No Respite


by Robert Lanz, LCSW

Keith is one of my surfing buddies from Canada. Right. Who knew there were waves up there. I thought all those guys did was ski, snowboard and play hockey, Eh.

I meet Keith at my hotel in the tropical part of the state of Nayarit, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta. The waves were usually good and the water was always warm. Surf Nirvana.

While Keith’s friends back in Vancouver were struggling into heavy wetsuits and warming up in hot tubs before paddling out, Keith was donning a thin rash guard to keep the powerful sun off his ghostlike Canadian “tan.” Two joys in any surfers life. Decent waves and NO WETSUITS.

Anyway we had strayed from the beach because the decent wave equation had failed us – and for those of you that don’t surf, understand that good waves are the exception, not so good ones, the rule. We went up to the high plains above us to the city of Guadalajara where we acted like total gringos for a few days enjoying mariachi music, antique shopping and flea marketing at the Plaza del Sol.

On the road home we pulled off the main highway into the little town of Tequila. Yeah it’s a real town, surrounded by fields of blue agaves that are cooked down in distilleries into tequila. A guy I went to school with has his own brand of tequila, Patron, made here locally and in the back of my head I was hoping to run into John Paul in town. Of course the odds of that are long but it was still worth a thought.

Keith only knows me as the surfing social worker. If I ran into JP, one of the richest guys in America, the trip would turn into a Hollywood story. Not a surf story. Not a social work story, a rich guy’s story and most social workers don’t know a lot of rich guys, although having visited Keith in Vancouver and seen both his beach house and his chalet in Whistler Mountain ski resort I suspect he’s got a lot of dough too. But all that money stuff belongs in another blog. This is an ER social work blog and I’m sticking to it.

The town of Tequila literally smells of distilling agave hearts and just the vibes alone would be reason to stop for a beer and a couple of shots of cactus juice. Or maybe one of those tax free two and a half liter mini barrels of my favorite Cuervo Commeritivo.

In any case, this is an ER social work story not a day at the beach story with some drinking thrown in and a social work story needs a social worker and a patient. One from central casting would be perfect.

Keith and I were sitting at an outside table in a small cantina, finishing up our tacos and beer and some free sample shooters. What most of us would call a laid back afternoon. In a couple of hours we’d be back at the beach watching the sun set over the Pacific. The perfect end to the perfect day. Then the “patient” showed up.

From a distance my first thought was that he had been working underneath one of the many large trucks parked next to the cantina. Covered in dust and grease it appeared, well, not out of the ordinary considering where we were. Then he walked closer and spoke.

“Money. Give me some money.”

I saw Keith reaching for his wallet.

“He’s a crack head Keith. He’ll just smoke it all up.”

Keith was taken aback. He still thought the guy was a mechanic who just wanted a cold beer.

“Look at his finger tips. All burned. Look at his lips. All burned. Look at his skin turgor. He’s dehydrated. He’s a crack head.”

Of course, Keith wouldn’t know that. He’s a Canadian lumber broker who surfs. Probably never saw crack in his life. If he saw a crack head on the east side of Vancouver he probably didn’t know it.

But me? I’m an ER social worker. Always on duty. Even in the town of tequila on an otherwise perfect day….

Dividing line


About robertjlanz

Author and health care professional.
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