Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking Advantage of the Situation

Both the flies doing a holding pattern in the air and I wearily eyed the cheeseburger of indeterminate age that I had just bought in the hospital cafeteria and sat down to eat in the break room. The burger was not my first choice as my shift began at 11:00pm, I had a real taste for something green and healthy that night but after cruising the cafeteria salad bar the brown, kelp-like lettuce on display pretty much killed that inclination. If something had to be brown, the burger was the correct choice with the dark color providing camouflage for anything else lurking inside. I really couldn't argue about the situation, what the cafeteria offers during the day is marginal at best with the leftovers refrigerated for those poor souls tasked to keep things going during the night. Having slept through supper back home, along with not making any sandwich to bring with me I had only one real choice if I wanted to quiet my growling stomach. But like it is said in college dorms, army mess halls and roadside diners across the world, the application of enough ketchup can hide a multitude of sins as well as any other organism providing that little bit of extra protein.
Just as I was about to resign myself to the questionable culinary fare in front of me and the late night heartburn that would follow all hell broke loose with the hospital fire alarm system going into spasms. Intense strobes lights and high-pitched alarms went off sending the new night shift mechanical dude and me racing to the security office to get some idea of the situation we faced. After Jake and I sprinted to the security office, we arrived just in time to see the watch officer jump up to change the channel on the television from ESPN to something on the TV Land cable network. While music filled the air lamenting the sad fate of the Minnow and its three-hour tour Jake, Stan the night electrician, and me the late night biomed tech huddled around the fire alarm screen trying to figure out what fire sensor had tripped along if it was a real event or a false alarm.
Most other places this would be very simple set of problems to isolate and eliminate allowing us to return to our normal nightly duties, but not for us. See where I work we have two fire alarm systems. The old one was installed back in the 1990's and the new one just in the last six months and like some bickering married couple, the two systems cannot stand each other. It is not an uncommon occurrence to have one system detect something that will send the other into a hissy fit in some sort of silicon based one-upmanship. You might be wondering why would we have two competing fire detection systems? If your first thought was that we are keeping the old one to have a backup system in case the new one goes down you would be absolutely and totally wrong. For reasons that are above my pay grade and ultimate concern the hell bound combination of bean counters and shysters are preventing the old system from being fully disconnected, which was the reason for the recent upgrade in the first place. The two systems are still cross-connected enough that when a sensor conflict occurs my coworkers and I have to run to every sensor reporting an issue and visibly check them.
From the get-go, we knew that we had a false alarm. With the dozens of sensors reporting fires, one of them being the sensor in the security office itself, but Jake and I still had to run the hospital checking them while Stan stayed back to say nice and comforting things to the disgruntle systems in an attempt to calm them down. Now regulations state that Jake and I are suppose to forgo the elevators for the stairs at times like those but don't get upset with me if I go ahead and say that rule goes over like a submarine with a screen door for us. We have far too much ground to cover to worry about little things like elevator failure and the resulting death by smoke inhalation during a real fire.
For the first hour, Jake and I did not have any problems finding then resetting the sensors hanging down from the ceiling. They more or less look like coffee cups and have two little lights on either side that normally blink when the fire systems are behaving. As we arrived on a floor, Jake would take one side of the building and I the other looking for the tripped sensors. The fun came for Jake when he had to run into the female shower area on the fourth floor and negotiate around a couple of nurses that had picked that time to have a shower. After he called me on the radio to tell me about it I made a mental note to pull seniority the next time we have a false alarm and take that side of that particular floor to reset sensors.
My warm and fuzzy adventure occurred in an empty patient's room while standing on a chair trying to reach a sensor that was a little too high up. Even with the chair I was having to go on my tip-toes to reach the reset and the thought passed through my tiny brain right then that if I lost my balance or the chair broke I would be a fine example of Darwin's law that the dumb tend to weed themselves out of the gene pool. But no, I jumped off the chair in one piece only to find the cutest little old lady standing at the open door with a curious look on her face. Just as I was about to introduce myself she raised her cane and started walking toward me squeaking something about being in her room. Luckily the nurse who had been accompanying the little old lady on her late night walk and had only stepped away to assist another nurse for a second quickly stormed in saving me from having my ass kicked.
Now things did improve for me, another hour went by with Stan finally providing enough marital counseling to silence the bickering alarms sending a wave of relief through the hospital as well as the firefighters that had answered the alarm and had to remain on station until everything was cleared out. They had taken up residence in the cafeteria with the staff providing free coffee and donuts, which the firefighters were using to polish and scrub their axes. My break occurred when I found the last fire sensor I had to reset; it was located in one of the surgeon lounges. Normally forbidden for anyone else to enter I had a fully justified reason to go inside a place I have never been before but had heard countless rumors about.
Once inside I was awed at the line of expensive recliners in front of a truly massive plasma television. Behind them were two very comfortable couches that just screamed at me to lie down and take a nap. On the counter in the far corner of this Shangri-La was some sort of gourmet coffee maker and the pot sitting under it offered up a sensual aroma that hinted at a steamy Jamaican tropical night. The lounge was empty at that moment but I knew some surgeon could return at any minute forcing me out like Adam getting the boot from Eden. Still though I had one opportunity I could not pass up, inside a small refrigerator with a glass door I saw rows of croissant sandwiches, cans of sodas, and fancy cookies. Thinking about as fast as I can manage I grabbed a turkey and Swiss sandwich, a couple of sodas, and as many cookies as I could carry and hightailed it back down to the break room.
Back downstairs I found my abandoned cheeseburger, which even the resident flies were ignoring, and enjoyed my very late supper wondering when I would be lucky enough for another false alarm to occur. I figure I have anywhere from two to three months and as long as I can avoid cane-wielding old ladies I should be set.


Ranch Chimp said...

Buenos Dias Beach Bum!

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... that was an entertaining recount/ story at least ... actually quite refreshing considering the online news for the day! :)

I know damn well Guy ... I would have headed my hand's for those sandwiches too and soda's! :)

Hey man ... funny short story here ... Once I was a shipping/ receiving clerk with this other dude in downtown Houston year's back, small business, 2 man department. But we use to get stoned (pot) all day on the job. One day we went in the fridge, and the bosses bottled beer was looking good, his wife also worked in management, and bought him a 6 pack before getting off to take home, and put in the fridge. I decided to take it (he was a dickhead we didnt like anywayz as boss), it had them twist off cap's before they sealed them with wrapper's, brown bottle's. I poured out the beer for me and my co- worker in cup's, then refilled the bottle's with tap water and put the cap's back on then back in the carton. Of course he took his beer home, but we never heard nothing about it .. I just wondered what he might have thought when it tasted like water? Hell Guy ... we were only like 18 year's old ... and it was all in fun. :)

Ranch Chimp said...

One more story Guy ... inspired by the opening here. Once we were at a buddies record release party in a downtown Dallas music venue that lasted until like 4am. After we went uptown to one of them all nighter restaraunte's the vocalist knew of, and he encouraged me into going to because of it's healthy food since many of the all nighter's are more greasy spoon joint's we went too. Anywayz ... I had no bloody idea it was a veggie joint! I was reading the menu and looked at him and said ..."Fuck Dude ... wassup with this? I want some meat burger Dude!" (Hell, I been drinking half the night and had real munchies)anywayz ... he coached me into trying one of the veggie burger's he said was excellent and I wouldnt believe it, etc. I sware ... it was the most awful damn burger I ever ate in my life! I still love my meat, I'm just an ole fashioned type feller when it come's to my grub.

BTW ... I just cooked up some breakfast ... they call Huevo Ranchero's (basically egg ranch in english) ... but I make scrambled egg's, with chopped pepper's, onion's and fixin's, then mix in some beef chorizo (Mexicano sausage) ... refry together, then put in some soft flour tortilla wrap's, with a handome amount of El Yucateco (salsa picante de chili habanero sauce, that is actually about 3X time's hotter than Tabasco, but very flavorful also) ... that's a traditional Texas (TexMex)breakfast ... like I said ... I am old fashioned on some thing's. :)

Later Guy!

Teresa said...

Tough decision for next time...

Fourth floor or Doctor's Lounge

Bibliophilia In Black said...

So that's where all our money goes! Providing expensive coffee, TV's, and lounge chairs for those damn surgeons!

PENolan said...

Glad you finally got something to eat, but don't you ever bring something yummy from home?

Ryland Grace said...

Ranch Chimp: LOL!!! Never stole the bosses beer, that would have been a rip.

Yeah, I dig a good burger and can't really get into the fake stuff. That one the other night was seriously ugly. I love Huevo Ranchero's, I often order it at a local Mexican restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Teresa: Going straight for the doctor's lounge, Jake, the new guy on night shift likes to tell tall tales. Not that I have ever done anything like it myself.

Oh yeah, still working on that vampire story, it got derailed over a problem with the plot and I am having to redo some of it. Damn thing is close to being too long but I'm still going to post it.

Bibliophilia: Yeah, I could create an entire blog explaining all I have learned about why hospital costs are so high. Some is really stupid like the doctor's lounge and other can't be helped because of infection control and general safety.

PENolan: When I get off my lazy butt and make something. Often I make a sandwich, but just as often I sit around until the last minute and have to run out the door.

Pixel Peeper said...

So, did you come home and comment, "Oh, just another boring day at work..."

Chef Cthulhu said... next time, head to the surgeon's lounge first, steal some goodies and THEN go to the 4th floor ladies shower to lure the naked nurses out of the shower with croissant sam'iches. It could work.

Life As I Know It Now said...

My sister-in-law got Mersa while she was in the hospital and this, of course, compounded the problems she had with healing from brain surgery for an aneurysm she suffered. So I'm all for the high cost of sanitation and to combat communicable diseases. However, I gotta draw the line at comfy recliners and fancy drinks for the surgeons.

Ryland Grace said...

Pixel: Crazy stuff just tends to follow me around, like an angel with a sick sense of humor and a tendency for practical jokes on the sorry ass mortal he/she is charged with looking after.

Like you said, I just tend to chalk it up as one of those things. As long as I make that Disney Cruise in January I'm just going to roll with the punches.

Chef: Jake and I spent most this night cruising the various floors checking out electrical rooms, surveying what oxygen ports in the ICU rooms that need replacing, and talking with the nurses. What's that line from Casablanca? "I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship."

Got talking with one nurse and I'll be dammed but I'd go all commando and raid the lounge again for her. Just hope I'm smart enough to stay out of big trouble on that one.

Liberality: As you can easily figure I add some "color" to my stories but the surgeon's lounge was total fact.

One of the things that I learned about hospitals that personally freaked me out is the complex nature of air flow both in and out of the building. So much fresh air has to be drawn in a certain amount of time as well as old air being pushed out. Throw in the very expensive filters that have to be changed monthly and the bucks quickly add up.

Dave Dubya said...

I applaud your good foraging instincts. It shows initiative and adaptability. That was only cheap junk food to the medical aristocracy anyway. Welcome to the revolution!

Randal Graves said...

This wouldn't have happened if your hospital had been privatized!

Ryland Grace said...

Dave: Hell, spent part of this shift staking the place out again. But dammit the doc's didn't leave so I couldn't make a raid. This is just fun now.

Randal: LOL!! Total truth my friend and if what they say about the devil being in the complicated details is the truth what you wrote is a pea-soup puking, head spinning Linda Blair. Oh, the stories that I will never force anyone to suffer through.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Turkey breast was an excellent choice, double b. Back when I was a meat-eater, I remember having this turkey breast grinder down in New Haven. It was enormous. It was so big in fact that I opened it up to take some of the meat off. And there it was, a dead fly smack dab in the middle. I still maintain that the color contrast (something that might not have afforded itself with that yucky/nasty burger of yours) provided by this particular cold-cut was critical in its detection.

Middle Ditch said...

That was a lot of fun. You are a tremendous story teller. The food sound like ours at work. You would have thought that at a independent school (massive fees) and a hospital they would take good care of the food. But eh! It's only for the workers.

rainboy said...

You are a great storyteller you know.Start writing books man.
I need a cheeseburger now :P

How is life in lexington ? All well bro...I will try to be regular :)
take care

Cloudia said...

Ah, LIFE! (And burgers :)

Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral


Marja said...

Entertaining story Interesting what you can find in a surgeons lounge.

Ryland Grace said...

Will: The actual contents of what is in the "meat" of cafeteria-made burgers is a subject of serious debate. I'm ex-army and long use to questionable protein but the one thing I left out in the post is that the hospital take special care of the food brought to the doctor's. We are talking high class cold cuts and over the last couple of days have figured out a safe reason to enter the lounge at least twice a week.

Middle Ditch: People here actually make quick runs to nearby McDonald's and other fast food places to avoid the cafeteria.

Rainboy: Life in Lexington sucks, but I'm making the best of it.

Cloudia: Yeah, throw in delicious turkey sandwiches.

Marja: Have a plan to make regular raids and I will find out.