Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Lull is Over at Lullaby House.

I looked for the right job for so long, but now that I've completed my contracted stint, I'm so relieved the slog is over for awhile as strain and stress has set in, I spat the dummy the other night and trampled about the wards like a mad ox, a clear indication I need a break. Every workplace has it's dysfunctional edge, usually to do with the people involved, nursing homes more so, an army of temperamental workers marching in and out between the prostrate bodies of the dying in their beds, all creating a seething hotbed of bitching and maneuvering. I waited thru the endless nights to discover the dysfunction of 'Lullaby House', wondering where I could fit in without adding to the turbulence. With my eyes and ears open I deduced the story of "the War of the Roses", the bitch-fight between the 2 RNs I'd replaced for 3 months while they were on holidays, everything peaceful and quiet under my watch. But the bitches were back and the cauldron was heated up again, to simmer, boil over and scold on certain hysterical nights under a full moon.

I met the younger "Rose" last week on her first weekend back on the job, Maryjane, hitting 40 and hoping to still be attractive, a perky pillbox hat on her head, (she was once an air-hostess but hasn't realised the plane has crashed.) I imagine she hopes she's a hot hip chick, in reality she's a plain-jane dag, all smiles and pieces of cake for the staff as a means of manipulation, yet I pray she's approachable. Her opposite number, Megan, due back next week, is in her mid-fifties, short, burly and gruff of manner, but with a sweet centre, she marches about like a seargent-major at war with germs, dirt and lazy nurses, everything's got to be by the book, entailing extra effort in a place that is ennervating in the extreme already, and so she is somewhat of a chore to deal with, especially for months on end.

These 2 "Roses" are the opposite ends of the same shitty stick, Maryjane too slack, bossing the assistants into doing all the running about while she tucks herself up in a bed thru the night with pillows and blankets, and Megan, who pulls on the reigns too tightly, also having the assistants on the march but wanting as well her fellow RN to march up and down the whole building all night in step with her, and watching the clock for a minute's dereliction of duty. Each had aligned the army of assistants into their 2 camps, if you were friendly to one, you were against the other, and the squabbling over power, duties, regulations, procedures went on night and day ad nauseum. And if I hung around I would be the shit in the sandwich, on top of battling the shit leaking from every crack and orifice, an overly daunting prospect for this sensitive, deadbeat soul. Maryjane's first weekend back and already the sucking up of alliances was on the make, with jolly gossip parties held at the "Nurse in Charge's" desk, but then in the middle of the night I got crossed and I grew horns in response, Mr. Diplomacy revealing he was not the doormat he seemed.

When I'd first come on duty I found sprawled across the nurse's station an assistant nurse, Pete, from an Agency, newspapers and cold cups of coffee all over, he was quite at home and I could not even squeeze past him to go about my routine. He told me he'd been coming there for 5 years and knew everything thus I wouldn't have to spend extra effort showing him about. "We can chill", he jives me and I think, "yeah chill, maybe." Pete was tall, pale, pudgy, dumpy bum, bald patch at back of head that made him look like Friar Shmuck, with an innocuous presence that caused me to chitchat for 3 minutes politely then conveniently go quiescent for some beloved peace, and so I ignored his taking over the space, even when others came past and deferred to him and ignored me. A muscle-bound Security Guard showed up and they waffled on about skiing in Canada for 1/2 an hour, to me it sounded like Gronk-talk and I was glad they left me out of it.

By 0130 things had slowed down so that I went into meditation to jump the time warp and Pale Pete thought I'd fallen asleep and so took his chance to leave the ward but I was fully aware of every noise and movement in the joint and looked up at the clock as he disappeared down the elevator-shaft. Then the 0200 wake-up blues erupted and I rushed about answering all the call-bells, putting pans under wrinkled butts, helping old ladies to toddle to the toilet, getting a glass of water for one and reassuring the anxieties of another, on and on, an hour dragged by and no Pale Pete in evidence. I was fuming as it was his job to do the toileting, mine was to deal with fears, discomforts and pain, and I knew if I didn't ring around and find him he'd be gone another hour. I intuitively knew Maryjane had him gossiping down below and I rang and demanded he come back up to work. When he arrived I angrily asked him where he'd been and why he thought I should do his job as well as mine. All he could reply with was a squealed shriek of, "How dare you! How dare you speak to me like that!" Over and over, he must've said it 21 times till I flipped and shrieked back in the same hysterical tones, "how dare you, how dare you, how dare you!!! That's not the reply I was looking for! You abandoned the floor, you obviously dont give a shit about the residents, as an agency you've got no committment and think this place is a bludge!" "You don't know me, you don't know me!" (This was yelled another 21 times till I screamed "I dont want to know you!") "Everybody likes me here, they even request me, if you've got a complaint, tell Maryjane, she's in charge." 'Oh yeah, the one who's bum you've gotten up. No, I'll report it to the Deputy DON, the high rates you get paid and the effort you put in, I'm sure she'll be impressed."

I could tell by the squeal in his voice he's a fellow poof, only there's no sympatico, he rushed off with, "I'm not putting up with this, I'll get her to send someone else up here!" Down down down the lift trundled, machinery clunk-clunking, then 5 minutes later he's back, now efficiently going about his nursing routines, and I cursed his company, telling him it was better without him. Horns protruding from my forehead I went down to the ground floor and cornered Maryjane in her luxurious armchair, "What's with keeping that assistant down here so long, don't you care about us up there?" She had a face like an alarmed possum, snout sniffing out trouble, and instead of placating and apologising for her crappy tea-party, she got defensive and bullshitted me that assistants were allowed 2 half-hour breaks and he's a real nice guy. "Yeah, he's lovely. Nice for you, not so nice for me! I don't even get one half-hour break. If that's the way it is, I'm out of here!" "What?" Her snout bristles, eyes blink, the possum's cozy possie under threat, I gave her the punk sneer and went back upstairs.

Me and Friar Shmuck kept a stony silence for the rest of the shift, he tried sucking up to me but I replied in grunts, he went about his work loudly making sure I heard he'd now become super nurse, so caring, so sweet, yuk! They'd all sucked up to each other over the years, I was an interloper, the new boy on the block, to be the patsy when required, only I'm too tempermental at the best of times to put up with any namby pamby. I figured if I was betrayed over a small thing, what would happen if something serious happened like a death or bad injury that no one took responsibility for? They'd throw me to the wolves without blinking. Good old Megan was back in a few days and I realised the ongoing tussle she must have with laid-back Maryjane, for all Megan's grouchy style, she took her responsibilities seriously and actually cared if the residents were safe and comfy.

My contract was now up, I couldn't face more months of this, locked up in a plush prison of entropic breakdown, I took my chance and resigned, tho the boss had asked me to stay on for the rare nights when a nurse was sick. I hated to disappoint her as she was very pleasant aand encouraging, and I didn't bother dobbing in Pale Pete or sweet Maryjane, they were all welcome to each other and the building too, I was out of there. Oh how delicious liberty is! For awhile I will paint and write and dream and fly, and go back to nursing when I'm ready. I'm reminded of that sci-fi movie, "Soilent Green", not just the hungry populace eating wafers of recycled human corpses, but the Euthenasia Centre to which Edward G. Robinson retired when he was fed up, old and useless. He checked in and while his favourite classical music swelled around his cushioned bed he was given an injection that killed him quickly, all done comfortably, pleasantly, clinically; nursing homes are just like this, particularly Lullaby House, only it takes months and years to die, not minutes, in these amazing post-modern, post techno times.