By Ray Glazier
Bob arrived for his interview the week that three other people responding to my newspaper ad for a personal care attendant (PCA) had failed even to show up. I tried to keep the desperation out of my voice.
“So, Bob, what was your last job?”
“Well, I haven’t been working for a while. I was at Frostberg State for the last year, but I left without a degree.” As a once-upon-a-time temporary college dropout myself, I could relate to that. “I have some part-time day work in Boston, and thought I could do PCA stuff for you mornings and evenings to help make ends meet.” He was in his 20s, prematurely losing his hair on top, clean, if shabbily dressed, and was exactly my height and build before I landed in this wheelchair and started putting on weight. By the end of the interview Bob had a second part-time job.
It turned out that Bob’s first part-time job was posing in the nude for art classes at the Museum School. “What if you get a hard-on?” asked Jason, my other PCA. “With 20 people staring at you and a draft in the room,” said Bob, “no way.” Jason looked dubious.
It was late fall, and Bob had almost no clothes, a problem even for a nude model. I gave him my pre-injury winter wardrobe, which fit him exactly. Bob was grateful and dedicated himself to becoming the Perfect PCA. He even learned to cook. Sometime during those first few weeks he owned up to having just been released from Frostberg State Hospital, not having dropped out of Frostberg State College. Bob was sent there by the courts for pursuing his avocation as a Peeping Tom. He was very forthright and honest in these revelations, and was really doing very well for me. So why make waves?
As time went on, Bob’s accounting for the grocery money became sloppy and I realized that $40 or so per week was being siphoned off for marijuana purchases from the kids dealing from the basement apartment next door. But things were going so well with Bob PCA-wise that I decided not to make an issue of it. (And hadn’t I tried the neighbors’ merchandise once or twice myself?) Then my MasterCard statement came in the mail, and I spotted a blatantly bogus $80 mail-order charge that I could ill afford.
“I was desperate!” said Bob when confronted.
“You were that desperate for two ounces of anti-baldness potion?”
“It’s very important in my line of work to have a full head of hair.”
Bob was contrite and agreed to pay off the $80 in four weekly installments with the firm understanding that the police would be called immediately if anything else went missing. But after a week, Bob found the terms too onerous, quit his day job, and skipped town in his new wardrobe.
The PCA Tango
Bob and I were doing what I call the PCA Tango. I’ve seen the pattern repeated over and over, and so have my friends who are PCA consumers. Typically both