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COMPLAINT OF THE COWARD

TERESA DA SILVA
Uncle Jack, a 77-year-old retired carpenter, who spends his days gardening and enjoying moments with his family, walked into the local hospital for a long overdue appointment with an ophthalmologist. He was relaxed: his daughter had accompanied him and she’d made sure they’d be there on time. The notification specified that he had to be there twenty minutes before the 10:30 appointment to register.
“Wait in that room!” barked the receptionist as she snatched the paper. He sat down quietly hoping the lack of caffeine would let him doze off for a couple of minutes. His daughter seemed to have the same set of mind.
No sooner had they sat down than the staff members, doctors and nurses included, started scuttling around. Ordinarily one would worry about the commotion in such a place but Uncle Jack wasn’t worried because everyone had a smile on their faces.
An hour later the nurse called him and accompanied him and his daughter to the doctor’s office. The doctor, unshaven and scruffy, seemed busy trying to make sense of the patient’s file. Eventually he looked up and said: “What brings you here?” “I’m having trouble seeing” Uncle Jack replied but he could read his daughter’s mind: “Dahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” If he’d been at home he’d have cracked a joke or two about the idiocy of the question but he needed to be on his best behaviour in front of the doctor.
“Sit on that chair!”
“Shall I take off my glasses, sir?” asks Uncle Jack.
“For Christ’s sake, man, just sit down. You can easily take off your glasses then!”
“Oh Lord!” thought Uncle Jack as he heard his daughter heave. “She’s going to give him a piece of her mind!” However, his daughter didn’t. She kept it in.
“Look at those letters. Can you see them?”
“No, not really!”
After placing a paper over Uncle Jack’s right eye, “And now?”
“Now, I really can’t see them!”
“OK, you can step down. You have to be operated on. We’re going to have to get rid of the cataract in your left eye.”
“Oh…is that the only solution?”
“Why? Don’t you want to be operated on? If not, say so because you are the one who has to decide” points out the doctor aggressively.
“Oh boy! Oh boy! My daughter’s going to kill you!” thought Uncle Jack in a panic. “No, sir. I just want to see well” he answered quickly.
“Fine, sign here.”
While he was signing, Uncle Jack realised his daughter hadn’t said anything. She had kept it in. She had smothered her desire to tell the doctor that he needed to learn some social skills, that his lack of empathy was abominable, that his manners were atrocious and that he should not be trusted. She had stifled her desire to tell him that he was not a god despite his career choice and probable outstanding grades.
Later, while they were waiting in the corridor for a final examination they realised what the excitement had been about. There was a commemoration going on in one of the offices: doctors, nurses, assistants, and others were going in and out, clapping, cheering, eating cake and drinking champagne. From that room, a doctor assistant walked up to Uncle Jack wiping the crumbs around her mouth and asked him to follow her.
Again, his daughter didn’t say a word. She held her tongue. She quelled her desire to demand just treatment for a person who worked hard all his life and who had all treated the other with dignity and respect no matter what the social status. She suppressed her desire to complain about the whole morning because, like most Portuguese, she knew her dad would need those services again. She repressed her desire to complain because she couldn’t risk her dad being badly treated or being sent to end of the waiting list as sanction against her complaint.
Her cowardly action made it possible for that doctor to continue to believe that he is a superior being who can treat people as if they are beneath him. Her cowardice contributed to the continuous abuse many suffer at the hands of those who control or detain any type of power.
She was (is) a coward!

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