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Lydy's Anarchist Revival Meeting

10th April, 2015. 10:22 pm. Caesar's Wife

This is going to repeat some stuff Ctein has said in the "Violations and Ruminations" thread. I would just like to say that I am genuinely tired of the phrase Caesar's wife, especially when it comes to talking about harassment.

Here's the thing about Caesar's wife. She's not above reproach; she's human. With the best good will in the world, she's going to make mistakes. When we talk about being above reproach, we end up talking about appearance rather than actuality. We worry that we must look impartial and perfect and just, when in fact what we are are a bunch of squishy people trying to deal with messy problems.

Systems must not be designed so that they fail utterly if mistakes are made. Mistakes will be made. If you decide that any mistake is too costly, what you have done is not design a system that cannot fail, but a system that must indulge in obfuscation and cover-up. Any mistakes made must be hidden from sight.

Process is a process. This is not a tautology. A good process comes from thinking carefully about goals and consequences of actions, designing the best system you can, play-testing it as best you can (which often involves a lot of thought experiments), and then putting it live as beta, and seeing what happens. If you've done it right, the system is understandable and transparent, and has an obvious mechanism for feedback, so that when there are holes in the process or errors in input or output, this can be brought to the attention of the maintainers. Who then evaluate the current process, integrate the new data, and respond by either adjusting the process or clearly explaining why the process remains the same. Processes rapidly become outdated, so it's really important that this feedback loop never get closed. What works brilliantly the first couple of times out may actually fail.

We're seeing this with the Hugos, actually. The process of choosing the Hugos is quite old (when did we go to the current system of ranked choice?) and pretty robust. The most recent change, I think, has been on-line voting, which has been pretty darn cool, too. The accusations of the SP/RP slate are provably spurious. But they did manage to break the nomination process. Which is clearly understood, and reasonably transparent. So now people are involved in reviewing the system, trying to understand exactly what happened, how they feel about the outcome, and what, if anything to do next. This is an incredibly robust system, but part of the reason that it is is because it's transparent, understandable, and is constantly accepting input. Ok, actually drafting a resolution and going to the WSFS meeting is a pain in the ass, but that too is useful. It prevents flailing around and making a rules change every ten minutes. Go WSFS.

Back to Caesar's wife. She gets to make mistakes. She will make mistakes. What she needs is a way to acknowledge those mistakes and improve her behavior. Good processes allow that. And people will lie about Caesar's wife, because of her position. Everybody knows this, if they think about it. Look at what the SP/RP assholes have said about the Hugos and how they are awarded. I can't judge how sincere the instigators are, but it seems pretty likely that they have, indeed, persuaded some people of this story. Some of these people won't bother to look at the facts available to them. But because the process is clear and reasonably transparent, anyone who cares to can look at it and develop an informed opinion about how it works. In the end, the reputation of the Hugos is secure because we know what, exactly, it is.

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9th April, 2015. 2:22 pm. The Rules, They Are A-Changin'

So, one of the things I think is going on in my community is that younger people, mostly but not entirely women, are coming to the community with a different set of standards of behavior and stronger personal boundaries. And older people, like me, largely but not entirely women, are saying, "Wait, wait! That's an _option_? Cool. Sign me up. I will take a double-order of nope with that tasty, tasty no sauce drizzled all over, thanks."

And this is confusing for some people. While they might have been comfortable with simply treating the newer cohort differently, all of a sudden here are these people they've known for thirty years that want to be treated differently, too. And suddenly they're vocal and insistent. That's gotta feel like somebody changed the rules on them.

Of course, one could also argue that we're just asking that the rules from the 1970s actually be enforced, for a change. I mean, it's only been forty fucking years. Can I have my autonomy, now?


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9th April, 2015. 1:00 pm. The Trapezoids We Have Always With Us

I also note that the more tired I am, the more trapezoidal my screen becomes. Which is probably a sign that I really should have been asleep two hours ago.

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8th April, 2015. 10:51 pm. Quick note on previous topic

No one has done this, yet, and I am grateful. But I wish to ask everyone to be careful to give the Board room to work. I have seen this stuff from both sides, and what I can affirmatively state is that good process does take time. Even if it looks simple, it can be complex to work through the process.

I would also like to say that I really believe in our process, and in the good will and good sense of the Board. I have been actively working with Mnstf for the past year on these issues, and while we're a long way from being perfect, we are working hard on getting it right.

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8th April, 2015. 3:16 am. Violations and Ruminations

Most of Minicon this year was grand fun. As the Chair of the Code of Conduct Committee, I had several things that I had to deal with, and learned several really useful things. I also ended up saying "giant inflatable penis" more times than any person should have to. But that's not what I want to talk about.

The Consuite at Minicon is comprised of some interconnected rooms. This year, they took all the beds out, and the rooms had either comfy furniture to sit in, or tables with food and drink. I'm using consuite a little loosely, since I'm including the bar area. The Dead Dog Party was held, as is traditional, in the consuite. Somewhere fairly early in the evening, Ann talked to me about a problem with Ken Konkol. Ken's been known to be a problem for, oh, forty years, in a variety of ways. His most recent exploit was being arrested for refusing to vacate an hotel room in Florida. That was last November. This is not a man who has learned better. According to Ann, who had spoken to another long-time Mnstfer, Ken had showed up assuming that he would be allowed to stay in this other person's house. This other person has had a bad experience with Ken overstaying his welcome, and refused. On Sunday, once again, Ken insisted that of course he was going to stay at this friend's house, since he had no place to go. Ann offered to explain to Ken in no uncertain terms that this was not going to happen, since the other person felt like he was not getting through. Ann did so, at which point Ken asked to stay in the consuite.

Now, staying overnight in the consuite is a thing which happens from time to time. It is the prerogative of the hosts, the people running the consuite and bar, and it is assumed that they will use good judgment, which they always do. The people running consuite and bar often end up sleeping in those rooms, as well, since their job is never-ending, and it's useful to have as short a commute as possible. Ann told Ken no, and in no uncertain terms. She had concerns about the fact that there was evidently a charge against him for trashing an hotel room, possibly related to his arrest, and generally didn't feel that his lack of planning constituted a reasonable emergency on the part of the con.

I wanted to talk to Ken up front, make him say what his plans for vacating were, and make him stick to them. I thought that a proactive approach was more likely to circumvent his extremely probable tactic of just hanging around until they closed the suite, probably around four or five in the morning, and then pleading that he couldn't go because he had no place to go and no way to get there. A plea that looks especially good because he's using a walker these days and really does look frail. I thought to do this under the guise of being helpful. "Do you need help calling a cab?" sort of deal. I was assured that Joel had it all under control, and decided that I could just stand down. A while later, I noticed that Ken was no longer in evidence, assumed that it had all blown over, and stopped worrying.

Around three in the morning, my sweetie Ctein and I ended up in one of the smaller rooms with a couch, talking, like we do. As these things will, late at night, we ended up having a two hour, wide ranging, very private conversation. There was no one in the room, the crowd was quite thin, we weren't using space other people needed. When someone wandered in to use the rest room or see if someone they wanted to talk to was there, we suspended the really personal stuff. In case you haven't done the convention thing, this is actually a pretty normal interaction. People are always wandering off to slightly secluded spots to talk, neck, or what have you. Somewhere around five in the morning, Joel informed us that he was going to bed and they were closing up the rooms. Ctein and I left, feeling a bit smug about having closed down the convention.

Monday was the traditional "fish fest", a sushi lunch at Sakura, followed by the less venerated but still very traditional ice cream trip to Pump House Creamery. I had much good sushi, a beer, and was feeling utterly charitable with the entire world. And then I got a call. From Ann. She said that Ken Konkol had decided to hide in the closet of the room where Ctein and I were talking so as to avoid getting thrown out. For the entire time we had been talking, sometimes about quite personal information, he was in the closet. When he was found, he had made a little nest of pillows and blankets and was reading. Joel had thought to look in the closet because he hadn't seen Ken leave, and figured he must be there somewhere. I told Ann I had to hang up, I felt sick to my stomach. I did not, in fact, throw up, but I was hugely, massively upset. Trying to remember what we had talked about, what other people we had discussed in frank fashion, what confidences had been violated. I was toweringly angry.

When we got to the ice cream place, I pulled Ctein aside, and told him. He went through roughly the same reactions. It felt incredibly violating. It's not a physical violation, but it is still a huge invasion of one's personal space. And it may be a minor thing, but it also destroyed that slightly smug sense of accomplishment about having closed down the con. After a very brief discussion, we went and told _everybody_. Loudly. And everyone had the same sorts of reactions we did. They were appalled and horrified, and sympathetic. It was so very nice to have all my friends be so very much on my side. It felt validating and helped keep me from spinning out of control. Ctein reports the same thing.

That night was the Desiccated Dodo Party at Scott's. This is also a Minicon tradition. I walked in the door, and there was Ken. I took a deep breath and decided that I did not wish to make a scene. While it felt awful to be in the same room with him, I didn't want to export the damage to my friends. I quick texted Ctein to warn him, and then proceeded to ignore Ken. I socialized cheerfully with my friends and told anyone who hadn't heard yet about what had happened the previous night. Everyone was appalled and sympathetic. I got into a couple of games of Zar, and had a quite good time, although I did cuss in front of the teenager. Which he thought was funny, and his mother didn't seem to be too upset with. Something about Zar makes me say terrible things. In between the first and the second game, Cally said that she overheard Ken say that he was disappointed that he hadn't gotten to play a game with several people yet, and my name was on the list. I was...gobsmacked, I guess. It sounds bad, but you should know that I have never, not once in all my life, shared a game with Ken. The expectation that he could game with me? I am flabbergasted. What is it about abusers that makes them want to continue to contact their victims, get closer to them? What is it?

Zar over, I was in the kitchen. Laura, Dean, DDB, Ctein, Doug, Scott, and probably other people were there. I don't really remember. Ken came to the kitchen door, and I lost my temper. I don't think he was speaking to me, but I said, "Go away and never speak to me again." He _advanced_. He walked towards me. He said that he was just here to thank our gracious hostess, and pointed to Laura. Someone replied that Laura was not, in fact the hostess. I told him go get out of my face. He asked me why. I yelled that I didn't need to explain, he needed to leave me the fuck alone. He insisted that I did need to explain. And he kept on _advancing_. By this time, I have completely lost my shit. I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, and I'm pretty sure that the majority of the words were fuck, and the rest involved telling him to go away. Eventually, he was made to leave. I really don't remember that part too well. I did see Ctein visibly restrain himself, and I'm grateful. Actually breaking Ken's fingers, or whatever else seemed appropriate, would have been difficult to explain to the police. Ann Totusek stood in the doorway to prevent him from coming in. I burst into tears and cried on Dean's shoulder. It was the closest one, I think.

Because the context was well known, everyone was instantly on my side. There was no recrimination at all, only sympathy. Everyone understood why I had lost it, and was completely sympathetic. It helps, of course, that pretty much no one likes Ken. But I think a much more important piece of it was that the abuse of the previous night was known and understood, and so my behavior had context.

There followed a discussion in which I, hilariously, provided technical advice about how to make Ken go away. It was decided that asking the host of the party to remove Ken was the correct procedure to follow. This is in exact compliance with our current anti-harassment policy. Scott, as host, asked for time to consult with Irene, his wife and co-host. That took very little time, but I don't think Irene knew the context and absolutely she needed to be consulted. Also in accordance with our policy, the hosts asked a Board member, in this case Ann, to actually do the evicting. Which she did. And for which I was so very grateful. There was some talk about further bans of various natures, a one year ban from Minicon, maybe a longer one. Ctein brought up the issue that in smaller venues, such as Fallcon, he would not be comfortable with Ken there and there would be a good chance of unpleasant drama if they had to interact. I pointed out that Mnstf meetings are pretty damn small, as well. I pointed out that all of this is stuff that has to be handled at the Board level, that we didn't have a quorum of Board members, and even if we did, I wasn't really ready to deal with all this shit, even as a complainant. As the victim, I cannot actually vote on the outcome, but I can advocate for myself when the time comes. But the time was not now, and what with Ken living out of town, there wasn't any reason to do anything before the next scheduled Board meeting.

Tuesday, I got a call from Ann. Evidently, Ken reached out to Ann and wanted to make things right. He's going to see a counselor through the VA and she was talking about wanting to provide the counselor with properly anonymized information so that he can discuss it with Ken, and I lost my temper. Because really, Ken is not my problem and what I really want is for him to die in a fire, right now. It's been less than 24 hours. And I am frothingly angry, still damaged, and trying to involve me in his rehabilitation is just not on. I have no charitable feelings towards him, and should not be asked to. Ann also said something about wanting to be sure that Mnstf wasn't perceived as an organization that just casually bans people who one of the Board members do not like, and I agree that we don't want to do that, but I cannot cannot cannot talk about this right now. And I am still upset that she tried to do so. I know that she had good intentions. But framing Ken's rehab as a good thing for me makes no sense at all. It does absolutely nothing for me. And right now, if Ken wants to apologize to me, I am not having any, will not listen, and if he calls me I will scream at him until he hangs up the phone. Not having any. Which is, you understand, why I don't get to vote on the issue of what Mnstf should do to Ken. Because genuinely not judicial, here.

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2nd April, 2015. 12:00 pm. Clarity

So, I got new glasses from America's Best, which I've never used before. They were cheap, and well, glasses are glasses, right? I picked up my new glasses today. One pair of bifocals, one pair of computer glasses.

The bifocals have the line rather higher than on the old glasses, and my eyes had a hard time adjusting both to the new clarity and to the location of the bifocal portion of the focal. In the eight years since I last had new glasses, my right eye as developed an astigmatism. So the change in clarity is quite striking, but my eyes are working hard at getting used to the new glasses. So, I have a very small headache.

Just at the moment, though, I'm wearing my computer glasses, and there's something very, very odd. The screen on my laptop is trapezoidal, rather than square, distinctly smaller at the bottom than at the top, with the sides slanting outwards. It doesn't look like this when I put on my old glasses, it looks roughly square (which of course it actually is). Moreover, when I put on my new bifocals, the trapezoidal shape is still there, although somewhat less pronounced. I am seriously weirded out by this. Is there something wrong with these glasses? Or is this what happens when you correct for astigmatism in two eyes at the same time?

It's Minicon, so I really don't have time to deal with this and go to the store and ask searching questions, and possibly insist that they make my glasses again ... which would be kind of a pain, anyway, since it took them nineteen days the last time.

Sigh. Possibly I should have stuck with Lenscrafters.

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20th March, 2015. 10:53 am. Please let it be good

So, it's always possible that I will regret this, but I just backed "ConMan" on Indigogo. It's a project by Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion. Here's a link:

It will either be very, very funny, or _Bimbos of the Death Sun_." I fear the latter, but what I'm hoping for is "Galaxy Quest."

The set up is that an actor from a show not completely and exactly like "Firefly" interacts with the scifi convention circuit, encountering weird organizers and marvelous fans. Or something like that. There are a number of actors involved that I very much like. The videos that consented to stream on my poor little computer were funny. While the media scifi convention community is closely related to mine, it's not my community, so I worry that I will either not get the jokes, or that I won't know if they're being authentic or jerks. _Bimbos of the Death Sun_ was about my community, and man, was it awful. Lords know, there is an infinite amount of material to make fun of me and mine. Unfortunately, she ignored all our real foibles and shibboleths and made fun of us in a mean-spirited-never-really-met-an-actual-science-fiction-fan sort of way. On the other hand, "Galaxy Quest" got me and mine, and made fun of us for the things that are funny, and still made me feel like they understood why we are who and what we are.

So, GQ or BOTDS. We shall see. Mean time, I gave them money to try.

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19th March, 2015. 9:50 am. Clarifying a previous post

I wish to absolutely state that pregnant people are often treated like shit, and in all sorts of horribly complex ways. The medicalization of pregnancy is built from a number of different bricks, including infantizling women, treating women as alien beings, and a desire to turn a profit on an activity which, a large percentage of the time, does not need high-priced medical interventions. There's also a bunch of weird risk assessment errors that go into this. And so on and on.

However, my point is that pregnancy, child birth, and parenting are basic human experiences and that so is disability. The way in which we try to separate out various human experiences, and treat them differently, tends to be done based on our ideas of the value of people. And those ideas of value are constructed out of things like economic productivity, and that entire system sucks diseased rats through a straw. People do things. Lots of things. Some of them fall off mountains. Some of them get born with cerebral palsy. Some of them get pregnant. Some of them break their leg, and get better. Some smoke and don't get lung cancer, some don't smoke and do. Some of them exercise daily, some of them are slugs like me. Some of them (shudder) want to make art for a living. Good gods, some of them are even (whisper it) musicians.

When we say that we shouldn't treat working mothers as if they have a disability, what we are saying, by implication, is that disability is less worthy in some way. That it's fundamentally different. And yep, it's different. Everything is. Disabled people are often, actually, not sick, at least not in any useful sense. The fact that the model for handling disabled workers and the model for handling working parents is similar points to something very important. People have lives. They need, in the words of Bob, slack. And our system is designed to take away that slack. It is a sin and a shame to put people in competition for that bit of give in the system. And in a program dedicated to arguing that parents need a bit of slack, a parent denigrated the need of another human for a bit of slack in their life. "It makes me sick," she said. She found it revolting to be compared to someone who also, for whatever reason, needs slack.

Honestly, we over-medicalize disability, too. We get impatient that people don't just "get better." We focus on cures rather than accommodations. We fail to deal with real life issues and propose "cures" without ever trying to understand the implications of those "cures."

Did I misunderstand the point of the nice lady on the radio? It's possible. But I find it telling that so many people want to engage with the medicalization of pregnancy, and don't want to engage with the fundamental flaws of our economic/social system. The scrabble over pieces of the diminishing pie is real. Pay attention. It's a problem for all of us. We need, not a bigger piece of pie, but a whole new pie.

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18th March, 2015. 10:29 am. Oh, No, Minnesota Public Radio, No

So, I argue politics with Steven Brust a lot. It's entertaining, sometimes enlightening, usually well-fueled by whiskey, and great foreplay. One of the things we argue about a lot is "identity politics." He feels that it is fundamentally divisive, and its primary function is to prevent the working class from uniting. My perception and personal experience has been completely opposite from that. I find identity politics (feminism, etc.), especially coupled with the concept of intersectionality, to be unifying and clarifying. Understanding how women of color experience the dominant culture, for instance, helps highlight both the similarities and differences in my own life, which helps me understand both the privileges I get from being white, and the obstacles I face being female. But every now and then, things happen to make me wonder if he's right, after all.

And then there's MPR. If you read james_nicoll, you know that MPR stand for Mimetic Prophylactic Required, which tends to mean "you probably don't want to read this unless you really want to get your mad on." And, honestly, some days Minnesota Public Radio deserves that acronym.

I tend to listen to MPR in the car on the way to and from work. So, 5 - 15 minute stints. The other morning, on the way home, they were talking about working mothers, and the resentment that working parents can receive from other workers. The featured speaker was a woman who used to feel resentment towards the accommodations that other women got for being mothers until she, herself, became a mother. At least, I think that was the set up. I didn't hear all of it. And it was about that resentment, how to understand it, educate against it, manage it, etc. etc. etc. Le sigh. I am not a mother. No interest. I also don't particularly resent parents taking time off to be parents. I figure it's a good thing. But, whatever. Evidently, this is a thing. I'm driving, ok, fine.

And then the person being interviewed said something that I found weirdly shocking. She said (para-quoting), "And it makes me sick when maternity leave is equated with disability, as if being pregnant and giving birth was disabling!" And I was furious. Profoundly furious. In the first place, being pregnant is exactly like being temporarily disabled. Exactly. Much more importantly, though, the word sick was both aptly chosen, and incredibly disgusting. She didn't want to be classed with those...disabled people. Those broken people Those people not as good as she is. She's different. She's not, you know, disabled. She's just a person whose physical needs and personal choices require certain accommodations. She's better than they are. She's not, you know, physically broken. She's important. She's productive. She's...not one of them.

Never have I seen a balder or more disgusting grab for a bigger piece of pie. She wants an accommodation because she's, after all, raising the next generation. And Important Role. She's more entitled, more special, more something or other.

Here's the problem. The issue of how we accommodate disabled people, or how we accommodate pregnant people, or people who are caretaking other people, is fundamentally broken. It's systemically broken. As long as our society is structured around placing the primary value on people based on their ability to enrich their owners, this stuff happens. And it happens to pregnant women and disabled people and people of color exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason. Because the system is fundamentally fucked. It is fucked beyond all hope of repair. The capitalist system will, and must, consider the potential productivity of workers, and people who need more time off because of whatever the fuck it is, are probably less "productive" than other workers. There are a lot of studies about how diversity improves the productivity and profitability of a company, and I don't misdoubt me those studies. But it doesn't improve the productivity of those individual workers. The decisions that HR makes tend to be one applicant at a time. And so, this person has a kid and this person has a need for an expensive accommodation, and this person is unencumbered and so this last person will probably be more productive... The fundamental baseline is this: the value of people, at this point in time, is primarily measured in a theoretical "productivity". Moreover, there's also the simple truth that if someone else is taking on the more complicated employees, you can probably steal their innovations without having to pay the cost of having a diverse workforce yourself Externalizing costs is one of the foundations of the capitalist system. (It's also one of the reasons why government is so vital to the capitalist system. Somebody has to pay for your failures. Also, it's why running a government like a business is fucking insane.)

I don't know that it's the "working class" that needs to unite. I don't find the communist taxonomy of class particularly persuasive. But I do know that the value of a person is vastly more complex than that which can be captured by the current market. I know that so much of what we do which is not remunerated is vital to our community and so much of what we do that is remunerated is actually detrimental to our joy as humans and our survival as a species. And it makes me crazy when we fight over an ever-diminishing piece of remunerative pie, rather than looking at the larger issue, which is that we are all, every one of us, worth more than that.

Also, if it makes you sick to be equated with a disabled person, you make me sick.

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12th March, 2015. 9:33 am. Somewhat sad

Last Wednesday, I had a patient who was polite and cooperative, but very disengaged from the process. She asked no questions, didn't laugh at any of my jokes, and seemed uninterested in the information I provided.This happens. It's not my favorite experience, but I figure that patients have a better understanding of their coping mechanisms and desire for information than I do. Since communicating with patients does not come naturally to me, I tend to think about failures in the middle of the night. I don't care if the patient doesn't want to be chatty, but I do try to think about what signs there are about what information the patient actually wants and needs, and try to strategize ways to do better. Late at night when I'm bored, I think about all sorts of things. This is one. I wonder if race plays any role, here. My patient was a black woman of a certain age. I know that African Americans have historical reasons to distrust medical institutions. I also know that older women, and women who are overweight tend to have a difficult time getting medical professionals to pay attention to what they are saying. I wonder which, if any of these, are a factor in her being disengaged from the process. There's nothing to fix here. It's just a curiosity, and if I think of something clever to overcome a challenge, that'd be cool.

In the morning, she was more cheerful, probably because she wasn't sleepy. Also, the test was over, and she hadn't qualified for CPAP. More rest, less stress, more cheerful. Makes sense. She's dressed in a perfectly normal fashion, casual, with a knit cap over her gunked up hair, but nothing particularly weird. Five minutes after she leaves, a white female security guard comes up. She says, "Did you just have a patient leave?" I don't really understand why she's asking. Is my patient lost, is she hurt, is there a problem? I hesitate before responding because I'm a little worried that something is wrong. "A black woman," the security guard clarifies.

"Oh, yes, yes, she did just leave," I say, still not sure what this is about.

"Well, good, then. I was just worried that maybe she was just someone wandering around, you know." She leaves while I am still staring at her in shock.

Here's the thing. There is exactly zero chance that this would have happened if my patient had been white. Was the security guard a racist? Fortunately, I am not called upon to make judgments of other people's character. But did she act in a racist fashion? Yes, yes she did. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to wonder anything about my patient. Polite, casually dressed, in a place where it is perfectly reasonable for a person to be on the way out the door, at a time perfectly in concert with normal operations. Indeed, so normal that the security guard thought to check with me. Which she absolutely would not have done if my patient had been white. But she did. Because some older black woman might be, I don't know, anyplace at all?

And I wonder, again, if her reticence the night before is built out of a lifetime of these types of occurrences.

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