Duke Diet and Fitness Center could learn from an after action review of the swimsuit slashing incident. The drama in the women’s locker room has harmed them more than they know, because all the women in the facility now feel a little less comfortable at the clinic–and a lot less confident about the DFC crisis response should something really terrible happen here.
Of course, the trouble had to happen on a Sunday afternoon when there is only skeleton staff (Hah! As opposed to their usual skinny staff.) but then, terrible things always do happen when you least expect them to. Princess Di died on a public holiday weekend. The tsunami struck at Christmas. Toast always falls butter side down.
When I and my swimming companions discovered the trouble at 3pm, there was nothing to suggest that we were not the first. I went to the front desk to report the crime. The receptionist did not turn from her computer screen to make eye contact “We know” she said “the police are on their way” . No “I know this is very upsetting and we’re glad that no-one is hurt” or “Thanks for letting me know–I’m printing a sign now to let everyone know what we’re doing” or “Why don’t you write down what you know so you can give it to the police”
There was something so angry and hate-filled about the destruction of the swimsuits. Was it a fatophobe who wanted to hurt the heavyweights here? Was it one of our number, suddenly scarily unbalanced? An intruder? An inmate? A member of staff who would next posion the oatmeal or add bleach to the hottub?
New clients check in at the end of Sunday afternoon and were immediately filled in on the drama by those who had had their swimsuits cut up. A great start to a stay that most have saved hard to afford. Other clients turned up for aqua aerobics this morning to discover that they had been victims of the swimsuit slasher. Wouldn’t it have made sense for the clinic to send an email to all female clients explaining what had happened, and what was being done? This would at least have allowed people with only one (destroyed) swimsuit to make another plan for this morning’s exercise. It would also have been reassuring to know what steps had been taken to stop Edward or Edwina Scissorhands running amok again.
The clinic is coming down with psychologists and coaches but no attempt was made today to address the incident. To varying degrees, those affected are angry, upset or fearful. As one person said to me “The trust has gone. Now we are looking at everyone thinking ‘was it you?’ and it doesn’t feel like Duke cared–or even knew what to do”
We are now advised, by a sign hanging on the changing room door this morning, to lock our wet swimsuits in our lockers. Lovely.
Several ladies went to Macy’s today and bought themselves replacements which, luckily, were 50% off in the sale. Rebecca, who is here for a couple of months, had miraculously brought her sewing machine from AZ and set up shop in the cafeteria after lunch. She repaired sundered straps by stitching a piece of ribbon behind them to strengthen the join. A group of clients gathered around her to chat while she made the much-needed repairs. There was not a staff member to be seen.
Some day, probably a Sunday, a client will die while in the pool or on the gym equipment. Before that terrible time the clinic would do well to review its crisis plan and communications process. Thin is good but thin on the ground is not. Small portions and short rations are healthy, except when people need news. And empathy costs no calories.