what many eyes wouldn’t. It’s a learned observational skill that comes with the job.
For the people who are using it means they won’t have any money for basic supplies. They will have fights and arguments with people they care for, some will become injured, some will become ill, some might even die. Some people who don’t use will use for the first time when a free sample is offered to them or a dealer tells them they can’t get hooked after one hit. They may be vulnerable, suffering from mental and physical illness, feeling alone and isolated when an individual or group is welcoming and assures them that the world will feel like a better place after getting high.
For us it means a heightened sense of the need to care for our visitors, staff and volunteers. Horrendous abuse and profanity will be spat at our team, from brains wired and angry and firing. Abuse which has no rationale basis. “Would you like one meatball or two?” might evoke a response of a plate being hurled across a room with an accompanied tyrade about the conspiracy to poison someone by secretly inserting a drug into the meatball. Our cleaner will be met with the end result of how the drugs affect the body and the mind. Our receptionists will have straining ears and focused minds trying to understand what people are trying to communicate to them; stories that make no sense to the listener and are words made into a grammatical salad.
We will take stock, regroup, consider strategies around risk and safety, increase our communications and surveillance, make necessary phone calls to supporting agencies to assist us manage the day to day. Somewhere in there we will find banter, bad jokes, quirky humour and a way to show we care. We will debrief and check in and still be able to find the reason why we are here.
On weeks like this I ask myself why I work here because logic suggests I shouldn’t enjoy it. I cannot put it into words. I have tried to articulate it many times. I can’t. Here are two anecdotes that explain it as best I can.
I was walking through our TV room earlier in the week and a young man stopped me and said “You’ve done something to your eyebrows. They look nice. Did you put pencil on them?” “I did!” I replied. “Yes very nice, although you’ve got quite a bit of grey hair coming through there Miss. Did you know?” “Yes I spotted that.” I said. “What was your childhood like Miss? What was it like growing up in your era?” I told him stories of jumping ramps on my bike, having a secret hideaway in the bush at the end of the street and playing until the fading sunlight told me it was time to go home for tea. “Wow Miss that sounds nice. My childhood wasn’t like that.”
I was chatting to another man earlier in the week and he was describing how he turns into another person when he has been drinking. He told me of the distress this causes his family. I asked him if he recalled what he called me the last time I saw him affected by alcohol. He didn’t so I told him. He hung his head, reached out and hugged me, said he was ashamed and then asked for help to get into detox.
By the time the day is out I will have giggled and belly laughed, rubbed my eyes twenty times out of tiredness, reflected on the building and dreamed about what it might look like if we could renovate it, thought about the warm and endearing people I work with, stared lovingly at the new solar panels on the roof, made lists of lists of lists to keep track of everything, eaten a meal prepared by our kitchen team and listened to the sounds of one of our visitors strumming the guitar and singing. Life is pretty sweet, even on a bad week.