Monday, January 21, 2008

A Midwinter's Tale

This is one of those posts I've contemplated repeatedly, then discarded in favor of stories more fun to tell. But the time has come, I suppose, for a little self-disclosure. I don't write a lot of heart-wrenching personal journey stuff because I feel like there's plenty out there that is more compelling and better written. But this is a big part of who I am, so here we are.
I need to lose weight. I've probably needed to lose weight since I was eight years old, though the amount and proportion has changed over time. When I was in high school I was mocked for my size, though looking back at the pictures I am puzzled, since I wasn't particularly grotesque, but random cruelty is a reality of high school that a lot of people experienced in one form or another so, whatever. I will mention, though, that the table of former jocks and beautiful people at my 10th high school reunion somehow got invaded with a handful of paunchy almost-thirty-year-olds with thinning hair. The karma train always runs on time, kids.
So anyway, with the weight loss thing. I've had a lot of stops and starts, some success and eventual return to old habits, but I'm staring down the barrel at 40 and realize that family heredity is dealing some cards to me that I do not want to double down. So its time to stop with the grand plans and make some practical progress.
Most of my help comes from Sparkpeople, a very useful site that is a mashup of every self help book you ever read, a warehouse of cookbooks, trackers, and calculators, and MySpace. Just go there and be mindboggled. I've been a member nearly a year, recently serious about it, and making progress. There are teams, and challenges, and encouraging and fun things you can do with other people that are nothing at all like the humiliating flag football games in 8th Grade. I promise.
I started by eliminating the closest thing to drug abuse I've ever engaged in; eating fast food. I realized that it was one of those things I couldn't bargain with, couldn't rationalize as a 'once in a while' deal; I simply had to not go there anymore period ever for any reason even if it was cold and wolves were chasing me. I've managed to live a whole month so far without any discernible evil befalling me for not going there.
I have committed to some pretty cool goals for 2008, most of them involve moving more and being smaller and I won't bore you with all the details, but I may check in now and again and talk about how its going. Because a lot of it sucks and schadenfreude being what it is, it should make for some humorous reading material. Once I get a little ways down the road, I'll give you some stats so you know where I actually started. Or you can join Sparkpeople and look for SHIELDMAIDEN96 and you'll see it unfold in all its messy glory.
And the flying squirrel? I've adopted it as my mascot because its probably what I'll look like when I'm done. I'm okay with that. I may even get me some aviator goggles.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Another double-transfer week.
Tuesday night, we went south to Williamsport. Wednesday was another visit to the fine folks at Robert Packer Hospital. Our patient was stable, the trip was uneventful, we got her tucked into bed, met up with another crew to grab some equipment to take back to our hospital, and we were on our way.

We only had one problem. Sayre, apparently, has a curfew. And we were past it.

Need a cup of coffee after 9pm ANYWHERE in a five mile radius? Tough. Because everything is closed. Everything. Our driver just wanted coffee. The rest of us were a mite peckish, but the driver having coffee is kind of important. We drive around and no luck. We finally find a Wendy's, which is open, but only the drive through. Surely, we reason, we'll be able to get coffee here.

Now. An ambulance is higher than a pickup, has a noisy diesel engine, and enormous side-vew mirrors so we can see past the patient compartment. Which means if we pulled up to the ordering thing, we couldn't get close enough and they would never be able to hear us. Never mind that we could never successfully complete the transaction on the other side of the building, between the height difference and the mirrors, without getting out. So we park the ambulance ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE BUILDING WHERE THEY CAN SEE IT and walk up to the window. This is the retardation that ensues.

Our driver: Are you open?

Window Idiot: The drive through is open, but the dining room is closed.

Driver: Can we just order here?

WI: No, you have to be in a vehicle. I can't take your order at the window.

The driver and I part and gesture to the AMBULANCE which is parked IN FRONT OF HER STUPID HEAD.

Me: We can't drive around the building in that, you'd never be able to hear the order over the engine.

Driver: I can't even just get a cup of coffee and pay cash?

WI: No. That's the rule.

Me: But we're in an ambulance.

WI: Sorry, that's the policy. We can't serve people on bicycles either.

I am so close to pulling her through the window I'm experiencing involuntary muscle twitch. Because, you know, four people on an ambulance transfer from an hour and a half away who are just trying to not FALL ASLEEP AND WRECK on the way home are just exactly like some douchebag on a bicycle. We all freeze for an instant and let the pointlessness sink in, then get in the rig and go home.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Things That Annoy Me, that No Doubt Make Me a Bad Person. A series.

Yesterday sucked.
Not in any catastrophic sense, it was just a series of small weirdnesses and grating annoyances that dragged on for many hours.
My first appointment of the day insisted on seeing me at 9am. This is a very civilized time, unless the customer in question happens to live 96 miles away, and you wake up to driving snow and inpenetrable dark. I make it to the office and the vehicle I'm supposed to use is not there.
No problem, the borrower of it turns up in 15 minutes and away I go. I stop for gas and quickly put a giant road salt/dirt swipe on my new coat. The weather improves/gets worse, alternately, all the way to Ithaca. I get on the road I'm supposed to be on and I cant find the #$%^&$%^! street. Can't find it to save my life. I call the guy, he gives me directions that would have been fabulous if I'd been coming from the other direction, and I end up calling him a second time. Now he sounds snippy. Because I am 9 minutes late.
I punch into his unplowed, unshoveled driveway and crunch through the snow to his garage, where he waits with Pepper, his Australian Cattleherding Dog. I know she's an Australian Cattle Herding Dog and her name is Pepper because 1) I mention she looks like an Australian because of her color, and remark that a friend had one with blue eyes, and he corrects me and advises that only SHEPHERDS have blue eyes, and his is a CATTLE HERDING DOG. Still an Australian though, so I'm not a complete idiot. 2) I know her name, because it is said approximately 500 times during the 30 minutes I am there.
Let me ask you a question, gentle reader. Do you talk like a babbling idiot to your pets? Do they have 59 nicknames? Admit it. I know I do. But I don't do it IN FRONT OF STRANGERS. Pepper, Peppy, Miss Pepps, Sweetybutt, Sweetbabycakes is apparently being trained not to bark and jump on people by being spoken to in a manner approximately 9.75 times as annoying as whatever she is doing. Each bark was met with 'PEPPY PEPPY! YOU may STOP it NOW!' while the fur bearing moron lunged at her leash like a rabid, retarded dingo. This continued for the duration of the visit. I was instructed to offer her 'kibbles, with an open hand' to win her favor, as I obediently received a handful of dog pellets. I'm not sure what that was supposed to do; the barking continued, but I guess I was 'her friend'. I'm sure she thought I was; after the customer instructed me to remove my shoes, he said, 'these should fit you' and kicked off his slippers. Yes, the ones on his feet. Which I was obligated to put on. And wear. Still warm from his feet. It was almost, yet not quite, as unsettling as the time I had breakfast with a Russian aid worker who scraped leftover bacon from her plate onto mine for me to eat because 'she hated to waste food'. My streak of unwelcome familiarity with strangers is thus unbroken.
We went upstairs, and the dog turned around as I was coming up and put her paws on my shoulders. I looked in her eyes and tried to telepathically convey how she would go down the steps as a doggie boogie board with my hands firmly clasped on her collar should I lose my balance.
All I wanted to do is get out of there, in my own shoes. Our business concluded, I jumped back in the van, chewed snow down his driveway, and headed back to town. My coffee cup was empty so I swung into a large grocery store for a refill.
I don't think anyone in Ithaca actually works. At 10:15 on a Wednesday morning after a holiday the parking lot was absolutely packed. I looked for a spot close to the 'Market Cafe' where the coffee shop is. I saw a few open spots that wouldn't require I waste a lot of time traversing the lot (because after all, I was working) and went to park. Then I saw the sign.
"Parking for Parents with Children".
Actually, I saw the signs, there were more than a dozen. Plus a special covered corral of carts. Four or five of these spots were empty. At first, I planned to go on by and look for something beyond them, but I was overcome with something I can only describe as 'resentment of entitlement'. (Note that I am NOT talking about handicapped parking, so don't go there. They need it and if you park there without a placard or a plate you deserve a ticket commensurate with your idiocy.)
I slammed on the brakes. Screw it. It was not raining, or snowing, or otherwise hurling potentially infant-damaging meteorological nastiness or any kind. (Okay, it was cold, but if you are going to raise kids in New York State they'd better suck it up; they'll be standing outside waiting for the school bus in it for about twelve years.) I swung the van into an available spot and didn't feel one bit sorry about it. When I was a kid, we rode to the grocery store in the front seat after getting our chins caught in the metal zipper of our winter coats, sat in the cart with no seatbelt or plush quilted liner, and threw Count Chocula in the basket while our mother's backs were turned. I started thinking about other special parking I'd like to see.
  • Parking for Those Grappling with Certain Existential Realities
  • Parking for the Damned (I maintain that this exists in certain airports. I'd just like to see who would willingly park there.)
  • Parking for Scary Cat Ladies (Hey. You ever hauled three 26 pound buckets of Tidy Cat out of a cart?)
  • Parking for Those Shopping for Dinner for People They Really Don't Want to Entertain

I got my coffee and was out and away in four minutes, having done no discernible injustice to any Wegman's-bound children or their parents. At the end of the day I called another client (80 miles in the other direction) to book an appointment and the first thing he said was "I'm sorry but I will have to have you come right at the beginning of the day if possible."

I hope he doesn't have a dog.