Thursday, July 25, 2013

my life and welcome to it

I work evenings in an Alzheimer's unit. The first bullet point on my job description is patient safety so I follow people around making sure they don't fall down or put their hands under a hot water faucet or drink milk that's been sitting in their rooms for two days. It's not a hard job, it's not an easy job, it's what I do. I used to have more sophisticated jobs with lots of paperwork and computer time and responsibility but I needed to do something truly useful with my life so now I do this. I'm a lucky slob.

I'm unfolding linen napkins under the table. The three elderly women sitting with me are engrossed with the folding of these napkins and I need to keep unfolding them so they can stay busy and satisfied with their utterly mundane and kind of sad lives. I love them and I feel sorry for them and that's why I'm here. To keep unfolding the linen napkins.

And then Gretchen sits down with us, a really overweight certified nursing assistant with bright copper curly locks. She's a smart one and witty and she makes two flavors of ice cream shakes every Sunday night for my darlings. I tell her I like her Grecian/ Roman hair-style, she said she was going for a 40's romantic Hepburn look and I said, oh and that too.
She grabs Dottie's hand, a woman who has been folding the same napkin for forty minutes and squeals, "Dottie, I am in such an incredible mood because I have had the most wonderful date last night!"

"Oooh, details!" I squeal back, something I'm not really good at but I'm being polite because I don't know what else to do, it's my default mode.

Gretchen's kind of a slut I realize as she explains how she met this guy on some dating website after breaking up with her worthless former boyfriend who never took her anywhere, they just "boned" in Gretch's pathetic third floor loser apartment.

So the new guy has some kind of birth defect in his private area and needed 17 surgeries and isn't that a lot for one organ and she took a picture of the thing and was going to show it to me and I fanned that nasty phone away from me, away from me you demon nurse, you and your organ phone.  So instead she showed me a picture of the guy's face and I said, I don't think he wanted his picture taken guessing from his scowl and she agreed and then it was my turn to say something so I said, he has a nice face, my standard response when I look at a photo of a serial killer who happens to be someone's boyfriend.

And I realize I work with pervs and this is confirmed when Steve, the asexual male charge nurse who has never said anything to me other than "could you pick up that kleenex" sits down at the table. He reminds Gretch that she has patients needing attention and when she leaves he leans into me. "You know," he says, "17 surgeries can result in a lot of nerve degeneration and that means more endurance and longevity. I know this personally." I don't look at him, I never will again and I feel a wave of relief when he returns to his med cart, his white slacks just a little bit too tight in the buttocks area. God, I love my life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

madame wang has left the neighborhood

I am driving to a squalid, disheveled part of town and I am salivating. I am envisioning chicken meatballs in a light tomato ginger sauce and they will be in the front pan under the heated awning at my favorite Asian buffet. Some really imaginative guy named the place Asian Buffet and now I am parking right outside the place. Across the street is a combined manicure/massage parlor and the week before our police department closed the place because Madame Wang, the fifty-ish proprietor was doing more for her clients than kneading their backs and polishing their nails. I think you know what I mean.

An elderly Chinese couple originally owned the place and they knew little English but they did a lot of bowing which made up for their deficit in our quirky language. I like the Asian practice of bowing and we should adopt this in our country.  It makes more sense than those four-minute handshakes the dudes do.  Bowing and more popcorn shops, that's what this country needs.

But now a younger Asian gentleman is running the place and I assumed he was second generation American.  I have heard him say only two things all the times I've been there so he's probably not. "Ha-rro-o-o!" every time someone enters and "Long time no see!" even though I was here two days ago. "I like your shirt," I say a little too loudly as if he were hard of hearing. He smiles and bows not knowing I am referring to his Jimi Hendrix tee.

This new guy has cut corners, I've noticed this, sneaky devil. He's replaced the red and white paper Coke glasses with this cheap version that gets soggy after the fifth refill, yes I do drink that much soda and I think he's watering it down. There are no longer extra napkins so the one flimsy one fastened around the silverware will have to do.  The ice machine never works and don't get me started on the condition of the restroom the one time I was stupid enough to use it. I think about inviting my father because of all the healthy crunchy marinated vegetables the buffet offers but he's the kind of guy who carries a large-sized jar of sanitized wipes in his jeans pocket at every family reunion. I'd never get him past the front door.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

three years

When my mother died three short years ago my father insisted I remove her stuff from his household right now.  At first I was miffed and then I remembered he is an ex-Marine, a watch wound too tightly and he can only operate in an uncluttered environment. Every household item must have function and my mother's collections of holiday decorations and dried flowers would not fall into that category.

And then there were her clothes, boxes and boxes. Years before she told me "there is some money in the pocket of my pink bathrobe so don't just give it away." And it turned out to be $500 worth of "some money." I found other caches of cash totaling close to $2500 and my father was awestruck. I didn't tell him Mom felt compelled to squirrel away all those $20 bills because he screened all her purchases and declared them unnecessary. They were both Depression era babies and those kids never get over those years. My mother grew up in flour sack dresses and church donations and she relished those new clothes, she earned those new clothes.

I am like my father. I wear neutral tones to avoid attention and unwanted conversation. I wear the same clothes over and over, year after year. "Please buy some new clothes," my husband says. How weird is that. He is looking at my Old Navy swimsuit cover-up I purchased in 1999 for $8.99 and I wear it to work a lot despite the stains, it's striped, who can tell . . .


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

fun and games at the airport

I am sitting in the San Diego airport. Across from me is a large woman eating a meatball sandwich the size of a football and eavesdropping on my phone conversation. She corrected me loudly when I told Husband what I thought was our new departure time and she went on to recite the weather report for our destination city.  I was still on the phone so I had the luxury of turning away from this person and when I returned to the scene I hear her telling someone, "this is probably way too much information to be telling a complete stranger but my mom got custody of my cousin because he never came out of the basement."  There is an ankle to knee brace on her right leg and I am convinced it's a prop, a conversation springboard, a bid for sympathy so she can just keep talking. She's from New Jersey.

"My aunt keeps camels her in her back yard and she's studying to be a taxidermist." I don't know if there's a connection between those two thoughts. She has now cornered this quaint little Indian couple and the husband speaks English. His wife is decked out in swaddling violet spangled silks and she's nodding her head much too eagerly. She obviously understands nothing, but New Jersey keeps talking.

"So my step brother got married in Las Vegas in a public restroom because that's where they met because she was so drunk she hooked up in the wrong bathroom . . ." and now she's talking to a Justin Bieber wannabe who is straddling the seat next to her all white ankle socks and backwards cap. His mom has the same haircut and when he leans his head on her shoulder the intensity of all that fake blondness is annoying.

I take myself back to the plane's bathroom and I mistimed my visit, the movie has just ended and we all need to pee. There are four of us jammed into the back section and a large Hispanic woman in a red velour jumpsuit is looking pale and I try to sit her down on the folding seat. The flight attendant appears and screams, "SHE CAN'T SIT THERE!" and I attempt to prop her back up. The attendant grabs the woman's arm and Senora screams, "DON'T TOUCH ME! I AM SENSITIVE TO PEOPLE TOUCHING ME! DON'T TOUCH ME!" although I just did.  The flight attendant is trying to ram her way out of this people-packed space and there are beads of sweat on her upper lip and she says, "I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE! I'M CLAUSTROPHOBIC!"  So I am caught between a raging Mexican woman and a hyperventilating stewardess clearly in the throes of an anxiety attack. And I'm wondering why a claustrophobic person would choose a career where she spends the majority of her working hours in a space the size of a closet.
 Just wanna go to the bathroom . . .