Select Page

The ER 1/10/14

So, there should be rules when you are thinking of going to a local emergency room for treatment.  If you are able to: eat, drink, chat, text, laugh, talk, or even smile…you should be forced to make an appointment with your regular MD and stay home.

Today was my last day of a five morning meditation/yoga workshop Divine Awakenings…I don’t know how anything can be divine at 540am with a 440am wake up call.  But, that is how it goes and the practice of meditating, doing postures and a group discussion was really cool.

I got home drenched in sweat as usual and went to the fridge to start making my morning protein shake and looking forward to my class on how to use my new Microsoft Surface.  I see a note from Lonnie: Your mom is in the ER. Call me.  Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit!

He got a call from her about 630am and she wanted to go to the ER. She was short of breath. He, God bless him, went over and with the help of the night guy at the building they loaded her into Lonnie’s 91 pickup and off they went.

You ask, why not call 911 and get an ambulance?  Because they are too expensive. See, she has a habit of going to the ER. She likes it there and will tell you as much. It is fun for her…kinda like going to the movies with an IV.  And if you are not admitted…the ambulance bill after insurance can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000.  And since she doesn’t have any money…oh well too much info.

I get up there ASAP at 745am and they are both gone. Mom in the x-ray department and Lonnie heading home for coffee.  She comes back out and we wait. My yoga clothes are still pretty wet under my sweatshirt and it is uncomfortably damp on the vinyl chairs. I put on a hospital provided face mask and my glasses get foggy.  It takes me about 20 minutes to figure out it is upside down and the metal part can be used to shape around my nose to help with the fog.

My mom is in heaven. She is getting attention and I am trapped next to her. I am in hell. She is chatting like we are having Starbucks and is telling me about her neighbors, what wine is available at the grocery store, and other such nonsense.  She keeps asking me about what’s new in my life and when I respond she interrupts with another story about her.  Not that I don’t want her to be happy…but she is only happy when she is in the ER.

Last time I visited her in her apartment, a few days ago, she was insulting to my nephew and I and told us to leave. OK…don’t have to tell us twice.

I try to distract myself from the chaos of the place. The floors are filthy…I guess they really don’t have time to clean being open and deluged 24/7.  There are large puddles of unidentifiable liquids dotting the tile, used hastily discarded face masks float around with other pieces of tissue. Genuinely gross.

It is so busy, at one point they ran out of wheelchairs.

There are two large TV screens with competing television networks on Good Morning America and The Today Show. Both are in their last stretch for something important to say in the last hour. The din of the anchors is more than obnoxious.  Cooking demos…is anyone else tired of Emeril yet?? Models telling people how to be thin.  OMG!

More triage for mom and they want to put her in a bed…however there are none available. So, out we go back into the fray which is growing larger, louder and sicker by the moment. However, there are still those that seemed to have come in for a just a urine test??? Lots of yellow plastic bottles being bandied about.

I am feeling sorry for myself and really hating where I am, then a woman who looks too old to be pregnant, but has a huge belly in the right place takes up chair right next to me. Holy shit the stench is overwhelming. I cannot describe it…not dirty…just really bodily bad. The nurse admonishes her for sitting there and she should be in line.  No relief…the end of the line is right behind me. So, now I appreciate the time I could breath without feeling like hurling myself. The faux-PG woman finally leaves the ER by way of a dented Chevy. The nurse told me she had a liver disease that caused her girth and offending odor. “She is a regular.” the nurse sighs.

OK, now it is getting serious. The View just started on TV. I hate that show. It is stupid. It is a waste of time and brain power. Just to cement my opinion they bring on Kris Jenner and a very dated photo of OJ Simpson which appears to be peering over her shoulder. I cannot hear what they are saying…Thank God… I turn away from the broadcast. My head is pounding.

With every cough, sniffle, wheeze, and barf sound I curl up tighter and tighter in a ball to avoid contact. My mom’s attempt at more small talk is really pissing me off.  “I really should be admitted first…they know me here. I come all the time.” she explains.  I have to lean toward her wheelchair when a woman comes in with a large dirty stuffed bunny. It is probably why she is here sick…since she is biting on its poly filled ears.  The thing is gross and she is really working it over. My dog never devoured a toy like that. She is quickly whisked away by someone in a white coat…”Psych” mother stage whispers to me eyeing the woman as she is lead through a side door.  I might just be losing it myself and need that door soon. It least my clothes are dry now.  I gave up on the mask hours ago so my glasses are clear.

The staff of what seems to be hundreds of faces with identical ID cards dance through the crowds and call out names. The huge doors…behind where in the bed for my mom lies…opens and closes a thousand times…all without her name being called. Each time the RN or orderly comes out it is a new hope only dashed with an unfamiliar name or the wrong Barbara.  “There are three Barbaras here this morning.” my mom announces with a big smile.

A car pulls up out front and a guy all clad in hospital blue scrubs with purple gloves is caring a huge clear plastic box marked Bio Hazard.  I can see baggies of organs in there.  Fuck…doesn’t this place have a back door. I know they do, because patients are coming in from the back just as fast as they are in the front. By now, it is so crowded you would have thought the place was selling the new Apple IPod…but from the look of the clientele….none could afford one.

“I am hungry and have to pee.” my mom announces.  “Too bad.” I snarl back staring inches above the heads of the weirdos sitting across from me. “You are in the ER maze now…you put yourself here and here is where you will stay.”  This is a place that normal people should not have to face. Only people that are trained and experienced in these types of matters should endure this pandemonium.

It is high noon. the doors open…”Jones.” the nurse calls out my heart sinks a bit lower than my downward dog of hours ago. 10 minutes later a tiny woman who is nearly whispering “Preece” on the other side of the room.  I barely hear it…but I do.  “Here!”  I shout as I jump up nearly spilling my purse onto the tainted tile.  She doesn’t have a room…but a gurney in the hall.  We will take it.  The wheeled mattress is behind the huge doors, the doors of my freedom.

I help get her settled and let the hospital do their do. She was admitted for the night. She is now the one with a Divine Awaking tomorrow morning.  Not me.

You Don’t Look Like…

Flying SWA to PHX yesterday morning. Let’s just say I LOVE being an A-List flyer. I usually get a TSA-PRE designation on my boarding pass…which means, nothing comes out of bags and shoes and jackets stay on!  Wow.  Sweet.

Anyway, my roller bag is heavy today.  I have three days of work in AZ and had to bring my work boots.  Along with my carry-on with my work computer, my purse…which fits nicely into my computer bag…only two carry-ons you know.  I am laden down with stuff.

They call boarding and just as cattle are lead into a shoot of a stockyard pen (minus the cattle prod and pending death to become ground beef), my fellow flyers and I funnel down the jet way and into the plane.

With my purse/computer bag hefted onto my nearly sixty-year old left shoulder, I am double fisting my roller bag carrying it down the slim walkway between the rows trying to avoid the typical aisle seat sitter’s tripping hazards:  feet, elbows and heads.  All of this is heavy. And this is always the time I rethink what is in my bag…and why did I bring it. But, as usually never leave any of it at home.

The train of people slam to a complete abrupt halt; some lady is rearranging her carry-on in an overhead bin and is so intent on retreating her newest People Magazine she is obviously oblivious to the queue of passengers pining for the unclaimed seats her butt is blocking.

I usually don’t make eye contact while waiting and mindless stare straight between the shoulders of the person in front of me. However, this youngish guy sitting in the aisle seat says. “That bag looks pretty heavy.”  I acknowledge it is and explain it is holding a pair of steel toe boots (Why did I go there???). The denim draped derriere is still dangling ahead and is deterring our quest for passage…so the moment of conversation continues.

“Why do you have those?” he asks with a very quizzical perplexed way. A bit too interested in my lipstick red TravelPro 21inch for my taste. The easiest and quickest explanation I can think of is “I work on the railroad and need them for my job.”  Without missing a beat, he shoots back, “You don’t look like you work on the railroad.” I blankly stare back at him.  Seriously, what do you say back to a remark like that?

Now, I am internally seething at butt lady. She is still working her magazines…there must be a new edition of the Enquirer to peruse. Her bulbous backside continues to block the remaining A list and now pouring in B list passenger’s way. And by now my arms are getting tired and I still have to lift my suitcase way above my head and thread it into the compartment reserved for such bags.

You have to  realize this whole scene is played out in about 90 seconds. Although it appears in writing to have taken months.

Finally, she tucks in her tremendous tush and we can pass.  I get two steps past Mr. Aisle Seat and start hefting my bag into the overhead.  He leans around, peers over this shoulder and sees me…no he did not get up to help me… and says, “I meant it as a complement.”  I just grin and find my window seat two rows away. Again, what do you say back to something like that?

This exchange got me thinking, what does someone who works in the railroad industry look like?  Are we to wear striped bib overalls, red neckerchief, and matching striped hat?

Foamer alert:  Just as information, the striped hat was fashioned from some scrap fabric.  In the olden days, yes…when I was born…railroad wives sewed their husband’s overalls to wear to work.  These garments were essential for keeping soot, grease, smoke and dirt away from and protected their good clothes underneath. I kid you not, take a look at some old-time photos and you will see guys with a suit and tie with bibs on top.

Some smart wife decided there was enough left over ticking (the material first used for overalls…hardy enough for mattress and pillow covers) and made her beau a chapeau.  The rest is as they say is history. Another interesting fact…oh I know it is not interesting at all…but if an engineer wore a poke-a-dot hat…that meant he was a passenger man.  Stripes were strictly freight. I still have my dad’s poke-dot-hat…for a photo; see my post “Retirement isn’t for Everybody.”

Back to my trip: There is no point here. Except that all my railroad friends look normal to me.  No cow-catcher noses, smoke stacks sticking out of craniums or additional limbs or heads. We are just normal folks that talk funny. Between ourselves we use a lot of jargon and words that are usually not acceptable in polite company.

As of January 24, I celebrated my 40th year working around trains and railroad people. And a lifetime of living within the industry since I am 4th generation. It has been and continues to be a fun and interesting journey.

Lonnie now two years retired!! And loving it…relaxed, golfing, putzting around the house. All of our family, friends, and neighbors are enjoying Mr. Fix-It fixing it.

And with me quickly approaching 60, friends are asking if I am ready to “pull the pin.” (RR jargon for leaving)

The simple and direct answer is: No. I enjoy my job…except for a few folks…and I am good at it.  I don’t see any reason to leave.

My job allows me creative freedom, some travel, excitement, diversity in duties, great benefits, good vacation and sick time. But most importantly to me I am in a position to make a difference in other people’s lives in a good way.

So, right now retirement is not for me.  But, thank goodness not for the same reason it was for my dad.