Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I feel all Jane Austen-y!

People. I am geeking hardcore.

I just visited a customer who has a little woodworking habit. MAKING PENS. I mean, hand turned, beautiful wood fountain pens.


And not just that. A bottle of Levenger Raven Black came with it.

Plus its a gorgeous day and they live on a farm and I spent two hours with them, some of which was in the SUNSHINE AND DAFFODILS. And they were nice people. Its an exceptionally happy Tuesday.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Nineteen Months

Wednesday I got a call right at the end of the work day for an ambulance transfer to Geissinger. I said I could be there in twenty minutes and headed out of the office.

When I got there I questioned, just for a minute, my "Say yes and ask questions later" methodology.

The transfer coordinator was still on the phone trying to secure a driver. He mentioned, as he deftly punched buttons on his cellphone with one thumb while spraying down a truck that had just come back from a fire call, that it was a 'pediatric patient'. I had visions of entertaining a 9 or 10 year old on the way down the road, letting them mess around with all the 'cool stuff' in the back of the ambulance.

Driver secured, we went to the hospital. He and I quickly threw together two cups of coffee which he took back to the bus while I went upstairs. All the way down the hallway I'm following a man of about 25 carrying a carseat in one hand. Odd, I think. If his kid is getting out of the hospital why don't they just carry him downstairs and put him in the car? I lose him in the bank of elevators.

The nurse points me to the children's ward, and as I roll down the hallway an insistent wailing is getting closer and louder. I wait. I shuffle my papers. A nurse appears and I point hopefully at the door across the hall from the banshee-ing and ask, "Is this where we are?"
"Nope," she replies. "In here." I turn around and my young father is standing there. Another nurse comes out and plunks the carseat in the middle of the stretcher. We all look at it for a moment like apes contemplating the monolith. I break the silence.
"Look, I have to be honest...I don't have kids, so I don't know how to work one of these." The nurse smiles, we grab the straps on the stretcher, and figure out how to thread them in the back. So ends the very easiest part of this process.

According to the 10th Edition of Emergency Care (Limmer & O'Keefe), toddlers:
-Do not like to be touched or separated from their parents
-Do not like having their clothing removed
-Have a fear of needles and pain
-Understand more than they communicate
-Don't like oxygen masks

In short, this experience could not really suck more for this kid than it already did. Except that she had pneumonia that wouldn't go away, she was exhibiting a lot of accessory breathing, her sats were crap, and her respiratory rate was tanking.

When kids are too young to understand certain things, you try to coax them to comply. Sometimes you trick them a little. In the hospital, you have to force them to comply. You can imagine how happy this makes them. Her arm was splinted and wrapped so she couldn't bend it or touch the IV port. Her nasal cannula was held in place with two large pieces of tape on her face. It took three people to disentangle her from the tubes and machines so she could be placed on the stretcher. Her eyes were two standing puddles of tears, as she kicked at the straps and looked at her mother in disbelief. She was still wailing but it was obvious she was wearing out. It was time to go.

Do you know how, in movies, people are on airplanes, but you can't actually hear any noise? Just quietness, and their conversations? If you've flown, you know it isn't like that. Its noisy. Ambulances are the same way. You have to speak loudly to be heard. Every pothole feels like you are riding the mechanical bull at the fair. It didn't seem like a place where an already agitated child would fall asleep. But weariness took over and little by little, as her mother sat stroking her hair, her eyes grew heavy, and soon her long dark lashes were resting on her cheeks and she was out. We all looked at each other and smiled a little.

A tiny comet-shaped bruise where an IV had been marked the back of her small hand. Monitor wires trailed out from under her doll-sized hospital gown to a machine that told us how she was doing. (Not horrible, not great.) Once she awoke with a jerk and turned toward me, the sun catching her golden brown eyes. She was in an instant very young and ancient, an unbreakable soul in a very breakable vessel.

The wailing started up again when we got to the hospital; she didn't like the noise of the stretcher or being brought out the back doors. It was a long walk to the PICU and we tried to go as fast as possible, though we were only bringing her to another whole group of strangers to do those things she didn't want done. I was, admittedly, happy to be out of earshot once all of our equipment was removed and it was time to go. Sometimes there is not a lot you can do to make a patient feel better. That is someone else's job. I wished I could have left her with a lullaby. This will have to do. You can sing along too, if you like.

Once there was a way to get back homeward

Once there was a way to get back home

Sleep pretty darling do not cry

And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes

Smiles awake you when you rise

Sleep pretty darling do not cry

And I will sing a lullaby

Danny Federici 1950-2008

Saw this when I logged on this morning.

I was a HUGE Springsteen fan from the time I was about 11 years old. One of the first albums I ever bought was 'The River', I bought the tape, listened to it until it broke, bought it again, listened to it until it broke, eventually got the CD.

It seems stupid to say "this music was the soundtrack of my life", but I spent a lot of my broody teenage letter-and-journal-writing listening to Springsteen. I'd sit down by the water with my chunky Walkman, or sequestered in my room with the stereo blaring. (I didn't have a car with music-playing capabilities until age and gainful employment provided them.) Also, I lived in Jersey.

Danny Federici can be credited with all my piano-playing fantasies, which were fervent, though I lacked the discipline to actually learn how to play. Still, during idle drive time, or late at night when I imagine myself on that blue lit stage before a massive grand piano, with thousands of people silent for an instant as a bow is laid to strings, this is the song I am playing.

Thank you, Danny.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Random Love for the 570 on a Friday

I have decided that I love where I live.
Oh, it has its detractions. I know that not so long ago I was considering random sniping as a means of diffusing the effect of the persistent Winterliciousness of Tioga County. But Spring has finally shambled on over and plopped its lazy green posterior in this valley. My daffodils are peeping up on the side of the house, the loud children a few doors down patter up and down the sidewalks with abandon, the weekend chicken barbecues are being advertised, and the hills echo with the growl of ATVs.
I'm tired today. Early in the week I was on a call for a motor vehicle accident that ended up involving someone I know, so after the official duty part of it was over, I spent a few hours in a hospital waiting room with the family and got home around 4:30am. The next day, ambulance duty kept me out until 2:30am. Lack of sleep has made me a little brittle and fuzzy-headed and ill-prepared for my once monthly surgical-strike visit to Walmart on my lunch hour.

Look, I know Walmart is the new Axis of Evil. But we're an hour from everything here and I already put a billionty dollars of regular in the car to get me through the commuting week. So those of you within a short drive in your Prius to your co-op can wrap yourselves in your free-trade pashmina of righteous indignation about it and piss off.

And anyway, I needed cat treats and laundry detergent.

I hate that moment of confusion when I first walk in; I blink like Punxsutawney Phil for a couple of seconds while I'm teabagged by commerce. (Don't look that term up, family members. It means 'overwhelmed by & having an intimate acquaintance with'-- lets leave it at that) I squint at my Palm Pilot to remember what the heck I came in for, and dive into the fray.

The 'fray' usually consists of chatting women blocking the aisles with their carts full of grubby sullen children. I size them up and contemplate their capacity for violence while I decide how huffily I should go around them. Yep, cause I'm tough like that.

Perhaps I'm indulging in fantasies of terminal uniqueness here, but every time I go to Walmart I am convinced that the freakshow I witness has been orchestrated especially for me. Today I was treated to this:

(Mother, son, and daughter are perusing the wall of colognes and body spray in the cosmetics aisle. This entire conversation is conducted at a ridiculously high volume.)

Son: Try this one. I like this one. Smell this one.

Daughter: Ew!


Son: What about this one? This one? This one? Try this! Try this! (He was basically a nonstop wall of sound through the whole thing.)

Daughter: Idon like it. Its naaaesty. Git it off me! Git away from me! I hate you.

Mother: Dammit, gimme that one over there. That might work. Idon like the one that smells like cotton candy. They got 'em downta the Dollar Store, mebbe we should get those instead.

Daugher: MOO-OOM, There ain't nothin' here that's going to get rid of THAT SMELL.

Mother: What we need is for that g-damn dog to stop pissin' on the couch.

With this, they moved off before I could see them. My mind's eye was sending me grown out roots, tight jeans, a Harley sweatshirt, dental challenges, black eyeliner and a muffin top, and an 85 pound faux-goth boy.

I gather my stuff, head for the checkout, and try to avoid engaging the young man circling a display of Larry the Cable Guy DVDs like he just arrived at the Dome of the Rock. Leaving the store, I see one of the cart wranglers booking across the parking lot with great purpose and surprising speed, to intercept an elderly couple who are trying to wrestle a very large bag of potting soil into the back of their van. He unloads their whole haul with a smile and, taking the cart, returns to his post.

Its chilly and gray today, and I'm looking forward to curling up on the couch to read or watch this.

Other than that, Saturday will bring a quick hospital visit to my friend, a belated Girls Day Out for mah birthday with Sister and Mother-in-Law that I am very much looking forward to, and I'm sure some Random Ambulance Fun. (Speaking of which, if you are so inclined you can read about that here.)

For those of you looking for a mountain getaway to call home, I must call to your attention to a very special employment opportunity right here in the Northern Tier. The Northern Tioga School District needs a teacher. The listing, which you can read here, is for someone very special. A scholar. An athlete. A conjugator of verbs. Or, as they put it:

English Teacher- Football coaching experience and ability to teach a
second language preferred.

So if you are that John Donne reading, defensive strategy planning maestro que nos necitamos, send in those resumes.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pretty Angry

I've hit that point in the day where I'm looking for things to amuse me. Fortunately, this popped up and the mission was accomplished.

I don't know what this woman's problem is. But it just goes to show ya, being a wealthy international supermodel does not obfuscate your daddy issues. Like I've theorized for years.

If I'm honest, I have a little problem with schadenfreude. In fact, when I learned the word, I was shocked that there WAS a word that specifically described one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

There really is no better place than the airport to indulge it, either. Lets face it, unless they have taken great pains (and flying lessons) to express their anger, angry people on planes who are not you are kind of funny.

It was April in Philadelphia. A particularly twisted and fun co-worker and I were bound for Atlanta to schmooze some corporate client and sit in a series of mind numbing meetings that would inspire a visit to a martini bar (with the client) and a subsequent Italian dinner that I barely remember except for the breadbasket I shoved in my gullet to make the floors stop slanting up and slightly to the left.

But that was later.

We're in the Philadelphia Airport, C Terminal, at our gate, waiting to board. I had my usual Inspector Gadget carry-on, which took up minimal space yet yielded a full three days' worth of clean undies and interchangeable wrinkle-free corporate dronewear. Three of them could have fit in the 'your bag must be this small to be carried on the plane' test-rack. I stood waiting, e-ticket in hand, for my boarding pass with my co-worker.

In front of us is a gentleman who was about 17 years on the backside of a second-string college wrestling career. A preliminary sketch of his rear-view would begin with a series of squares and rectangles. His frosty-blond prickly crewcut sat squarely on his shoulders above a Hawaiian shirt of the sort of shocking brightness that reminds one of tropical birds, the New Jersey boardwalk, and psychotropics. This was partnered with shorts that would have terminated in the knee region on a man of average height, but grazed our intrepid traveller mid-calf. Loafers, no socks. He was engaged in animated conversation with the gate agent.

I don't know if you've ever been to Philadelphia. There are roughly three kinds of gate agents.

1. Nondescript men, pleasant but terse, no discernible sense of humor.

2. Nondescript underweight women, wrong shade of lipstick, bundled into their uniform-approved cardigan, who you will hear complain in idle moments that they are "cold all the time". They frown, type 800 words a minute, frown some more, and hand you your boarding pass.

3. Shanias

I name type #3 after the gate agent in this story, because she was the best gate agent ever.

Shania was about 5'10", African-American, with one of those gorgeous elaborate hairdos that must take hours. Long acrylic nails. Lots of gold. A person to whom you would give no sh*t because you knew no sh*t would be taken.

Apparently our friend in line had not gotten the memo.

This took place before 9/11, when misbehavior in the airport might have raised the ire of your fellow passengers but wouldn't engender an armed response, necessarily. Nowadays our palm tree-printed friend would have been informed at the get-go that his carryon was waay too big. But he got through to the counter and stood there, hefting a large bag and arguing with Shania.

"This is ridiculous! I do NOT check my bags! I have carried this bag on planes dozens of times! They just stow it up front!"

"Sir, that bag does not fit in the regulation frame, and it does not go on the plane."

"I don't see why I can't! I think you are just being arbitrary! I can make it fit! I will make it fit!"

At this point, idle conversation in the gate area has died down and everyone is studiously pretending to read so they can eavesdrop.

"Sir, you have TWO CHOICES. (Two perfectly manicured fingers go up.) You can check that bag, take your boarding pass, and SIT DOWN, or you can turn right around and go BACK where you CAME FROM, and let the rest of these people get on with it!"

My friend snickers. I elbow her. Mr. Miami Beach's wife is now hissing between her teeth, "JUST CHECK THE BAG."

He huffs, throws it down, and someone takes it to stow. Shania smiles sweetly, slides his boarding passes across the counter, and says "You have a nice trip now." He stomps off and flops into a vinyl chair.

Oh, I would not have taken you this far for just that story. It gets better.

We board the plane, and the tahitian terror is seated directly in front of us. We're only about two rows behind first class, so we see almost everyone board the plane. I kid you not, almost as if it was carefully planned, people started boarding. With bags and other carry on gewgaws that were first the same size, then larger, then CONSIDERABLY LARGER than our friend's oversize carry on. The back of his neck is nearly purple and I begin to fear that I may get my first chance to try out my CPR card on this flight. Now he and his wife are having a whisperfight and all I can catch is the occasional 'please stop' and 'goddamit'. Then, the very bestest passenger ever got on.

I didn't even know they made these anymore. I certainly didn't think anyone carried them around anymore. But one of the last people to board the plane was a young man with one of these on a SHOULDER strap.

I won't even tell you what I typed into Google Images to find that picture because its not PC. But it was a real, live, 8-10 D-Cell battery taking portable disco. As he walks by, our friend, who is sitting on the aisle, catches the radio with his shoulder. "SONOFABITCH!!" erupts from the row in front of us. Now we're done. My friend and I assume the crash landing position for headache-inducing silent laughter as the flight attendant hustles over to find out what the ruckus is about. Red faced, makeup streaming, I point her to the row in front of us and she tries to talk the purple out of his neck for most of the time we should be learning that the nearest exit might be behind you. Flight attendants should teach customer service seminars. She had him calm, a normal shade of corpulent, and we were on our way.

I would have loved to hear the conversation he had with the two gentlemen with badges waiting in the jetway when we landed.