Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Phone Company Follies

I had moved from Da City, to a more rural corner of the state. I accepted a job there, as a nursing supervisor. Since my medic license was active, I planned to volunteer with the local rescue.

In the course of securing housing, I arranged for utilities: electricity, propane delivery, and phone. Given the very rural nature of this county, and the presence, here and there throughout the state, of party lines, I inquired about same. Indeed, my question to the person taking my phone order was, “Since I am going to be a nurse for the local hospital, as well as a volunteer with the local rescue, having a private line will be very important. Will I have a private line?”

Her reply, verbatim, was “Private line? No problem!”

I subsequently learned that in Bugtussle, or wherever this particular numbnut was, the meaning of the phrase, “no problem!” was altogether different from the meaning I had become accustomed to.

I learned this when my phone rang (and, differential ringing was whole ‘nother mystery, that I did not understand at that point in time!), I picked up the handset, and found somebody-indeed, two different, and stranger to me somebodies, at that!- greeting each other.

I inquired of my colleagues at work, they being wise in the ways of rural living inasmuch as they were, well, already doing it. I learned that there was such a thing as differential ringing, that in my corner of the county there were, indeed, party lines and that it certainly appeared to be the case that I was the proud subscriber to one!

Against my will.

With this insight in mind, I telephoned the local office of the telephone company, and asked about my “private line”. I learned that the plans called for me to get a private line sometime after the year 2000. This, in a conversation taking place in 1989.

I was not (favorably) impressed.

I next called the regional office, and spoke to the Schmoe In Charge Of Taking Calls From Disgruntled Customers. This schmoe informed me that the new millennium could be celebrated, likely, by me placing calls on my new, and private, telephone line.

I reviewed the “Private line? No problem!” statement of the employee, the fact that I did not, in fact, have a private line, and that due to work and volunteer considerations, this was, and would remain, unsatisfactory.

While it was not phrased that way, the resulting communication could be summarized as “Tough luck!”.

I next uncovered, and called, the number for the Midwest Schmoe In Charge Of Taking Calls From Disgruntled Customers. I learned that the the construction plans for this telephone company did NOT include building out private lines in my corner of the state until after 1999, ten years hence. I reviewed my previous conversation with the order taker, and suggested this was inconsistent with what that worthy had stated would be fact.

Again, while it was not phrased in these words, I was told that that would be my tough luck.

So, I called my Un-Named Midwestern Fly Over State Public Utilities Commission, and was connected with the gentleman charged with fielding complaints regarding, among other things, the telephone companies.

He introduced himself. “Nikolai Tesla. What can I do for you?”

I suggested the position was ironic, given his name, and he agreed. I began my plaint. I reviewed the “Private line, no problem!” misdirection, and my unsatisfactory climb up the chain of command, seeking redress from the phone company. I interjected, “You know, it is ironic that I am calling you in the first place. I tend to be small government, minimal regulation, best government is least government sort of guy.”

He paused, then asked, “Do you mind if I savor that irony, for just a minute?”

“By all means, savor away!”

We resumed our conversation, and Mr. Tesla took my contact information, and promised that he would keep me posted on new developments.

I next called my representative in The Un-Named Flyover State, State Legislature. I spoke with a legislative assistant, and reviewed the material, presented above. I told this soul that my desired outcome was that my representative’s office would hound the PSC over my complaint about the phone company, and that I would be invited to any hearing, the next time the shitweasal telephone company wanted any sort of rate increase. The aid promised me that they would make a few calls, and look into things.

I spent the next couple of weeks fighting disease, and saving lives. (Bet you wondered if I was gonna work that in, somehow! Well, wonder no more!) Since I was working 3-11, I tended to rattle around my residence for several hours after work, before going to bed, awakening generally at the crack of noon. So, I was surprised one morning around 0800 to be awakened by the noise of a barely muffled engine, seeming to arise from the end of my driveway.

I dressed, and walked to the street, asking the workmen there what it was that they were doing?

“We’re putting in a private line. You did want a private line, didn’t you?”

“Sure did! Thank you, gentlemen! Carry on!”

I was tempted to ask him if I had overslept, and it was 1999 already?

Duty · Fun With Suits! · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

“Show Me Some Teeth!”

One afternoon, I came in to my shift as a nursing supervisor, and the director of nursing had, it appears, JUST finished receiving a phone call asserting that somehow, the hospital staff had lost some patient’s dentures. Of course, I was the High Value Target in that particular free fire zone, and I caught the assignment. “McFee! You find out what happened to this patient’s dentures! Do not rest until you find them!”

I promised my best efforts, and was reprimanded. “I do not want your best efforts! I want you to show me some teeth!”

Uh, Ok. Yes ma’am!

I inspected the patient room, freshly cleaned by housekeeping. No dentures. I went to billing, the keeper of the valuables, and searched for property that had remained unclaimed. No dentures.

I interviewed our laundry folks, and inquired regarding foreign objects in the washer or drier. No dentures.

I inspected the patient intake form, cataloging the patient’s property at arrival. Of course, there was indeed a notation that the patient had brought her dentures with her to the hospital.

I took a break, and visited the security supervisor. We chatted for a bit, until he asked why I had not been wandering around, and had not been in evidence that shift.

I told him the Story Of The Missing Teeth, and my efforts to transition that tale into a dental retelling of The Prodigal Dentures: “Rejoice! My teeth, that have been lost, have been found! Kill the fatted calf, prepare the feast!”

Along with my, thus far, horrible fail in accomplishing it.

He sat back, and a thoughtful look crossed his face. “So, Reltney, do you need to find THE teeth, or just any teeth?”

I observed that the patient in question might feel a little, well, odd, wearing somebody else’s teeth.

My friend the security supervisor opened his safe, and extracted some ancient dentures. He then clarified things for me. “See these green teeth, here? Now suppose they were inadvertently dropped outside the door here, in the driveway, and some inattentive security officer, like, say, me, were to accidentally run them over, like, six or eight times? I doubt that anybody would put the shards into their mouth, you could show your boss teeth, albeit broken teeth, and so she would be happy, the complaining patient would get new dentures, so they would be happy, and your boss would stop breathing down your neck, and so you would be happy. How many opportunities do you think you will get to make that many people happy, all at once?”

Duty · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Whenever I Start to Think That I am The Smartest Guy in The Room, I am in the Wrong Room!

Another time, I was fighting disease and saving lives as the afternoon nursing house supervisor. Start of shift stuff had been done, I had made some rounds, and arranged for staff to get off the unit to eat. I was piddling around with some paperwork of some sort, and heard an overhead page of “Code Red: 1 East!”

At that time, in this facility, 1 East was our psych unit. I phoned the switchboard, and she told me that there had been a pull station activated on the unit, and I needed to go verify it before she could call the fire department.

Uh, excuse me? WTAF??!! I directed her to call 911 right freaking now, and communicate the alarm at once. “But, our policy is to wait until the supervisor verifies the fire!”

I told her that, employing the telepathy that had stood me in such good stead in years on the Fire Department’s EMS division, I had just this second confirmed the alarm, and she needed to stop dicking around, and call the fucking firefighters.

I hung up, and took off at a trot for the nursing unit, and unlocked the door.

Immediately, I was happy that the alarm had NOT been delayed. The unit was quite smoky, and the smoke was starting to bank down to about shoulder height. I found the charge nurse, and asked her for report. She reported that every patient had been accounted for, and every one was presently in the day room, with two sets of smoke doors between them and the fire room. One of the patients had, somehow, ignited his mattress, and then things got exciting.

The security supervisor and I did another sweep of each room, double checking that nobody was on a floor, or draped over some furniture. Happily, nobody but the two of us was there. Oh, yes: the two of us and the first due engine company.

The firefighters trundled the smoking mattress out of the unit and into our alley, whereupon they performed a sort of urban baptism ceremony, pouring The Healing Waters Of Engine 56 upon the Sinning Mattress.

The next morning I had a stern chat with my boss, and the phrases “NFPA standards” and “fire code for health care facilities” were flung about. Along with the observation that the reported SOP was ABSOLUTELY inconsistent with the prevailing standard of care.

Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Phone calls that make you go”WTAF??!!”

So, TINS, TIWFDASL as a nursing supervisor in a small hospital in Da City. I had checked our afternoon staffing, and accounted for all the staff. I had wandered around, meeting and greeting my staff, and made arrangements such that everybody could eat. I checked in with security, and, as usual, there was nothing happening.

I was back in the nursing office, completing some paperwork or other, and received a call from the switchboard. The operator informed me that Channel 69 news was calling, asking about some patient who had fallen out of a window at our facility. I told the operator to send the call to me, and stat call the security supervisor to meet me in my office, RFN.

The call was odd. (Now THAT is a surprise, idn’t it?) The caller identified herself as a reporter for one of the local stations, and that they had received a report that a patient had fallen from a window, and landed on a roof of part of our building. I responded that this was inaccurate. I knew this to be inaccurate because, in the event that such a thing had occurred, the staff would call me immediately, no such call had been placed, therefore no such thing had happened.

We concluded our conversation, and I turned to my friend the security supervisor. I asked him to immediately inspect our roofs, either in person or with one of his officers doing so in person, and ascertain the absence of anybody (or, any body) on any of our roofs. He hopped right to it.

Next I called each of my charge nurses, and ordered them to immediately, with no delay, personally lay their eyes on each and every one of their patients. They were ordered to immediately call the switchboard to report that they had indeed personally laid eyes on every one of their patients, or stat page me overhead in the event that any patient was not physically on their unit.

One charge nurse protested that she was too busy to perform this task. I noted that this was what we termed “a work order” in our employee handbook, and her options were to get to it, right now, or prepare their soliloquy for 0900 the following morning, wherein they would have the opportunity to convince the director of nursing that they should, indeed, continue their employment at our hospital. Because ANY other response other than “Let me go, so I can get to this”, would result in their being clocked out and escorted from the building, right about now.

Surprisingly, that elicited compliance.

The security supervisor paged me, requesting that I meet him in the cafeteria, that being about the center of the hospital. I arrived and he briefed me: his officers had inspected the roofs, and noticed nothing awry. A couple of his officers had shanghaied the maintenance man, and secured a ladder. They were going to climb up and re-inspect the accessible roofs, to verify what their preliminary survey had suggested. And, nobody/no body had been found.

I physically went to each nursing unit, spoke with each charge nurse, and had them show me their census, along with a report of their actions to inspect each patient. No missing persons. Hallelujah!

I phoned my immediate supervisor, and gave her the short form report. Of course, the long report, in five part harmony, with full orchestration, with circles and arrows and illustrations to fully communicate the entirety of the affair, was waiting on her desk for the morning.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact


I enjoy comments. Comments mean both that somebody read my post, and, also, considered it and having considered it, was moved to respond. Good Times!

Some of my comments appear to be written by individuals who do not speak engrish particularly well, or, and more likely in my opinion, are authored by software.

Which is one reason I am not worried about “AI” taking over health care.

For your entertainment, here is one example.

“Hi there, simply changed into alert to your weblog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I抣l appreciate if you happen to continue this in future. Lots of other people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!”

For Ghawd’s Sake, Please, please, please, be careful for Brussels!

Duty · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

The Reveal!

You may not be surprised to learn that I spend considerable time meeting folks, and some of those folks do not bowl me over with the force of their intellect.

Occasionally, somebody who does not otherwise impress me as being particularly dull witted, appears to decide that The Reveal is needful, NOW!, and therefore proceeds to impress me that they are, in fact, an idiot.

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and I was interviewing some soul about his particular malady. As is my usual practice, I inquired about what symptoms had precipitated today’s office visit, duration of symptoms, what had been done prior to visiting me to address the symptoms, simply as a beginning.

So, this soul related that his symptoms had been treated on a couple of previous occasions, in the past month, and had transiently improved, and then returned. He had, so he told me, been treated with “an antibiotic”.

“What antibiotic?”

He did not know. “The antibiotic that they prescribed for me.” (as helpful as THAT is….)

“How long did the doctor have you taking that antibiotic?”

“Until it ran out.” (Certainly. Of course.)

I attempted to discern how long it had taken before the antibiotic had run out, since treating Malady “A” might call for a 5 day run of The Z Pak (boo! Hiss!), whereas Malady “B” might be addressed by 28 days of Doxycycline, for example. Ya know, just as if I cared what had elicited this gentleman’s symptoms, with an eye toward, oh, gosh, I don’t know, maybe TREATING HIM EFFECTIVELY, or something.

At this point, he felt it relevant to review some of the high points of his resume. For some reason.

“I’m college educated! I’m not an idiot!” (uh, sir? First, college educated maps poorly onto “not an idiot”. Not a very high correlation. Secondly, in circumstances where you wonder if it might be appropriate to reassure somebody that you are NOT an idiot, it is very likely that you are about to reinforce the impression, that you ARE an idiot. That certainly has been my experience in my own life, you may want to consider if there might be some parallels in your own.)

I somehow got back on track, and began my review of systems. At this point, he revealed that, in his estimation, “You are being dismissive of my concerns!”

HUH? Inquiries about your allergies, medications, and medical history are not “my attitude”. That’s how I attempt to avoid prescribing something to you that you either are allergic to (and you did not mention to my nurse….), or that might interact malignantly with your regular medications. For example, I dislike eliciting a GI bleed (stomach bleed: think bleeding ulcer) simply because you did not think that it was relevant that you take coumadin (a blood thinner), now that you are here for your orthopedic injury. Should I prescribe ibuprofen (popularly known as Motrin), that in combination with your coumadin might lead to a life threatening GI bleed, and I feel that to be a bad thing. Occasionally, that review of systems elicits something kind of important, like chest pain or difficulty breathing, that you forgot to mention, because your ankle pain is the only thing that (for some reason) you are concerned about.

But you are paying me to be concerned about that other, life threatening, stuff, and have the wit to not miss it.

Duty · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene

Self Defense Cost Benefit Analysis

TINS, TIWFDASL, I had caught the detail, and the happy go lucky soul with whom I was working that particular night on Da City’s EMS, decided it was time to ask me about my ballistic vest. Now, it was not any sort of secret among members of the department that I wore a kevlar vest. After all, in Those Days, Da City was known as “The Murder City”, and not without some justification. We chatted about the threat profile we confronted (although, the chat went along the lines of “What? Do you expect to be shot?” My response was “Nope. I wear this for those scenes on which I do NOT anticipate being shot. On those on which I anticipate being shot, I will simply refuse the run until the police have secured the scene!”)

This guy, no doubt thinking himself clever, pronounced, “Well, if the scene goes to shit, I’ll run out, and you follow me! That way, your vest will protect both of us!”

My rejoinder was, “In that case, you had best be certain that you do not slow down, lest you have my bootprints all up your back, as I run you over!”

Later, my partner and I discussed the vest and EMS. He asked, non-snarkily, how I had come to the conclusion that the vest was the way to go.

I noted that the vest cost me about as much as a Colt Government Model in .45 acp.

It was not a felony to wear the vest concealed, in contrast to the Colt.

It was not a black letter violation of department regulations, in contrast to the Colt (or any other firearm).

The vest would not inadvertently discharge, in contrast to the Colt, where that was a potential problem.

The vest was not going to drop out of my pocket, on the floor of the ED, in front of Ghawd and Everybody, in contrast to a handgun which another of our peers had won the opportunity to explain.

I would not in any circumstance hesitate to use the vest, in contrast to the Colt.

Finally, I was interested in meeting the soul who could relieve me of the vest, and hurt me with it, again, in contrast to the Colt.

So, I wore a vest. Others, or so I was told, elected to wear a firearm.

Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Parenting Skills

I was interviewing a soul, who had brought their spawn along with them (because, why WOULDN’T you bring your 5 year old to your urgent care visit?). Said spawn (of course) had no self entertainment skills, likely due to the screen the named patient/parent placed into his hands immediately upon his whining that he wanted the phone, right now! While I was endeavoring to elicit nature of present illness (eg: what are your symptoms, and why did you determine that coming to urgent care was the thing to do?), duration of present illness (and, please Ghawd, please, say something more specific than “a good little while!” Pleasepleaseplease!), and provocative or palliative factors affecting this illness, said sprat was entertaining himself with the phone, and, it developed, felt the burning need to experience the sound track in his very marrow. In order to accomplish this task, he set the volume at eleven. Of course, in the confined space of the examination room, it was deafening.

I stifled my initial impulse to wrest the device from his hands, dash it to the floor, and grind it beneath my heel, all the while shrieking “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!…”, and then, settle upon my seat, and, calmly, ask, “Now, where were we?”

Instead, I continued to ply my patient with the appropriate questions, in a normal, soft, tone of voice. Of course, the named patient could not hear a damned thing I was saying. I smiled, and repeated my queries in the same, soft, calm tone of voice.

Still, the cacophony drowned out my every word. I smiled, and paused. The light began to dawn in my patient’s eyes. She turned to Little Jimmy (or whatever this child’s given name was), and directed him to silence the device.

He whined that he could not hear, should that happen. She repeated herself, and he again whined.

Then, in a feat of effective parenting nearly unsurpassed in my clinical experience, she retrieved the phone, silenced it, and pocketed it. Little Jimmy whined and groused, but his mother turned to him, directed him to quiet down, lest they “have a chat” in the vehicle, and turned her gaze, again, in my direction.

Miraculously, Little Jimmy settled down. I completed my examination and interview, and everybody went their separate ways.

Duty · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Dr. Google. Again.

Shocking as it may seem, when I interview a patient (and examine same), I actually have a plan in mind. In the course of that interview, and that exam, I have both findings that I anticipate finding, as well as findings that, should they be present, redirect me from my initial assumptions.

That might be considered “testing my hypothesis”. Sort of like, oh, I dunno, as if it were derived from the scientific method, or something.

So, therefore, when my next patient’s opening conversational gambit, in response to my introduction and query, “what can I do for you?”, is something like, “Give me something for my bronchitis”, well, it is sort of at a tangent to the information that I am seeking.

For some reason, I assumed (yeah, I know….) that the diagnosis part of the interaction was, also, **MY JOB**, along with the plan of care part.

I tried again, in a different manner. “So, what sort of thing led you do conclude that you have bronchitis?”

“I googled it.”

Not helping. For some reason (perhaps I am a glutton for punishment), I tried again. “What sort of thing did you google, in order to establish that you had bronchitis?”

“My symptoms!”

I had a couple of competing thoughts right about then. One was, ONE MORE STUPID ANSWER! JUST ONE! would lead me to remedy their zithropenia and depart. Another was, I was soon going to have problems buying hats, due to the hornlike callus that I was certain was growing from my forehead, secondary to beating my head against just this sort of wall, repeatedly. The third thought, and the one upon which I acted, was that I both had a professional obligation, as well as a morbid fascination, to pursue this conversation, and determine if I was, ever, going to elicit a recitation of symptoms, history of those symptoms, efforts already undertaken to mitigate those symptoms, and how those symptoms have progressed, if indeed they have progressed at all. Oh, yes: and if there were any illness among this soul’s acquaintances.

The conversation continued, with, painfully extracted, the retinue of symptoms seeing light. I conducted my exam, and, unsurprisingly, found this individual had mucoid post nasal drip (just like every other soul in The Un-Named Flyover State!).

Mr. Google asked about an antibiotic. I reviewed my examination findings: breath sounds did not indicate any pneumonia or bronchitis, and therefore, an antibiotic directed at same would be targeting problems that he did not have. Eardrums were not red or bulging, indicating the absence of a bacterial middle ear infection, and therefore an antibiotic for a bacterial middle ear infection would be treating a problem that he did not have. The back of his throat was not red, nor swollen, and did not have the patchy exudate universally described as “white spots”, and therefore strep pharyngitis was not among his maladies, and treating a strep infection that he did not have, would provide him no advantage.

I concluded with the observation that he **DID** have post nasal drip, one’s throat was, apparently, not well engineered for post nasal drip, and commonly became irritated, with this irritation manifesting itself as pain and a sore throat, or a “tickle” and a cough, or both. I continued to note that reduction or resolution of his post nasal drip, accomplished by my stated plan of care, would remove the stimulus for his cough and therefore, address his symptoms as well as his problem.

I refrained from asking if Google had explained THAT shit to him? Hmmmm?

Duty · Fun And Games · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Vehicular Extrication

Long ago and far away, I spent my salad days as a street medic in Da City’s EMS. I know, right? Startlement abounds, amirite? Anyhow, this one time, we caught a run. We arrived to find an intoxicated gentleman seated in the rear seat of a four door sedan. Interestingly enough, he was seated upon the floor thereof, with his legs extended beneath the front seat.

We figured that extricating him from the vehicle would facilitate assessment (eg, WTF was his primary malfunction, and what, if any, would be our role in addressing it?). Therefore we started to attempt to move his legs so that he could return to being seated upon the rear seat, and exit the vehicle from there. No joy.

It tuns out that highly intoxicated folks, like our friend here, were not so very good at listening to and following directions. Our entreaties that he fold one leg, and remove it from beneath the seat, seemed overly complex, as he did not successfully implement step one of our process.

So, we tried to move the seat forward, thinking that this would afford our patient enough maneuvering room so as to fold leg “A”, move it laterally, extend it, and repeat the process with leg “B”, and thereby achieve freedom.

Nope. As the seat moved, he shrieked as if we were removing the leg, likely anticipating reattachment on the sidewalk. So, that avenue of approach was foreclosed.

Doug and I consulted with the vehicle’s owner, who had been pacing about, intent that we not damage his baby. Or the patient, I suppose. Doug and I were fresh out of ideas, and figured that our friends in the firefighting division, with halligan bars, K-12 gasoline powered saws with metal cutting blades, hydraulic extrication tools, and similar toys for fun and games, likely could devise several new plans to remove this gentleman from the floor of the back seat.

I shared this thought with dispatch, noting that our patient appeared in no immediate life threat, and perhaps a “Code Three” (aka “Priority Three”, or no red lights no siren) response might be appropriate.

Dispatch acknowledged our request, told us that a squad would be on the way, and “Firefighters never respond ‘Code Three’, always ‘Code One’”.

Alrighty, then.

The vehicle owner overheard all this, and appeared to become considerably more excited. “You called the mother-f*@$ing firemen! They will f*@$ up my car!”

Doug and I agreed with him, that likely there would be some damage once the firefighters had extricated Mr. Drunk And Boneless from his car.

Mr. Drunk And Boneless thereupon became the recipient of a loud, profane, creative, and enthusiastic exhortation that he remove himself from the vehicle so as to greet the firefighters while sanding upon his own two feet, on the sidewalk, rather than seated upon the floor of the exhortor’s car. (Paraphrased). This was accompanied by pulling, pushing, tugging and bending, as the narrator demonstrated the contortions that he believed would facilitate the exit of the drunk and boneless fellow from the narrator’s vehicle.

And it came to pass that, once the squad had arrived on our scene, Mr. Drunk And Boneless was seated, relatively happily and nearly uninjured, upon somebody’s lawn, rather than enmeshed in the seat of the vehicle that had held him securely within it’s embrace.

The squad looked the scene over, returned to service, and our patient told us to bugger off, as he simply wanted to sleep.

Well, bye!