Friday, April 29, 2005

The Results Are In

The results of the Big Yellow Controversy are in. Half of you made a write-in vote for Big Bird as a hermaphroditic and/or transsexual freak. Thanks guys.

The other half think Big Bird is a guy, except for my father, who thinks that Big Bird's gender is irrelevent in the grand scheme of things. Trust my old man to put an existential spin on Sesame Street. When phoned for comment, Lunger replied that his mommy says Big Bird is a girl, so there you have it:

Big Bird is a girl.

Since, according to Lunger, his mommy knows everything. You can't provide more concrete evidence than that.

Work has been nuts tonight. As in full of them. Rather like a pecan cluster. Every new ambulance brought us another psych evaluation. One nursing home sent us an almost-90-year-old man with Alzheimer's who groped a fellow patient. Ok, we already know he's out of it, what's to evaluate? If he's still frisky enough to grope at almost-90, I say good on him!

I've come to realize that whatever vestige of sympathy I used to have for the human race, which honestly wasn't a lot, has been sucked out of my very being by this job. I have to leave this hospital before I become an even more pitiless hag. I mean, I've always imagined myself as a pitiless hag in my old age. Think Wheezer from Steel Magnolias. However, I never imagined that I would be quite so pitiless at the age of 25.

Today, I told a woman that I didn't know whether or not her fiance was still breathing when I escorted her to a private consultation room, even though I knew he'd coded twice already. This is where HIPAA is a mixed blessing. Since I'm not allowed to tell people whether or not a patient is dead, I don't have to tell people that a patient is dead.

My job is often far removed from the drama of a code, but I usually have to seat the patient's family in the consultation room. Sometimes I get them coffee, and often I am forced to lie to them.

Sitting in the tiny discharge office in a hallway between the consultation room and the nurse's station, the light kept going on and off because of the stupid "energy saving" light switch. Since it's activated by a motion sensor, every time it goes off, I have to wave my arm to make it come back on.

Filling out a crossword puzzle on Yahoo!, I could hear her fiance screaming in between the CPR sessions when he flatlined. I've never heard a code do that. He was fighting really hard.

Thirty minutes later, I saw the doctor and nursing supervisor make their way to the consultation room, and I knew he was gone. He was only 40. His fiance told me that she'd just mailed out their wedding invitations. They were going to take their vows in June. On her way out the door, she asked one of the nurses to keep him warm for her.

Maybe it was just the Xanax talking, but I don't think the truth of his death had permeated her cerebrum yet. I make jokes about people shoving things inside their anal cavities and the stupid lines people feed me about their real or imagined injuries, but I don't always talk about the horrific stuff. I use my sense of humor as a coping mechanism.

So, I could tell you that what she said made me think of William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," the one where the old southern lady sleeps next to the corpse of her murdered lover for 40 years. At least, that's what I said to the nurse who told me that story. Or, I could just be honest with myself and admit that I feel for that woman.

When I think about it, I'm not really much different from her. I try to keep everything warm and light so I don't have to think about all the child abuse, self mutilation, pain, and suffering I witness at work. The only difference is, I know these events have permeated my brain. I just don't know if they'll ever escape.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Big Yellow Controversy

Continuing the Sesame Street theme begun in yesterday's post, I now present a question to you, my esteemed audience. Lunger and I have debated this particular topic on and off for the last two weeks. The argument usually boils down to my, "YES, he is!" and Lunger's "NO, she isn't!" So, here goes:

Is Big Bird male or female?

Lunger, of course, believes that Big Bird is female. He argued thusly: Big Bird has pink striped tights; Big Bird has purple eyelids; Big Bird has big, poufy girl-hair; and the very compelling, "she just sounds like a girl."

My argument consists of the following evidence: Big Bird's voice is done by a guy; usually, Muppets have bows on their heads to indicate whether or not they're girls if it is not immediately obvious; all the websites on which I could find information about Big Bird use the article "he" in sentences about Big Bird; and my equally compelling, "NO, he just sounds like a guy!"

Lunger contends that I have tainted some very important childhood memories with visions of gender-swapping, sex changes, and ambiguous sexuality in general. So you see, this issue ranks high on my list of things to resolve. I'd like to have a vote. Please weigh-in on the comments section. Include any reasons for your opinion, or factual information that pertains to the gender of the tallest six year old in the world. This could save Lunger's childhood or destroy it. If you believe in fairies, clap your hands! Um. Nevermind. Just vote, ok?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cheese, Cookie Monster, and Jesus

I took a sort of happenstance hiatus from the blog because my husband came down to visit me this weekend. Sounds really weird, but as some of you may know, he lives in Canada and I live in the States. We're currently working on Canuckifying me. Good ole "Lunger" visiting me makes me happy in a jump-up-and-down-clapping-my-hands kind of way. I guess what I'm saying is, I actually had better things to do than surf the net with one hand and pick my nose with the other for the last few days.

Last week was sort of weird, anyway. Nobody came in to work with funny things up their bums, although we did see one of our regulars, a sweet transvestite boy who seems to have a problem with chest pain, but never forgets to wear his earrings and eye shadow to the hospital. On Monday morning, I received a strange box in the mail. The return address read such-and-such hospital, which is where I work. It looked like one of those boxes that new checks come in, so I was a little excited.

Alas, there was no money. The box was full of cheese. Yes, you read correctly, cheese. Two blocks of cheddar cheese, one yellow and one white, fit securely in the deceptively nondescript cardboard box. My first thought: "why?" Luckily, I didn't have to wait long for the answer to that question. Nestled between the two logs of cheese was a note.

It was a nice, if generic, note from the CAO of the hospital thanking me for my "stellar*" service during the last two months while we moved the hospital into the new facility. It was printed on one of those glossy pieces of paper one always finds in credit card offers, stamped with fake signatures. I might've thought this a nice gesture, but everyone at the hospital got the same note, same cheese.

Why did he give us all cheese? It's very good cheese, don't get me wrong. Lunger can attest to this. However, all Monday night and Tuesday morning I fielded calls from fellow employees wanting to know if I got cheese too.

Psycho redneck girl called first, "D'yall get cheeese?? Reckon what fer?" Several theories were offered throughout the course of my shift. One girl I work with suggested that the CAO wants us to take less bathroom breaks. Her boyfriend, who also works with us, conjectured that the CAO probably made some under-the-counter, back-scratching deal involving free colonoscopies with the cheese manufacturer and got the logs o'cheese for free. This, I think, is the most likely explanation. He wanted to give us something fairly cheap, but somewhat healthy. You don't even have to refrigerate it until it's opened! Good call, Mr. CAO.

Anyway, after cheese night, I came home and started to unwind for a good day's rest. I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette in my reindeer pajamas and Cookie Monster slippers whilst reading one of those trashy vampire novels I can't seem to put down, when who should come trotting down the hill but a pack of young men in suits and ties.

At first I thought they were Mormons, but they didn't have bikes and they weren't wearing badges that said, "Elder So-and-so." My best friend in high school was Mormon, and so was one of my college roommates, therefore I've become fairly adept at recognizing young Mormons on their mission. Unfortunately they were Jehovah's Witnesses.

Don't get me wrong, I don't care how you worship God. Do whatever you want. It's none of my business. But there I am, having a cigarette and reading a book, in my pajamas, for crying out loud. Which is, I guess, why they told me that Jesus's message is not obsolete, handed me a Watchtower and scampered away. Poor kids. I wasn't going to be mean. Maybe bored, but not evil. Oh well, maybe Jehovah's Witnesses think Cookie Monster is Satan's avatar.

*ed. note: has anyone ever used the word, "stellar," in a sentence without the slightest note of irony?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shits 'n' Giggles

It seems that my posts often tend toward the serious, so I thought I'd liven things up a bit. I work at an Emergency Room, so a lot of weird stuff goes down. However, I can't really discuss most things that go on at work in a public forum, because of the HIPAA privacy laws. But this is a list of some of the more ridiculous things patients have said to me at work:

  • "Do you have a price list?"
  • "Will you come pick me up?"
  • "What number do I call for an ambulance?"
  • "Can I have a slice of your pizza?"
  • "No, no. My friend accidentally stabbed me."
  • "I am the Lesbian Jesus!"

Sometimes patients do some strange things too. Here is another sampling of bizarre patient behavior:

  • A patient pretends to pass out and have a seizure, then pees on himself to lend further credibility to his "fit."
  • A patient with kidney stones tears one of our phone books in half to emphasize the amount of pain he is feeling.
  • A patient cusses out the greeter because she got a prescription for Ultram, rather than Percoset, and demands to talk to the nursing supervisor. She takes down the greeter's name and vows to have her fired. The next week, the same patient reappears and tells the same greeter that she likes her because the greeter is the only person at our facility who is nice to her.
  • A patient calls 911 at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to request an ambulance ride to the emergency room because he has a painful urinary tract infection. Later, he tells one of our doctors that his penis hurts because he has been masturbating too often.

Finally, our patients are a colorful and lively bunch of folks. Some of them have very interesting personal lives. To illustrate, here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of things people have stuck up their bums:

  • Lotion Cap
  • Dildo
  • Two-liter Coke bottle
  • Table Leg
  • Drill bit

God, I love my job.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Now I Get All "We-Are-The-Worldy"

I've been thinking about the word, "avatar" a lot recently. I've always sort of known what it meant in the way that most people know what "irony" is (except for maybe Alanis Morissette). So, I looked up "avatar" in the enormous, two-volume dictionary my husband gave to me for Christmas.

Basically, an avatar is the incarnation of an idea. Interestingly, Hindu mythology birthed the word avatar. It's associated with the god, Vishnu, who is the second part of a triad that forms the one supreme god, Brahma. More specifically, Vishnu personifies the "preservation" power attributed to Brahma (the other two are creation and destruction). In this mythology, "avatar" refers directly to an incarnation of Vishnu.

According to myth, there have been nine avatars. Vishnu appeared as an animal in his first seven incarnations. Krishna, this badass invincible warrior guy, was the first human avatar. Some consider Buddha to be the ninth avatar of Vishnu, while the tenth avatar, Kalki, has yet to appear.

Ok, fine, who gives a crap, you might say. But this is what's interesting about an avatar: he embodies preservation. That is, this avatar is always saving the world from the big bad. You know, punishing evildoers, protecting the righteous. What really got me was this: Kalki, the next avatar, is supposed to rid the world of vice and restore us all to purity. Sound familiar?

The more I learn about world religions, the more similar they seem. I know my husband will hate this, but I find this sort of thing endlessly fascinating. Not because I'm religion-shopping, even though I spent most of my adolescence doing just that, but because it amazes me how similar everyone really is.

We're all waiting for the same thing: salvation.

I don't care if you believe in a higher power or not. I think the urge to do so is innate. Everyone hungers for a guiding presence. We want someone or something to show us the way. Religion does this for a lot of people, regardless of what brand it is. Others tend to migrate toward more secular paths. We're all followers of some kind or other. Even whacko cult leaders answer to something outside themselves.

Humans are amazing, creative beings, but we're not totally original. We see echoes of ourselves in dogs, cats, chimpanzees, salamanders, and even plants. Most importantly, we see ourselves in other people. Some guy living in a hovel in India loves his kids the same way my mom loves me. The similarities, the connections are what's most important in this world, not the differences.

Which is what, I suppose, an avatar should make you think about.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Slay Your Inner Demons with a Pair of Nunchucks

Four cups of coffee and two doughnuts later, I am very sorry indeed. Let's just say I can barely control my fingers enough to type, and I don't think I will ever sleep again.

I just bought season one of HBO's Carnivale. I'm sure I'm a bit late catching that train, but I am absolutely loving this show. It's like Twin Peaks with a slightly more discernable plotline. Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into this, but I'm totally mesmerized by the opening credits. Tarot cards emblazoned with religious images mutate into camera footage and photographs of the depression era. I can't help but notice that the Tower morphs into the White House. If I correctly recall the Tower's meaning from my brief stint as a phone psychic (yeah, it is a sham, more on that later), it represents a series of cataclysmic events. This, of course, echoes the events of that era and the events depicted in the show. I also find it somewhat amusing that Franklin Roosevelt turns into the Judgement card which is fitted between the Sun and Moon cards. You gotta love the layers.

I'm totally obsessed with movies and various other media saturated with the theme of good vs. evil. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, and books like the Harry Potter series all fall into this category for me. I think the whole good vs. evil thing is a fantastic metaphor for humanity's inner struggle. After all, life is made of choices, both good and bad, and we're always battling with ourselves to do right or wrong. Naturally, the choices we're presented with are never so cut and dry. Life deals us some pretty convoluted situations.

My father is entranced by the concept of moral ambiguity. He thinks that life itself is so confusing that this theme is the most realistic and therefore artistic (think Sideways). I like to go a step further. Yes, life is confusing, but you have to make a choice based on all that ambiguous information. We may never know the ultimate result of our choices. We may not even understand which choice we made, but we make a thousand seemingly insignificant decisions every day.

Which brings me back to good vs. evil. As far as people go, no one is purely good, and no one is purely bad. Thus, the everday battle consists of people trying to be mostly good or mostly bad. As someone said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," and a lot of us try pretty darn hard to be good. The ultimate battle is you vs. yourself: to be naughty or not to be naughty (this is the part where you cringe because I mercilessly ripped Hamlet to further prove a point I've already beaten you over the head with). My point is, our own inner conflict is the ultimate battle.

Monsters and mythical creatures like vampires, werewolves, banshees, and fairies all represent some dark thing about ourselves that we battle against. Lust, violence, and grief are all instinctive emotions that we feel we must suppress. These feelings can be fictionally depicted as beings with their own volition. Heroes can fight them in hand-to-hand, kung fu action scenes with big-ass swords and pointy, wooden stakes. How freaking rad is that?

I think that coffee made me a little too excited.