January 7, 2009
The wind is howling, and the thermometer is dropping. The coldest temperature in ten years is predicted for tonight, so today will be spent getting ready. Every spigot, every potentially exposed pipe, a multitude of plants, and a Noah’s ark of animals must be protected.
And of course the Ranchers! Speaking of which, if you read the Ranch’s rules dictating what Ranchers must wear at any given temperature and under what conditions, you’d think we had lost our collective minds.
“What about common sense?” you’d ask.
To which we might well reply in exasperation, “What common sense!?”
After eight years of residency, we’ve learned that the notion of “common sense” is merely wistful evidence of wishful thinking. My turtleneck, gloves, and muffler weather could well be your signal to haul out the shorts and flip-flops.
So, we did what every good organization does in such circumstances. We wrote a policy, and made charts, and distributed them, and talked about them, and made dark predictions of what would happen should they be ignored.
The first day on the job, the president of the college walked into his office toting several board feet of binders, which he summarily dumped on Jerry’s desk.
“Here,” said he, “is the history of human failure at Mt. Hood Community College.”
And so it was, and so it is, and so it ever shall be.
When we came under state licensure, we came under statutes, rules, and regulations that rule out any need for common sense. It’s all written down in black and white. Follow it and you’ll be in good shape.
And we can’t disagree with 98% of it being as it’s intended to protect, defend, and assist those we care for.
The problem is, it’s possible to be in perfect compliance with the regulations and still not be a place anybody in his right mind would want to visit, much less live.
The nexus of the problem was identified several thousand years ago in the words, “The letter of the law killeth, but the spirit bringeth life.”
We walk a daily tightrope, following that letter and ever striving to bring life to the work we do and in many ways it’s the hardest part of what we do. When it’s 40 degrees, and the wind is blowing, and a resident refuses to wear a jacket, what do you do?
Regulations say he has the right to make a choice and suffer the consequences. They also say we have a duty to protect him from the consequences of his disability. What do we do?
Not to worry, this is a day when we will use our common sense!