Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?---Part One


I ain't afraid of no ghosts,

I hear it likes the girls,

I ain't afraid of no ghost,


Who ya gonna call?


(Ray Parker, "Ghostbusters")


Sigh.... I truly don't mean to keep ragging on poor Blaine, but Wednesday night was such a..... a typical Wednesday night.

As usual, Blaine wrapped himself up in one of the tattered afghans I've either knitted or crocheted for him over the years, and then as I knitted on a psychedelic shawl monstrosity, we watched two solid hours of the television program "Ghost Hunters"--- and gag me!

Two. Solid. Hours!

Okay, it's not that I don't like the genre of science-fiction, because I do. In fact, I absolutely love science-fiction. Right now I'm waiting impatiently for Blaine to take me and see "Star Trek" at the IMAX on Saturday night, yeehah!

And I love lots of science-fiction television shows--- like the darkly melancholy "Supernatural" (where, as you know, I'm totally enraptured with the Angel Castiel), and also the silly comedy about souls indebted to the devil, "Reaper".

I also frequently re-watch wonderful sci-fi movie classics such as "Twelve Monkeys", "The Time Machine", and "Total Recall"--- and I also like past and present TV fantasies like "Star Trek--The Next Generation", "Babylon 5", and "Smallville".

(Okay, not to take anything away from the object of my adoration, the Angel Castiel on "Supernatural", but have you checked out The Green Arrow on "Smallville" lately?.....Good Lord, have mercy--- oh baby, oh baby....)

Where was I?

Oh yeah--- that stupid program "Ghost Hunters" drives me absolutely bonkers with boredom.

Okay, the premise is that the "Ghost Hunters" team is supposedly going around to different locations which are purported to be "haunted", whereby they then set up all sorts of special sound and video equipment in order to prove or disprove the reported paranormal activity, which usually consists of witness reports of someone having seen a ghost, having heard unexplainable noises, having seen objects moving by themselves, or other spooky, unexplainable events.

And with all their impressive equipment, you'd think they'd be able to detect whatever phenomenom the witnesses are either "seeing" or "hearing", right?


For all their danged "special" sound and video equipment, all I have ever seen them do, hour upon boring hour, is stumble around with the lights out while whispering urgently to each other: "Did you hear that?" or "Did you see that?"....

...and yet whatever it is that they claim they "saw" or "heard" is absolutely NEVER caught on their audio system or their camera!

I mean, come on! I get so dadgummed tired of hearing them exclaim "Did you hear that?" for two durn hours! Hell, the so-called ghosts they're chasing appear to be as elusive as my neighborhood's Ice Cream Man!

"Did you hear that?"--- "Did you see that?"--- "I thought I heard something!"--- "I thought I saw something!"

Puh-leeze!!! But over and over, week after week, Blaine insists upon watching this stupid show. He says that he finds it "interesting" because they go to so many so-called "haunted" places like spooky old abandoned mental hospitals, historic military prisons or forts, ancient antebellum mansions-- and even public places like The Queen Mary, Wright-Patterson Airforce Base, or the traveling museum exhibit from the Titanic.


Because no matter how supposedly "haunted" the location they explore is reported to be, it's still going to be two long hours of them repeating over and over to each other "Did you see that?" or "Did you hear that?" while Blaine and I sit there arguing--- as Blaine strains his eyes and ears toward the television set trying to "see" or "hear" whatever it is that the Ghost Hunters saw or heard--- all while I'm sitting there sighing heavily, rolling my eyes, and saying things like: or "I didn't see a dadgum thing!", or "What shadow? It's totally dark in there!", or "All I heard was stupid Tango bumping his damn head on the kitchen cupboard!"

God, just once I'd love to see those two bumbling screwballs suddenly get confronted by a giant hideous ghost clutching a Sprint cell phone while screeching: "Can you hear me NOW?"

(But I know that will never happen.)

So I'm going to tell you what I told Blaine....

If you would like to hear a REAL "ghost story"--- an authentic one--- then I've got one for you.....

Yes, I actually do.

Oh, hey--- by the way--- four days after the baby birdies flew away and I had that confrontation with the rude chipmunk, guess what?

You guessed it---she's got two new eggies! Lordy mercy, that Mama Birdie is a veritable egg machine. (I wonder if the poor dear ever gets tired of sitting there on those eggs while getting blinded, day after day, by my camera's flash?)

(She'll probably need eye-glasses by the time spring is over...)

Where was I?

Oh yes--- the REAL ghost story.

And before I tell it to you, let me tell you I was always a confirmed disbeliever about so-called "paranormal" activity. I have never believed in ghosts. And never, in my whole life, would I ever have thought I'd ever personally experience anything remotely "unexplainable"....

Until what happened at my nursing school...

It was a very old, historic nursing school--- in an old, historical hospital. And if I hadn't experienced what happened there for myself, I would have told you that whoever was telling this story was lying through their teeth.

Okay so here goes...

A long, long time ago.... in a nursing school far, far away....

I went to a "diploma" nursing school, which is the old way that nurses used to be trained in the United States, before the proliferation of nursing programs at universities and junior colleges. Diploma schools were always based in Catholic hospitals, and were usually two or three-year programs where the students boarded and trained at that hospital for their entire nursing education. And diploma schools were notorious for turning out an extremely skilled and high caliber of nurses.

The students boarded at the hospital, ate in the hospital cafeteria, attended all classes at that hospital, and received all their patient-training "clinicals" in the hospital's wards--- and were completely and utterly controlled by whichever Order of Catholic nuns ran the school. These nuns were usually the meanest harpies women ever to don a religious habit, and they were always unfailingly strict in not only their requirements of impossibly high academic standards, but also in their even higher expectations of each student's level of personal integrity and honor.

A student's moral fiber was carefully researched before being admitted to the school, and thereafter it was closely monitored for the duration of the student's years at the school. Any infraction of the rules or unacceptable behaviors, both inside or outside the hospital, were swiftly and cruelly disciplined by the militaristic nuns, whose arsenal of punishments included assignments of arduous verbal reports on obscure medical diagnoses, grade point decreases, or outright expulsion from the school.

And speaking of grades, you were automatically expelled if your grade point average totted up to less than 76% at the end of each quarter--- or just because a nun didn't think you were "RN material". The nuns never hesitated to threaten us with expulsion, reminding us that we had been given the "privilege" of training to be an RN--- and that the desire to become an RN did not necessarily mean that you would be allowed to become an RN.

In fact, sometimes I think my parents sent me to that school not just because it was considered to be one of the top nursing schools in the USA, but because they held high hopes that the regimented program under the supervision of narrow-minded, dour Catholic nuns would whip me into a more... uh..... mature, responsible young lady....

I once got in a world of trouble when, while eavesdropping at the door of the Mother Superior's office, where she could be heard inside bawling out one of my naughty cohorts, Marla, for some minor infraction in the Microbiology lab---something about Marla claiming that she had discovered "a syphilis spirochete" on her epithelial slide---but unfortunately Mother Superior overheard me leaning with my ear at her door while I titillated my buddies by humming the suspense tune to "Final Jeopardy"...

She yanked that big old oakwood door open and I tumbled into her office, whereupon after landing in a heap on the floor I had simply turned to her and remarked: "Bond. James Bond."

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Back at prison nursing school.

Nowadays these diploma nursing schools have all been phased out, as they and the Catholic hospitals they were attached to have mostly been absorbed into junior colleges, universities, or huge medical conglomerations. My particular school was one of the last dinosaur diploma programs to remain in operation ( up to around 2001 or 2002, I think) but it, too, was finally absorbed into the UMPC, the University of Pittsburgh medical system, as was also the hospital itself.

I attended Shadyside Hospital School of Nursing, of Shadyside Hospital, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Florence Nightingale once lectured at that school when she was traveling in America. Many notable nurses in America were once students at Shadyside. A coveted diploma from Shadyside was considered a free pass to whichever job a graduate desired--- and I wanted to get a job in an Emergency Room, in Critical Care nursing.

I wanted to be one of the "glory girls"...

Shadyside's program consisted of a two-year program whereby we students lived and trained in an old historical 5-story building attached to the main hospital, a somber, gothic-looking Catholic hospital specializing in cardiac care. We nursing students were considered the lowest scum in the hospital, and were treated as such.

The first floor contained the gymnasium and the hospital's microbiological and pathology laboratories. The second floor held the "housemother" station, the students' mailboxes, several elegant visiting salons, a banquet room, and a small TV room where male visitors waited for their dates to come down the elevator from the dormitories---after which they were sternly warned that the student's "curfew" was 10 pm.

The third and fourth floors were the dormitories, each consisting of a long corridor of tiny single-student rooms, a common kitchen/TV lounge, and the maid's quarters. The maid's job was to clean the students' rooms and the common room, and also to be a spy chaperone.

And the top floor of this imposing edifice (the notorious "fifth floor"---more on that later) held the classrooms, the nuns' and the administrators' offices, the Portrait Hall where the portraits of each graduating nursing class since the Cro-Magnon days were hung.....

... and the chemistry lab.

The first year I was there, I was housed on the third floor. Dormitory life there was an extremely strict, cloistured existence-- as the rules included absolutely NO MEN in the dorm, no alcohol in the dorm, no smoking, no cussing, no running around in your underwear (or, God forbid, actual nakedness)--- nor anything even remotely considered as "humorous" or "fun", as these human penchants were considered to be tempting pathways to hell and damnation. The nuns had absolutely ZERO senses of humor.


I don't think these nuns had ever laughed even ONCE in their lives--- and they certainly considered it "sinful" for any of us students to ever laugh or crack a joke.

I once received an extremely harsh punishment because, on a quiz about hospital fire & bomb safety, where the question was "What do you do if there is a fire in the student dormitory?", I sassily answered the question by writing "I'd grab the picture of my boyfriend, cram all my stuffed animals into a pillowcase, and then run like hell."

Okay, maybe that doesn't sound too bad for a harmless little prank, but I think I pushed the limits with my answer to the next question, which was "You see a ticking package in the hospital restroom. What do you do?", and I replied "I'd drip dry, warn everybody to evacuate except that torpedo-boobs Charge Nurse on 3-South, and then I'd run like hell."

(In my defense, this quiz was not to going to be graded and was only meant as a tool to assess our knowledge of fire and bomb safety--- and in fact, we students weren't even required to put our names on the papers--- but the nuns claimed they recognized my handwriting...)

Anyhoo, after my first year, whereby I predictably proved myself a total juvenile delinquent, I was transferred to the fourth floor dorm for my second year--- due to the supposed "strictness" of that dorm's maid, who was a notorious tattle-tale.

(What? Did the nuns think I was totally stupid? I soon remedied the problem of that tattling fink by bribing her regularly with alcohol, cigarettes, and frequent cash loans.)

My dorm room, a small little cell just large enough to contain a bed, a desk, a shelf, a sink, and a small closet, was located on the east end of the hall, right under the chemistry lab. Additionally, I crammed into my room a large television set, about a hundred stuffed animals, and various and sundry forbidden items like bottles of Peach Schnapps, stacks of Glamour magazines, and diet pills, all of which I kept locked in the closet so the maid couldn't find them.


Day after day, after long hours of nursing classes--- and then after even more strenuous hours of laboring away doing the absolute dirtiest of work on the hospital's patient wards--- and even during every free hour I had on the weekends--- I would sit at my pitiful little desk studying until I was near exhaustion. I poured over bacteria charts, lists of nursing procedures, medical definitions, illness symptoms, and lab blood values---because I was determined to make top grades. I even taped lists of nursing information on the wall inside my favorite toilet booth in the bathroom, in order to utilize even those few five minutes for memorizing information I would need for the next test.

But I soon got in trouble, yet again, when the nuns found out that I was placing cleverly drawn "movie posters" on the walls outside the bathrooms, advertising such attractions as: "COMING SOON to a toilet seat near you! The AMAZING Herpes Virus and his colorful cousin, Venereal Warts!"

All of us students were fiercely competitive in our studies--- mostly because the sadistic nuns posted all test scores on a public bulletin board so that the entire school could see each student's grades. And my low self-esteemed, perfectionistic nature simply couldn't bear to get a grade less than anybody else's--- and so I studied like a fiend until my eyes were bleary and I could hardly walk in order to get the highest scores.

And I didn't just want to score a 100% on a test--- I wanted to win the "bonus questions" as well, so that my grade would be 102% or 104%....

Anyway, on a few of the nights I was sitting at my desk studying, I would heard loud chair scrapings coming from the ceiling above me.

How funny, I'd think to myself. I'm hearing the chair scrapings of the girl in the room below me as if she were above me.

Because I knew that the chair scrapings had to be coming from the floor below me because it was impossible for the noises to be coming from above me. And that was because I was directly under the chemistry lab--- and the chem lab was on the classroom floor, which was closed and locked at 5pm every evening.

Nobody was allowed to be on the fifth floor after 5pm, especially in the chemistry lab. Not only were all the classrooms and teachers' offices on that floor locked by the janitor at 5 pm sharp, but even the stairwells leading to that floor were locked. There was simply no way that anybody could be up there at night.

So whenever I heard those chair scrapings, I chalked it up to poor acoustics--- probably just due to the normal creakings and groanings of a century-old building... maybe from the ancient radiators which heated the rooms to an unbearably stuffiness....

Usually I heard the chair scrapings just after the Johnny Carson show began, at 11:30 or 11:35 pm. I figured the girl in the room beneath me studied just as hard and as late into the night as I did.... *




* P.S.---I am now on Twitter---because I want to see what all the fuss is about.




noallatin said...

When you mentioned UPMC, my ears perked right up. I'm from Johnstown, PA. UPMC took over the only hospital in town that the Catholic hadn't already absorbed about 10 years ago. We got our television news from KDKA (CBS)and WTAE (ABC) in Pittsburg. I'm remember hearing about Shadyside and other regions of Pittsburgh throughout my childhood and high school years.

tottergirl said...

You mentioned liking the movie "Total Recall". Would you believe that in my passport photo I look just like the disguise that went haywire. I know I don't look that bad. It is soooo funny.

danielle said...

1. This is so funny - I just resorted to watching episodes of Ghost Hunters on On Demand...cause there were no good old movies I wanted to watch on TV yesterday afternoon....being housebound can get pretty desperate

2. Diploma grad huh? 3 year Diploma grad myself - non Catholic tho - Reading Hospital School of Nursing, Reading PA!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Just keep on laughing.

We shall see who laughs last and longest.

Bo... said...

You won't be the one laughing last and longest. I've got that in the bag.