("Stand Tall", Burton Cummings)
And the hard winter goes on....
As we Road Nurses drive on...
We have continued to drive onwards through the snow flurries, the freezing rain, the stinging sleet, extremely high winds, and through the continual icy coldness...
Sometimes we even have to go out at night to see patients---in the snow...
(One more time for good measure: aaarggghhh....)
I know I'm whining here. And I truly shouldn't, because that's just the way it is in the winter. But it hasn't only been the weather which has caused trouble. Everything else seemed like it was falling apart as well. Last week was pretty rough---and this week isn't much better. One disaster after another. And I can't seem to make any progress on anything I try to do---it's as if I'm walking through sand...slowly.
I've always been the type of person who tries to live by the philosophy under which many Texans are raised: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Or: "If you fall down, you've got to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps".
Or: "If you need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm..."
Okay, that's fine. But I've also allowed myself to live by the Bohemian Road Nurse Philosophy of Problem-Solving Clause which states that:
"You're allowed 15 minutes of whining before you get tough, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, or look for that helping hand at the end of your arm or whatever...."
So here's my 15 minutes of whining and then I'll zip it and tend to business:
I am pretty worn out, mostly because of last week. Last week was Pure-D Hell because it was as if nobody could make a decision except me. Everybody had problems and they all wanted me to solve them---and there I stood, like the biggest, stupidest stoogerina in the world, just as clueless as the next person---not even able to solve my own problems MUCH LESS anybody else's. It was one thing after another, day after day, hour by hour....
I knew the week was going to be bad right off the bat because we were hosting a Blood Pressure Clinic at a local grocery store and the first person who sat down at our booth was a well-dressed gentleman who looked me right in the eyeball and asked: "Can you help me with my Erectile Dysfunction?"
No lie, that's what the guy said! Just as big as you please, as loud as anything, for the entire dang grocery store to hear! And the millisecond after he made the rude statement, a sudden silence ensued---and you could have heard a pin drop in there as all the nearby shoppers and employees stopped what they were doing and stood stock still, aghast at his most ungentlemanly conduct.
Of course, the man had done it on purpose--he knew EXACTLY what effect this statement would have on two uptight, Victorian Podunkian road nurses who were raised in such strict environments that we didn't even know what "sex" WAS until we were almost finished with high school---and then only because somebody's big sister ran away to Houston and was rumored to have "stayed all night at a boy's house".
Anyway, the minute this bozo made the statement, a cowardly Geena-Lou beat a hasty retreat to the Dairy Products Aisle where she pretended to talk to a store employee about the best type of Dannon Yogurt to eat---even though I happen to know she's never eaten any damn Dannon Yogurt a day in her life. And thus, I was left to deal with the wise-guy---me and my stricken face, which had flushed a deep beet red (I've always blushed easily).
Knowing that the eyes of the entire town were upon me---and would sternly judge my level of composure in this difficult situation--which is considered a "test" of a Podunkian Lady's upbringing---a failure of which would bring down the violent wrath of one's grandmother and mother upon one's stupid, heathen, raised-in-a-barn, un-ladylike head forevermore---I managed to stammer a polite: "No, sir. I don't think we can help you with that. You'll have to see your doctor..." The jerk stood there for a few more minutes, eyeing me, as I kept stammering and muttering nonsense to his shoes. Finally, the guy got tired of embarassing me and wandered off to finish his grocery shopping.
Well that was just fine and dandy..... because, thankfully, I had deftly managed to maintain my dignity in the exact way a well-bred Podunkian Lady would act in such an awkward situation---and thus, I not only thwarted his rudeness but escaped further embarassment, saved my "reputation" as a Lady, avoided the wrath of my female authority figures---and quickly brought the whole sorry episode to an end. And, thus, my "honor"---and my grandmother & mother's teachings--- were all safely intact, especially since I'd had the grace to blush. I suppose I should have felt both jubilant and triumphant at having survived an encounter with a RUDE MAN without disgracing myself with any public "bad conduct" on my end, which is the "goal" of every well-bred Podunkian Lady.
Okay, that was the first clue that the week was going to be bad.
And I'll let you in on a little secret about what I REALLY wanted to do to that jackass---and which I probably WOULD have done in my former biker chick days---which was to snatch that yayhoo BALD! Oh yeah, I'd have SAVED my damn honor alright! Oh yeah, baby, I'd have saved it!
And then I might have allowed my ferocious biker HUSBAND to snatch that idgit bald, know what I mean? Oh yeah, my EX would have saved my dang honor, oh YES SIRREE BOB, know what I mean?!! That dumb-ass would have WISHED TO HIGH HEAVEN that he'd NEVER made a dang contrary comment to this little road nurse, know what I mean?....
But that was then---and this is now. And a Podunk Road Nurse has to maintain some sort of... uh... decorum.... and so I let the jackass slide for his sin---and I didn't snatch him bald, much as I wanted to, dammit.
(Hoo-boy, he doesn't know how lucky he was that I kept my composure....Hoooo doggies, he doesn't KNOW how close he came to a REAL answer to his question!..."Oh yeah, buddy--I can help you with that problem, right after I SLAP YOU UPSIDE YOUR BALD DANG HEAD---WHICH ISN'T BALD YET BUT WILL BE AFTER I SNATCH IT SO DANG BALD YOU'LL HAVE TO WEAR A HAT IN THE SUMMERTIME...COME HERE and LET ME SHOW YOU HOW I REALLY FEEL BUCKO ....)
Okay, I'll stop fantasizing about snatching him bald....
Anyhoo, the next clue that the week was going to hell in a handbasket was at our Daily Report, where we road nurses sit around a table and give a brief talk about what is going on with the patients we've seen that day. As usual, I was only half-listening while my mind formed a mental list of all the stuff I needed to get done the next day. But then suddenly my ears perked up at something Jane-Anne was saying.
"I went and saw Mrs. Dilmer--and it was her 101st birthday," Jane-Anne stated proudly. "And I took her a coffee-mug for a birthday present. She was so thrilled because the coffee-mug said 'I Love Jesus' on it--- and she said she'll use it every morning! And then I told her I couldn't believe she was 101 years old. I even asked her if those were her own teeth..."
I almost fell out of my chair.
"You asked her WHAT?" I asked incredulously, hoping against hope that my ears had deceived me.
"She's still got her own teeth!" Jane-Anne announced happily, grinning widely and pointing at her own teeth to illustrate her point. "She's 101 and still has her own dang teeth, Bo, can you buh-leeve it?"
In my utter mortification, I briefly considered snatching Jane-Anne bald---which would be perfectly legal in Podunk since she's a "youngun" and had just been uncouth, which gives any nearby older female the authority to snatch her bald---but then I remembered that she's my "pet" and I love her dearly, and so I didn't do it.
I looked at Geena-Lou desperately for help but Geena-Lou simply smiled a bright and sarcastic smile while remarking: "That's your baby!"
Then I briefly considered lecturing Jane-Anne about what constitutes a "compliment" in polite Podunkian society--and how asking somebody if their teeth are "their own" is probably not a prudent or complimentary remark to direct at someone of the age of 101 years---or any age for that matter.... but then I remembered that Jane-Anne is a true country girl, raised by a family of horse-breeders, and that she comes from a long line of horsey people who truly believe that having good teeth at an advanced age is a positive thing---and so they probably all think that an "own teeth" comment is perfectly fine to say in polite Podunkian society, and who was I to say any different?....
Finally, I settled upon simply looking upwards at Heaven (just so the Lord would take notice of the things I have to put up with), shook my head in defeat, muttered something to the effect of "Oh, the hell with it..." --- and then waved my hand as a signal that the girls should go on with their report.
Anyway, the week just degenerated from there. It was one problem after another, and I'm worried that last week's problems will continue to leak into this week. So far, I've had angry patients calling me on the phone, requiring me to make decisions about what our company CAN and CANNOT do as part of their care. (We WILL load a patient's clothing into the washer and dryer, but I draw the line at chain-sawing dead tree-limbs from over the trash-burning pit.)
Also, I've had sick nurses calling me on the phone, requiring me to make decisions about the schedule. (Yes, you can go home early if you don't feel good---and yes, you can have an extra day off to go to Oklahoma to buy that new cow with your husband and kids---but if you ask me for time off ONE MORE DANG TIME I'm going to jump into Podunk Lake while wearing cement shoes...)
Also, I have a delinquent secretary whose main purpose in life seems to be to aggravate me to within an inch of my sanity---a situation which has required me to make a decision about whether or not to fire her sassy, lazy butt. (But I didn't--mostly because it's just too dang difficult to find somebody to do the stuff she does at the horribly low wages she's paid---and frankly, I just flat out don't have the emotional strength to get into an argument with her anyway since she can give more plausible excuses for laziness and sassiness in any debate than F. Lee Bailey himself and I just don't have the damn fortitude to endure them.....)
And also, I've had the owners of the company after me to make decisions about how to increase our patient census. (What do you want me to do? Hog-tie the doctors and FORCE them to refer all their patients to this company? It's a dog-eat-dog world out there in the road nurse arena---and HELLO? There's MORE THAN ONE road nurse company competing for the same pool of available patients...)
So yesterday I thought to myself: You know what? The only decision I really want to make on any given day is what to order at the Sonic...
Yesterday there was a nice break in the rain and cold weather. We actually had a fairly nice sunny day. All the snow had melted and things actually looked promising for an early Spring. It was President's Day and the entire town was bedecked in flags in honor of the occasion. Needing a little calm within the usual storm, I took my lunch hour alone. I even managed to pull into one of the Sonic's car-slots without knocking off any of the pieces of their apparatus (like I did the last time I was there). Ordering food at the Sonic is easy. You pull into the slot, roll your window down, pick what you want from the menu---and then press the button on the loudspeaker.
I never can understand what they say over the loudspeaker when they answer my button---I'm sure it's something to the effect of "What will you have?" ---and so I just wait for them to stop talking and then tell them what I want. And then viola---I wait a couple of minutes and then the car-hop brings it to me--easy-schmeesy.
Not much decision-making there besides what you want on your hamburger--- either pickle, mustard, ketchup or jalapenoes--or all of those things if you so desire.
Actually, I was feeling so much discouragement that after getting my hamburger I started driving aimlessly around the town, looking at all the flags waving in honor ofPresident's Day. I drove around and around in the Jeep, listening to music on my Ipod, vacantly watching all the lovely flags waving and flapping proudly in the high winds.
And while I drove around, I marveled at how people around here love their cows. Some people even keep their cows in town--- right in their front yard.
But also as I drove, I tried to gain some strength and courage from the flags I saw waving--and I pondered just what a country's flag means to its citizens. To me, a country's flag symbolizes a place of one's own roots--- the flag of the country I was born in, live in, and work in---a place where I can count myself as a contributing piece of a whole...
I tried to think of all the times that other people I know under this same flag have experienced hard times--- like my patients, my family, and my co-workers. I tried to think about how none of them have ever given up a cause without a fierce fight. Every day I see them continue their struggles, whatever those struggles may be---and they keep right on moving onwards, in a forward motion, day after day--- no matter what troubles befall them along the way...
And also as I drove up and down Podunk's lanes, I also thought of my many ancestors--- and how difficult and rough their lives must have been in the "old days". In my ancestry, I can count two Pony Express Riders, many farmers, immigrants who came here from the British Isles, immigrants who came here from Europe, some Louisiana Cajuns, some Native American Cherokee Indians---
And many of those people most likely had to fight in some sort of conflict, either the Revolutionary War, Texas sheep / cattleRange Wars , Indian Wars, or the Confederate War in order to protect their property, their families, and their freedom along the way. No way were things very easy for them...
So after I drove around for awhile, thinking about all of those hardworking people, I suddenly realized that my stupid problems really aren't all that bad after all, ya know?
At least I've never had to fight a war on my own land (although I have fought the Battle of the Bottle, but that's another story)...
And eventually I stopped daydreaming and turned the Jeep around, returning to my office.
When I arrived, my sassy secretary was standing by my desk, pouting as usual, with her arms folded in consternation.
"What now?" I asked, putting up my invisible defenses. "I can't solve anybody else's damn problems today. What was it Marie Antoinette said? Let'em eat cake?---or else banana puddin' or something?"
"That's not funny!" she stated indignantly, her bulging eyes reminding me of a gigged frog. "I swear, what happened while you were gone is a pure DISGRACE! The building superintendent came around looking for you--- and she was very angry!" Without waiting for me to reply, she continued the rant. "She said that SOMEONE has been spilling PEE all over the toilet seats in the Men's Bathroom for the last two weeks--- and she is SICK and TIRED of it!"
"So what does she want me to do about it?" I asked, equally belligerent, trying to widen my eyes into an even greater "gigged frog" look right back at her. "It sure as hell wasn't ME who put the pee there. It's probably from that new lawyer who moved into Suite 104 last week."
But my secretary wasn't cowed.
"She wants to know if YOU might know who is doing it--because your office is the closest one to the Men's Bathroom and you might have witnessed who the culprit is. She says this stray pee has to STOP!"
And then I brightened because I realized, finally, that at last--HERE was a problem that I DIDN'T have to solve, yee-hah! And not only that, but I also realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me to bestow a smart-aleck comment RIGHT BACK at my sassy, pouting secretary---
"Well you just tell her that I have no freaking idea who's peeing on the dang Men's Bathroom toilet seats," I told her with great satisfaction. And then I threw in my clincher: "And why don't you tell her to put up one of her stupid signs--- like she did in the Ladies' Bathroom about us making sure to flush the middle toilet and turn out the damn light?"
After I made this comment, which I was just POSITIVE had surely FLOORED my secretary, I stood there for a minute, chortling with glee at my clever smart-assedness. (By the way, is 'smart-assedness' a word? I've been known to make up new cuss-words and this might be one...)
But my secretary simply looked at me with disgust and said: "She already DID put up a sign--didn't you see it?"
Well, I had to go see this for myself, and so I walked out of the office and across the hallway to the Men's Bathroom. And indeed, I beheld that there was a large, handmade sign on the door. It read:"*
"Please Be More Careful in T*
The Men's Bathroom as N*
Nobody Wants To S*
Sit On a Dirty Toilet Seat!" *