It’s All About the Soup…Or Maybe the Snow

I came to Sneezeville to work, and that’s most of what I do while I’m here.  The rest of the time, I’m tired, sore and cranky.  That’s the clinical term.  It really should have a billing code; I’m sure I’d use it as a diagnosis a few times a day.

I’ve been working between three and ten hours of overtime a week.  That may not sound like a lot, but it is for me, considering that even 40 hours has been physically difficult.  There was a time when I routinely worked 55-60 hours a week.  Those days are long over for many reasons.

At least I’m enjoying the job.  I’m working in the state that’s been named the healthiest in the country for the sixth year in a row.  I have some theories about this, which I will eventually explain.  For now, let’s just say that some of my patients smell like lentil soup.  In Bangor, patients were more likely to smell like stale cigarettes.  Oddly, the demographics are otherwise very similar.  So, until further blog clarification, if anyone asks, it’s all about the soup.

I’m also enjoying my temporary coworkers.  I have to call them that, because a growing number of them seem to be in denial that I’m going to leave.  I’m a little worried that they’re going to kidnap me.  I was offered a permanent position here within a month of starting the assignment.  It’s tempting, because this is one of the best practice environments that I’ve ever worked in.  I will also explain that in the future.  Soup might also be involved.

My “recruiter” at the agency I work for is also invested in having me stay here, although she wants me to ride the temporary gig as long as I can and not accept a permanent job anywhere.  This would be Chris.  I’ll call her that…it’s actually her name, but I think it’s okay to tell you that, because she’s in the business of promoting herself and selling providers to clients.

Chris is awesome.  She coordinates every detail of my assignment from the agency’s headquarters, which I think of as Mission Control.  They tell me it’s in Florida, but since they’re just voices on the phone, they could be anywhere, for all I know.

Now that Chris has successfully recruited me, I think of her interchangeably as “The Voice,” my den mother, my babysitter, my pimp, my personal manager, my professional consultant, and The Chief.  I keep asking Chris to send me a shoe phone and call me 99, shoephone but I think I have to take a second assignment to earn that.  I’m trying to convince her that extensions should at least qualify for a sandal phone, and I’ll settle for being called 9, but she’s tough.

The best thing about Chris is that she’s available 24/7 and she gets paid to listen to me whine.  Be honest now: How many of you just thought “That woman doesn’t get paid enough?”  I’m pretty sure that Edie and my parents just thought “How can we get in on that gig?”

So, everyone wants me to stay, and I’ve already extended from three months to six months.  I think The Voice hypnotized me last week into signing on for another two months.  I came here for the paycheck with no intention of staying for eight months.  I also had no intention of getting attached to the place, the patients or the staff.

I should know by now that my career doesn’t go as planned.  I’d take the job in a heartbeat If I could transport this practice to Bangor, or transport my life to Vermont—Edie and the job she loves, the kids and grandkids, my community of friends, my synagogue, my volunteer work, Moxie’s day care, our house…oh, and if I could have Chris continue to manage the details of my professional life, and be my personal phone cheerleader.

It feels good to be wanted, but I need to be home.  I’ll stay a little longer for the paycheck though.  And maybe The Chief will come through with my shoe phone.

I will need to take a break from working full-time after this or I will be changing my name to Humpty Leiffer.  In the past four months, my bad knee (left) and my bad shoulder (right) have developed attitudes and they swear at me regularly, forcing me to medicate them just to shut them up. Meanwhile, my good knee and my good shoulder have over-compensated for so long that they apparently feel taken advantage of.

Shoulder L and Knee R recently announced that they are defecting from the team.  I subjected my right knee to a cortisone shot a few weeks ago.  As much fun as that appointment was, I’m disappointed with the outcome.

We’re going to try again with a Synvisc injection.  I should probably refresh my memory about what’s in that stuff before it’s injected via a giant syringe into my body.  The truth is, if there’s a chance it can decrease my pain and buy me time so I can keep walking, working, and riding my exercise bike, I don’t care if it’s made out of endangered pygmy hippo serum from bull-dozed rain forests by overworked 12-year-olds in a country that most Americans can’t identify on a map.  Okay, I do care.  But I’d still take the shot.

In the meantime, I’m wearing a brace on my good knee, and using my cane again, although each morning I have to decide which hand to hold it in: One knee hurts and has no stability, and the other knee hurts more.  I have my grandmother’s knees.  She didn’t need them anymore.

The reality is that at almost 49, I’m disabled, but I haven’t quite come to accept that yet.  Twenty years ago, I was skiing in Utah and Taos. Twelve years ago, I spent 18 days rafting and hiking through the Grand Canyon.  I was slow when we climbed to the Anasazi ruins and the bat caves, but I could still do it.  The Anasazi were dead and the bats were asleep, so they didn’t care that I was up there longer than the rest of the group

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Just three years ago I was using a cane, but I could still hobble down 185 vertical feet of stairs and trails into Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff to see the ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings.  Edie and I joked that if I couldn’t climb back up, I’d just live there, and she’d bring me food and water.  When I did make it back up to the final stair at the top, the other tourists applauded.


I was just glad that I had remembered to bring my handicapped placard for the rental car so we weren’t parked too far away.

Since my left knee surgery two years ago, I haven’t been able to walk up and down stairs normally.  I get sharp pain and a feeling of imminent joint collapse if I bend and put weight on my left knee at the same time.  We’re not exactly sure if that’s because of arthritis or due to the giant titanium stabilizer that was put in to hold my knee and the graft together.  When I eventually have a second surgery to repair my ACL, my surgeon may be able to take the titanium out.  Edie and I plan to make sporks out of it, so you can all look forward to your holiday gifts that year.  Too bad I can’t fit the surgery in before next summer—we’d have the perfect wedding favors.


Anyway, stairs are a challenge now.  Here in Sneezeville, in an ironic, glass half-empty twist, my housing, which was secured in advance by someone who doesn’t know me, is in a luxury vacation condo.  It’s comfortable, nicely appointed, well-equipped….and has three-levels, with a flight and a half of outdoor stairs just to get into the place.  It’s at the top of a small private ski hill.

The building has eight units and I’m the only one here, except on weekends, when one or two out of state owners or renters show up to ski.  There are three other buildings in the complex.  During the week, there are two cars in the lower parking lot and one car in one of the upper lots.

Sometimes, when I get home late from work, I wonder if there could be ax murderers lurking around as I hobble up the icy stairs and fumble with the key.  I can only hope that the owners of one of those other cars might possibly hear my screams if I needed them to.  That’s assuming that they aren’t the ax murderers. That’s also assuming that they could hear anything over the sound of the snow making machines.  Early in the winter, I couldn’t figure out who was vacuuming outside late at night.  I’ve never lived at the top of a ski hill before.

When it snows, a young guy in his late teens or early twenties comes around to shovel the walkways and stairs.  Occasionally he comes before I trudge down the stairs to go to work.  Sometimes he even comes before I get home and trudge up the stairs to get into the condo (so I can go up and down more stairs).  Did I mention how much I love stairs?

It doesn’t really matter when he comes to shovel.  I park my car right at the bottom of the steps to my condo in a parking lot with no other cars.  Then I haul my personal and work computers, lunch bag, and any other items in one hand, balance myself with my cane in the other, and make a white-knuckled climb up or down the icy/snowy steps.

Einstein with the shovel is usually in the completely empty parking lot shoveling the pathway and steps to the vacant condos first.  I know he sees my car with the handicapped placard and he sees me on the snow-filled stairs with the cane.  He’s even waved.

One night after the Sandy storm, the power went out briefly.  When it came back on, there was some kind of electrical short.  Something started beeping in the building and didn’t stop.  I tried to call the management number, but didn’t get anywhere because of sketchy cell phone coverage.  Then I emailed.  The beeping continued for a couple of days.  I guess a solitary temporary resident at the top of a hill isn’t a high priority.  On day three, the beeping finally stopped.  Except in my head.  Sometimes I think it’s still there, but I manage to block it out with my obsessive thoughts.  At least I can use my indoor voice now.

On a recent Friday night, I was at work late finishing notes, and then I stayed to make a couple of phone calls, because the erratic cell phone coverage makes communication other than Skype, email, or Facebook nearly impossible from the condo.  When I left the clinic, there were about 8 inches of snow on the ground and some was still coming down.  The 15 mile ride to my road was moderately treacherous, but the steep and curvy final road up to the condo hadn’t been plowed.

I made it about halfway up before I slid around a curve and got stuck in a snow bank. I happened to be in one of the 3-foot windows of cell coverage, so I called AAA.  I was told it would be about a 45 minute wait, so I hunkered down.  I realized that my tail pipe was backed into the snow, and remembered about carbon monoxide poisoning.  I still decided to turn the car off.  Then I called Edie, so she wouldn’t worry– not that picturing me stuck in a snow bank on a remote road during a blizzard at 10:00PM wouldn’t worry her, but I usually text her when I’m leaving work, so she knows what time we’ll have our nightly Skype date.

Then I texted The Voice to give her an update.  We had talked earlier and she asked that I let her know when I was home safely.  Of course, I wasn’t home safely; I was stuck in a snow bank.  Had I arrived safely at the condo, I more than likely wouldn’t have been able to get a call or text out, because that only works about 20% of the time.

So Chris probably worried about me being stuck in a snow bank, but then she may have worried anyway if she didn’t hear from me.  But I really don’t know this woman, or where in the world she’s actually located, so I’m just guessing on this.  Most likely, she was having a Friday night cocktail, trying to forget me and the rest of her work week, and thinking “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

I actually wasn’t worried at all. I was a little pissed off that the healthiest state in the country couldn’t plow their damn roads, but I knew I’d be fine, and figured that if I wasn’t, there were worse ways to go down than being stuck in a snow bank and being overtaken by either hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning.  One is a big trippy hot flash, which I have anyway, and the other is a nap with a headache, which I also have a lot of the time.  It would be tragic, but if I were alive, I think the irony would make me laugh.

The AAA guy showed up in a clown-sized tow truck, got out and manually pushed me out of the snow bank.  clowntruck2I was amused until he said “well, I can’t tow you up the hill with this truck, (duh) you’ll have to go back down and park at the clubhouse.”  I said that this idea wouldn’t do me any good, because I’d have no way to get back to my car the next day.  I couldn’t walk two miles down the hill in the snow, and there was no one else living up there who I could ask for help.  I also couldn’t call anyone, even if I did know someone nearby.  “Well, you’ll have to figure that out” was the answer that Einstein with the clown truck gave me, clearly a relative of my shoveler.

He proceeded to direct me to back the car into a nearby dark and deserted driveway, said he had other runs to make, and drove off.  I drove back down to the bottom of the road to regroup.  I realized that the clown truck had come down my road from a different direction and remembered that there was another road up to the condo around the other side of the ski hill.

I was encouraged when I saw that at least part of that road had been plowed earlier in the day, with only about four inches of fresh snow at the bottom.  I got most of the way up, started to skid, and stopped the car before I got stuck again.

While I was pondering my predicament, I saw lights from the street plow coming around the corner.  The driver stopped the truck, rolled down his window and asked where I was heading.  Then he turned the plow around and blazed a trail to the condo for me, restoring my faith in Vermont men who are allegedly hired to deal with wintery dilemmas.

Of course, the parking lot and stairs hadn’t been cleared yet.  Once I had my coat off and was in the kitchen opening a beer (maybe not in that order), I looked out the window and saw Einstein just starting to shovel over at the empty building next door.  Why he was shoveling at 11:45pm when it was still snowing out is not something that I can explain.  I don’t think it has anything to do with soup though.

At that point, it was all about pain meds, an ice pack, bed, and turning off the alarm clock for a couple of days, thus defining the billing code for tired, sore and cranky for another week.

Until next time…





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3 Responses to It’s All About the Soup…Or Maybe the Snow

  1. Eric Ethington says:

    That could quite easily be one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, haha. I may seriously have to start looking into shoe-phones!

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