I wrote this email to a restaurant chain that shall remain nameless for now. If I go back and they are still having problems, I'm going public.
I believe your employees in SoCal need a refresher on how, and why, they should wear gloves.
I say this because I enjoy eating at your fine restaurants, but I also used to enjoy a certain burrito chain, and then they poisoned a bunch of people because their employees were using dirty hands. Now I don't eat those burritos. I don't want to lose you as well. So this letter is for my benefit as much as it is for yours.
A little background: I am an RN, and I was also a health department inspector for a little while, so I know gloves. I change gloves daily on countless occasions. I am also not a fan of gloves in food service, because they give people a false sense of security. Because the hand underneath the glove is clean, the worker forgets that the glove itself gets dirty really fast. So people don't take them off when they should.
I have seen your employees on multiple occasions (I eat at your restaurant often) using their gloved hands to remove the lids from food storage containers, open cooler doors, touch cash register screens, touch their own clothing, and (gross!) handle money, and then use those same gloved hands to reach into food bins and touch the food that people would then eat.
Anyone who took a college Chemistry 101 class probably performed the experiment of swabbing money and placing the specimen in a petri dish, and coming back a few days later to see what was growing. E.Coli usually showed up somewhere in the classroom. So "don't touch money" should be a no-brainer. But as a health inspector, I was also very nervous about people touching doors to coolers or other surfaces, and then touching food. How do we know those surfaces are clean? We don't.
I don't understand why California allows mingling of foods--reaching into a bin with a gloved hand, and then reaching into another bin with that same gloved hand, spreads the food residue from one bin to another. You have bell peppers, for example, which are a member of the nightshade family, and are commonly a source of food allergies. When I worked as a health inspector, I was told to require facilities to have separate serving utensils for each bin. But California is a wacky state, so apparently the health inspectors don't mind it here. So let's let that pass.
HOWEVER, when an employee wipes her gloved hands on her shirt and then sticks that hand into a bin of food, that entire bin of food should be thrown away. (I didn't tell anyone to do this. But when I saw this, I didn't get that topping that day.)
I have an exhaustive list of infractions by your employees, but it's just the same thing over and over. Grossness, grossness, dirty dirty grossness. You get the picture. So, in conclusion of this long letter, let me just say this: A hand should be gloved immediately before touching food, never a moment before, and then as soon as that customer's food handling is over, the glove should come off. If that worker needs to touch a surface or cooler door or big white tub of cheese, the glove should be taken off and thrown away, and then a NEW glove should be put on to finish the order. This means, unless you are set up like a Ford auto plant and everyone has only one job over and over, each new customer's pizza gets a new pair of gloves. And, duh, never touch a cash register (?!?!?!) and then go back to touching someone else's food.
I am available to host a glove-utilization technique class for your employees in LA, for the price of some free lunch. If not me, you need someone to do it, because this is how that burrito chain got in trouble and spread E.Coli to a bunch of people. All it takes is one person with dirty hands. Watch yourself.
2) Mixed pairs synchronized swimming If there is mixed pairs in figure skating, tennis, and whatever else is currently an Olympic sport, there is no reason for there to not be men in synchronized swimming. And with all the men who perform in Cirque du Soleil water shows swimming around, obviously there are enough men who can compete like this. Other levels of competition have competitions with men; see Italy here in the World Synchronized Swimming Championships.
3) Darts Olympics has a competition for air rifles. Translation: bb guns. If they have bb guns, and skeet shooting, and archery, etc., they can have medals for darts.
4) Polo There are already numerous horse riding sports in the Olympics, and they are mostly technical competitions. Imagine teams of polo players thundering around the stadium. That would be awesome. And polo is a real sport!
5) Chess Chess is the most intense of any competition. This one is a stretch for the Olympics, but imagine awarding an Olympic gold medal to a chess champion. And it would allow more countries a chance to win--in this age of hi-tech training, the only chance most countries have to earn a medal is if they have athletes who have the money to train someplace like the U.S. But chess can be learned and practiced anywhere. Anyone has a shot. That's what the Olympics are supposed to be about.
I am heading to the wilderness for a few weeks, or as long as I can handle living out of my Ford Explorer, and I need some books to read at night while I am hiding from bears.
I don't like e-readers of any sort.
So, should you have a book you think I should read, send it to me. I'll send it back when I'm done, or I will drop it off when I pass by your home in the northwestern U.S. I could take recommendations, but I probably won't have the presence of organizaion to go find a book or order it online. I know myself. I won't read it unless someone hands it to me and says "Read this."
If you don't need your book back, I can instead send you another book I've read from someone else.
Things no one ever told me about what it is like to be a nurse:
Working in a hospital means 12 hour shifts, three days a week. But you will then spend another two days each week feeling hung over.
If you get a job caring for patients on a hospital floor, you won't need to understand anything you learned in chemistry. But learn why having too much TSH identifies hypothyroidism. It really is something you will probably need to understand, and be able to explain to your patients.
The better the hospital, the more shit the nurses themselves have to wipe off their patients' asses. The days of nurses' aides doing all the dirty work are over.
When you do cpr, there is no soundtrack playing like in "Grey's Anatomy." It isn't exciting. It is stressful and sad, partially because it usually doesn't work.
Pressure stockings are magic, for both you and your patients. You will eliminate hours of leg pain if you wear them. Just remember, if your patients are wearing them, take them off for an hour every day to take pressure off the skin. And when you peel them off your patient, cover your mouth and nose, because edema damages skin and it sheds off, and a lot of dry skin will fly through the air when you pull off those stockings. When you breathe in a chunk of that, you won't feel clean for days.
An LPN and an RN are different. LPNs usually work in nursing homes, and doctors' offices. Both places can be great jobs, but RNs make more money. RNs usually work in hospitals. The main difference between RNs and BSNs is...honestly, I'm still not sure. Don't worry about it, you can get a job with an RN associate's degree. Not everywhere, but a lot of good hospitals don't care. And the nursing care at the jankiest hospital should, and can, be exactly the same as the fanciest hospital, so take pride in your work and be nice to people, no matter where you work.
If you are nice to your patients, sometimes they will come back and bring you cake. And those hugs, while they are trying to balance some cake without dropping it as they hug you, have an energy that feels really good.
Never talk to geriatric patients like they are kids. Their mental processes may have declined, but they are still adults, and they understand more than they can communicate. Although it helps to slow down. Practice this with your friends: speak slowly, but not in a condescending way. It is really difficult to find the balance.
In job interviews, ask what your nurse-to-patient ratio should be. Then after the manager gives you an answer, ask again, what it is really. If you have more than 1:6, unless you are desperate for a job, it may be best to look for a job elsewhere. Hospital administrators will sacrifice providing nurses for patient care to save money, and then blame nurses when patients complain. FYI: Texas and Florida hospitals are notorious for giving nurses too many patients.
If your patient is in labor, give her an enema and then tell her to walk herself to the bathroom for a little while. It makes everything a lot more pleasant. The baby will not end up in the toilet.
Psych patients know they are crazy. You don't need to talk to them as if they don't know it. But patients with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease are not psych patients. It's quite different. For example, notice I separated "dementia" and "Alzheimer's Disease." Even those are not the same situation.
Family members of patients are far crazier than anyone in the psych ward.
If you learn how to read an ekg strip, you will make a lot more money than other hospital nurses. At least learn the three lethal rhythms.
There is no addiction stronger than an American's addiction to fast food. And those addicts somehow legitimize it by drinking a Diet Coke. Patients will be in a hospital bed, with heart failure, and they will still ask family members to bring them some fast food, with a Diet Coke. You will never get through to these people, so don't try. But document it as "Patient is non-compliant with diet." And let them see you documenting every hamburger wrapper and french fry container in the room. THAT will make them behave, a little.
Male nurses are usually expected to do more heavy lifting than female nurses. This is total bullshit. Equal pay means equal work. Correction: equal pay means equal effort. They have to at least try to help.
Two words: "travel nursing."
When you unplug a gastric feeding tube, bend the tube to kink it before you unplug it. Gas in the intestines often bubbles back up and you don't want one of those bubbles to pop out of the tube while you are leaning over it to attach a syringe or something. Gross.
Wounds can smell really bad. Like, so bad, you start to panic.
If you work on a hospital floor, you may be asked to hook up a bag of morphine to a patient's IV line, with the intention of killing the patient.
If you give someone a bed bath, you will probably use disposable cloths. But bring a tub of warm water and a washcloth and wash the patient's face and back with it, just because it feels good. And otherwise, the patient will tell everyone he/she never got bathed.
The respiratory therapists will be your favorite people in the hospital because they will suction the mucous out of your patients' trach tubes.
Narcotic pain medication is a wonderful tool to use, and we in America are lucky that we get to use it. A lot of countries do not. But a portion of your work day, as a nurse in America, will be spent giving those legalized narcotics to drug addicts who go to the E.R. with fabricated/exaggerated medical conditions just so they can get drugs for a few days. And those drug addicts are very selfish. They have no problem manipulating you for as long as it takes to get more drugs, which keeps you from taking care of your other patients who are actually in pain.
Be careful which coworkers you ask for help. Pay attention to the nurses who like sports. They comprehend the concept of "teamwork." And they won't talk shit about you behind your back. This is REASON NUMBER ONE that getting girls to play sports when they are young is beneficial.
If your charge nurse sucks, ignore him/her. If the doctor taking care of your patients sucks, quit immediately.
Alcohol detox is hideous. Learn the stages of alcohol withdrawl so you can chart them for your patients correctly. And never turn your back on a detox patient. You may end up with a plastic tooth.
The idea for this trip came a few weeks ago. Why? I don't know. But I thought, I'm going to drop everything and I am going to drive around the country by myself.
Step 1: Decide to take a trip.
Specifically, I shall drive to the Pacific Northwest.
Not Seattle. Been there, done it. I don't need to see packs of hipsters wandering by, drinking coffee sweetened with lavender honey as they talk about "social media influencers" and say things like "No worries" or "It is what it is" or whatever the new catch phrase is.
I am going to drive aimlessly through Utah, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, until I pull up to a body of water that resembles an ocean. And from there, I shall turn left. Goal: see mountains, valleys, and a waterfall or two.
But...my Toyota Corolla shall not make it that far. No. Hmm.
Step 2: Figure out how to get there.
The original thought was to fly up to Missoula or Salt Lake City or wherever, and rent a car. But flights to Montana are seriously like $800 from where I live. Ridiculous, I said. I could take that money and use it to buy a car that would make it, I said. Ha ha, that would be funny, I said. And then I listened to myself.
So today I woke up, I read Craigslist, and a few hours later I bought this.
Since I was old enough to contemplate getting a car of my own, I have always wanted a big black SUV. Not the round, quasi-minivan type that fill parking lots at elementary school soccer games. I wanted boxy, raised-up-on-struts, big tires, shiny black with tinted windows, that isn't really for off-roading, but could handle the job if I were ever chased by assassins and I need to cut through a forest to escape.
And whatta ya know? There it is, I found him. Hello, lovely. What shall he be named? I was thinking "Cash," because that's how I paid for him, in a parking lot behind a bar. Or "Vinnie," because when my mother saw me drive up she said "You look like you're in the Mafia!"
With the seats folded down, I can stretch out in the back, so I shall put a memory foam mattress or something of the sort in there and sleep on the nights I am too scared to sleep outside. But I don't want to bring too much junk with me other than that, in case it breaks down and I have to ditch it on the side of the road and take an Uber to the nearest airport and go home. Which leads me to my next issue:
Step 3: Umm...
...I guess I should, like, get some camping stuff. Or something. I don't know.
This is an article in the Miami Herald. Front page news.
...about a condo swimming pool. Apparently the tiles around the pool need to be replaced. The governor of Florida was apparently paid off by a hospital to change pediatrics surgery standards--because the hospital was failing the standards, so it was easy to just change the rules--but Miami news is reporting about a swimming pool.
I was driving through Nowheresville, Central Time Zone of U.S.A., and I heard this gentleman, who goes by the name Shakey Graves, sing in the studio of a random radio station. He is a one-man band, playing drums with his feet and picking at his guitar. After much Googling and YouTube-ing, I present this song for your daily uplifting moment. No feet-drums, but still really fun.
If your spouse, parent, or friend is in the hospital, you can help make them feel better. Here are some suggestions.
I am using "them" just for convenience, even though grammatically it should be "him/her," so please forgive the errant grammar.
1) Never, ever try to cheer up a patient.
2) There is no pill that is as powerful as the feeling of waking up from a nap, and seeing a good friend or some family sitting there with you, simply because they want to be there. So bring some work to do, and just sit there for a while and let them sleep. Take turns with other people, one at a time in the room, in shifts. Just be there, because you want to be, and pay attention.
3) If they need help, do it. Don't call for help for every little thing. Get the blanket. Walk them to the bathrooom. If they need help eating, a nurse will feed them, but that nurse probably has 10-15 minutes at most to shovel in all the food. Instead, you pick up the fork and help. It is both the easiest way to help, and the most helpful way to help. This is especially true with aging parents. No parent should be fed by a nurse when a child is there who can do it. This is the greatest bond two people can achieve. It is more than love. It is life.
4) There is an unfortunate notion that as our parents grow older, and the children become the caregivers, that it means their roles are reversed and the parents "become" the children. They are not children. They are adults. Even if they have dementia, they are still adults. Speak to them accordingly. It is better for them, and also for you.
5) Get a warm washcloth and wash their face in the morning. Paint your wife's nails or shave your husband's face or fluff your friend's pillows. Take them on a walk up and down the halls. You will not break them.
6) Yelling at the nurses will perhaps get you what you want at that moment, and make you feel like you are accomplishing something. But it will forever set a course for the other nurses to talk about you at the nurse's station, and then they will do only what they are required on paper to do. If you want to be treated well, you'll get more by charming the nurses instead of bossing them around.
7) A hospital is not a hotel. It is not a spa. You may be able to order food, but it is not a restaurant. You may want that Diet Coke now, but the nurse is required to perform tasks in order of importance. Someone else's pain meds are more important than your wife's Diet Coke. And if you get mad and complain that you had to wait...see #6.
8) Friends should visit often. But unless the patient would normally lay in bed at home and welcome people to come over and stare at them for hours, hordes of visitors are just stressful. So unless you are close enough that you will wipe their face and help them eat and walk to the bathroom, then you should come in with some cookies or flowers or something nice and then LEAVE. They need help. They don't need to entertain you.
9) If they are awake, and you are reading something on your phone, talk about what you are reading. Watch something on TV together and talk about it. When you come to visit, have a story to tell about the outside world.
10) You don't need to sleep over every night. Those pull-out couches are awful, and you do need to sleep for your own health. But once in a while, you should want to be there.
11) Only in America do husbands participate in the room while his wife is giving birth. If you're going to be nervous and annoying, sit outside. Really, it's okay. Your wife's mother can easily, and effectively, take over the job. If you're going to pass out, the nurses do NOT need to deal with your drama while they are working to keep your wife and your baby alive. So seriously, wait outside. But if you can handle the blood and pain and stuff, it is really cool to see.
12) The biggest, burliest men will become the biggest, saddest babies when they are left alone in a hospital room. They will whine, pout, and be otherwise miserable. And it is endearing. So if you know a guy in the hospital who puts on a brave front, just show up for a few minutes anyway. I have never had a patient who did not want anyone to come visit. They just want it in measured doses sometimes.
13) Geriatric patients may become disoriented in a new setting, like a hospital room, and have was is called "hospital acquired dementia." It is temporary and it is not serious. They may seem to shut down a little, or become agitated. While unpleasant to witness, family and close friends being there helps relieve the stress and gives them something familiar to help orient them. So hang out in the room, and be calm.
14) Most importantly, if you don't want to be there, don't be there. You can be fake-nice for hours, but they will notice when you drop your guard and are honest for 2 minutes and make it obvious that you want to leave. And that is the moment the patient will remember forever.
He died from "heart-related illness," at the age of 41. We were together years ago, and he certainly didn't have any problems back then, or at least that I knew about. So I don't know what happened. Maybe he really did have a problem. Maybe he did drugs. Who knows...
I found the obituary because I was searching for him online, as I have so many times at night, when I have a chance to sit down and wonder how I could have made things better for us when we were together. It is a stupid topic to ponder. Neither of us "did" anything "wrong," other than perhaps fall in love too young.
Ugh. "Fall in love" is so trite.
But love him, I did. I do. Can I say "I do?" He's no longer alive, but I'll say I do, still. About him, I feel exactly the same.
The way we met was nothing special. No big romantic moment, just... in Las Vegas, at a bar, he starts stammering, I just stand there like a dope because I am so insecure I can't BELIEVE he is speaking to me, and the next night we are at Cirque du Soleil, getting our photo taken in the audience by the house photographer, as we sit close enough for our arms to touch. In public. This was a big deal, back then.
He was gruff, clumsy, lumpy, and could be a little bit of a grouch. He was perfect. Just standing next to him, the knot of chaos in my brain seemed to unravel, and I calmed down. My heart beat a little slower, and it felt good. I am so high-strung. But with him, I was calm. Things were always fine. Fun. Happy.
People thought he was a little scary. His face seemed to usually be in a frown and his eyes were so dark brown, they were almost black. He was quiet, but that was because he was just a little shy. He was unintentionally funny, and when he did talk it was concise and worthwhile. He paid attention to the world around him. He usually didn't laugh at my jokes. To be fair, they're usually not funny, so that's fine. And later, he'd find a reason to repeat them. He didn't laugh, but he listened. Much, much better.
We didn't live in the same city, so over a few years we flew to see each other a lot. As I traveled the country with work in my post-MTV days, he sometimes came along so I could rest my head on his arm in bed. When we didn't see each other, we talked on the phone, every night. Every night. We'd share the most insignificant details of our day, and the minutiae made it feel like we were together. And it was fine.
Until, it wasn't. Someone who looks like him, with tree trunks for legs and eyelashes that tickle his eyebrows, catches the attention of others. Oftentimes, it was from women. He had a Pamela Anderson poster on his wall in his laundry room, where he thought he could keep it without me questioning why he liked her so much. He'd had a girlfriend before me. But I loved that part of him. I wore that bit of information like a badge of honor and told everyone I knew. He liked women, but he loved me.
Loved. Past tense, now.
He eventually moved much further away, to a new city for a new job and got new friends, and the phone calls slowed. Weeks went by and neither of us suggested one of us take a trip and see the other. I, like an idiot, met someone and went on a few dates. He, and I suspected he was also dating someone else, called and yelled at me because I wasn't in his life anymore. We were young, and passion burns bright.
We said, let's get together again. But he couldn't leave his new job, and I also had to work, and so it goes, and by the time I showed up, when I looked at him those dark brown eyes weren't deep and shiny like they usually were when he looked at me, and instead they were just hazy and a little gray. I couldn't find what I was looking for in there anymore. Instead, I found a photo on his TV, with him standing with his arm around a tall, skinny, brown-haired guy with a huge smile who looked like he couldn't believe he was so lucky. From first glance, it could have been me, but it definitely was not. And I wasn't angry about it. I was mad only at myself, for letting him get away. Maybe he forgot to hide that photo from me. Or maybe, he left it out to purposely let me know that life goes on.
Not living closer was a huge mistake. I wish I had not traveled around so much with work. I wish I had picked one place to live, and invited him to come live with me. He never asked me to stay with him, mostly because he knew I was having too much fun being my glamorous self and chasing fame and fortune. But I wish I had plopped myself down close to him anyway and found a way to make a life for myself there. I didn't need to be married. I just wanted him to remember I was there, hello, it's me. I didn't go after him, and then he went away.
So after that disastrous trip, we never spoke again. Over time, I tried. I called, but he had a new number. I emailed, although I had only an AOL address and most people had ditched those long ago. I asked mutual friends, but no one knew much after he'd moved away from them. Then with Facebook, I tried every combination of searches I could think of. Nothing. I thought, he's hiding, because he's back with a woman again. There has to be a reason why he's not trying to talk to me. There was that one important fact, that he was not emailing me or asking anyone about me or trying to track me down. Easy to find, I definitely am. So he was staying under the radar on purpose. Perhaps he was hiding from that whole interlude in his life, and was back to having a girlfriend. Yes.
That made me feel better.
A few days ago, I did a Google search for him, and when I didn't find him, I jokingly thought Maybe he's dead. Why would anyone be so hard to find? Is he really trying to stay away?
Boom. Nope, not a joke. Searched him again today, with a new combination of words. Found him. Yep. He's dead.
In a way, thinking about him is like thinking about my love for Hugh Jackman, or his favorite was Matt Damon, or someone else unreachable, who exists to me only as a concept. I would never actually speak to him or see him again, I knew it. I didn't think we'd get back together. The photo on the TV, which didn't have me in it, that photo pretty much ended that chapter of life in The Story Of Me. But still I have spent many a day, and a night when alone but not lonely, when I simply imagined what it would be like if he were there. What it would be like if he were taking up half of the bed, snoring or watching ESPN or eating his nightly bowl of Capt'n Crunch. It was so loud. Crunch, crunch, crunch. We'd be older, we'd be settled, it would just be normal. Good, bad, whatever. Life.
What would it have been like? All those years, gone by.
It didn't make me sad. I just thought, maybe if he were around now, things would be better.
And then I'd think, tomorrow I'll try to find him again. I just want to know, if he is he with a woman, or simply with a man who is not me. I'll try something new, again. And then I'd go to sleep.
His obituary didn't list any spouse, man or woman. It just listed individual members of family, and then just "friends." That could mean anything. But at least he wasn't married, for better or for worse.
Oh, man. He's dead.
When we would sleep, we wouldn't move. I would hang on to him, and he would to me, and we would just lay there. Sometimes, after hours of being crushed, I'd have to wake up and push him over to make him change position, maybe roll over to his own side of the bed. Then he was out again. And I would lay there for a few minutes, listening to him breathe. In...pause...out...pause. Repeat.
I haven't been sleeping well lately. That's mostly why I've thought of him at night. I wish he were there to help calm me down, help me sleep.
A conversation with a couple of pre-teen girls, A and B.
Me: What did you do yesterday?
Girl A: I literally sat home and cried all day.
A: Because my dad yelled at me.
Me: What happened?
B: She's mad because she didn't get a new iPhone.
A: Okay. So my dad was like hinting that I was going to get a new iPhone, and he kept saying stuff that made me think I was going to get it, and then we went to the Apple store, but when we got there he bought a new iPhone 6 FOR MY MOM.
B: I would be so mad.
Me: What kind of phone do you have now?
A: An iPhone 5s.
Me: What's wrong with it?
A: It works okay. But it's old. And it's white.
B: She wants the new iPhone 6 in Rose Gold.
A: Oh my God I love Rose Gold.
Me: But that's a really expensive phone.
A: But I only want the one with the 4.7 inch display. It's cheaper.
Me: Why didn't your dad buy it for you?
A: Because...I don't know. He didn't say anything, and he bought the phone for my mom, and then we just left, and I was like so sad and he got mad at me and he yelled at me. (pause) But it's not fair, because he totally got my hopes up. If he wasn't going to buy it, then he shouldn't have pretended like he was going to.
Me: That's a fair statement. What did he say that made you think you were going to get it?
A: He didn't really say anything. It was just...like, he was hinting.
B: HE WAS TOTALLY HINTING.
A: He was hinting and, like, thinking about it, I could tell.
Me: Does your older sister have the new iPhone 6?
Me: Do your friends have it?
A: Some of them do, but not in Rose Gold. Well one of them does, but she's not really my friend.
B: Oh my God. XXXXXX said her mom was going to buy her an Android!
B: And she said she freaked out, and her mom was like "It's okay to be different!"
A: If my dad bought me an Android, I would not take it to school.
B: I know. And she was like, 'But I don't want an Android...'
Me: Android phones are really good. I thought the Samsung phones are the best phones.
Me: So...then what did your dad say?
A: He said to stop complaining, and I was lucky to have an iPhone, because when he was my age he still had to talk on a phone that plugged into the wall, and if I didn't stop complaining then he would take my phone away.
B: Oh my God XXXXXXXX cracked the screen on her iPhone again and her parents took her phone away for a week.
A: So I went into my room and I cried all day. And then I made a YouTube video.
Me: Of what?
A: My new dance. In my class we're learning spins.
Me: Do you think your parents will buy it for you?
A: I hope so.
B: I think they will.
A: Oh my God I hope they will.
Me: Well if he does, you can give your old phone to me, because your iPhone is better than my phone. Actually it's probably worth more than my car.