Housekeeping, Garbage Birds, and Dumb Rats

Housekeeping

Sometimes, people bring tasty treats into the office. Always delicious, rarely healthy.

Not always this elaborate. But we do have a lot of snacks.
Not always this elaborate. But we do have a lot of snacks.

Healthy office snacks are for healthcare establishments that practice what they preach. Not mine.

Given that we’re all a bit isolated in our own offices and, dare I say, a bit self-conscious (or maybe I’m projecting?) it tends not to be terribly obvious who ate what exactly.

Not that it really matters.

Let me rephrase that.

Not that it really matter to everyone.

Almost every time, though, someone gets worked up that maybe the snacks are disappearing and that housekeeping (gasp!) is the one eating them.

How dare they?!

Well. Because. They’re snacks. For the office. And the housekeeping folks come around the office day after day, just like all the non-housekeeping folks do. So what if they ate the snacks? If they did, quite frankly, I hope they enjoyed it. Certainly not worth the upset. Right?

Garbage Birds

I’ve got five bird feeders hanging around my backyard. At our old place, it used to just be two. Those first two were so ridiculously excellent because the squirrels were always doing their best to get at the birdseed and it was a daily battle of Seth vs. the squirrels.

Pre-squirrel baffle. Let the battle begin.
Pre-squirrel baffle. Let the battle begin.

We inherited several more when we moved into our new place. It’s not new anymore, but I continue to fill the feeders and we’ve got a lovely crop of birds that come by, particularly in the summer, for a bite. My favorites are the mourning doves that lumber around under the feeders waiting for the little guys to knock seed down for them to eat. But they’re all lovely and chirpy.

Except not everyone agrees. When we had some people over this winter, I was admonished for using the cheapie seed blend — the one that’s always on sale at Fleet Farm. Apparently, it attracts garbage birds.

Ummm. Oops.

But then again, what makes a garbage bird so undesirable?

Apparently, they’re all brown. And they don’t belong here.

Meh.

I’m ok with feeding the garbage birds. Even garbage birds need love. Love and a little bird seed.

Dumb Rats

Those first two stories are old stories. They’re things I think about relatively frequently though. Things that really rubbed me the wrong way. I knows it’s people and birds and not really the same thing, but in both cases, the situation, the prevailing attitude, just seemed unfair.

Why does it matter who ate the food???

And then I went to a really great Grand Rounds presentation the other day by Dr. Michael Harris from OHSU about his Novel Interventions in Children’s Healthcare, or NICH, program… and it tied it all together. The program was incredible, the talk was inspiring, I loved it, but that’s not what brought the point home for me in this context.

Rather, it was a relatively small, illustrative point that Dr. Harris used to describe how people, well, rats, actually, rise to the occassion based on the way they are treated. The way they are handled. The assumptions we make about exactly how far they can rise.

The premise was this: once upon a time, a researcher labeled a bunch of cages of rats either “maze poor” or “maze adept” … something along those lines, anyway. Then he had a research assistant run the rats through a maze and record their results. As expected, the “maze poor” rats did poorly and the “maze adept” rats did well. Except, and here’s the kicker, all the rats were standard lab rats. None were actually maze poor or adept, there was no difference between the two groups except in the way they were handled by the research assistant conducting the test.

Ba-bam.

Dr. Harris went on to explain basically that this is exactly the same thing that he sees happening in clinical care when you’re dealing with children that are both socioeconomically vulnerable and medically fragile. The way their parents get treated– either as deadbeat layabouts who neglect their children vs. parents who are trying to do the best they can with what they have — makes all the difference in health outcomes. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of difference in healthcare costs, too. And that gets big attention.

Completely fascinating. It really made me think. Two things:

1) Maybe I should pick up and move to Oregon to work in the NICH program where my motto will become “Nothing I Can’t Handle” so that I can help kids and their parents when nobody else will.

But more realistically…

2) How often do I treat people like dumb rats?!

{Source} I know, they're laboratory mice, whose genes have been spliced... not rats.
{Source} I know, they’re laboratory mice, whose genes have been spliced… not rats.

—-

Ideally, we’d treat everyone like a smart rat. Like they are capable. Maze adept. Good enough to be good at anything you put in front of them. So, what about me? In my daily life, do I treat everyone like a smart rat?

Of course I do. I’m perfect.

Actually… sorry, I was thinking of somebody else.

Me?

Heck no!

I’m full up-to-here with prejudices and preconceived notions just like everybody else.

So I’ve got to try to be better. To live life a bit more blinded. Because maybe we’re all just basic, run of the mill rats, doing our own little rat things.

Not dumb rats. Just rats.

Not garbage birds. Just birds.

Not housekeeping people. Just people.

That’s all.

And the rat, the bird, the person… they’ll all respond appropriately to the treatment they’re given.

Birdseed for the “garbage birds” certainly results in gorgeous coos from the mourning doves outside our kitchen window. I see no problem there.

4 thoughts on “Housekeeping, Garbage Birds, and Dumb Rats

  1. I love this! I am so glad that I teach children, not garbage children! The best example I have that this is true is that I have 3 of the most beautiful and brilliant children ever!! See, it really works!

  2. Ummm. The housekeeping/food thing is real and seems more prominent with the building. I recall several occasions in that building where ‘make sure you get the food safely to your department or housekeeping will eat it.’ In these cases it would have been way easier to invite housekeeping to enjoy the food and move along. It’s not like my area ‘earned’ the food or deserved it more than any one else. It should have simply been a matter of not being wasteful vs wok got it.

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