Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On behalf of the elderly female population

Who among us hasn’t, at least on one or two occasions, done something on the job that was incredibly ill-thought-out and/or dunderheaded? Something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but that turned out to stone stupid. And/or that backfired entirely on us. 

I suspect that, over the course of a fifty year work-life most of us have done/said/emailed something completely idiotic.

But generally – at least in my (admittedly limited) experience – those idiotic things (at least at the moment they were conceived) made some sort of sense. They seemed, in fact, like a good idea at the time.

So, while I do have some sympathy for Sue Stenhouse, who until recently was the director of senior services for the city of Cranston RI, I can’t imagine that there was ever a point in time where her exercise in stupidity made sense.

Here’s what went down in Cranston when Ms. Stenhouse was introducing a program in which high school kids would help seniors out with snow shoveling. An admirable program, surely. And what of it if, in what has up until now been a pretty snowless winter in these parts, Ms. Stenhouse ported in the Zamboni shavings from the local ice rink to stand in for snow? Maybe she should have waited to announce her program until there was actually some snow on the ground, but why the hell not bring in real fake snow? 

Bringing in snow to improve the optics of the shoveling program introduction is absolutely forgivable.No snow, no harm, no foul.

Less so bringing in a middle-aged man in bad makeup and worse wig, and wearing a highly personal nametag – “Cranston Senior Home Resident” to sit there to represent all those deserving seniors who would soon be having their sidewalks and the path to their trashcans shoveled out by the teens of Cranston. Which seems like an all-round bad idea that makes no sense whatsoever.

That’s “Cranston Senior Home Resident” in the curly blond wig. Seeing that wig does put to rest a question that has been asked since 1964, when Harpo Marx passed away. And that question is, obviously, was Harpo Marx buried with his wig? And the answer is, obviously, ‘obviously not.’

Ms. Stenhouse, while perhaps not yet a senior – from her Linkedin Profile, it looks like she’s in her late fifties – is close enough to shoveling program age eligibility to know what an elderly woman actually looks like. And on behalf of women in the demographic that would benefit from the shoveling program – even if most of us in our sixties are still, fortunately, capable of doing our own damned shoveling – I would like to point out that this isn’t what elderly women look like. The guy in the Harpo wig is at once both too young looking and completely absurd looking. Not that us elders can't be young looking. Or even completely absurd. Still...

And that nametag? Was Ms. Stenhouse counting on nobody at the presser asking “Cranston Senior Home Resident” for a comment? Perhaps she felt it would be a tad dishonest to give “Cranston Senior Home Resident” a fake real name. So no Ethel Fudd, no Bertha Mertz.

But you have to ask why Ms. Stenhouse, as director of elder services for Cranston, didn’t have any Cranston senior she could actually tap to sit there in back of the pile of fake snow, in front of actual – at least as far as we know – Cranston teenagers, to lend senior support to this program.

Eagle-eyed Providence TV reporters sussed the fakery out, and, in the wake of the revelation, Ms. Stenhouse resigned from her position.

I’m sure she was embarrassed – she should have been – but this seems like an over-reaction. As would have been any move to fire her.

She did something exceptionally clumsy and dunderheaded. But it wasn’t as if she were doing something evil, or attempting to defraud the public.

I hope that, someday, she can look back at this episode and laugh. If only because, at some point in the not-so-distant future, she has an epiphany and realizes that this crude caricature is not actually what elderly women tend to look like.


Info source: Boston Globe.

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