Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Surgical Residency

I pulled into the ICU parking lot Wednesday to visit my cousin Beau; I got out of my car, and walked out the front of the deck. Then I realized the deck I was in WASN’T the ICU parking lot – it was the Women’s Center parking lot, which would account for all the pregnant women wandering around; so I had to traipse around downtown Macon for awhile in my cowboy boots.

They hurt my feet.

I finally found the right place to be, mostly lost my truck, but managed to get inside without incident. Then there was the topic of elevators. Which to choose? And why all the signs with arrows pointing this way and that? How about just a “YOU ARE HERE” sign with a schematic of the hospital? I can figure that out, but I always have to stop under the stupid signs and think to myself “Well, ok. That arrow there is pointing UP. Does that mean ‘straight ahead’, or am I on the wrong floor?” Like I said – show me a damn schematic.

The elevators were marked A B C and D, and color-coded, so presumably somebody, somewhere, came up with a brilliant idea how to get around in this hospital and make it really easy for non-hospital folks. They failed and I hope they’re all dead so they can’t be held accountable for their folly in this life.

The problem is: the first four elevators that came slamming open in front of me I let go on by because they looked like “service elevators” inside - really deep, wide, and full of stainless steel and rubber bumpers – like the ones the catering crew used in my old office. I’m accustomed to mahogany, plush carpet, and mirrors you’re not supposed to look at yourself in.

Sometimes I look at myself in those mirrors and occasionally even try to “fix” my knappy hair – even when other people are there: sue me.

No mirrors here, but people behind me were starting to look REALLY pissed off because I guess I was blocking the entry. I figured I must be screwing it up some way so I just bit the bullet and got on the next one. I don’t know what I thought would happen if I DID ride on a service elevator: “get in trouble?”

With WHO? I still always feel like I’m just about to “get in trouble” for something. I live in a world full of adults and can never remember that I AM one. Stupid.

Halfway between floors three and four I realized: ALL the elevators look like this. It’s so a gurney will fit and you can puke and holler and skeet bodily fluids everywhere and it’s easy to hose down. There ARE NO “service elevators” - they’re ALL service elevators.

I needed to go to the fourth floor, but nobody had pushed the 4th floor button and I sure as hell wasn’t going to actually TOUCH an elevator button in a hospital; every bugger-ey, infected, finger in Macon, Georgia has touched those buttons. I had to ride all the way up and then back down again; then back again until finally, mercifully, someone said “which floor – 2?” and looked at me quizzically. I realized later I’d seen them a time or two already. I looked at the floor 2 office list later and realized – that’s the psych ward – they had seen me riding around on the elevator, thought I was retarded, and were trying to help.

That happened to me twice, actually, because later I got on the elevator to go home and an orderly got on with an empty wheelchair. All I could think was “where did you put the person that was in that wheelchair!??” but I didn’t say anything. If you want to push an empty wheelchair around the hospital - thats your business. I don’t tolerate hospitals well and I must have looked a bit wild-haired, or shell-shocked or something, because the orderly started asking me how I was doing, and “if I was ok?” I said “yeah this place kinda wears on me a bit after awhile.” He said “yeah man. I hear you buddy, I hope you feel better” and I realized that he thought I had some kind of chronic disease. I started to explain, but the door “ding-ed” and I hopped off without thinking.

It was the second floor.

I needed the first floor - NOT the second floor, so stood there with the other people who were waiting on an elevator until the next one came along. They knew I was the idiot that got off on the wrong floor - everyone always does. You’re kidding yourself if you think people don’t notice you got off on the wrong floor. If you avoid eye contact its better, but I didn’t. I looked the big lady behind me dead in the eye and said “I just didn’t like that elevator.” She didn’t think that was funny, I guess, because she just nudged her husband and they both looked at the floor. Then I realized: “second floor – psych ward - she thinks I belong here.”

A minute later the door opened. Same orderly from earlier. No wheelchair this time (where the hell is his wheelchair?). Nobody said anything for a second......then my resolve crumbled. I looked up and said, “Man, can you please tell me how to get out of this place!?”

He paused for a second, then asked: “Have you been discharged by your doctor?”

I looked at him, blankly, for a second.

“Yes” I said.


Maggie said...

Bwahahhhahahhahha...that was one of the best yet :)

Alison, Nathan and Will said...

Okay, I just laughed so hard I cried. I think you should make a book of short stories, kinda like a readers digest but way cooler. Ha!