Helen Hypolite stands majestically in her security guard uniform outside the dispensary of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Within 15 minutes I swear I have seen more than 100 people approach her for information. "Ms Lady, I come to collect meh tablets, you could help?" says an old woman. "Tantie, it's just through that door, thank you. Here take this number, you want me to help you with the door?" asks Hypolite. The old woman nods her head and continues through the door. "Excuse, do I go through this door to get to the pharmacy?" inquires a young woman with curly hair. "Yes, ma'am, here, take this number, thank you," the short custodian answers once more. Soon, a tall man with a rude-boy swagger comes up to Hypolite and pipes, "What is de scene meh girl? I have to take a number first or I could just go in so for my tablets?" "Yes you have to take a number first and then you proceed through that door, thank you!" He peeps into the infirmary and lets out a gasp. "But what de…Real people in dey! I cyah wait on all ah them. I here since morning and cyah get my tablets, nah man I cyah believe this!" "Mr you will have to wait your turn if you don't want to wait with the crowd inside you could always wait outside here, thank you!" she states firmly.
Some more people approach her and then it's my turn. She thinks that I am here for my medication as well. "You can have this number but let me see if inside there full…" I cut her off, informing her that she is a candidate for Real Women, Real Stories, nominated by an observer who visited the hospital and was impressed by her well-mannered, diplomatic and helpful demeanour.
"Nah man, you serious?" she responds smiling from ear to ear. Her mood changes from pleasant to pleasantly surprised. "Wait nah, you not joking. Way, you mean to say I will be on papers?" I nod in approval as she holds onto the hospital wall to catch her breath. Meanwhile five people are waiting on numbers and after she distributes her "dispensary tickets" and gives directions, she settles down and we have our talk.
"Girl what you really want to know bout me? Lemme see I in security work five years now. I working in the hospital since last year October but I used to work security in TSTT and other places before. I real like security work because I like to interact with people. I was always a people person," she explains. "In the few minutes that I was observing, I realised that the place real busy with people, does anybody behave ignorantly or get out of hand, I ask?"
"Yes of course", she answers.
"This is the Port-of-Spain General Hospital you know! But as a trained security guard I have my strategy," she says. Her explanation is enlightening. "Some people come in here and they always in a hurry, they always busy and have somewhere 'better' to go. I give them the facts of their wait and leave it up to them whether they want to go through the normal procedure or not. It's not my fault they are late to wherever they are going but I don't treat them roughly. Some of them are desperate. They sick and could barely stand up to wait in line. Some of them are old and others are disabled. I always try my best to reach out to these people even beyond the call of duty which gets the impatient 'strong' people vex. Sometimes I might even volunteer to stand in line and get their medication for them depending on their condition. And then there are the ones who want to fight and get on disorderly. All the nice I nice I doh take stupidness from them. I don't use violence though, I just speak to them firmly and if the situation gets out ah hand I call for back up!"
"Good day loving, I want some help to get my tablets please," a woman who appeared to be in her 50s interrupts. "Gimme me a minute eh," Hypolite says to me and then turns to the lady—"Ms Lady you alright? You come from the ward? You want me to help you get it?"
"Yes I come from the ward and the help would be nice," the lady answers pitifully. But as Hypolite takes her prescription and looks at her form she realises that it was all a lie, the lady was not warded and used this white lie to get sympathy and quick pills. "Hmmm, you try one on me, just take this number and go into that door, thank you," Hypolite directs but she doesn't get angry.
"Oh yeah I forget to mention that set of hospital people, the ones who lie and use your soft heart to get what they want but it have a God above!" she exclaims.
"Where are you from and how long do you work daily," I quiz the 48-year-old. "I am from Arima and I work the 24 hour shift. I know you watching the shift as a killer but my body get accustom to it. I like to work; when I not working, I either watching movies or crocheting. I love to crotchet. I make doilies you know and other things for sale," she declares.
Then her happy mood suddenly gets sad and despondent. "Yes girl crocheting gets my mind off the stress of what I pass through in the past. Prayer does help too." She then puts her cards on the table blunt and straight- "You heard bout the pensioner from Grande who was murdered two years ago? That was my mother you know. They say it was robbery. Three years before my son was gunned down but he use to keep bad company and nine years ago I reach home from work and couldn't find my daughter.
"When I started the search I found her dead body in a canal in the back yard. Girl, I pass through real thing yes, real things. Now I down to just four children and five grandchildren, children and no mother. But I surviving I never let the tragedies steal my joy. I still smiling. I working hard and spending quality time with my surviving family and that is what counts"
The security guard with hair-raising back story of lost ones then smiles once more and admits "I like peace not war. We living in the days of crime where everybody fighting. Since I small I like to part fight. I am a peaceful person that is why I couldn't understand why people kill my relatives so but anyway, whenever I ask the question, 'why me', a voice answers- 'Why not you?' I think God have a plan for me and that is what giving me a reason to live," she says optimistically.
I shake my head amicably, admiring Hypolite's strength and optimism but my thoughts are interrupted as a drove of people walk hurriedly towards the dispensary. It's almost 7.30 in the night and I can't believe the crowds that still enter the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Hypolite realises that she must curtail her interview as work beckons, and I agree.
In parting ways she looks my way and concludes – "Life is a blessed thing, if we really dwell on hardships we may never truly live. My rule is live yuh life yes and of course help others live too."
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