Small ways to strike out at The Man that gave small momentary satisfaction and still, my depression grew – John Ross Barnes

Posted by on June 4, 2018

John Ross Barnes

During the mid to late eighties, I took a part-time job at a local law office reading, outlining and indexing deposition transcripts. Then they figured out I could do other things. It was an insurance liability defence firm specializing in medical malpractice and trucking cases, one of the “top twenty-five in Kansas”. That may not sound like much but even then there were over two thousand attorneys just in Wichita where I was. Eventually they made me Night Building Supervisor and general cleric. Not so bad. Still, they knew I could do more, so when no one in Wichita would take the job of Branch Billing Coordinator for eight dollars an hour, they made me it. I was putting my wife through college for her music teaching degree and could not pass up that wage then. This went on for six and a half years. The senior partner would say things about attorney and paralegal time, not in writing of course, like “Bill it, Bill it again, and then find another file to Bill it to!” High liability defence attorney fees was one of the reasons why liability insurance, and thus medical services were and are so high.

People like me, in my official capacity, were part of why people like me couldn’t afford medical insurance. I found that very depressing, soul-crushingly so. It was during those years that I first started seeking professional help, then paid for by my church out of some congregation help fund(because they Really loved my wife who was everything a good Lutheran woman was supposed to be). Sometimes I would find myself acting out at work, at night when no one else was there, physical files of smaller private clients somehow might “disappear” as well as any computer records they ever existed , before they could be final billed. Some private clients, mostly older private clients just never got billed. It didn’t cost the attorneys too many thousands of dollars, and no one ever even asked about any of those files. They were beneath those attorneys notice. Both cocaine and sex (with my wife I was not a cheater, after all) were had on the senior attorney’s custom wood desk overlooking the river. Small ways to strike out at The Man that gave small momentary satisfaction and still, my depression grew.

Eventually, I may have been Too honest with a therapist, and because by then I did have medical insurance, I found myself in a local branch of a private definitely-for-profit mental hospital. they were basically no help whatsoever. My wife could not deal with having a suicidal husband, anything she said, but that. She filed for divorce. Nine months later on her way to her parents for Christmas she fell asleep at the wheel and died in the crash. Fortunately our twelve year old daughter was with me and was spared that fate. But still, ever tell a twelve year old girl, on Christmas eve, that mama is never coming home? I’ve had a number of other jobs since then including sanitation system maintenance and repair on private yachts for rich people. Basically, when my conservative cousin boasted “I’d shovel shit with a spoon to support my family!” I could look at him and say “Yeah, but could you keep from getting any on the custom carpets while you did it? Because that’s what I do.” That was not as depressing, even with the attendant odours , as working for the Law firm. I’m sixty now, second marriage also run it’s course, living with my retired brother in a tiny town. Living mostly online and in my head, walking the dog, doing a little writing, playing a lot of therapeutic guitar. I own nearly nothing, and don’t expect at this point that I ever will. And that is better than working for those particular lawyers, or for the yacht folks either. I intend to be through with depressing jobs.


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