|The original 1976 Bad News Bears--one of our favorite movies as kids.|
"The bad news is that 50 people died in a hotel fire.
The good news is that we got exclusive coverage."
- Jessica Savitch
We were all sitting outside on the brick wall between classes she walked up. Her eyes were dancing, flitting from side to side. She licked her lips and brushed her hair out of the way from her mouth. "Did you guys hear about Dawn?" Her eyebrows went up when she said that part, waiting for our reply. You could tell from the looks on our faces, we didn't know this news. But there was one thing we did know. She was going to tell us.
"She didn't pass the boards, man. Again." Her face fell into this dramatic frown. And honestly, I was so young back then that I didn't recognize that this was a pattern.
We all reacted. "Damn, that sucks," one person said. "Awww, wow. I hate hearing that," another said. And she kind of nodded and took it in. Stirring the pot with a few more tidbits like the fact that she might not graduate at all and that, to make matters worse, her boyfriend was out around town cheating on her while she was already down.
And now, when I look back, I see it. The very edge of her mouth turned up a bit and her voice quickened in exhilaration. Why? I'll tell you. This classmate was one of those people that liked sharing bad news. Like some piece of it almost made her euphoric.
There was this guy I knew in residency who was similar to this. He loved to casually drop bombs in the cafeteria about how someone screwed something up on call or didn't get a job or overslept and got called by the chief residents. Every second of it made him high. So he hit that pipe repeatedly.
Oh yeah. And then in my recent life, there was this person that kept kept kept texting me updates about this really, really, really awful thing that was happening to a mutual friend. Wanting to discuss it over and over again or clarify the shittiest parts in case I'd missed them or tried to see some silver lining. All of it made me anxious. Not to mention like some bolt of lightening would strike my phone every time I texted back some sort of nondescript response like "Whoa" or "OMG that sucks" or "Dang."
So what I realized is that peoples' woes are favorite pastimes for some folks to follow. The crappier the news the better, too. Whether the person intentionally feels giddy telling it on the mountain or not. I call them the "bad news bearers."
I guess I'm thinking of them today because of my last few days at work. Nearly every day, I am charged with pulling up a chair and telling some unfortunate news. Like, I tell people the kind of stuff that will thrust them hard and fast into a new normal that they didn't even know or want to be signed up for.
And see, me? My job is to bust into the room and, in the most empathic way I can, shit on someone's entire existence. You know? I have yet to get used to it. And one thing I can say for sure is that I never enjoy it.
This got me thinking about people who dig hearing of someone's hard time and who love telling someone else about it even more. And let me be clear: It's not like I genuinely believe that people do this on purpose or feel this way intentionally. I guess I just sort of think of it as how they're wired.
Maybe? Maybe not.
I hate being the bearer of bad news. Little bad and big bad, I don't like it. Like, over the weekend I had a patient who was really, really ready to go home. And one of his lab tests was very abnormal and just too abnormal for him to go home and me be able to sleep soundly. I needed to watch him another day.
My team had told him he was leaving. And he thought he was, too. So I go in the room and tell him otherwise. That I'm just too concerned to not watch this value one more day. That I needed him in house to make certain nothing life threatening was brewing. And honestly? This was little bad news. Not big bad news. Like, he had family support and a way to manage. But still. I hated telling him that his body wasn't all the way ready to go and that he had to remain in the hospital.
And then there's the big bad news. Like the person to whom I tried my best to explain the difference between regular chemotherapy and palliative chemotherapy. Me realizing that eventually that puzzled expression would be replaced by something much worse. It sucks to be the person who slams the door on the "what ifs" and hypothetical versions of something. My heart does not feel paradoxically happy or glad that I get to be the one who is doing it.
I feel similarly about real life bad news. I learned of someone who is at the start of a divorce proceeding. It will be a shocking to people to hear it, too. I heard it from that very someone who told me of her situation. "It's not a secret at this point," she said. And her voice was stoic and brave. It was.
Now this? This was some bad news. But my thoughts wandered back to those town cryers who took pleasure in spreading this kind of news followed by feigned concern. Which reminds me--I pretty much left one of my favorite Facebook groups after someone shared all about another person's unfortunate marital issues which garnered all sorts of comments and postulations peppered with those "praying for you" lines that, I guess, serve as the olive branch after a sucker punch.
And listen. I am human so of course I do have some amount of nosiness and mischief in me. I mean, I do like to know what's going on around me to some degree. But. Rehashing and re-rehashing peoples' fucked up situations? It's not fun to me. Especially as I get older. Especially as I get older, man. Because getting older has this way of giving everyone a chance to sit in the bad news hot seat at some point. So, nah. I don't feel delight when I get the scoop about someone being down on their luck. Not even those people that I don't particularly like or who most would say had it coming.
Yeah, I said it. I'm silently rooting for the assholes, too. Ha.
Divorce. Losing a job. Failing a board exam. Infidelity. Getting in trouble with the law. Not being able to get pregnant. These are the sorts of effed up things? I'm happy to let someone else tell the world. They are the things that, short of unpacking in private with my best friend or husband, I try my best leave to someone else.
Because bad news sucks. And I hate being the bad news bearer.
Metastatic cancer. Life altering health concerns. Medications like steroids that will alter your appearance. And, perhaps, an extremity that needs to be amputated to save your life. These are the kinds of things I have no choice but to tell. And so. I do.
And I hate every second of it.
"If you're gonna bring me something, bring me something I can use.
Don't nobody bring me no bad news."
- Evilene, the wicked witch from "The Wiz"
And who knew that they remade The Bad News Bears movie with one of my favorite humans ever Billy Bob Thornton? OMG. So gonna find that on Netflix and chill with it very soon.
And just because Deanna would call it blasphemy to only put the remake clip, here's a clip from the original movie, which was one of our absolute faves as kids. I think Deanna, Will, JoLai and I saw this now less than seven hundred trillion times.
And obvi, I have to include this from our other favorite kid movie The Wiz--"Don't nobody bring me no bad news."