Toy Box

It’s two-thirty in the afternoon and I’m drinking coffee in a nurse’s lounge at the hospital where I work a couple of days a week. Like any nurse’s lounge, the place is awash with cake, cookies, half eaten cartons of Chinese food, and boxes of candy. As I listen to the nurses commiserating, I chew unenthusiastically on a carrot stick. I’m on a diet.  All the cake and cookies around me are an unwelcome temptation.

So why am I working a part time job at a hospital you ask? So I don’t go crazy. When I was writing Waiter Rant, I spent large chunks of time isolated in my apartment chained to a laptop. After I discovered I was conversing with the dog too much and shaving once a week, I decided to find a job just to get out of my house. I tried waiting tables at a local restaurant for a while, but the place was poorly run and the restaurant’s manager, like most tiny dicked power mad flunkies, thought he owned me body and soul. Because he couldn’t hang on to his servers, the manager overloaded me with so many shifts that it interfered with writing the book. So I quit. That experience taught me a valuable lesson. I realized that the eremetical writer’s existence is not for me. I need to be out and about with people doing something other than writing.

When I signed on to write my second book I vowed I wouldn’t repeat the mistakes I made while writing the first. It took a while to arrange, but I think my little per diem job in health care will help me maintain my grip on reality. Besides, I get a paycheck and the nurses around here are very cute. Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to turn into Hospital Rant or anything. I’m a firm believer in patient confidentiality so I won’t be telling stories about the clients under my care. They’re sick and hurting. The last thing they need is some guy from internet writing about them. Nor will I be writing much about my co-workers.  A hospital is a very different from a restaurant But old medical war stories? They’re fair game.

“So what’s the weirdest thing you ever saw?” Frieda, one of the nurses, asks me.

“Well,” I say, putting down my gnawed carrot stick. “I once had a morbidly obese man who liked jamming unfolded paper clips into his arm.”

“Ouch,” Letty, another nurse says, wincing. “Why’d he do that?”

“He was a psychiatric patient,” I reply. “He claimed hurting himself made him feel better.”

“So what did you do?” Frieda asks.

“I took him across the street to the medical hospital and waited in the ER for several hours until the attending had time to pull them out.”

“You spent seven hours in the ER?” Letty asks. “Why didn’t someone relieve you?”

“The nurse manager was a sadist,” I reply. “Besides, they had no one to spare. After managed care gutted the hospital’s revenue stream, we were always understaffed.”

“That’s awful,” Letty says.

“And this was before iPod’s, cell phones, or other technological methods of distraction,” I say. “I was forced to leaf through three year old copies of People. It was awful.”

“Don’t you love doing arms-length-eye contact with patients?” Frieda asks. ( Arms-length-eye contact is employed when a patient is at risk for hurting themselves or other people. You literally have to be arm’s length away from the patient to prevent them from doing something dangerous.)

“I don’t mind doing it for an hour or two,” I reply. “But seven hours? That’s not good for me or the patient. Besides, this guy smelled awful.”

“Morbidly obese people often do,” Frieda says. “They can’t wash in all the nooks and crannies.”

“So the doctor finally comes around midnight,” I continue. “Administers a local, and pulls eight paper clips out of the guy’s arm. I return the patient to the psych ward and go home. Of course, I’ve got to be in for the 7-3 shift the next morning. I hadn’t even gotten my coffee when the obese guy comes up to me and says ‘I have a secret.’”

“Oh no,” Letty groans.

“Yep,” I reply. “The guy jammed more paper clips into his arm during the night. The goddamn aide on the night shift didn’t watch the patient closely. So guess who had to go back to the ER for another several stinky hours?”

“You, of course,” Frieda says.

“So we get the same doctor from last night,” I continue.  “He must’ve been working a thirty-six hour rotation because he looked more psychotic than my patient. When he goes to take clips out he tells the nurse that he’s not going to use anesthesia.”

“That’s barbaric,” Frieda says.

“So picture this,” I say. “I’m twenty-two years old, just out of college, and I’m yelling ‘You will give my patient anesthesia or I’ll report you!’”

“So what happened?” Letty asks.

“The doc gave the guy anesthesia, took out the clips, and I took the patient back to the unit.”

“You didn’t get in trouble?” Letty asks.

“Nope.”

“What a weird story,” Frieda says.

“Yeah,” I say. “But after that, whenever the rec therapist couldn’t find the boom box to do music therapy, we’d say ‘Look in the fat guy’s arm.’”

”Oh,” Letty says, laughing, “You’re bad.”

“Gallows humor I guess.”

“Well,” Frieda says. “The weirdest thing I ever saw was thirty years ago over at St. Ann’s in the inner city.”

“Tell me,” I say. “I love hearing these stories.”

“A middle aged lady came into the ER,” Frieda says. “Obviously off her rocker. She just kept mumbling something about soldiers in her vagina.”

My mind starts filtering through all the reasons why this lady might be saying this. None of them are good.

“So we talk to her for a while,” Frieda continues. She denies being raped and she said she was never in a war zone.”

“So what was going on?” I ask.

“The lady was in obvious discomfort so I sent her to an OB/GYN for a workup.”

“And?”

“That doctor got the shock of his life,”

My brain goes into overdrive trying to come up with an explanation. Then I remember something the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once said. “When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” I come to a conclusion – the patient put toy soldiers into her vaginal canal.

“So when the doc inserts the speculum,” Frieda continues, “He goes, ‘Holy Crap!’ and starts pulling out the little green plastic toy soldiers little boys like to play with.”

“Oh my God!” Letty exclaims.

“You know,” I say. “I was thinking that was what might’ve happened but I didn’t’ want to say it – too bizarre.”

“I know it’ s crazy,” Frieda says. “But that’s what happened.”

Unbidden, the image of the R. Lee Ermey voiced tiny green warrior from the film Toy Story fills my mind’s eye. “Mount up men,” he says. “We’re gonna conduct a spelunking operation!”

“So why did this lady put toy soldiers into her vagina?” Letty asks.

“I don’t know,” Frieda says, shrugging. “Some people are just plain nuts.”

I think that crazy lady from thirty years ago might have found what she was looking for if she had sized up from little green soldiers to a G.I. Joe doll. Maybe the model with the Kung Fu Grip?  I decide against sharing this little thought with my coworkers, however. I’m too new.

They’ll need time to get adjusted to how twisted my sense of humor can be.


Comments

Toy Box — 52 Comments

  1. Glad you’ve found something to do with your free time…to stop me going too mad with school I volunteer for two hours a week and it’s fun (:

    Although the stories aren’t as good.

  2. I have been waiting for a post. Healthcare is great for making one feel like they are contributing to society. It keeps life in perspective. When I feel sorry for myself there is always someone that has real problems and it is satisfying to me that I may be able to help them. Keep up with the posting. I look forward to more from you.

  3. Not as bad as the doctor who had to tell his female patient she had gonorrhea and her sex partner had strep throat. The lab worker was so confused by the vaginal specimen that she had her supervisor re-run the test. And.yes. it was gon and strep. YUM!!!

  4. Heid, your comment is silly. Group B Strep is found in the vaginal secretions of nearly 40 percent of the female population. It can become a problem during pregnancy as it can affect the embryo.

    I don’t know why the lab worker would be “soooo confused”. Lots of specimens submitted to labs have multiple diagnosis.

  5. Good for you for getting a job to get you outside the house. As a fellow writer I agree that it’s a good thing to keep experiencing life. If you don’t, after a while you may not have anything to write about. My current job as a house bolter (which involves crawling under houses 8 hours a day) sucks ass and wipes me out everyday to the point where it’s hard for me to conjure the energy to stay awake much less write when I get home. I’ll do it for now until something better comes along plus, I figure it’ll give me something completely different to write about one day.

    Good for you and your part time self!

  6. hi waiter!!!
    i love your blog. read about you in the latimes when your book came out this past summer. it inspired me to write an email out to all my friends about my days as a waitress at a 5 star establishment in newport beach.

    you could always tell old money from new money. old money were cool. new money still had a bug up their behinds and had to prove how important they were. if interested check out my blog entry. it will be archived in july or august…whenever your book came out.:)
    http://matycuevas.blogspot.com

  7. I know I’ll seem like a hopeless grouch, but I feel like both of these stories don’t display your normal sense of respect regarding mental illness, Waiter. The humor here relies on the physical appearance of these people (probably beyond their control) and on their illness, not, as in many of the pieces you write, on the difference between how people say they behave and how they really do. This seems less insightful than simply grotesque.

  8. Wow, I laughed so hard at the last few lines I cried.

    I volunteer at a hospital, so I don’t get to see as much weird stuff as you, but I have run into a couple odd things. I once wheel-chaired a woman back to her room who claimed to have been left downstairs all night. D=

  9. Healthcare Worker Rant? I’ve got no problem with that! And the stories I’ve heard nurses tell of weird things, none of them can be repeated here. All due respect to your twisted humor, some things are just plain too yucky. Glad you are keeping one foot in reality, I think art cannot come from a vacuum nor an ivory tower nor a life of leisure.

  10. Jesus, hope it wasnt the Airfix Japanese Infantry set I had as a child.

    They all had bayonets fixed and the officer had a samurai sword unsheathed.

    The poor love.

  11. I meant the little Green men, not paperclip guy (too sad how he kept hurting himself).

    Will never see another LGM again w/o remembering this tidbit – thanks ever so much.
    [img]http://bestsmileys.com/eek/3.gif[/img]

  12. I’m finishing the book and just starting the actual blog. I’m strangely compelled even though I’ve never been a waiter and I work in psych. Funny.

  13. Sublime, dude. Caress Me Down. Actually, the lyrics go, “She told me to come over, so I made that trip. And then she pulled out, my mu-ush room tip. And when it came out it went, Drip drip drip. I didn’t know she had a GI Joe, KUNG-FU grip. And I went Uhhhhh, caress me down. Uhhhh, caress me down. Uhhh, caress me down. Uhhh, that’s that, LOVIN sound!” Just an FYI :)

  14. A friend of mine has worked in a psyc ward forever and she told me about a guy who was brought in by the police to be involuntarily committed, and he kept kneeling (or trying to) and yelling “FORGIVE ME LORD! I FUCKED A CHICKEN!” No word on whether any actual chickens were involved, but we are in a rural part of Virginia so I wouldn’t rule it out. (This happened to her years ago so I guess it wasn’t unethical for her to tell us).

  15. Oh boy, I quit the health care industry a few years ago…are you going to get some stories you can tell! Can’t wait for more posts—
    Remember the fella who made the news back in the 1980′s for anesthetizing a gerbil, stuffing it in a sock, then stuffing sock and all “up where the sun don’t shine”. Took major surgery to remove the whole mess….Then there are all the superglue stories….

  16. Been a volunteer myself for a short while, but in a mental hospital. One of the patients – I thought he was faking it until I heard he’d been around for years – is a man who believes himself to be Napolean, and spouts conspiracy theories in smooth French. Except when he turns around and walks away from you, he switches to English UK and screams made-up Christian slogans. I had that side of him pegged as a crusader for a while, but now I’m beginning to suspect that he’s more, maybe a king of sorts. He’s very good at it; it’s easy to suspend disbelief.

  17. I work with an OB/GYN nurse who use to work at LA County General Hospital (In California). She can regal us with some of the funniest stories I have ever heard. She says that her “Book” is going to be titled “Ladies… you vagina is not your purse!”

  18. Ouch.

    Ouch. Sometimes it’s good to lead a boring life. Thanks for the unpleasant reminder!

    But I am still inspired to look for my Adventure Team(tm) talking GI Joe with LifeLike hair and Kung Fu grip(tm).

    Happy Thanksgiving Day, all…

  19. Hey Waiter,

    i work at an assistant living and rehabilitation center as a recreation assistant. and let me tell you, i’ve had my fair share of crazy moments, especially when i’m dealing with those who suffer from dementia or alzheimers. sometimes its sad, but other times you just can’t help but laugh.

    ps-i just started reading you book, my mom turned me onto it. and i must say i love you’re witty tone and creative style of writing. keep up the good work!

  20. I’m almost finished with the book-
    I have never been in the food business, but I can understand a service worker’s feelings. A patron is purchasing enviroment and (hopefully)a decent meal- not a personal slave. I try to teach my kids and remind myself that every meal out, whether in a Five star or fast food establishment. Courtesy is required of the patrons as well as the staff, especially when someone is having a rough day!

  21. my mom’s a nurse, and she had a guy who had a wooden phalus shoved up so far that he couldn’t remove it. He claimed that he carved them for a hobby and accidentally sat on it naked. Dad’s also a nurse and he’s seen everything from lightbulbs shattering and soda bottles getting lodged to an apperant gerbil (don’t know if I believe that.)

  22. lmao. im sitting in World History right now reading this, and my teacher is looking at me a bit suspiciously right now for laughing so hard…thanks for the laugh!

  23. Just finished the book & loved it! I worked in a fine-dining establish many years ago. Oh, the stories I could (& did) tell. I guess bad behavior isn’t limited to New York. It’s just as bad in Chicago.

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