Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Introspection. I'm Really Sorry.

I'm sick; it hit me when I was out of town. The muck is hanging out in my chest and I've got a wet cough and frankly I am not feeling all that witty tonight. 

As you know, I was in Las Vegas over the weekend.  I went out and shot pictures every morning I was there and on Sunday I swear, all I was doing was taking pictures of the buildings. Here, I'll show you: 

I received a pretty nice zoom lens for Christmas, so I was standing across the street from the scene at the time.  I happened to look up and saw a guy posing for me.  

Me (yelling from across the street): Want me to take your picture? 

Him: I thought you just did! 

Me: No! I was taking a picture of the building. 

(Warning: non sequitur approaching...)

Him: What do you do for a living? 

I should have lied. I should have said I'm a graphic designer and was working on color palettes for a project. Or a zoo keeper. Or a gun shop owner in town for the big trade show that ended two days before.* Instead the truth just burst out like water from a busted pipe, which meant I was stuck for the next several minutes trying to justify myself: 

Me: I'm a social worker. 

Him: I thought it was something like that. 

Me: What? Why? 

Him: My sister is a social worker.  My sister-in-law is a social worker.  Y'all like checking up on people.  

Translation: social workers are nosy. Therefore, I'm a social worker because I was taking (not very interesting) pictures of a parking garages. 

Actually, the uber lens probably freaked him out a bit. Plus he likely thought I was lying to him and had indeed taken pictures of him and not the buildings; his line of questioning turned into whether or not I was a private investigator on the weekends. 

I'm not. 

For the record.  

But the man does have a point. I've maintained for a very long time that social workers as a group are nosy. Oh I suppose the marketers could spin it as "interested in others' stories" but let's be honest: We're nothing more than "trained professionals" who prod into the personal lives of strangers and happen to get paid** in the process.

Kinda like journalists. Only more reputable because ours is labeled a "helping profession." 

Whatever that means. 

I'm sure it's real helpful to a man who wants to die and is pissed his attempt didn't work for me to pepper him with questions and then ship him off to a psych ward.  

Or for a baby to be yanked from the only parents she knows and thrown into the state system for God knows how long.   

I know. I know! What else are we supposed to do? Someone has to protect the people. 

Sometimes, though, the job just feels mean. It feels like I'm nosy and mean and it's all wrapped up under the guise of "for your own good." 

It's not a bad thing, I think, for social workers to remember that with our jobs comes much power--and that power isn't necessarily in the forefront of our minds at all times. We have the capacity to disrupt peoples' lives and it's important for us to always be aware of this fact. More crucially, we have to not take advantage of the inevitable power structure that is tipped in our favor any time we initiate contact with the people we serve. It can be a challenge at times, because man! Are some of those people challenging

You know what I'm saying.  

All it took was perfect, slightly paranoid stranger in another city who misunderstood my hobby for this aspect of my profession to hit home on this particular evening.  ->    

*I didn't find out about it until the last day of the show, otherwise I SO would have gone. I could have walked from my hotel. Talk about missed opportunity! I was so mad...

**Not very much, granted. 


Deirdre said...

Hope you feel better soon!
Why did you put "I'm Really Sorry" in your title of this?

I have a few ideas but don't want to jump to any conclusions...

Carolyn said...

License to snoop, that's what I've always said. (And I don't have to "steal babies" to do it, either)But I would much rather do it here, than at supervised visits which is what my first job was.

Tanya said...

"License to snoop." Perfect, Carolyn. I may have to pilfer that one. Dierdre: You know, my vast readership of 2 dozen people begin to expect a certain tone, and then when you stray...

Baysage said...

Hope you're feeling better.

carolyn said...

Consider it yours Tanya :-)

Deirdre said...

You had some Tanya-snark in there. Just not as much. However, I think the reminder that we all have power in our lives and that our actions always have affect on others is good for everyone ... not just the licensed snoopers. :)

Nectarine said...

I barge into people's houses for a living (not actually, but I do mostly home visits) so I know what you mean.
Honestly, I'm still pretty baffled when people let me in the door to ask them tonnes of personal questions.