A person I know, let's called him Kangaroone, is presently experiencing a trough in the waveform of life. Having gone through several of these myself, I thought I might help by suggesting things that have helped me feel better, however temporarily:
- Indulging a bit by listening to The Smiths or The Cure, but then forcing myself to listen to They Might Be Giants or The B-52s
I experienced a massive disconnect the other day while watching a trailer for Herbie: Fully Loaded, a movie that I can't conceive of being any good. This is party because it's a remake of a movie from the days when Disney pumped out crappy live action movies (often starring Dean Jones), but mostly because it's about a self-aware car that doesn't kill people.
Anyway, I habitually scan the credits of trailers for the writer & director of the movie. It sometimes helps to evaluate the potential of the film. I've done it for so long that I usually can lock onto the names even if the credits barely flashes on the screen. I was sneering through the Herbie trailer when it ended and I said to myself, "I can't believe this is happening again." See, the movie is written (at least in part) by Thomas Lennon & Ben Garant. I love these guys. They wrote and performed in The State and now, Reno 911, two great, funny shows.
Lennon & Garant came to Austin years ago with most of the other members of The State to perform at the late, lamented Big Stinkin' Improv Festival. I got my copy of the ridiculously useless travel guide State by State with The State signed and then saw them perform that night. At one point, the troupe moved off the stage, ostensibly to change costumes, while member Ken Marino stayed behind and chatted with the audience. Instead of leaving the stage though, the performers stopped and starting taking off their clothes down to their underwear, all while Marino continued to obliviously talk about...something, but at this point who was paying attention to him?
While the near-naked members ambled about, quietly talking amongst themselves, Marino pulled out a disposable camera and encouraged the audience to squeeze in so he could take a picture. At the count of three, he snapped the picture and on the other side of the stage, the underwear came off. Despite the long set-up, it was still a surprise. I doubt the Paramount Theater will ever again have so much exposed genitalia again. At the time I distinctly remember thinking, "Dang. The one guy I've wanted to see naked is the only one who isn't. Dang." Still, hilarious. The crowd went nuts crazy. There were more than a few people with videocameras in the audience, so if anyone has access to a recording of it, please let me know.
Getting back to the point, I was stunned to see Lennon & Garant at least partially responsible for Herbie because it continues a frighteningly trend. These guys are also credited writers for The Pacifier and Taxi. When I saw that they'd writen The Pacifier, I convinced myself that they had authored a subversive movie that was taken away and dumbed down by the studio. Clearly I was fooling myself. I'm sure they made good money, but guys, I beg of you, stop writing vehicles for the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Vin Diesel, and Jimmy Fallon.
Hmm, I meant for this to be a thoughtful argument for smart, small comedy over bland, lowest-common-denominator crap, but it seems to have gotten away from me. Oh well.
I told myself that I needed to mix it up a little bit and not just post about the hospital, but then things happen there about which I need to write (with proper grammar apparently).
Today a woman who I will call Donna saunters in and with an incredibly bored voice says to me, "I need to see a doctor, I feel like I'm gonna die." Wow, sure sounds like it. She repeats this to the triage nurse with no urgency, pain, or anxiety in her attitude at all. The nurse is awesome though and says, "Can you be more specific about why you think that?" Clearly nobody is buying her story and Donna drops the "I'm gonna die" thing.
This is everyday occurence in the ER, people whose complaints are out of proportion to their problem. There's also guys who maintain a steely exterior when they've got to be hurting badly, but they're a minority. One of the things that medical staff ask patients is to rate their pain on a scale from one to ten with ten being the worst pain they can imagine. It's annoying to the nurses and doctors when patients immediately and casually say, "Ten," while smacking their gum.
After waiting a couple hours, which is really not a long wait for minor problems in an ER, Donna tells me she's going to leave because she doesn't want to miss her bus. I didn't, but I longed to say, "Good luck with that dying thing."
The other noteworthy thing that happened today was a guy whose girlfriend hit him with a hammer. On the dick. Yeah.
He comes in, sees there are quite a few people around the triage desk, and says to the nurse, "I don't want to say it out loud." Quickly realizing that the nurse isn't going to lean in so he can whisper his problem, he says, "Uh, she wasn't quite Lorena Bobbitt." Gotta love a guy that maintains a sense of humor while wincing mightily from a smashed penis.
I forgot to write about this earlier, but some friends and I went to see Metal Storm: The Scandinavian Black Metal Wars last weekend. We were expecting a somewhat sardonic portrayal of these guys who play rawgrawgrawg music and paint their faces like melting Kiss dolls. What we got was a sober and depressing story of pointless rebellion, arson, and murder. There were a few funny bits, but mostly it was just sad how dumb and destructive these guys were.
Afterwards, in an effort to lighten the mood, I announced that Carole and I would be forming a black metal band named Milieu after the massive amount of times Norwegian journalists used the word in the film. Of course, our other two friends would form a rival band called Retinue (same reason). Then we would plot intricate schemes for destroying each other, only not really. From there we moved on to how other musical genres might settle the score. Daniel cracked us all up with a most dire twee threat, "I'll unravel your cardigan." Awesome.
Sadly, I just discovered that I missed an exhibit of black metal musician portraits that closed yesterday. Photographer Peter Beste has taken some great pictures that I find both scary and funny. I should stress that as far as I know the guys - and where are the black metal girls? - pictured haven't committed any crimes and probably are decent, law-abiding Satanists. Here's the poster from Beste's Austin show.
I worked an extra shift tonight and did it in the pediatric ER, both for the first time. Sundays are slower than the rest of the week, but not by much. The pedi ER is mostly kids with fevers, abdominal pain, and the like. It's a lot of out-of-sorts children prone to crying when the nurses and doctors touch them. Of course, they get super-peeved when their blood is drawn.
I managed to stumble my way through registering a couple kids whose parents only spoke Spanish. They seemed relieved, possibly because I was making an effort, but more likely because it meant that soon the pestering white boy would leave the room. With time and practice I should improve. Then I can travel to Spanish-speaking countries and ask people for their Social Security numbers and whether they have Medicaid.
That's another thing. Most of the kids I saw tonight had Medicaid, which is great, but I think the reason they're in the ER for primary care is that there aren't enough pediatricians who take it. The lack of government-sponsored healthcare for everyone in the US is a massive issue for me. I could go on and on about this, but suffice to say that the haves not being able to be picky about their doctor so that the havenots can actually get medical care is an acceptable trade-off. Oh, and Canada rocks.
Moving on, I know I never want to work in labor & delivery, but working with kids in the ER might be cool. Sure they cry, but it's better than say a drunk guy with a gash on his head bellowing racial slurs.
Very busy at work last night. Tons of patients and between 6 and 10 PM, we had 5 L&Ds. L&D is labor and delivery, also known as pregnant ladies about to pop.
We see a lot of patients who only speak Spanish and I'm trying to recover some of mine from many years ago. A lot of the time I can formulate questions, I just wouldn't be able to understand the answer. So far I can ask and understand the response to, "Do you need a doctor?" and "Is this your first time here?" and "What's your name and date of birth?" It's going to be a while before I can understand what's wrong with them.
On the administrative side, I'm one of a very few white guys who doesn't speak Spanish. It's a hindrance to me, but I can always trade patients with a co-worker. The medical staff overwhelmingly doesn't and that can be a problem if there aren't enough translators around. I have to take a Spanish for Health Workers class for my degree, though I'd do it even if it wasn't required. I plan to move away from Texas after I graduate, but being passibly fluent in medical Spanish would be an asset anywhere.
Tonight a married couple came in and first off the husband states his title rather than just say that his wife is ill. I'm not going to say the title or his field, but he's not an entertainer and this is the capital of Texas. That really bugged me for two reasons. First, we don't care what your job is, everybody is seen according to their medical needs. Second, how about telling us what's wrong with your wife first before throwing around your "weight"? Hmph.
Last night a ka-rayzee woman came into the hosptial. I think she was a meth addict because she was twitchy, incredibly skinny, and her teeth were just pegs. She opened her mouth and a series of wildly disconnected phrases came out. Her main problem was her swollen foot, but there were clearly mental issues as well.
When asked her last name she said, "Doesn't matter. Whatever. I don't know." I really think she couldn't remember; meth tears up your memory something fierce. Not hoping for much, I asked for her social security number and she rattled it off without hesitation. The mind is a funny thing. Later she said to me, "I'm dead. I know they're carnivores." Oooo-kay.
I'm fairly confident that she was freaking out the other people in the waiting room with her pacing and non-sequiturs. After 30 minutes or so of that she walked to the middle of the room, and with great confidence and poise, threw off the blanket around her shoulders like James Brown doffing a cape. Then she pulled off her tank top. She was not wearing a bra. After a staffer got security's attention (the only person not staring in horror and amazement), the guard laconically said to the patient, "Hey, you can't do that." Really? Huh.
A nurse got her to put her top back on (backwards) and worked on getting her into a bed and away from an audience quicker. A man standing near my desk at the time said, "Let me know when it's decent," while staring off into the distance and clutching a Bible. It was safe by then so I told him, "You're good."
While this was by far the oddest thing that has happened so far at my job, I was relatively unfazed. And here I thought I was only jaded about music and movies.
It seems that a woman owed money to her crack dealer and so paid off her debt by having sex with him. A totally acceptable transaction in the world of crack, I'm sure you're thinking. However, she neglected to remove her tampon beforehand and came to the hospital after having had it lodged deep within for, wait for it, three days. After it was, erm, extracted, she was waiting by the payment office when she started flirting with a guy also waiting. Upon seeing what was going on, an employee in the know attempted to covertly throw "Dude, no" looks at the guy without success. Ahh young love.
This post reminded me of the summer I worked at a movie theater. On commercial fountain drink machines, you can slide up the piece of plastic with the drink labels to reveal two tabs. Push one and it dispenses carbonated water to clear out syrup. Push the other tab and it triggers carbonated water and syrup. One day, I discovered that pushing on the "both" tab and pulling back on the carbonated water tab caused only syrup to be dispensed. Two seconds later, I had created what I called a Double Coke; a Coke with roughly twice the syrup.
The night I stumbled upon this was a Thursday. On Thursday nights we stayed late to watch the movies that were going to start on Friday. This was mostly for fun, but also to make sure the movies had been built up right.
See movies are split up into about five reels and shipped to theaters in metal cannisters. Then, in a modern theater, a projectionist splices the reels together on a big metal platter from which the film unspools as it is projected. Sometimes the projectionist makes a mistake though and splices a reel in upside down. So the movies have to be watched to detect such errors.
Usually the staff congregated in one theater for a particular movie. When this happened, the theater would pay one person to watch the other movies for mistakes. I was once paid to suffer through the awful Madonna vehicle Body of Evidence.
The night I created the Double Coke, a bunch of us decided to watch Super Mario Bros. For those of you who've blocked it out, in 1993 more than a few people decided that what audiences wanted was a live-action movie chronicling the adventures of Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) as they battled King Koopa (Dennis Hopper!) to rescue the Princess. They were extremely wrong and made a terrible, terrible movie directed by four different people, including Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields, The Mission).
Still, when you and your co-workers are all hopped up on Double Cokes, to the point where your hands twitch, Super Mario Bros. is hilarious. Almost as much as Cop and a Half's infamous bathroom "swordfight" almost-scene between Burt Reynolds and a small black child.
Despite striking out on my own at work rather than follow other employees around like a puppy, it was a fairly unremarkable evening. So, I'll tell a story I heard from one of my professors.
Dr. C was a student nurse at the time and was working on the psych ward. She and her fellow students heard a patient down the hall start yelling. All the other students ran the other way, but Dr. C responsibly (and bravely) marched down the hall to the patient's room.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Yes!" he shouted, "Get in this bed and fuck me!"
"I'm sorry sir, that's not within my duties," she stated with great aplomb, "Is there any other way I can help you?"
Without hesitation he responded, "Yes, I would like some juice."
After rocking my chemistry final this afternoon and securing an A for the class, I reported to the hospital for my first day of work. Nothing in particular to report, but here's some quick impressions:
- Patients with less teeth than expected
- Hot cops
- The quiet click of handcuffs
- Frantic, pained, and then relieved looks on faces
- The volatile smell of isopropyl alcohol
- Waiting for something to happen
Just so you know, it would be both unethical and illegal for me to relate specific stories of patients or staff. As a result, any tales I tell here will be somewhat vague and sufficiently obfuscated.
Built to Spill! The Decemberists! Mouse on Mars! M83!! Arcade Fire!!! Awgh, yes, exclamation points. Seriously, I'm thrilled. Sure it will be hot and there will be too many people, but it's all worth it for three days of great music in my home town.
While I'm mostly pumped about the smaller acts, the headliners are pretty decent this year: Wilco (apparently a permanent fixture), John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Jimmy Cliff(?!). Not so much thrilled about The Allman Brothers Band, Black Crowes, Oasis, or Widespread Panic (gag). You take the bad with the good. Like the chatterchairs.
Lack of sleep caught up with me again and I got sick Friday. Dragged myself to class to take a couple quizzes and then tried to Nyquil (actually store brand) myself well. Didn't work and I got a sinus infection and a middle ear infection. Thank your lucky stars that I don't have a digital camera or else there would be a grody picture of the orange blob that came out of my nose on Saturday afternoon. Didn't get any studying done over the weekend and can now appreciate how awful sinus pressure headaches are.
I'm on super-sudafed and an antibiotic now. Probably not going to do well on my four exams this week as I'm spacey and tired. Great timing. Fuck.