Fun And Games Off Duty · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

The Disturbed and Unruly Pedestrian

Nearly fifteen years ago, we lived four miles outside of a small town in the northern reaches of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It got really dark at night, and there were only 3 or 4 neighbors in the mile on either side of us along our curving country road. It is there one night that my family and I met a strange soul.

It was middling late at night, after the children had gone to bed, and my wife and I were watching television and talking quietly. The home we had at that time was a raised ranch, with the living room approximately 6 feet higher than the entry hallway.  Our entry door featured a large window, allowing a view of prospective visitors while they were still on our porch.  We heard a knocking at that door, and, being the reasonable and prudent ex Da City street medic that I am (read: untrusting), I dressed appropriately prior to answering the middle-of-the-night knock. I placed my Browning High Power into my belt holster on my strong side, and secured a .357 revolver in a crossdraw holster on my weak side. Both were hidden beneath the sweater I was wearing that chilly autumn evening. I placed a 12 ga pump shotgun at the top of the stairs, and handed my wife the AR 15, and my second revolver, with the direction to wait by the telephone, also at the top of the stairs. Then, I went to greet our guest.

Through the closed (and still locked) door, I asked what I could do to help him.  In the course of my greeting, it struck me as peculiar that, chilly as it was outside, he was barefooted and shirtless.  He asked to come in to use my telephone, which I was not about to allow him to do.  I offered to call somebody for him. That was not, it seemed, satisfactory. He repeated his (now) demand that I let him inside, and I again declined. He began to catalog my character flaws and personality shortcomings, and at about that point my wife determined that the time had come for a Law Enforcement Consult. She called 911, and began to explain to the nice dispatcher how much we would enjoy the presence of a deputy.

Our visitor was escalating, and growing more creative with his appraisal of my social skills deficits, and at last announced that he would simply kick in my door, lay hands on me, and then use my phone. I noted that that was a strategy not calculated to enhance his long term, high level wellness (that’s just the nurse in me, coming out…). He looked at me, surprised, for a moment, and repeated his threat to violently enter and assault me. Changing tack, I told him that I would kill him, if he should act on this plan.

Perhaps I ought to note that I am not any sort of physically imposing specimen of burly manhood. In fact, I’m more of the Walter Mitty with bad eyesight type. Ok, heavily armed Walter Mitty with bad eyesight. Our guest seemed to doubt that I could indeed stop him, and asked me how, possibly, I thought I could do so.

Sensing a Teaching Moment, I told him “I kind of think that this Browning here on my belt will stop you”, to which he replied, “You don’t think a puny 9 mm will hurt me, do you?”

Reasonable thought. I responded reasonably: “I don’t know about that, but I’m pretty sure that it will distract you, while my wife empties the 30 round magazine from that AR into your soon to be dead ass. It seems to me that if you play your cards wrong, the nice deputy will never hear your side of things. You probably ought to simply wait on the porch, and tell him all about what an asshole I am, once he arrives”.

It seems that our new friend not only knew my mother, but the deputy’s mother as well. (at least to hear him talk, he seemed to think so). Fortunately, he seemed so focused upon reviewing my mother’s poor life choices, that he failed to implement one of his own, remaining on my porch for this little lecture series. After several chapters of this analysis, he finally felt the time had come to move along, and so he wandered off into the night.

Maintaining a vigilant posture, we waited for the officer to arrive. Mr Congeniality did not make another appearance, and, as I saw the patrol car enter our driveway, we secured the firearms, and greeted the officer. The officer asked, reasonably enough, where we thought our guest had gone. I pointed out the edge of the pool of illumination our yard light provided, and stated “Right about there”. The officer said he’d look around the area for our late, unlamented guest, and see if anything was up. We never heard anything more, but I was glad I had something more compelling than my boyish good looks and sunny personality to greet Mr. Happy when he demanded to be let in our door.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits!

“That’s just the way we do it here! (giggle)”

While I’m regaling one and all (well, you, yeah, YOU! Over there! I see you!) with tales of the school “system”, there is the tale of Allen, Number One Son, and his transition into North Schools and their second grade.

So, in his first grade year, we had lived in another small town, several counties away. I had heard of an opening for an ICU nurse at this hospital, and had applied for, and been accepted for that position. We moved, and the children moved schools, unsurprisingly.

In the previous school, Allen had been in first grade in a Catholic school. He had brought home homework, and his mother and I had worked with him thereon. Therefore, foolishly, once we had moved and he had started second grade, I assumed that there would be homework, again.


He came home each day, and I asked him about his homework. “No homework, Dad.”

Was he certain? “Yep, no homework, Dad.”

Did the teacher send anything home with him? “Nope.”

Had there been anything written on the board, such as, oh, I don’t know, HOMEWORK?

“No, Dad!”

This little bonding moment repeated itself day after day, until, a couple of weeks into the school year, there was parent-teacher conferences. Aha! Now was my opportunity to resolve the no-homework dilemma!

So, I arrived at the appointed hour, and introduced myself to the teacher. “I’m Allen’s father. He tells me that he is not getting any homework assigned.”

Cute, young, blond, she smiled, and nodded. “Um-hmm!”

I paused, and, no additional verbal reply forthcoming, I plowed on. “Now, Allen did get homework in first grade, at his previous school.”

Another smile, another “Um-hmm!”

I paused, again. No verbal riposte was forthcoming, and again I plowed forward. “And, I had been of the understanding that homework was important to the teaching process. It seems to me that it provides feedback to the teacher regarding how well the students in general, and each student in particular, is grasping the material.”

Another head nod, another smile, another “Um-hmm!”

I continued. “In addition, I had thought that homework also had the benefit of helping the student generalize the material away from the classroom, promoting retention as well as helping the student incorporate the material into his or her daily life.”

Another nod, another smile, another “Um-hmmm!” I was beginning to suspect that this college graduate teacher was suffering from a poverty of conversational themes. (Sigh!). I wound up my presentation, and went for my closer.

“Therefore, I’m puzzled. Allen is telling me that he is not getting homework assignments, and you appear to be confirming that. I have to confess that I’m puzzled. Can you explain the pedagogical principles that led to this particular plan of instruction, omitting homework?”

Her blonde grin widened, and she tossed her head as if she was still in the sorority house back at Wherever State Teacher’s College. “(giggle) That’s just the way we do it here!”


I imagined myself, back in Nursing school, answering my clinical instructor, Dr. Smith’s, inquiry, “So, Mr. Stretcher Ape, why did you administer lasix to this patient?”, with the following:

“(giggle!) The Doctor ordered it! (giggle)”

Yeah, about that. Had THAT been my answer, and not revelations about optimizing fluid balance, and the salutary effects of diuresis upon the patient with heart failure, well, I’d still be repeating my FAVORITE! greeting in The Whole World!, which is “(knock, knock, knock!) Fire Department!”

All night long.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits!


So, a couple of years previous to David’s kindergarten goat rope round up, his older brother Charlie had undergone the same appraisal. I had worked nights the preceding evening, and got off work just in time to drive into town and join the fun.

For those of y’all who HAVE worked nights, you can ignore the next little bit. For the rest of you, pay attention. Night shift workers generally NEVER are fully caught up on sleep. On days after work, they are acutely-on-chronically sleep deprived. As for me, I am NOT at my best, when poorly rested.

So, we rolled in to the cat-rodeo that is kindergarten round up. One of the tasks, among others, is the child has to print his/her name. Our darling little boy had, of course, completed this process, and another earnest young teacher was reviewing the assignments. There was the clock face, and the stick man drawing, and the colors identified. All was at baseline until she came to the print-your-name part.

“Well, you see, he printed his name as S-h-u-r-l-e-y, and that is wrong, you see…”

I couldn’t stop myself. I interjected, “Unless, of course, we had named him Shurley, right?”

The poor woman stopped in her verbal tracks. I could almost see her head spin, and she bent to the package of papers, furiously flipping pages, and examining each one, seeking verification that Charlie’s name was, indeed, Charlie. Or Shurley.

After a minute or so of paper flipping, and eyeball spinning, The Plaintiff, Charlie’s mother, patted the teacher on her arm, and reassured her, “Ma’am? My husband worked all night last night, and he sometimes thinks that he is funny. Charlie’s name is in fact Charlie, and, yes, he misspelled it. Can we continue?”

For years, his siblings teased him about being named Shurley. And in answer to the inevitable question, “Surely, you jest?”

“I’m not kidding, and stop calling me Shirley!”

Fun And Games Off Duty

“David’s a diabetic!”

One summer, long before The Plaintiff had become The Plaintiff, she had planned a vacation trip for the entire family. We would motor across the northern tier of states, camping each night in the pop up camper she would rent, and we would see Mount Rushmore, and The Dakota Badlands, among other sights along the way.

Our tow vehicle was to be her station wagon, and we did not have functioning air conditioning in this vehicle. When you plan a trip across Minnesota, and all the way across North Dakota in August, that turns out to be a bit of a problem. It was hot that summer, mighty f#¢&ing hot, to be more precise, and we all sweated abundantly en route.

Now our children, offspring of two nurses, were thoroughly steeped in Nursing Lore. Relevant to this tale, is the old Med School story of the lecturer who was teaching about clinical  assessment. He harangued the students about the necessity of being observant, because your clinical assessment will be flawed should you miss some tiny, but important, detail.

So this instructor produced a vial of yellow fluid, urine as he identified it, and noted that physicians in pre industrial societies used to assess for diabetes by seeking the taste of sugar in urine. So saying, he inserted a finger into the vial, and, once had extracted a finger from his mouth, announced, “This person is a diabetic!”

“Now, all of you try it!”

Being college students, each dipped their finger into the fluid, and, tasting it, were repulsed at the idea of tasting urine.

Once the vial had returned to the instructor’s desk, he asked the assembled scholars: “How many of you noticed that I dipped my INDEX finger into the vial, but tasted MY MIDDLE FINGER?”

My children had all heard this story several times. This factors into the following narrative.

Our youngest son, who we shall refer to as David, was all of perhaps 4 years old. As is common with children about that age, when on a journey, he simply HAD to stop, and collect more patches for his Tour Of America’s Bathrooms patch vest. At least, things had that appearance, for every time we passed a restroom, around 2 minutes later David would inform everybody in the vehicle that “I gotta PEEEE!!!”, accompanied with his version of the interpretive dance known worldwide as The Potty Dance.

This had become just a bit tedious. I had sought to resolve my fluid deficit (and fatigue from sleeping poorly in a bed not my own) by drinking Mountain Dew. My container of choice was the (at that time) wide mouthed one liter bottles. Now, conveniently enough, once emptied, these could serve as unit dose, single use, preschooler urinals. I would save my empties, and, once David shared with us The Song of His People (“I gotta PEEEE!!!”), well, the To Be Plaintiff would pass him an empty Mountain Dew bottle, David would stand in the second seat, and whizz away, into the bottle. His mother would (securely!) recap it, and that bottle would join the rest of our trash at the next stop.

So, TINS©, there I was, driving cross country and saving lives…er, well, we had stopped this one time, and everybody had trooped off to the bathrooms, while I gassed up the vehicle, and replenished my store of Mountain Dew, and water. Once everybody was seated in their seats, I reached for the (dew dropped, fresh-from-the-store’s-cooler) bottle of Mountain Dew resting in the console, and set about taking a cold refreshing swig.

My oldest two children, who had not been there when I had discarded David’s latest urinal, began to protest, and yell, and sound the alarm, thinking I was about to take a refreshing swig of child pee.

I, of course, had discarded the empty bottle and replaced it with a fresh cold bottle of soda. I tipped it up, savored it, and swallowed. The kids “Uch!”-ed and “Eww!”-ed their disgust. I smacked my lips, and turned to their mother, and remarked, “Hmm! Sweet! Looks like David’s a diabetic!”

So, fast forward a couple of years. David was part of the cat-rodeo that is kindergarten round up, as the school district assesses each prospective kindergartner for readiness for school. One nice young woman, earnest as only a new grad teacher can be, was interviewing his mother and me about myriad things, and came to the questions about medical history.

“So, does David have any medical history?”

The Plaintiff looked at me, and I looked at her, we shrugged. I replied, “No, he’s pretty healthy.”

David’s older brother began to furiously tug at my sleeve, singing the Recessional Song of children everywhere: “Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!…”

“What, Charlie?”

“Dave’s a diabetic!”

Well, THAT ignited a minor firestorm of interrogatories, as the poor puzzled teacher could not understand how we could deny that our darling child had diabetes, a fact plainly clear to his sibling, and how we could be so placid in the face of such a life changing diagnosis.

The Plaintiff had to explain her husband’s sense of “humor” to this poor woman, and how the foregoing had become enshrined in family legend.

I’m not entirely convinced that she understood the backstory, although she appeared somewhat mollified after The Plaintiff had spun her tale of the burdens of being married to The Stretcher Ape.


Practicing Listening Skills

My father took ill, on the order of 30 years ago. He had a heart attack, and, while recovering from that excitement, was found to have cancer. Given that he was at that point in his seventies, well, it was a rough time for him, and my mother.

Now, shortly prior to these discoveries, they had moved from The Unnamed Midwest State, to The East Coast. They had been born, and met, married, and started our family in The Megalopolis. With my one brother and I living in and about Da City, and our other brother living overseas, well, my brother the contractor was not a strong candidate to help mom take care of dad, and I, the nurse, seemed better suited, occupationally, to show up out there.

So, I did so. The mortgage company did not seem likely to grant me a payment holiday. It appeared that the credit union was on this same page. Therefore, I needed to work as a travel nurse should I spend any time on The East Coast. I did so, pulling 12 hour weekend night shifts.

After I was credentialed, I was assigned to work various East Coast emergency departments, my job back at home. So, this one time, I was sent to St. Elsewhere, in some fishing town on the southern coast of The State.

I arrived early, and announced myself, asking for the charge nurse. She greeted me, and asked me if I had any ER experience.

Now, by this point, I had spent around 8 years on Da City’s EMS, and close to 7 years in ER in Da City. My answer was “Yeah, some.”

She looked me up and down, and gave me her New Kid Spiel. “This is a fishing town. We have a bunch of young guys, working hard fishing, and, when they come into port, they play hard. Now, if you get a 20 something guy, tap dancing away, can’t sit still, anxious, sweating, and complaining that he feels like his heart is about to jump out of his chest, he’s not having a heart attack. Likely, it’s cocaine.”

I nodded. “Sounds right.”

She paused. “You know anything about cocaine? Ever seen any cocaine overdoses?”

“I know some, I’ve seen a couple.”

“Where have you worked?”

“Da City, in ER. 8 years on Da City EMS before that.”

“Why am I telling you about cocaine? You were just gonna let me carry on, weren’t you?”

“Yeah. If I listened, likely I’d learn something.”

She rolled her eyes. “Here are your keys, your module is over there, get Lucy to count narcotics with you.”