Sunday, April 10, 2011

Institutional Memory

Grumbling about work...

The central narrative of my 30+ year employment at the hospital was being asked to work with the staff that no one else would, often put in those exact terms, culminating in being supervised by an insane person 1991-99. Then, the liberation from this in 1999-2006, when I worked with the most wonderful people and everything I touched turned to gold. As central as those are, they are virtually unknown outside a circle of about a half dozen people at work, and perhaps a dozen of my friends and family.

This was brought home forcefully over the last month in three work conversations. The previous supervisor, and what a strange, almost dangerous person she was, came up in conversation in matters unrelated to me. I mentioned that she had been my supervisor for eight years and received amazed, shocked looks. But she's diagnosable. Dr. (redacted) made a detailed, non-humorous case for it when she covered on our unit, and gave us instructions how we were to deal with it. The other stunned comment was similar.

Yes, yes I know this. I said this for years, trying to get people to listen. But it's over now, and it ended well, actually. You didn't know? You worked the next unit over and no one ever mentioned it? Huh.

Similarly, the buoyant days of doing two jobs at once for the sheer joy of being appreciated and feeling competent had also slipped the minds of some I was sure would remember. Vague nods. Well shucks, then. I was kind of thinking I was holding the department aloft, covering for the impossible person, then covering two jobs. Those powerful people who assured me this was all being observed at a high level, and something would be done about it...well, I long ago figured out that no one was going to take any risks and do anything about it. But I guess I had still harbored the fantasy that someone had noticed those decades.

So I asked the head of my department whether any of this information had ever come to her in passing over her three years here. Nope. She was quite fascinated, actually. She spoke with at least one other long-time member of the department about it after. I don't know that it changes anything. Just another up-short reminder: it is not merely that people see things differently and remember things differently - it is that most things aren't remembered at all. On the plus side, that may mean two major screwups of mine from those years, topics that I still wince at whenever someone wanders near them, may also have vanished.

Human nature being what it is, that's less likely, actually.

Ah, if only Stalin knew.


Brent said...

Oh, he knew. He definitely knew.

Assistant Village Idiot said...


But people held on to their fantasy with that line for decades.

Michael said...

Kinda sums up state employment, doesn't it?