droplet of life – Safety First

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.

(how to go for a ride – by this kid)

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.”

(Golden Girls ruled / Ultimate elderly woman pictured above)

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.”

(Can you imagine the pose now?)

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?”

(Hahahaha – just kidding!)

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.

(This is the before picture of the toilet.  I have tried to mentally erase the post traumatic picture and therefore will not subject my readers to that disgust and distaste.  Instead, I’ll write about it!)

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!”

(This picture would have been so much cuter at the beginning of the story)

droplet of life – The Final Gift of Beau Brummel

It was Sunday morning and my mother, sister and I were all in the kitchen for breakfast. My chair sat closest to the top of the stairway from the family room, so I could easily turn to my left and see the happenings of this room. Only five downward steps away lay Beau Brummel or while I was growing up with this black poodle of a dog, Bosie. Standing over him was my dad, who was sadly shaking his head. Bosie was not doing well and was apparently due a return trip to the vet on Monday for something my sister and I were not aware of. Nevertheless, we were simply told (warned) on the previous night (Saturday)that he was very, very sick and it definitely showed this Sunday AM.

Picture of Beau Brummel

(So, not Bosie.)

While growing up, the first routine goal of my Sunday morning regimen was to stay home from church. My dad’s a minister, therefore I’m the son of a preacher man. Cool song, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s church every week. No matter how many times or how loud I played the Twisted Sister’s song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I still found myself pouting in a pew on Sunday morning. “Thanks be to God.”  Not really.

I was lucky though . . . actually, my dad would jump all over me for that and correct me, so let’s start that paragraph over.  I was blessed though, because the church we went to was typically over between 11am to 11:30am. However, end time all depended on the sermon durations, kool-aid drinkings, and/or baby dunkings. Normally, I got home in time for the ever important 1 o’clock kick-off time of my Beloved Birds. Yes, I was blessed to have my church wrap up their cult callings in time for my pigskin yearnings.

At this point, I really need to mention the fact that my dad was indeed a minister, but just not at this church . . . nor at any church. However, he’s legit – very legit actually. He was schooled enough in religion to earn his doctorate. But, at this time of his career, he moved beyond individual churches and was chief dog of the pastoral care department in the biggest hospital of D-ware – kind of funny saying something is the biggest in the smallest state.

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(Yeah! Hollywood knows about us!)

Nevertheless, my dad’s job at the hospital was to chat it up with the living dead. I know that I’m trying to joke about a very serious subject, but that’s the only way I know how to deal with something of this solemn-tude (made up word). Within this arena, my dad is clearly the man that I will never be. How he can hold someone’s hand while assuring them the afterlife that they both just prayed for, now awaits them at the light at the end of the hospital hallway is beyond me. And to think that while growing up, I would greet him at the door with my lame ass issues of playing baseball, dating chicks, and how annoying my little sister was.

“Hey son, I just watched seven people die today as I assured them that God awaits them at the gates of heaven. Meanwhile, you stand here griping to me about some 16 year old girl who won’t give you the time of day? How about you go Stridex your face for the umpteenth time today and quit taking long showers . . . we know what you’re doing in there.”  

Deep down, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he yearned to say; I mean, the man grew up in Detroit. We visited there for one summer vacation. One. That’s all we needed to see. The interesting part of the trip was visiting a home where several of his friends were gathering to meet up with him. Wives, kids, the old gang. Unfortunately, they sent us kids outside to play. In this case, I had to toss around the football with a couple weak armed Michigan want-to-bes. After about 15 minutes of watching them miss and then watching their return throws go everywhere but to me, I headed inside for what I told was a “break.”  

Not thinking too much of it, I just walked in. Being summer, it was only the screen door that I needed to open. Being just a screen door, nobody heard the entry made by the kid (me). Loud conversation continued with f-bombs, bullshits, and god damns. Feeling initially shocked, a grin slowly crept across my face as I realized the owner of some of these creative dishings. It was my father – the Rev, as his friends liked to call him. Suddenly, my mom appeared in the foyer and realized what I had just witnessed. I was proud, but she hustled me outside again to the boys of Michigan – neither one became a Wolverine or Spartan.

Alright, so now you know that it wasn’t my dad that I was disrespecting at the front of the church every week. Instead, it was some other dude (or in some cases/stories,  a dudette) that was on stage . . . er, at the podium or pulpit – take your pick. I mention stage, because during the church’s annual Christmas Pageant, people would always say that I could do it because of my dad. Are they saying my dad is acting up there? Hmmmm.

(not in the pageant, but still very funny)

Actually, for one Christmas Eve show, I forgot my lines. Went blank. Congregation stared. Instantly, I hated Christmas. Bring on New Year’s. During this forgetful mishap, I knew what was supposed to happen next, but didn’t have the words to get there. In turn, I randomly waved the kid on and pointed for him to continue. Who knows – maybe the audience thought it was the other kid, but I’m guessing that my wide eyed dumb look gave myself away. I was also very open about screwing things up afterwards. FYI – anyone who really knows me; realizes that I moved past my disdain to Christmas. In fact, when people ask me about my religion, I tell them that I believe in Santa – love the guy.

That leads us to questioning God. “Wait – what about Beau Brummell?”  Okay, I’ll get back to the dog lying at the bottom of the steps, but I don’t write about these religious tangents too much, so I’m running (typing) with it. Back in the same church that I went blank on Christmas Eve on its stage, I questioned the existence of God with my Youth Group. Now, for these groups, this is probably a common topic that could creep up, especially at this teenage age. But remember who my dad was – which meant, I was a P.K. (Preacher’s Kid). Holy Shit said the church ministers . . . internally, of course.

That was quite a time. Everyone had a different story or tale or happening to prove the existence of God. Basically, what it came down to, they scared me into believing because when my parents die, they will go to heaven. “Don’t you want to go where your parents will be?”  Uh, thanks. Where do I sign up for the “I believe in God club”? I’m sorry, but the stories, tales, and happenings were lame. But that junk about going where my parents are going or not, that scared the crap out of me. I chanted out what I was supposed to, got baptised, and became a member of the church.

Funny side note – We had a lock-in that Saturday night prior to the big baptism day and church member day. A lock-in. With teenagers. They let us wander around and a small group of us began playing strip poker. I was winning when they caught us all. If they told me that God had created the breasts that I had just seen, my faith would have become so much . . . stronger. Notice how I didn’t write the easy joke out of “harder.”  All class here.

(oh – the goodies you can see with a hand like this)

Back to the dying dog. I loved that dog. My mom had him prior to my little sister, me, and my dad. That dog allowed us into its life. In turn, I only got to know when he was old. Dogs as puppies are awesome and that’s when I think they build their loyalty the most. Nobody messed with my mom when Bosie was nearby. Toy poodle with a dude. He owned the La-Z-Boy Chair in the family room. Nobody else could sit there at the end – his chair. We had to put a towel on it though because he was slower and slower reaching outside in time. In fact, back in the day, he would walk near the back door and bark in order to instruct us to let him go outside for his business. Towards the end, he would just head over in that direction. If you didn’t join him fast enough to open the door, he’d piss right there on the carpet. I loved that dog.

Beau “look alike”

Back to the original scene of this short – dog dying at the bottom of the steps, dad standing over him shaking his head and repeating, “he’s going”, my mom and sister start crying, and me – sitting there wondering if we would be going to church or not. Today was a big one – it was freaking Easter. Bet that holiday never had that adjective before. Anyway – we ended up staying home from church because of the loss of our dog, Beau “Bosie” Brummell. I loved that f’in dog.