When I arrived at hand therapy yesterday, there was an 80-ish guy who strongly resembled Uncle Junior from The Sopranos sitting across the table from me. I believe his name was Melvin.
The therapy assistant, Jessica, is a very pretty woman in her early 20s. After she brought our heat packs, Melvin called her over and told her he wanted to tell her a story. Since he was leering, I sensed things were not going to go well. I didn’t hear most of the story, but I did catch the words “breast” and “in bed.” As the story progressed, Jessica began to look as if she desperately wanted to flee the room, but was trapped, a victim of her own politeness. I wondered how she would escape Melvin’s clutches (luckily only figurative clutches, because his wrist was broken). Finally she said, “Looks like we have a joker here,” and ran off to get more heat packs.
Next, the therapist, Maxine, started to massage his arm. They were having an innocent discussion about the importance of elevating the wrist when Melvin asked, “Are you a lesbian?” Maxine said she wasn’t, and Melvin proceeded to tell her his “theory” of lesbianism, which had something to do with women wanting to be men. Things were just going from bad to worse with Melvin — now he had morphed from a run-of-the-mill dirty old man into a homophobic dirty old man. Oy. Maxine shrugged and raised her eyebrows as if to say, “What can you do? He’s not right in the head.”
Then Melvin got a phone call from his daughter. He was perfectly lucid as he discussed where he was going to meet her, what taxi service he was going to use, and what time they were going to meet. He even gave her precise directions. He certainly sounded like someone who could think clearly.
I started wondering whether Melvin was truly disoriented or if he was just using his age as an excuse to say whatever he wanted — who’s going to yell at an old man for making dirty jokes?
I asked Jessica about it, and she said she had told him “clean jokes only” during another visit. Unfortunately, he had replied, “Oh, but all my jokes are clean.” Oops — Melvin was a repeat harasser. Again, I wondered if he had simply lost touch with what was appropriate, or if he was just taking advantage because he knew there would be no consequences. I felt like a horrible person for even thinking such things.
Most of all, I felt bad for Jessica and Maxine. Melvin was a client, and they had to humor him. What would be workplace harassment in another context was just something they had to put up with in this one. Melvin created unwanted sexual tension and made everyone uncomfortable. I feel bad for senior citizens who have no sexual outlet, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to go all pervy on unsuspecting medical personnel.
I often go on about how our culture makes sex something that’s only for young, hot people, and how older people are viewed as too repulsive to even be THINKING about sex (unless they are rich celebrities). In this case, however, I was a hypocrite. I absolutely did not want to think of Melvin in THAT WAY. Yuck.
Luckily for me, I think I wasn’t his type. Maybe I was too old.