Forgive my warped ER humor today...and big thanks to Dr. A for the awesome adventure/interview last night. He rocks. Find it here... Doctor Anonymous.
To the nurse who "expelled gas" in the nurses' station a few weeks ago and didn't fess up to it, I have just one thing to say. Shame on you! What would your mother say?! I hope you felt bad that night when you got home and thought back to how you just sat there, quietly, while I absorbed the blame and derision meant for you.
I was raised in a conservative, Catholic family. Seven of us kids with a loving mother and a providing father who, with gusto, cherished their traditional roles. Besides the obvious rules that accompany a Catholic background, we also had an 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not expel gas in public." In my family, the "f" word stood for "farting." To this day, I still have more trouble with that word than the real "f" word. I'm not f...... kidding, either. If we did have to "release," we were taught to leave the room and find a private spot where you could wallow in your stink all by yourself. It's a rule I still try to uphold to this day, despite my wife making the best f...... chili I have ever had.
So, a few weeks back, I sat down in the nurses' station to catch up on a chart. It was an easy-going, friendly crew, consisting of three female nurses, a female secretary, and moi. Yes, I was the only guy in the vicinity. And, of course, I wouldn't have sat down if I knew what was coming.
We were all immersed in our work when, suddenly, I smelled something rancid. No, it wasn't a pine-scented plug-in. Or the industrial-strength apple-scented spray. I would have welcomed those scents. Instead, imagine a rotten egg mixed with a touch of skunk. Seriously, it was bad. I would rather have been sitting in a neglected Johnny-on-the-Spot than in that nurses' station.
I looked up, crinkling my nose and grimacing my face, hoping that it was a patient in a surrounding treatment room, one stricken with a lower GI bleed, rather than one of my coworkers. One of my female coworkers. No such luck. My coworkers were looking around as well, noses crinkled with as much disdain as my own.
We were all silent. And suddenly, the next thing I knew, I was being glared at by all four women, supposed friends, their eyes hurling their accusing daggers in my direction. It suddenly dawned on me what they were thinking.
"Oh, no," I said, shaking my head vigorously, "it wasn't me. I didn't do it. Don't assume that just because I am the only guy around, it was me."
I was met with silence and continued stares. I felt the overwhelming urge to explain my way out of this. "Seriously," I said, giving them my puppy-dog look, "I didn't do it. Maybe it was a patient or someone walking by in the hallway. Heck," I even chanced, "maybe it was one of you."
I was met with more silence. Frustrating silence. And more continued stares. Sneers, actually. If this was half as bad as a police interrogation, just declare me guilty and throw away my key.
Finally, I heard the secretary say in a low voice "Whoever smelt it, dealt it." Hey, come on people, be fair here! I "smelt it," alright, and I had the singed nasal hairs to prove it. But I didn't "dealt it." I promise. If we did an underwear check, I would have been cleared in an instant.
"Yeah," one of the older nurses added, smirking, "to think that one of us could do that!" She quickly darted her eyes away from me as I focused on her. Okay, at least now I knew which nurse did it. I stared at her just a brief moment longer, silently hoping (in that kind, gentle Catholic way) that she would choke on her Chex cereal the following morning.
Well, of course, there was no underwear check. No confessions, either. And I refused to leave. I was not going to let some wayward, XX stink-bomb embarrass me out of my seat. Go ahead and look at me, you four co-conspirators, and think whatever you want. I don't care. Okay, maybe just a little...
Of course, before the fumes could clear, the nurses' station became Grand Central Station. The neurology team, the cardiology team, the phlebotomists--they all passed through. Yep, they all crinkled their noses. Nope, none of them had the gall to address the stink with us. I refused to leave my seat. I'm not a stupid man--I knew the moment I left they would all be pointing their fingers at me. Finally, though, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to appreciate the returning smells of moth balls and sanitizer and floor wax and vomit and illness--the glorious smells of our ER. Welcome back!
This episode, unfortunately, was not isolated. It's happened to me in an elevator, in my writing group, in a car, at the gym, getting a haircut, and so on. Surrounded by women, the guy will always be looked at with disdain. Am I right, guys? And every time it's happened, I've gotten this primal urge to jump up and down and declare my innocence. Which, of course, just makes me look all the guiltier.
I've even had one brilliant senior resident teach me the finer points of dealing with this issue when I was under his supervision as a medical student. "What you do," he said, "is find a room with a really old patient in it. Preferably a sleeping patient. Man or woman, it doesn't matter. Then you go in and, while you pretend to check their cardiac monitor, you let it rip." He was being completely serious. "The best part, though," he finished, extremely proud of himself, totally ignoring the disbelief on my face, "is when you come out, make sure you tell the nurse that you think their patient just shit them self."
Call me crazy, but I don't think that's really the answer. After giving it some thought, though, I think I've come up with the solution. Well, besides the obvious--hiring more male nurses (simply to reduce my odds of getting undue blame) and posting the 11th Commandment on every free inch of ER wall space.
The solution? A pin. A nice, big visible lapel pin. Round. I'm thinking fluorescent colors. A bold, clear Times font, set at 60. Ready to be pulled out and worn in an instant. And, of course, what it will read goes without saying.
"It Wasn't Me!"
As always, thanks for reading...next post will be Monday, March 1. See you then...one last shout-out to the famous and talented Doctor Anonymous. Thank you...