One of the ways that we keep costs low at SOAP is by depending on patients to manage some of the clinic logistics themselves. It’s very similar to using public transportation.
My history with public transportation is much longer than my history with acupuncture. While I didn’t try acupuncture until I was 28, I started riding the bus by myself when I was 15. I lived in West Los Angeles and would get around West LA and Santa Monica using The Big Blue Bus and my trusty Powell-Peralta skateboard with Independent trucks and big red wheels. I lived a quick skateboard ride away from the #8 bus line which would take me almost all the way to Venice Beach. Sometimes I’d transfer onto the #1 and sometimes I’d skate down Main St. Once there, I’d hang out at coffee houses, like the Novel Cafe or the Bourgeois Pig, with friends and other random delinquents like myself. It cost 50 cents back to take the Big Blue Bus and you had to have exact change. Coffee was a dollar. So for 2 dollars, I could have a grand adventure through Los Angeles even though I didn’t have a car. The bus gave me access to this city where everyone was supposed to have a car.
The vibe of community acupuncture is similar to what you will find riding the bus. There’s not really any reserved seats. You have to have exact change or maybe you’ve got a prepaid card like a Clipper Card. You need to show up on time because the bus comes about every 10 minutes and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait another 10 minutes (if you’re lucky). There’s every kind of person on the bus and it’s affordable. It’s important to be considerate and not take up more than one seat or be too loud and disruptive. If you don’t know what to do, there’s usually some signage to tell you, or you can ask someone, the bus driver or the person next to you. When you’re done, you just signal the driver and you can disembark.
At SOAP, we depend on patients to take care of their payment with exact change or their Easy Card, find their seat, be respectful of their neighbors, read our signs, and let us know when they want to leave, so we can just focus on driving our acupuncture bus safely. Your participation helps us keep costs low, the clinics running smoothly, and gets everyone where they need to go.
I came to this medicine first as a patient, amazed and puzzled by the different ways I was helped. After many years of experiencing relief and more ease in my body, curiosity of the how and why turned into formally studying East Asian medicine. I believe our bodies and communities are angling to heal and be held; I love the access community acupuncture provides so that this can happen for folks, in large and small ways. I’ve lived in the Bay Area nearly all my life, and I can’t see myself anywhere else. Nature with my dog and partner keep me grounded; books and podcasts give my mind something to chew on; and moments of liveliness are what I’m after.
For the most part, it was a pretty normal day at the OAP Grand Lake clinic. My father was visiting from out of town. I was working, but mentioned that he could come in for an acupuncture treatment at the end of my shift. When I finished work, we could hang out; maybe go for a walk to the lake or something. He took me up on my offer. Within minutes, he was totally passed out. My shift came to an end. Lori came in and started working. I tidied up and did all my chart notes. My father was still very asleep. I saw a gap in Lori’s schedule and plugged myself in. While I am always working on getting better sleep, I figured I’d also ask for a few needles to be more patient with my father. I sat in the chair next to him so that if he woke up he’d know where I was. Lori plugged me and asked me if I had a wake up time. I told her to get me up whenever my father woke up. Soon I was asleep, too.
I didn’t know it, but in the meantime, my wife and my daughter also scheduled two last minute appointments. They came in while I was asleep and quietly set up a nest of pillows blankets in the chair across from me. My daughter was in pre-school and still very little at the time. When my wife and I would bring her in for acupuncture, we would have her sitting on our laps and we’d have a nice long snuggle to go with our acu-nap.
When I woke up, there were 3 generations of my family in the room with me: My father, my wife, and my daughter. It warmed my heart to know that we were all peacefully sharing space together. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much silence and peace with so much family around. It was truly a magical moment.