Walk Down Misery Street

Part Two




The outpatient clinic where I landed a job was not in a prestigious neighborhood in Brooklyn, but it also wasn’t in a dangerous area.

The director was an Italian woman named Francesca, about forty-five years old, not very tall and well-proportioned. She had a gift of winning a person over and creating a pleasant conversational atmosphere. She had a charming smile. But she could also be rude and abrasive.

Unfortunately, I was paid only $15.00 an hour, the same as at my security job at the Time Warner building. Or, rather, fifty cents less. Thank you, dear aunt.

I should add that, to my disappointment after a year of blood, sweat, and tears, I discovered that this certificate gave a person the right to work as a substance abuse counselor, but with clinical duty restrictions, with a prospect to receive a really valuable certificate. And for the latter, one had to work full time for three years in a substance abuse clinic and then pass the challenging professional exam. And only then.

That’s okay, I consoled myself. As we say in America, the key is to get your foot in the door. To take that first step, and then . . . prospects, career, and of course, money.

The clinic, an uncharted territory for me, dealt with a specific population. Patients there were not working people. They weren’t college students, and they weren’t writers or musicians. The patients were, in general, sent there for treatment by the court, many released from jail. They were either on parole or probation in exchange for agreeing to receive substance abuse treatment.

From nine in the morning until nine at night, there was a nonstop stream of people, right up until the clinic doors closed.