Life in the confidential lane


I can’t help it. I read some blog posts by a guy working in the drive through lane of a fast food restaurant who was ranting about the customers. As an employment lawyer I thought, “Man, I hope your boss never tracks this down! You’d be sooo fired.” As a human being I thought, “Wow, we all have our stories to tell!”

And then I realized that for most of my life I’ve worked with people in confidential situations. In large part, I could say, “Today I met this person who… never mind, I can’t discuss it.”

In fact, when I was in child protection work I could not even greet people walking down the street unless they greeted me first. And if they did greet me and someone was with them I could not say where I knew them from. I had clients who got mad at me for “snubbing” them. I finally told folks if they wanted to talk to me they had to make the first move and unless they told someone how they knew me, if asked, I’d just say, “Oh, we’re just social acquaintances.” I still feel that way, but now I live in an extended urban metro area so I almost never see anyone I know from the law office.

So did I tell you the one about the client who used to … um, no, I probably better not share that either, it might be too easy to tell who it was if you happened to have been there 40 years ago. No, really. But if you ever see someone have a seizure on demand and then get up and walk to a new spot in front of you and have a seizure again – it is probably an act. Just saying… not that it ever happened. Nope.

However, maybe I could talk about when I worked in the Emergency Shelter and we had this guy who hadn’t washed his clothes in so long they … never mind … um, that might be too descriptive too. And when we had to get him all new clothes because they sort of dissolved in the washer he was pretty good-natured about it.

I could tell you about the time I called the FBI about the person on the wanted poster – but it wasn’t the right person – and they were a pretty good sport about having to – um, but if I told you what the identifying mark was that might be too much information. But once we did find a kidnapped little kid from a wanted poster – and that was great. But I can’t really tell you what happened after that because it’s confidential.

You know, there are some jobs you just really can’t vent about. Yanno? At least not with people outside the field.

But I can say working for The Salvation Army was one of the best times of my life – that I helped feed and house more people, get more Christmas presents, Easter Presents, and Thanksgiving turkeys out that I knew existed. I made so little money I was poor as a church mouse, lived in a dump with my little girl wondering how to make ends meet but I loved that crazy job with the wild clients and the dotty staff. The one thing I remember most clearly is the pregnant lady who brought her kids in to eat and then passed out because she hadn’t eaten since her husband dumped her there. We kept her and the kids and it worked out okay. That’s too generic to be identified.

There are a million stories in the big city….and you probably are lucky to ever hear one of them.

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4 comments

    1. Understood. There are some commonalities I can address, but the really fascinating stories are ones I cannot tell – they’re really too specific and identifiable.

      People in the helping professions – therapists, social workers, cops, emergency services people, run into situations every day that are mind boggling, but we don’t really get to talk about them.

      And the confidentiality doesn’t end at death so… My life in the confidential lane is pretty boring when someone asks me what my job is like. “Oh, I work with people who are in crisis. I left social work because I wanted a change. Law is a great deal like social work…”

      Thanks for stopping by and the excellent commentary.

  1. thats one thing I like about my job… its normally not too confidential… but oh do I have stories to tell. Its amazing what people say and do when you fix their computer… but there are some things that just should never be told, that you want to tell but due to confidentiality you cant and shouldn’t. love the post! its amazing what people say and do.

  2. Hi there Deaf Girl, thanks for the read and the cogent comment. 🙂

    Jobs that are not confidential are certainly more fun in some ways. And there are funny generic things that happen in tech that I could relate without blowing someone’s cover. I’ve long known the worst problem of all was the one between the seat and the keyboard. 🙂 And that includes ME!

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