LPN student takes a comedic cue from the ‘goof in the booth’
It wasn’t just Tom who was inspired by Wade. His daughter, Ann Margaret Gaudet, was also influenced by Wade’s humour while accompanying her dad to chemotherapy appointments. And she’s now telling her own jokes to her patients as she trains to be an LPN.
As a former paramedic, Ann Margaret had been on the receiving end of countless jokes on many trips out of the QEII, but she had never thought of the impact Wade’s humour had on patients.
Ann Margaret says three years of chemotherapy took a toll on her father, Tom, but knowing he had a joke to look forward to afterward was his light at the end of the tunnel.
“You could almost see the tension drain from my dad’s body. He would just see him [Wade] and he would light up again,” said Ann Margaret. “That was the best medicine ever for him to remember that he was still a person and not a disease. In my opinion, Wade deserves a title like ‘Doctor of Humour and Goodwill.’”
Now in her last year of LPN training at the NSCC Kingstec campus, Ann Margaret says, on a professional level, Wade is responsible for her own awakening in how to approach patient care.
“Wade has made such an impact on me in the way that I saw him with my dad...now I make sure when I go to work I have a joke in my pocket and he taught me that,” said Ann Margaret. “If more healthcare professionals did it, it’s great to have a laugh with your patients and ease the tension. It builds a therapeutic communication.”
As Ann Margaret carries out her clinical training at Valley Regional Hospital, she says it’s mainly the geriatric patients — who can spend months in hospital waiting for a long-term care bed — who have started asking for her jokes every day.
“From my perspective, seeing my dad light up and smile when he saw Wade, if I could do that for one person — and he does that for hundreds everyday — for me, to be able to give that to somebody else is the biggest gift I could ever receive.”
When Wade Adams started working as a parking booth attendant at the QEII’s VG site in 2010, he didn’t intend on becoming the resident comedian.
Wade was used to dealing with busy shoppers coming from the parking lot off Spring Garden Road where he had worked the previous 14 years. He quickly realized the clientele at the QEII were different.
“I just kind of accidentally told a joke to a couple of people coming out and they started really, really laughing and I just started doing it over and over again to cheer people up on their way out,” Wade recalls. “And the more it happened, the more people were coming back telling me it was the highlight of their day to talk to me and how much it made a difference in their day.”
That one spontaneous joke has led to the 51-year-old telling about 400 one-liners a day — and not everyone hears the same joke — resulting in his second nickname “the king of one-liners.”
“I try to cater to patients having a bad day, sometimes I’ll try to cater to staff, police, paramedics...the paramedics come out four or five times a day which gets pretty tough.”
Wade’s jokes are an effort to stay true to his motto: to not judge anyone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. He thinks this motto rings especially true in health care — one person may be having a bad day, or received bad news, he just hopes his jokes will brighten it, if only for a few minutes
His boss, Corey Busby, admits management was concerned when they heard one of their attendants was telling jokes, but quickly realized the positive impact far outweighed any concerns.
“The parking booth that Wade typically works in is adjacent to another exit lane and quite often you’ll see people that will line up at his booth because they want to hear a joke or they just want to interact with Wade,” said Corey. “And people are happy to wait an extra few minutes just for the opportunity to say hello to him.”
Wade admits he does feel pressure to perform.
“I can see the anticipation on their face. I’ll just kind of glance over and it’s usually the person on the passenger side that’s just waiting for that joke or they’ll pull right up and they’ll say ‘where’s my joke? where’s my joke?’ It does take a lot of energy,” Wade says.
In the last two years, he says he’s started to realize the impact he’s had on people.
Aside from a bit of media attention, the “goof in the booth,” as he’s become known, has received enough cards and letters from appreciative patients and staff to fill several shopping bags. He’s been nominated for the QEII Foundation’s Angels in Action award twice and has even been thanked in a patient’s obituary.
Elise Dickey, whose husband Tom died two years ago after battling bone and prostate cancer, says Wade’s jokes meant the world to her husband as he endured chemotherapy.
“The very first time we met him, Wade said ‘I have something to make your day a little brighter since you had chemo today.’ That was my husband’s first day of chemo and it was this little joke and my husband said to him ‘keep it up.’ So every time we went in and out he had some little story to tell him,” said Elise.
“It just made his day, gave him a brighter outlook, something to have a laugh over. Wade always took the time to tell the jokes to the people he knew needed them. He had a way of really knowing if you need a laugh when you’re coming out of there.”
Before he passed, Elise’s husband bought two joke books to give Wade to help him continue his humour crusade. He didn’t live to deliver the books in person, but Elise later delivered them with a copy of his obituary, and alongside the doctors who had supported Tom, was Wade’s name:
“Wade, The Parking Guy at the Dickson Centre, thank you for the jokes and smiles.”