Monday, October 30, 2006

"Somewhere, Over the Interstate..."

* * *
Here I stand in ruby slippers,
Three times takes me home, I'm free...
Kicking out of that prison, I am free...
Singing those words of wisdom, let it be...
Nobody gonna put the blues inside of me
("Free", Faith Hill)

Sigh.... Some days it just doesn't pay to get up out of bed, you know? Or to get into the Jeep.

Do you ever have those days when nothing goes right? When everything you touch turns to crap? I do. Frequently. Especially in my job as a Road Nurse. Sometimes things get so crazy and bizarre--- and I become so bewildered and frustrated--- that I absolutely don't know WHAT ELSE to do but stand there, scratching my head in stupidity,while crying out in agitation to the cosmos: "What In The Hell? " If anybody had ever told me when I was young that I'd end up spending years on the roads driving a Jeep while also juggling food, balancing cell phones on my shoulder, running away from mean bulls, having serious conversations with goats, meeting other Road Nurses at fast food joints, photographing the countryside---all while pondering The Meaning of Life Behind The Steering Wheel...... I never would have believed it.

Although life on The Road is never dull, it can really be a pain in the ass sometimes. I can never really let down my guard. Because just when I think I can relax and "coast", along will come a situation so unusual or ludicrous that it just completely flaps my gizzards or tries my patience. Something will go wrong and it will be necessary for me to really "think fast" in order to get out of whatever dilemma is in front of me. It's not like when I used to work in the ER and had co-workers to help out in difficult situations. On the road, there's nobody but the lone Road Nurse.

Maybe that's why I have the odd habit of collecting "ruby slippers". I "collect" several things, among them knitting yarns, small clocks, and other what-nots, but one of my stranger habits is collecting ruby slippers. Some people think I collect them simply because I like pretty shoes. Or else they think I'm strange. (Ok, I am strange-- but that's besides the point.)

But I wonder, sometimes, if it's not so much that I like ruby slippers or am strange--- but more a matter of there being a deeper reason for this behavior. Like maybe it's my subconcious crying out for a quick method for getting out of trouble spots, if you know what I mean.

What I wouldn't give sometimes for a sure-fire method of "instant escape"...

In other words, I wish I could do like what Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, instructed Dorothy to do when she wanted to get out of Oz--which would be to click one's heels together three times while saying: "There's no place like home, there's no place like home...."--- and then WHOOSH, to be suddenly transported out of trouble and back to the safety of one's home in Kansas...(or for me, my beloved home here in Podunk.)

Wouldn't it be GREAT if something like that DID exist???

I was pondering this issue today as I drove out of town, headed for my day's work of seeing various patients. I drove down Main Street, admiring the scenery while wishing I had a Glenda, the Good Witch of The North, to instruct me on how to use my many ruby slippers to get myself out of the myriad of difficult moments I encounter on The Road. And mind you, I was wishing for a pair that actually WORKS-- since none of the pairs I've collected so far have ever helped me out of a jam even one little iota. (But despite this discouraging fact, I remain ever dogged in my determination to keep looking until I find just the RIGHT pair of magical ruby slippers. )

But as I drove the Jeep today, pondering to myself about this whole issue--I realized, dejectedly, that the high-falutin' Glenda the Good Witch of The North most likely wouldn't ever come around Greater Podunk. No, she probably doesn't bother herself about small, Texan towns---especially since people around here are pretty tall and she's used to dealing with shrimpy Munchkins. And nobody around here would know what in the hell to do if they ever saw somebody like Glenda the Good Witch of The North arrive in a giant blue bubble on Main Street decked out in her glittery ballgown, fairy sprinkles in her hair, and waving her stardust-sprinkled magic wand around.

No, we've probably got our own Podunk Witch--and her name's probably something along the lines of Joleen, The Hick Witch of the South, or something like that. And she probably doesn't arrive in bubbles, wear glittery gowns, or wave a pretty magic wand around....

Nope--I'll be willing to bet that Joleen, the Hick Witch of the South, would most likely arrive in a Chevy Pick-Up Truck wearing Cruel Girl blue jeans, a NASCAR tee-shirt, and waves a Walmart pot-holder around instead of a magic wand. (Whether or not the pot-holder is magic, I wouldn't know. )

Where was I? Oh yes, I was "pondering" things as I drove out of town....

Anyway, I was pondering about these things today as I slowly drove out of town, headed towards my day's patient visits out in ranch country. I was somewhat preoccupied with food because I just started a new diet. And the whole time I was driving towards the outskirts of town, it seemed like everything I saw was a reminder of the food I can't have---and it aggravated the heck out of me.

First I passed Taco Bell where their billboard proclaimed: "It's Back! The Cheesy Gordita Crunchwrap!"

Thanks a lot, Taco Bell. I hadn't really been in the mood for Mexican food until I saw that proclamation. (Not that Taco Bell is real Mexican Food--it's not even Tex-Mex food.) (Hell, I don't know what kind of food it is, but when you're on a diet it seems like the nectar of the gods.....)

Then a block later I passed Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose billboard proclaimed: "Back by Popular Demand! Popcorn Chicken!"

I don't like their Popcorn Chicken. It's all batter and no chicken. But when I'm on a diet, I crave carbohydrates and could eat a whole damn meal on just BATTER alone.....

Then a block later I passed McDonalds, and their stupid billboard blasted: "The McRib is Back!"

But I never blinked an eye at this one. It didn't tempt me in the least. Because I know why they have to advertise that it's "back" after not having been around for awhile--and that is because nobody orders the stupid thing. I'm not trying to be ugly to McDonalds, but I'm afraid that the plain truth is that there's nothing even vaguely "ribbish" about a McDonald's McRib. It's not rib meat and it's not on rib bones. In fact, I think the only people who ever order a McRib around here are tourists fresh off the Interstate who have no earthly idea that the McDonald's McRib is a complete insult to a real rack of Texan beef ribs. Sorry, McDonalds--but as they say in hickese, "that McRib ain't right."

I thought I'd escaped all the fast-food temptation but then I passed the local church. And I noticed that the pastor of the church had changed their weekly "saying" on the church's own billboard. And it irked me no end to see that this week's saying is "Forbidden Fruits Create Many Jams".

Suddenly the gordita crunchwraps, the popcorn chicken, and the rib ideas flew right out of my head--- and I found myself craving some good, thick jam--like Smuckers Strawberry Preserves. (Have you ever had Smuckers Strawberry Preserves dolloped on top of Bluebell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream?--now THAT is a treat--yummm.....)

But I didn't want to blow my diet and do something rash---like stop at Dairy Queen or something--so I stepped on the gas and took off down the road towards ranch country, vowing that I'd think of something other than the foods I can't have on my diet.

I thought again about my collection of ruby slippers. A useless collection, really--because the sad fact is that none of them actually work the way I want them to--transporting me instantly out of disaster--like the ones Dorothy had in the movie. But I have to admit that even if they did work, I never have the dang things with me when all hell breaks loose. (Who thinks to bring ruby slippers with them when they leave for work in the morning?)

And another thing that gripes me---is the pure plain fact that I actually DO seem to be the kind of idgity person who frequently exhibits a need for something like magical ruby slippers. And I just don't think it's fair---not fair indeed--to be such a sort. You have no idea how many times I berate myself for the fact that my life seems to go haywire on a regular basis.

Other people's lives seem so stable to me. Lots of people I know never seem to have a "disaster". They seem to live and work without ever having a reason to say "dammit!" or the F-word. How they accomplish this feat, I'll NEVER know. Sometimes I think that life just isn't FAIR.

And life definitely wasn't fair today--in fact, it turned very "unfair" in a hurry.

I had to catheterize a little old lady for a particular test---not a pleasant thing for a patient to endure. And the poor little thing has back problems and arthritis, and thus had a very difficult time holding still in a rather... er.. undignified position long enough for me to perform the whole deal. It took some persuading to convince her that the doctor had a very valid reason for ordering this test. And not only was I supposed to do the catheterization to see how much pee was in her bladder after she goes the "natural way", but I was also supposed to collect enough pee during the procedure to take to the lab for an analysis.

Believe me when I tell you that this procedure is also no fun for the nurse involved, having to perform a tricky procedure on a squirming patient-- on a regular bed in the dim lighting of a private home, where the nurse is without the benefit of an elevated hospital guerney and bright spotlights. My back KILLS me when I have to bend over these low beds, fiddling with difficult equipment in impossible-to-open packages and complaining patients with stiff joints.

But it had to be done. So I got the patient ready and assembled my equipment. I was very nervous because the patient's stupid weeny dog, Skeeter, sat nearby, glowering at me with his huge doggy teeth barred. He looked as if he was just POSITIVE that I was going to hurt his owner.

I started the procedure. Aand it took a little time. But after 45 minutes of sweating, cajoling, wrangling, fiddling, false starts, and contorting myself in bizarre positions in order to reach for supplies as I needed them---while also casting frequent, nervous glances towards a growling Skeeter--I finally got the procedure done, collecting just barely enough pee for the lab sample.

"Tah-dah!" I exclaimed triumphantly, holding the plastic container of the glittering pee aloft so the patient could see it. "I'm done--and I got enough pee!"

"Lord Jesus, I thought you'd NEVER get finished with this unpleasantness!" the irritated patient stated. "Now will you kindly let me up out of this bed? It is just flat out unladylike for me to be in this state--especially right in front of Skeeter. He was raised delicately, you know."

I turned to set the container of pee down on the night stand so that I could help the patient up. I was so excited about getting the pee that I didn't realize that Skeeter had crept up behind me. And to my everlasting mortification, as I turned.....

I tripped over that dratted dog....

and the container of pee flew out of my hands, halfway across the bedroom, striking the draperies with a huge splash, sending sprays of pee in all directions.

I stood there, shocked, staring in horror as the pee dripped down the draperies, towards the damn floor. And I knew what I had to do.....

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home...."

But dammit--it didn't work. And the day didn't get any better.

Onwards I plunged. I had to go to another ranch to draw blood from one of the toughest old farmers around. Unfortunately, this tough old farmer has a terrible fright of needles. I mean, we're talking about a rugged man who has been run over by a tractor, had both legs broken in a bull-riding accident, routinely twists barbed wire together with his bare hands to repair cattle fencing, ate bugs when he was an Army Ranger in the military, and is a regular roustabout in the local rodeo.

But he's frightened of needles.

"Now lookie here, Jesse honey," I wheedled, as he backed away from me in his dining room where I'd set up my blood-drawing equipment, "You've just got to let me get this dang blood."

We couldn't use the kitchen for the procedure because that's where Jesse's wife was bottle-feeding one of their new calves, to the complete fascination of their three dumb hound dogs. Also in the kitchen were three new baby chicks, who Jesse's wife was keeping warm by the stove in a box. I could smell some chocolate chip cookies baking. And I was supremely glad that all the animals were in there rather than in the dining room where I was trying to work-- because I wanted to hurry up and get this procedure over with so I could spend some time angling for an offer of some of those chocolate chip cookies.....

I proudly showed Jesse the tiny little device I was going to draw his blood with. "See? I brought you the most tee-ni-niest little 'butterfly' needle that we've got. It ain't even as big as a minute."

"I don't know, Nurse," he wavered, cowering in the corner. "It don't look that tee-ni-ny to me....and it's still a needle after all--and I surely do hate needles, I surely do."

"I'm tellin' you the dadgum truth, Jesse," I whined, pulling out one of the dining room table chairs for him to sit in. "Would you just sit down? Hell, it would hurt MORE to get bitten by a red ant than for me to stick you with this little pissant thing. Now sit down and let's get it over with. Geez, your skin is so darn tough from the outdoors that I doubt you'll even know what's going on till I tell you it's all over."

"Oh, alright, nurse," he said finally, sitting down with a resolute sigh. "I guess what's gotta be done has gotta be done." He gritted his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut, and bravely offered his arm for me to procede.

If I do say so myself, and after years of drawing people's blood, I am pretty good at it and am known for being a "good stick". Some of my buddy Road Nurses call me the "fastest stick in the West". And good ole Jesse's veins looked like the proverbial "garden hoses"--a blood drawer's dream---big, smooth, close to the surface--just ripe for the stickin'. I knew it would only take me about three seconds to quickly and efficiently obtain a nice blood sample.

And as I stuck him, I smugly envisioned how happy he'd be when it was all over, realizing that it had really been no big deal after all....and how I'd bask in the glory as he profusely thanked the patient nurse who got his blood without hurting him in the least....and then I'd bask in the admiration of his wife as she rewarded my skill with some of those home-baked chocolate chip cookies -- whose calories wouldn't count on my diet because everybody knows that it doesn't count on a diet when you accept a cookie-offer out of pure good manners-- because of course it's rude to refuse an offer of chocolate chip cookies baked by your patient's good wife-- (and the calories also "don't count" if you eat them standing up as you're walking towards your Jeep)....

But then, right before my very eyes, Jesse turned a beautiful shade of pale--and keeled over onto the dining room floor in a dead faint.

The loud THWUMP of Jesse's body hitting the floor alarmed everyone who was in the kitchen. And as I stared in horror at a pale Jesse lying on the floor, his three hound dogs, "Blue", "Blackie" and "Flap Jack" came charging into the dining room, barking and baying for all they were worth, knocking me flat on my ass in their stampede to get to Jesse where they began to madly lick his face.

On their heels was the baby calf who Jesse's wife had been bottle-feeding, bawling like he'd just been bee-stung, and he promptly trampled me further into the floor as he ran across the dining room---

And the bawling calf was followed by Jesse's wife, who ran into the dining room in a panic, screaming "What in the Sam Punchinelly happened?" at the top of her lungs--as she trampled me yet again....

And bringing up the rear were the three baby chicks--but I will allow here that it really didn't hurt at all when they trampled me....

And I knew what I had to do.....

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home"......

And dammit--it didn't work again. I just didn't have the right "magic".

Gloomily, I told myself that after a horrible morning like that, I would need some sort of a "break" from the action, if only to re-charge myself for the afternoon's visits.

So I called Belinda on the cell phone and we agreed to take a quick lunch break at the Sonic. I picked her up so that we could go in just the one vehicle. (We frequently like to grab a lunch break on the road ever so often in order to experience the novelty and joy of unfettered gossipping in person-- instead of racking up a zillion minutes on the cell phone like we do the rest of the time.) (And Sonic is the perfect place to gossip ourselves merrrily into oblivion, since we can sit in a private vehicle without the worry of nosy eavesdroppers. )

I drove us to the Sonic and pulled around to the back area so that nobody could spy my Jeep from the road. As I inched my way into an open slot, angling to get my window as close to the ordering loudspeaker box as possible, I heard a vague scraping noise followed by a jolt.

"You just hit the loudspeaker box," Belinda remarked as I brought the Jeep to a full stop.

"I most certainly did not," I retorted indignantly. "That was just the tires hitting the curb or something."

"You did SO hit the loudspeaker box," she argued. "See there? You knocked the whole corner off the shelf where the debit-card slot is."

With dread, I peered closely at where she was pointing. And to my extreme consternation, I saw that I had indeed knocked the corner off the shelf where the debit-card slot was. In fact, I had knocked about 7 1/2 inches off that shelf.

EEGADS, I had knocked off a piece of the Sonic!

Quickly, I searched my thoughts for a solution--and found myself wishing insanely that there was such a thing as Ruby Tires for the Jeep...

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home".....

But it didn't work, naturally, because the dang Jeep doesn't have Ruby Tires--and so I did the next best thing. I quickly backed up and left. Quietly. And drove us over to Taco Bell and hid for awhile in their back parking lot.......

(I've been rather nervous since then, wondering... um...if anybody saw that little incident.... )

(Wondering exactly how much it is that replacement shelves would cost for a debit-card slot shelf at the Sonic....and also comforting myself with the knowledge that nobody saw me knock that piece of the debit-card slot's shelf off of the Sonic....)

(At least, I HOPE nobody saw me knock a piece off of the debit card slot's shelf at the Sonic....)

(But I've also been comforting myself with the additional knowledge that I checked later and found out, to my great relief, that the Sonic doesn't have security cameras on their premises....)

(Just like I'm equally glad that the bank's ATM drive-thru also doesn't have security cameras on their premises....)

(I really think it's Sonic's own fault, anyway, for making those stupid debit-card slot shelves so dang far away from the driver side window of vehicles, which causes a person to have to pull into the area rather precariously--don't you agree?)

The rest of the day went terribly--and I should have expected it, because it just WASN'T MY DAY.

For one thing, I had to make a visit to a farm where there's this particular donkey who likes to frighten me. And I've said it before and I'll say it again--I hate donkeys. And every single damn time I go see that particular farmer, that stupid donkey sneaks up on me and terrorizes me. And it pisses me off every dang time she does it. And she did it again today. And it was all because I had to go to the bathroom.

I don't normally use patients' bathrooms but I'd had a lot of coffee and soda pop on the road, and so I just HAD TO GO. So I excused myself and headed for the bathroom. And so there I was, minding my own business, sitting as they say in hickese "on the pot" --- and then I casually glanced towards the window. And there, plastered against the window' glass with a horrible leer---was that asshole DONKEY, insolently staring me right in my eyeballs.

This unexpected and horrible sight startled me so completely that I couldn't help myself--and I popped up off that commode like a jet-propelled Kellogg's Pop Tart out of a NASA toaster, while hollering a bloodcurdling: "AAAAGGGHHH!!!!"

Later on, after I had sufficiently composed myself and then subsequently emerged from the bathroom, trying to look as if nothing unusual had happened, the poor farmer's face kept twisting into weird contortions--because I'm sure he was trying to stifle a giggle. Okay, I realize that he heard me screaming in there, and probably heard me fly off the commode and hit the ceiling---but you'd scream too if a stupid donkey surprised you in your bathroom window. Anyway, I think the look on my face discouraged the farmer from offering any excuses for his rude donkey, which I wouldn't have accepted gracefully in any case. Another problem I had today is a frequent problem on the roads of Greater Podunk---that of Runaway Livestock.

Frequently, somebody's cow, donkey, or other animal will escape their pasture. Sure enough, today, as I rounded a curve near a particularly large cattle ranch, I came upon one of the ranch's hefers--a fat little black hefer who was happily prancing down the road as if it were the Grand Marshal of the Bovine Easter Parade.

This was definitely an unwelcome interruption of my day, because local "good manners" (and also the "Pocket Manual of Greater Podunk Cattle Etiquette" ) requires that anybody finding Runaway Livestock must forthwith get out of their vehicle and somehow get the errant animal the hell back to whatever pasture from whence they came.

And so I did. And let me tell you, this can be difficult if you're talking about a gangly-legged hefer who thinks it's funny as hell to run away from an out-of-breath Road Nurse. Fortunately for me, a farmer in a pickup truck stopped by to help and instructed me to simply call the particular cattle ranch involved (he knew the number) and notify them that they'd need to come get the hefer, which they did.

Anyway, I finally finished all my patient visits and headed back to my office, where I was hoping for a relaxing end to my day's miseries. But when I arrived at the office, I was dismayed to see my desk.... and the huge stack of paperwork piled on it for me to do. And I sighed to myself as I realized that there's probably no ruby slippers in existance which could carry me away from the inescapable duty of a Road Nurse's inevitable and endless paperwork.....

Dejectedly, I mused to myself sadly about how long it would take me to do all that paperwork----but then.... suddenly.... a light-bulb of an idea went off in my head...

And I decided that maybe I should try something a little different. Because maybe.....just maybe...there might be a way out of this latest mess after all....

And with a new resolve, I decided that it certainly wouldn't hurt to try and see if maybe Joleen, The Hick Witch of the South, might prefer something a little different than ruby slippers???

Perhaps Joleen prefers something a little

So... I took a deep breathe, while conjuring up the image of Joleen,the Hick Witch of the South, wearing her Cruel Girl jeans and Nascar tee-shirt, while waving her Walmart pot-holder over my head.....

...and I clicked the heels of my Road Nurse shoes together three times---my battered Nike basketball shoes!... I recited the magical words--but a little differently--

"There's no place like Podunk, there's no place like Podunk...."


And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I was magically transported to my home-sweet-home!!

Hot-diggity-dog, it worked!

Thank you, Joleen, The Hick Witch of the South!!!

* * * * *

What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?.....

(The Cowardly Lion, in The Wizard of Oz)

* * * * * * *


czaitz said...

Ha ha, I'm laughing with you of always make me laugh, not at your distress, but at your fantastic ability to make toil and travail so gol-damned amusing. It's a gift, and much better than any be-glittered ruby clogs.

Dizzywardrobe said...

Donkeys... Ugh! Especially voyeuristic ones!!! What more can I say? I hope next week ends much better!!!
((((((Road Nurse)))))))

Unknown said...

If you haven't read it yet or listened to it on CD or tape... well, go get ahold of a recorded book on tape called: "Wicked" . It is the story of the Wizard of Oz from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch of the West. Truly thought provoking. It's about 20 hours long recorded. I listened to it all the way from the East Coast of Virginia to Fort Knox, Kentucky and back again and then had a few hours of it at home to finish....

Smalltown RN said...

What a great post....u had me smiling the whole way through. I did home care nursing for awhile and it is a whole different ball game than being in a controlled hospital environment.

Ponduk? I had never heard of that before I visited another bloggers site Muffin53 she spends 6 month of the year there and speaks highly of it. She's a character just like should check out her site.

Ruby slippers beautiful to look at but not very practical now are they?

Unknown said...

Wow, the donkey woulda scared the be-jesus outta me too! It's almost creepy. It's like he KNEW you where there.

Great story! Hope you have better days! :D

rho said...

I don't know you but this was down right hysterical! I was looking for the exact quote that the North Witch said and stumbled into your blog. You really should write for a living! I plan to read the rest of your blogs as my limited free time allows. Please. Submit some manuscripts to some publishing houses. Your gift of writing could be your "ruby slipper" - Rhonda - Joliet, IL