Wikipedia defines safety as “the state of being ‘safe’ (from French sauf), the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other event which could be considered non-desirable.” Next, when you add into the equation of safety, the location of a hospital, I can guarantee that the checklist grows even longer.
Within a hospital, there are safety signs everywhere, as there should be. Contracts / agreements / documents / checklists are endlessly written up and followed – again, as there should be. Everything needs to be signed off on, and then double checked before a third checking, and finally a final, final check is stamped with an approval. And yes, as they should most definitely be, especially at a hospital. However, knowing the location of a particular set of keys to unlock the bathroom door with a patient trapped inside – nothing. They have got absolutely nothing on that one.
Since you weren’t with me, let me set the scene. For my job of cleaning fish aquariums, I was on-location at a hospital. If you want to be really specific, it was a rehabilitation and therapy hospital. In turn, these patients were definitely in need of aid and attention, so they would not be going anywhere, anytime too soon. Nevertheless, the hospital had some fish tanks which for my job, I visited monthly to clean.
On this particular day, I was deep into my typical routine, where a certain percentage of water had already been removed from the aquarium. What obviously follows is the refilling process, which was now underway. To transport the water, I had to use the bucket method and was therefore carrying the water to and from the nearby bathroom. There was this hose attachment which connected directly onto the sink’s faucet. The other end would be slowly filling up five gallon sized buckets, as I would continue doing the random duties associated with cleaning a fish tank. Speaking of duty, nobody would usually use the bathroom during these durations of time since it was quite obvious that it was in continued use by “The Fish Guy.” Usually is the key word in the prior sentence.
After starting up another bucket for filling, I exit the bathroom, while leaving its door propped open with a heavy bucket of fish tank cleaning tools. As I head back to the tank area , I notice out of the corner of my eye an elderly woman “walkering” (that’s walking with a walker) her way towards the bathroom. Sensing her confusion with the bucket of obstacles door prop, I spin around holding up my hands and explain, “Ma’am, excuse me, but I’m really sorry, but the bathroom is unavailable right now.”
With a swift kicking motion towards my door prop bucket, she gruffly replies, “I can see that, but I have to go.” My blue bucket of cleaning supplies is shot away from the bathroom. Then, with amazing strength due to the apparent urgency at hand, the door was swung shut sending off a booming sound that could probably be heard throughout the entire hospital. By the way, the location of the aquarium and this particular bathroom are both within the cafeteria area. In turn, not only do I have my blue bucket rolling on its side with cleaning equipment of sponges and tools sprayed out all over the floor, I also have each and everyone’s eyes from the cafeteria tables being directly focused on me. Great. This type of attention is always awesome – not.
Now remember, one of my other buckets still resides inside the bathroom at this moment in time and it’s busy being filled up slowly with water. Quickly, I scan the room of staring (along with some glaring) eyes in desperate search for a hospital employee. After sweeping motions are made over the entire room, I finally spot out two women in hospital work attire and give them a point prior to my hustle over.
Upon arrival, I simply state without an introduction, “We have a situation.”
“You’re damn right you do. Are you going to head back over there and clean that up?” This employee is only concerned about the kicked over bucket and scattered tools.
Realizing the distraction behind me, I wave it off. “That’s nothing.” Trying to refocus them on my words, my hands attempt to tell the story as I narrate, “An elderly woman just went into the bathroom. I tried to explain to her that the bathroom was already in use, but she just wouldn’t listen.” Sensing boredom courtesy of the glazed over looks that I was receiving from both employees, my hands flutter recklessly about as I decide to skip to the end. “Okay, I’m filling a bucket with water in that bathroom.” On the word “that”, I perform an overly dramatic point. Then, to help reach my emphatic conclusion, I go into a teapot pose and end with “and the spigot is running.”
What felt like an eternity of a pause made, my teapot pose starts to waver. Finally, the other employee speaks and I hear, “Can’t help you.” At this point, I believe I’m invisible to hospital “help” number two. I choose to do the ignoring and go back to the one that was at least concerned over my blue bucket spillage. “Can’t someone unlock the door?”
“We don’t have a key.” Again, this comes from hospital “help” number two.
“Really?” I shoot off into her direction along with a touch of sarcasm. Okay, a strong touch.
I’ve now gotten the attention of hospital “help” number one again. There’s some odd neck move maneuver performed (not as good as my teapot pose though) as she adds, “Yeah, when you lock the bathroom, it’s locked.”
Genius. I glare into the neck twisty female’s eyes and state, “So, what happens if the person in the locked bathroom pulls the emergency cord next to the toilet?”
Silence. Seriously, I got silence, because they had no clue. None.
“Uh, you guys better work on that one.” I leave the dynamic duo and march back to the bathroom. Ironically enough, just as I was about to give the door a hard rapping police knock, it opens.
The elderly woman walkers herself out and barks at me, “It’s all yours. You better take care of that bucket of yours. It’s going to overflow and make a mess in there.”
I kick into “kill them with kindness” mode and smile out, “Thank you, ma’am.” Ma’am probably meant something other than . . . ma’am.
With several quick motions, I grab my empty blue bucket from the floor, push the door open wider to prop it, and flick off the faucet. The bucket is filled to the brim with water. Then, just as I was feeling a sense of relief, I was punched in the nose with a pugnacious smell of “duty” or, who’s kidding anyone, it was a repulsive, fresh shit smell. I actually had to step out and take in a breath of cafeteria air.
Pulling myself together, I now see that the old woman with her walker is almost seated at a nearby table. I could have sworn that I saw a smirk. Nevertheless, the inevitable has to occur. I turn back to the bathroom and give it a scan. In the beginning of this tale, I explained that these people were in need. Well, by the sight laid out before me, this bathroom was now in need of help. It looked like urine was all over the floor while the toilet itself was speckled with brown marks. Luckily, the sink and my white bucket were far enough away from the explosion that I believe nothing contaminated it or truly “touched” it. This was my final bucket needed to fill up the tank aquarium anyway. Thank God.
Focused, I grab my bucket, detach the hose from the spigot, and then suddenly realize something. After unleashing that mess in the bathroom, that woman didn’t even wash her hands at the end of the production. With my foot, I push away the blue bucket door stop and allow the door to shut behind me. I’m now staring out into the cafeteria and see the woman eating her sandwich which is being held with those disgusting, uncleansed hands.
I head over to the table, “Excuse me,” pause, pause, “Ma’am?”
Her mouth is full, so she just looks up and chews.
As I feel the rest of the eyes from the table shift towards me, I continue, “I just wanted to let you know that the hose attachment has been removed from the sink. So, you’ll be able to wash your hands now.” A big smile smears across my face.
Those same table eyes that were drilling through me, all slowly turn to the “woman.” They know, they all now know.
Feeling a little vindication, I spin around and head back to the tank area. Aquarium is officially done and it looks good. I wrap things up and begin to head out. However, along the way, I feel more eyes watching me. Ahhh – the dynamic duo. My work is not done.
Giving off another broad smile, I wave and then point to the door, “It’s unlocked now. Good thing, because that bathroom needs a cleaning itself.”
My hands do some of the explaining and give off a wave under my nose. “Whew – and it wasn’t me, ladies. Good luck with that!”