Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Swedish Hell's Angels Sick, Sick, Sick

According to a Swedish police investigator, "It seems to be depressing being a member of this club." According to a news report, 70% of the Stockholm biker's club have been diagnosed as depressed by the same doctor and are getting sick benefits. Sweden's welfare state seems to lead to problems: 20% of the workforce is on long-term sick leave or has taken early retirement.
Of course, if you've ever watched Swedish movies, you'd know how depressed the whole country is. Have you seen "Da Duve," the short Ingmar Bergman parody that came out years back, where the pigeon kept pooping on everyone from The Professor to Death? No wonder they're depressed.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Crisis Nursery

Around 8a.m., the telephone rang, and I was summoned to the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery to be gatekeeper.
This has nothing to do with plants; this is where families go when they can't take care of their toddlers or infants for the short term. This nursery can care for them up to 72 hours, to take stress off the parent and to help prevent child abuse. There are two such nurseries in Minneapolis.
I worked here once before, so when their regular receptionist had a sick child, they asked for me. After all, I was experienced.
It's a quiet place, with the occasional taxi driver buzzing to be let in to drop off a family or pick one up. It's my job to make sure visitors have a reason to be on the premises. It isn't always so quiet: the lady I'm helping pointed out the panic button she can hit if she needs the police.
Occasionally the wail of a little one echoes down the halls. Most of the time there's only the sound of the aquarium's filter buzzing in the background, and the warm air blowing through the building at a child-high temperature.
They have a place where the kids can eat, and sleep. And, they accept donations of all kinds. For example, the church I go to has a quilting group that makes warm blankets and contributes them to this organization. But they can use all types of items, such as disposable diapers and training pants.
Many volunteers arrive daily to help. Today a group from UPS will help prepare lunch; a number of people in a business organization will help do dinner. Others push toddlers in strollers, comforting and cajoling.
It's a nice place to act as the guardian of the gate. I'd want someone to do the same for my granddaughter, if she were ever in need.