Anatomy of a Safety Incident #4, Part 1

Published in on May 21, 2021


Safety Incident #4 was epic by WCA standards, involving lots of people and unfolding over several days. It occurred to me that if I keep writing about safety incidents, I’m going to run out of letters of the alphabet that don’t overlap with someone’s actual initials, so in order to write about this, I randomly assigned names to people from various Shakespeare plays (particularly plays where the action depends on people not knowing what other people know, various miscommunications, etc). I’ve kept everyone’s pronouns consistent with what I believe them to be. Part 1 is just the facts of the incident, as we pieced them together afterwards.

So without further ado...Safety Incident #4, a Drama in Six Episodes

Cast in Order of Appearance

Celia, WCA receptionist #1
Rosalind, WCA punk #1
Orlando, a guy who lives in the Cully neighborhood
Phoebe, WCA Cully clinic manager
Robin, WCA punk #2
Leander, POCA Tech observer #1
Antonia, WCA receptionist #2
Me, clinic founder, evening shift supervisor, and narrator
Hero, POCA Tech student and WCA receptionist #3
Audrey, emotional support dog
Beatrice, POCA Tech observer #2
Frederick, WCA punk #3

Day 1

Episode 1
Scene: the Friday morning shift at WCA Cully

Celia and Rosalind are working a packed shift when Orlando comes into the clinic and approaches Celia about getting an appointment.

Celia is confused by Orlando’s presentation and also observes that he appears somewhat confused as well. He says he hasn’t been treated before, but he also seems like he’s familiar with the clinic. On the other hand, he’s wandering around touching everything and also asking questions about who’s in the building. He wants to be treated as a walk in, but there’s no room on the shift for walk ins, so after some back and forth, Celia works on finding an appointment for Orlando in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the phone is ringing off the hook, scheduled patients are coming in, and Celia is multi-tasking.

Celia finds an appointment time for Orlando in the afternoon, at which point he asks if he can stay and do his intake paperwork now. Sure, Celia says, you can sit over there. Orlando says, what about those offices back there, can I go back there? Celia says no. She’s beginning to be alarmed by what feels like boundary pushing.

Other patients keep coming in, the phone keeps ringing, and Orlando doesn’t exactly settle down to do his paperwork, he keeps asking weird questions and keeps wandering around touching things. At one point a line is forming and the space is getting more crowded than it’s supposed to be under current COVID regulations, so Celia says to Orlando, I’m sorry, this isn’t going to work, I’m going to need you to wait outside, there’s a bench, you can sit there and do your paperwork or do it later when you come back, but I need you to not be in this space right now because there are too many people.

It’s clear by now that Orlando really wants to hang out in the clinic space, but he agrees to wait outside.

After a few minutes he comes back in and says to Celia, I’m scared.

Celia is concerned. What are you scared of?

Orlando says, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. They’re out to get me. I think they’re going to send a hitman to kill me. Can I stay in here?

They talk more and Orlando adds that besides being scared, he’s sad about being addicted to meth and he’s been out of jail for a week. At this point Celia calls the Multnomah County crisis hotline and begins the process of getting Orlando a cab to Cascadia Behavioral Health. This process takes quite awhile, meanwhile Celia is still wrangling the desk. Rosalind is mostly in the back treating patients but comes out briefly and gets concerned about what’s going on in the reception area and calls Phoebe, the Cully Clinic manager. I’ll be right there, Phoebe says.

By the time Phoebe arrives, the cab has come and gone because Orlando refused it. This is not a surprise because Orlando told Celia that he didn’t want it, and in fact asked Celia to go out and talk to the cab driver because he was afraid. However, Orlando does leave the clinic and Celia takes a minute to dash off a quick email to the evening shift letting them know that Orlando might show up for a late appointment. Celia is worried that Orlando might be one and the same as the sketchy guy in this post (he isn’t). She thought about calling the police but didn’t because Orlando is BIPOC.

When Phoebe arrives, Celia tells her what’s been happening and Phoebe says, Oh, Orlando. It turns out Phoebe has known Orlando for the better part of a year; he started hanging around the clinic during lockdown when Phoebe was alone in the clinic, doing a lot of cleaning. Phoebe let him charge his phone once or twice and she’s familiar with Orlando’s curiosity about the clinic and also his boundary pushing vibe. Orlando also once wandered into a staff meeting in which the front doors were all wide open and everybody was masked; he wanted to know what was going on. Phoebe said, You just have to be direct with him, tell him what’s what. He lives in the neighborhood, he really likes the energy in here. He’s fine, maybe a little confused.

At this point, nobody feels like Orlando is dangerous, but Celia is stressed out. Phoebe talks everything through with Celia and then leaves.

The morning shift ends, Rosalind goes home and Robin comes in for the afternoon shift.

Episode 2
Scene: the Friday afternoon shift at WCA Cully

Orlando comes back. Celia’s at the desk, Robin is treating people in the back.

I’m at home when Celia calls me. Orlando won’t leave the clinic. Okay, I say, I’ll be right there. I arrive to what feels like a full-blown crisis.

When I get to the clinic, Celia is hurrying out because her shift is over and she has to go (Antonia has taken over the desk). We pass on her way to her car and she seems upset. Robin meets me outside the clinic. What do you need? I ask. They say, What would really help is if you treated my patient who’s waiting, I think I’m making progress with Orlando if I can have a few more minutes. Just go straight through the reception area to the back, don’t stop.

I go in and walk quickly through the reception area, noting that a guy (I figure it must be Orlando) is talking animatedly to Antonia. In the back I find Leander, a POCA Tech observer who has everything under control in the treatment room; he’s been unpinning people as they wake up so it’s an oasis of calm back there and the only thing I have to do is treat Robin’s patient. Which is fine, except the patient has never seen me before and is worried that I might not know what I’m doing, so I have to reassure him about that. I treat him and then Leander directs me to Robin’s next patient; while I’m treating them I notice that Robin has come in also, and is treating the next patient in line.

When I’m done I go out to the reception area and start debriefing with Antonia. It turns out that Orlando has declined yet another cab to Cascadia Behavioral Health, but once again, he is gone. After a little while Robin emerges from the treatment room and we also debrief. Robin notes that the situation was challenging to deal with because the interaction between Celia and Orlando had acquired an intense, adversarial vibe and Robin had difficulty extricating Celia from the interaction in addition to having a hard time getting Orlando out of the clinic. At this point Robin still feels somewhat overwhelmed by dealing with all that on top of managing a full schedule, but they don’t want to talk about it anymore, they want to get back to treating people. Antonia is managing the front desk, Leander’s unpinning, so we agree that I’ll leave (I’m due back later to supervise an evening shift with student interns). At some point, somebody calls Phoebe to update her.

Robin, Antonia, and Celia all feel like this was a very unsafe situation.

Episode 3
Scene: the Friday afternoon shift at WCA Cully

Orlando comes back again. This time Phoebe is there and she’s mad. She reads Orlando the riot act, tells him to stop bothering the receptionists. He leaves.

He doesn’t come back during the afternoon/evening student shift, but we talk about it with the interns, including Hero, who is a part time POCA Tech student who has just come in from out of town to catch up on a whole bunch of intern and front desk shifts.

Day 2

Episode 4
Scene: the Saturday morning shift at WCA Cully

Before the shift starts, Hero calls me at home. Orlando has come back again.

I’ll be right there, I say. I’ll bring Audrey.

Audrey does double duty as emotional support dog (she’s a first-rate cuddler) and visual deterrent, because she’s a pit bull. (I learned about the visual deterrent from watching mail carriers react to her -- she’s not aggressive with anybody ever but apparently that’s not what people think when they see her.) I figure either Orlando likes dogs, and so her presence will help defuse any tension, or he doesn’t, in which case Audrey might deter him from coming into the clinic again. Either way, I’m starting to feel like I need her.

We arrive to find everything humming peacefully along. Hero is at the desk, Rosalind is punking, Frederick is waiting for his patients, and Beatrice is being helpful to everyone. Audrey lies down in front of the door with a chewy snack and patients step over her on their way in. I notice immediately that things feel better because regardless, there are enough humans to handle whatever might occur.

Hero fills me in. She says, When I arrived at the clinic this morning, I saw Orlando walking around front, waving his arms and talking to himself. He approached me by crossing the street, stating people were out to get him, and he was turning himself in. When he realized I was going into Cully, he said he wanted to talk to the manager, and make an appointment. I said, I’m sorry, but that isn't happening, you need to leave. He argued he needed to see the manager, and I repeated what I said. He walked away.

She adds, I didn’t feel threatened at all. He seems harmless.

That’s good, I say. Audrey and I hang around awhile longer (Beatrice entertains Audrey while I check in with more people and update Phoebe) and then we go home.

Episode 5
Scene: the Saturday morning shift at WCA Cully

Around 12:30, Hero is showing a new desk volunteer something in the punk cave, when she hears the bells on the front door jingle. (She was only away from the desk for a minute.) When she goes back to the reception area, nobody’s there.

A minute later, Beatrice comes into the reception area. She says, I think our guy is back, and he’s in the treatment room.

Hero goes back to the treatment room where Rosalind and Frederick are busy treating people. Sure enough, there’s Orlando. He says to Hero, I have an appointment.

No you do not, Hero responds calmly and firmly, please follow me out.

She has to say it twice, but the second time he follows her, and they go out of the clinic together. Outside, Hero repeats that she’s sorry, but Orlando doesn’t have an appointment and he’s not going to get one. Orlando says, Is it because of what’s going on in my life? Pretty much, Hero responds.

Orlando thinks about it for a minute, then politely elbow-bumps Hero and says, thank you. He leaves.

Episode 6
Scene: the Saturday afternoon shift at WCA Cully

Robin is treating patients; Beatrice is folding laundry in the back; Phoebe is at the front desk. The front door is open for ventilation.

While folding laundry, Beatrice’s sixth sense tingles and she goes out to the reception area, just as Orlando is walking up to the open door. She and Phoebe go to the door to intercept him.

I have an appointment! Orlando protests.

No, you don’t, Beatrice and Phoebe say. I’m sorry, but you need to go.

Orlando sighs, turns around, and leaves.

End of drama.


Day 2
Scene: Saturday night, monthly Zoom meeting for WCA sociocracy

Phoebe, Rosalind, Robin, Frederick, and I, along with other WCA staff, begin discussing this incident. First step: Phoebe and I will draft an Orlando policy. Major take home message: thank God nobody called the police.

Next up: unpacking.