By Jerri Lynn Ward, J.D.
Posted June 5, 2003
Today, I was in the produce department at the local HEB Pantry Store trying to open one of those stupid, plastic, impossible-to-open produce bags. I was almost to the point of tearing into it with my teeth when I saw Sam Hershey, the Administrator at the Serendipity Rest Home.
Sam has been Administrator at the Serendipity since 1995. Prior to that, he was in the Marines for 20 years. In 2000, he became the owner of the Serendipity because he lost an intense, three-day-long poker game to Horace Heaton, the prior owner. Horace had been threatening to send the keys of the home into TDHS for years. Instead, old Horace challenged his administrator, Sam, to the poker game whereby the loser would end up owning the Serendipity. As Sam and Horace had been drinking a lot of Scotch whisky and were extremely wasted, they had one of those “Guys in Action” moments Dave Barry writes about. As a result, Sam accepted the challenge. Horace won. He now lives in Key West where he spends his time sitting on a beautiful, sandy beach sipping Margaritas while listening to Jimmy Buffet. Sam, on the other hand, is stuck with my grandparents.
As Sam approached me in the HEB, I noticed that he looked extremely tired.
“Hey Sam, what’s up?” I asked.
“Hello Suzanne Roberta, I’ve had a really rough couple of months,” He replied. “It’s because of that friend of yours, Arlene Buell.”
“Uh oh” I thought.
Arlene is our local real estate broker. She’s seen way too many of those made- for-TV.-movies about real estate brokers who live in California – and she’s patterned her life after them. This makes her extremely high maintenance and unattractive to men. Don’t get me wrong, she is physically attractive in heavily made up sort of way – she’s just very aggressive, demanding and, therefore, frightening to guys.
Arlene and I had once been in a book club together. It wasn’t one of those “high brow” book clubs where one reads the works of British and East Coast literary luminaries who suffer from various mood disorders like Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf. Instead, we read “self improvement” and “relationship” books like “Men are from Mars and Women are From Venus”, and “The Rules – Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right.”
From these books, we discovered that men are attached, in the figurative sense, to rubber bands on which they pull away from women in order to go into “television and beer encrusted” caves where they magically turn into “couch-dwelling- potato-dragons” who belch Dorito-flavored fire when women ask them such things as: “would you please take out the garbage” – or, “could we talk about our relationship?” We also gleaned helpful hints such as the advisability of purchasing an egg timer for use during the period when we first start dating a guy. Then, when the guy calls, we are to immediately set and start the egg timer for no more than 10 minutes so that we may: a. Limit the amount of time we talk to the guy, and; b. End the conversation before the guy does. This is supposed to somehow make the guy miss us even though we might have known him for no more than a week. (Warning: it is important to either have a cordless phone or to keep a separate egg timer near each phone in one’s house for this to work – otherwise one might accidentally pull the phone off the counter while trying to get to the aforementioned egg timer in order to start it, thereby making the guy think one is a real klutz.)
In short, we learned from our studies what every female realizes while on the playground during the first day of kindergarten: Do not chase guys – they don’t like it. And, even if they do like it – they like it for only about five minutes.
Arlene, never “got” this basic fact of nature. Instead, she always seems to focus on the advice given by Dave Barry in Chapter 4 of his classic “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys”. The title of Chapter 4 is “Tips for Women, How to Have a Relationship with a Guy.” Tip number 1 is “Never assume that the guy understands that you and he have a relationship”. He goes on to suggest that you “have to plant the idea in his brain by constantly making subtle references to it in your everyday conversation” (e.g.: Would you please pass the salsa since we now have a relationship?)…”Never let up, women. Pound away relentlessly at this concept, and eventually it will start to penetrate the guy’s brain.” This is Arlene’s mantra; she just focuses on the “pound away” part and ignores the advice about being “subtle”.
“Arlene is not exactly my friend,” I told Sam, “What happened?”
We went to the little coffee bar in the HEB so that I could hear the story.
Arlene’s mother, Barbara Buell is a resident at the Serendipity. At some point, Arlene became infatuated with Sam. After having a few cordial conversations in such forums as the Serendipity Christmas Party and Rotary Club meetings at the Dairy Queen, Arlene decided that she and Sam were having a “relationship”. Thus, she set out to reinforce the concept of the “relationship” in Sam’s “guy brain.” Unfortunately for her, all Sam is interested in at this stage of his life is poker, playing golf and running the Serendipity.
Failing to notice this, she, uncharacteristically, started showing up every day to visit her mother at the Serendipity where she would invariably corner Sam for interminably long and boring conversations. During the hours she wasn’t there, she would call Sam on her cell phone for updates on her mother’s condition. She started making home-cooked meals that she would put in Tupperware and bring to Sam for lunch or dinner. She would invite him over for gourmet dinners. She would practically run over other people at the Rotary Club meetings in order to get to the booth where Sam was sitting, so that she could sit next to him. In short, she became a complete pest – or in modern parlance – a stalker.
Sam started hiding from Arlene when she came for visits at the Serendipity. Some of the residents noticed what was going on and would warn him when Arlene appeared. Fred Guthmiller developed a code for warning Sam. When he saw Arlene, he would loudly yell: “That pushy broad is here!!!” That was Sam’s cue to hide in the linen storage room.
Unfortunately, on the day the TDHS surveyors came for the annual survey, Sam was hiding in the linen storage room. No one knew where he was because Fred forgot about having warned him about Arlene. After thirty minutes into the survey, one of the surveyors found him. The Serendipity didn’t get any deficiencies, but Sam was thoroughly embarrassed. He decided he had to “gut it up” and let Arlene know that he wasn’t interested.
So – Sam did what every combat-hardened ex-Marine officer – turned executive type-turned business owner – who happens to be a guy being chased by a delusional woman would do: He made his Director-of-Nurses, Sami Chowdry tell Arlene.
After that, Sam’s real problems began. He experienced the reality of the saying: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
The Serendipity became the target of an endless barrage of complaints to TDHS alleging wild and fanciful stories of abuse and neglect. The surveyors would leave one day, only to be sent back two days later with a new complaint. This went on for weeks. Everyone knew where the complaints were coming from – Arlene.
One day, a steely-eyed and ferocious Arlene stalked into Sam’s office holding a piece of chicken in her hand. The residents were having fried chicken for dinner.
“This chicken is raw!!!” She screeched, as she threw it on Sam’s desk.
Sam looked at the chicken and said, “Arlene, it’s pink at the bone – it’s not raw.”
“We’ll see about that!!” She yelled as she flounced out of the facility carrying the piece of chicken.
Then she got in her car with the piece of chicken and drove over to the house of the TDHS surveyor who lives in our town, the blond, beautiful and shapely Iris England.
Iris, besides being blond, beautiful and shapely, is very calm and reasonable. But Arlene and the piece of chicken was the last straw for Iris. Iris had been in and out of the Serendipity for weeks on the complaint surveys and had found each and every complaint to be unsubstantiated. After dealing with Arlene as diplomatically as possible, she got in her car and went down to the Serendipity to talk to Sam.
“Sam,” Iris said, “I can’t tell you who is making these complaints – but something needs to be done. Go read the Health & Safety Code and do what needs to be done!!”
Then, Iris got back in her car and went home.
Commentary: What can be done when complaints are made because of malice or in Bad Faith?
Fortunately for nursing facilities, the legislature realizes that many people like to get other people in trouble-just for the heck of it. This begins at an early age starting with the acquisition of siblings and often continues into adulthood. It is a prevalent foible of human nature. The legislature understands this because it is full of politicians. As we all know, politicians have lots of human foibles – even more so, it seems, than non-politician human beings. For example, recently some of the politicians in our legislature exhibited another common foible, specifically, the one that causes small boys to take their baseball and petulantly run home when the game is not going so well for them. Only the legislators staged an adult politician version. Instead of a baseball, they took a legislative quorum and ran away with it to Ardmore, Oklahoma. But- I digress.
Knowing that some people might fake complaints against nursing facilities (just as politicians often fake things – like the claim that our social security contributions have at any time during the history of Social Security been locked up in a lockbox waiting for us to retire) – the legislature passed a law making it a Class A misdemeanor to report (abuse or neglect)…in bad faith, maliciously, or recklessly. Health & Safety Code Section 242.132. And, although a person who reports alleged abuse or neglect is generally immune from civil or criminal liability for making the report – he or she is not immune if the report was made in bad faith or with malice. Health & Safety Code 242.128.
Of course, the problem with this is that the identity of complainants is kept confidential – so how are you supposed to know who to report for making bad faith, malicious or reckless reports without having to wait for them to come into your office and throw a piece of chicken at you while screeching abuse? I have a suggestion. If you see a pattern of frequent and unsubstantiated complaints or other suspicious circumstances, make a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s office and ask them to investigate. Be persistent about insisting that your complaint is pursued. This has worked for one facility – although the complaints stopped after the complainant was warned by the A.G.’s office about the consequences and there was no prosecution. If this tactic doesn’t work, consult with a lawyer about the next step.
To be continued…
All information in this article is informational only and is not legal advice. Should you have any questions or a situation requiring advice, please contact an attorney.
Copyright 2004 by Garlo Ward, P.C., all rights reserved
505 East Huntland Drive, Suite 335
Austin, Texas 78752-3714 USA