Paul Langley was thinking, how do I pay my rent for next month? Standing at his post at the main entrance to the UPMC Braddock, he could see the nearly empty parking lot was wet from the misty rain falling in the gray of the early morning light. UPMC Braddock is a small hospital, only 199 beds, just outside Pittsburgh. An old woman in a motorized chair slowly approached the entrance. She was alone.
Paul Langley still took his position as a “Greeter” seriously even though word had come down that the hospital was not going to hire anyone from the Senior Community Service Employment Program of AARP, the program he’d been in six months now.
He walked with the old woman in the motorized chair through the main building and over to the Professional Building where he got on the elevator and took her to Suite 209 for her dental appointment. The old woman seemed to be partially blind and her hands and legs were slightly crippled. She spoke with great difficulty. He handed the clerk the appointment card he got from the old woman’s purse and smiled down at the old woman before he left. She wouldn’t have made it without him.
Back at his post at the entrance he stood with the woman who had the next shift. She had more financial resources than he did.
He said, “I’m screwed.”
“Don’t be so proud. Apply to LIHEAP. Apply to Public Assistance. Let them help you with your utilities. Let them help you with the groceries.”
“I’m still screwed.”
The 61B bus back to Pittsburgh didn’t leave for another half an hour. He sat in the little waiting room and opened the paper he’d bought that morning in the dark in the rain from the vending machine at the corner of South Craig and Forbes, the street lights standing sentry up and down the glistening avenue. The Steelers had lost 34-13. When he looked up the old woman in the motorized chair was talking to the woman on “Greeter” duty.
“What’s his name?” the old woman in the motorized chair sputtered, pointing a crippled hand toward him.
“His name’s Paul.”
“Paul,” she said with difficulty, “would you come here?”
He put down the paper and walked over to her. He realized she was crying. With difficulty she said something which took a moment for him to figure out. She had said, “May I kiss you on the cheek?”
He gave a light laugh to cover his confusion. Then he understood. “Sure,” he said. He bent down and she kissed him.
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