Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Definition of "Emergency"

I always marveled at the contradiction that is the "Emergency Room". The very name implies a place of urgent and immediate action, where things are swiftly remedied in an efficient manner. Of course, if anyone has had that sort of experience in the ER, I would rather assume that some unfortunate accident befell you in the Twilight Zone forcing you to visit the establishment.

I never gravitated towards the ER television series, either. I think there are only so many times a show can advertise its next installment as the "most shocking" or "most unbelievable". As the true-to-life Emergency Room requires about three hours of your precious time during which you will mostly be sitting with elderly people watching "As the World Turns", it isn't the picture of the utter chaos of human Armageddon, either.

Lots of pilgrims end up in the Emergency Room for one reason or another. Even before I joined the on-site cast, one interpreter came into the Visitor's Center with his hands entirely bandaged. He had been working in the Village that morning, when a large group of teenagers with a Christian school entered the small confines of the house in which he was sitting. The hearth, right by the door, was being tended through the obstacle course of new visitors, who were trying to pack themselves inside for want of warmth and entertainment. All of the girls had long skirts on, and given the cool, overcast weather, a number of them wore either tights or nylons. One student, standing with her back to the hearth fire, took one unfortunate step backwards and the hem of her skirt lit up. It would take only seconds for her nylons to be sacrificed as well, but the interpreter present was quicker to act than think. He dashed over to her, dodging furniture, people and props, grabbed the bewildered girl, put her over his lap and literally beat the fire out with his bare hands. The result was first, a charred skirt with literally an eight inch gaping hole, second, a pair of very burned and blistered hands leading to a trip to the local Emergency Room, and third, several days off for the altruistically injured interpreter.

Fortunately, I was never physically compromised by working in the Village between a few singed petticoats, a handful of cuts, and even sitting on a nest of yellow jackets (there has never been a moment during which I was more grateful for the several layers of wool covering my lower quarters since then). I did accompany my friend, Lori, to the Emergency Room after her having been stepped on by a cow. She was leading Rose, the local livestock, from the grazing field outside of the town gates back into her pen, when both of them stepped in the same place at the same time, the cow's reflexes slightly behind her own. She said a white light flashed and she crumpled in the field. Thankfully, this was observed by another interpreter, Asia, who quickly sounded the alarm to get the nearest and most capable help. Although the Emergency Room was close by--perhaps a mile or so--none of us wanted Lori to go alone, so I drove her there. We arrived at about 4:30 and the whole process ended five hours later, during which she was x-rayed. The damage amounted to some wear and tear due to crushing, but nothing actually broken.

If something WERE broken, I am certain we would have been in there until at least 10.

The local interpreters knew where we were, and most of them stopped by for a while. I think the Emergency Room went from inexplicably stagnant to lively. No need for a weekly series.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's Cold, a Cold, and Cadbury Creme Eggs

So, it's April, and that little weather icon under my Yahoo mail account displays a bright, yellow sun unobstructed by clouds. No matter how hopeful this report or the scene out of my window appears, the little number on the temperature guage hasn't gone above 40 degrees, and since there isn't an additional wind icon, after being deceived by the pictoral report and walking out into the wonderland of your back yard, you are suddenly bombarded by bright light transposed over chilly air only exacerbated by a brisk breeze.

At times like this, I am thankful NOT to be working on the Mayflower. The people who work on the Village site don't know how good they have it in their little, one room mud huts with a fire glowing in the hearth until they are forced to do a ship rotation. A ship rotation generally encompasses about four months at either the beginning or the end of the season, so you either start out in the miserable, cold weather or you wrap the season up with it. On the few occasions I have had to be down on the waterfront this year, each time I looked up from the pier to the half deck--the highest point on the ship seen by visitors--and saw a wool-clad interpreter taking the few opportunities to do their thing that the trickle of available visitors afforded.

Of course, out of no where, I have acquired some kind of sinus infection/cold. I felt it coming on the other day when I was out shopping for food at the supermarket. I don't like shopping on Saturday because everyone else is doing the same thing, and no matter how many people there are out there in one place, their lack of awareness of others around them only increases with the numbers around them. In Shaw's, this amounts to people parking their shopping carts in the middle of aisles while they stand in the middle of the now reduced space and have an inner debate about whether to buy Rice-a-Roni or Uncle Ben's. Seeing this over and over again inspires in me what I consider to be a locked-on-focused state of mind. I will walk through the store and have a game plan in my head--knowing what I will pick up, where it is, and determining what the most efficient means of getting all of my items in the shortest amount of time. This time, I was completely zonked out--and it took about an hour for me to get everything I needed. I went home and immediately took a nap. I could feel the beginnings of what I thought was a cold coming on, but I attributed them to my allergies given I had cleaned the apartment earlier that day.

And now, after getting through the whole winter without a single cough or sneeze that could be attributed to a lack of good health, I am experiencing that "rising" effect that happens after something starts in your throat and moves into your head. My choicest form of relief from this state is Advil Cold and Sinus. However, because a tiny proportion of the population somehow managed to make an illegal drug out of medicines like Advil Cold and Sinus or Claritin, I have to wait in line at the pharmacy counter behind a host of senior citizens, ask for the medicine when I finally get there, be scrutinized by the pharmacist, have my driver's lisence inspected, be forced to sign on a screen for the box, and then, ten minutes later, be bestowed with the coveted medicine by a reluctant pharmacist. And when you're not feeling your best, this song and dance is even more irritating than it normally can be.

Oh, well, at least Easter candy is on sale.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

But I'm (insert age here)

There's nothing like living outside of parental scrutiny after subjecting oneself to it for six months after being free to roam the world for a year's time.

I went to see a play in Boston called "Well" on Saturday night. One of the notably striking lines in the performance had to do with how things suddenly "change" as soon as you walk back into your parents' house. It's as if you are passing through a time warp upon stepping over the threshold--you're back in your teen years and your parents are back treating you like no amount of subsequently gained life experience or education had any positive effect on you since that time.

Although you may have successfully lived internationally without desperately calling home for help, somehow if you don't come home within a twenty-four hour stretch, parental panic ensues. It doesn't matter how many times you told them you were going out and didn't know when you were coming back again--even if you got really ambitious and gave them a play by play of where you were going when and with whom, you'll still get the "where the hell are you?"
phone call at some point and you better hope you aren't in a situation in which that may cause you some embarrassment.

Then, you arrive home and must directly confront the situation.

"Where were you?"
"I was out--just like I said I was going to be."
"And you didn't come home until now?"
"(Instert parental title here), I'm (insert age here)."

The funny thing is that when you were anywhere between 14 and 18 years old, the assertion of age only served to enhance your parents' arguments: of course they are going to call you, you're only 14 or 17, etc. However, this gets increasingly harder to justify after you hop over the 21 line. Once you start putting in numbers over 25, then, it just sounds ridiculous. In my case, if this is my mother--and she usually does most of the quizzing--I'll make a point of the fact that she had already had me (her first child) by my present age. That usually places a pause in the conversation.

However, it goes on--this time, the car is somehow brought into question. Now, two months ago, my brother brought our Toyota 4-Runner to my parents' house with the front of it in a semi-crushed, somehow hanging-off-of-the-body-of-the vehicle state--and with a broken window to boot given someone had recently stolen his stereo. I think it was in the shop for between three and four weeks to repair everything. The cost more than likely outweighed the value of the vehicle. When my mother starts calling my brother to "check up" on the state of the 4-Runner on a daily basis, then perhaps I will entertain the "where the hell are you?" phone call under this line of reasoning. Since I am sure you assume this does not go on, and indeed your assumptions would be well founded, and since every time someone asked about the 4-Runner after it's longer-than-expected absence my mother's reply was "oh, someone stole my son's radio and broke a window to do so" rather than "my son crashed into a median on Route 1 inflicting 3500 dollars worth of damage on the front of the car", I am rather inclined to dismiss it.

When I took on a film project at Plimoth Plantation for the Mayflower II's 50th Anniversary, I had to think practically. I worked on the film clips for the upcoming website for three or four days, and many of them ended long after 5 pm only to be tackled again in the morning. I still had my commute to contend with both ways, too--about an hour, maybe more, each way. Since I was working for such a low pay rate, I asked to be housed in lieu of the cash, and they agreed. I moved into a room in a house the museum owns, and I didn't anticipate the amazing benefits thereof--NOT ONE "Where the hell are you?" PHONE CALL. I could take a week's vacation to Tahiti and no one will think to call with the underlying "be home soon" demand implied. I have a roommate for part of the week, and normally I don't like sharing my living space with someone else, save in the case of significant others. However, what I did notice this time was that didn't matter at all--I could do all the basics without scrutiny and somehow, as soon as I walked back over that threshold and out the door, the invasion of the life of a normal 27 year-old stopped.

Thought for the Moment: Yes, counter-lady at the local liquor store, I know you recognize me. I've come in on and off over the last four years as a patron of your establishment. However, somehow, it must make you feel better about yourself to demand ID from me every time I intend to purchase anything from you. The first time, certainly, I understand that. In addition to first-time getting-to-know-yous, you had to put me through the ringer about the format of my driver's lisence. I'm sorry it didn't match your books suitably, although I swear I have no control over my home state's decisions as to how my lisence appears. I am also sorry that since the format change, I retained a copy of my old, laminated version that I can also present to you with the same ID number, the same birthdate, and lo and behold, a photo of the same person on it so if you get excited about being able to give me trouble about my purchase, I can nip that in the bud before it builds too high. And yes, I know, reluctantly, you have to allow me to buy my bottle of white wine because there is no room for reasonable doubt that I am somehow under 21 after presenting you with two forms of ID. I also know that I took additional fun out of the process for you by also carrying my passport with me, just in case a third confirmation of my birth date is in order. However, as time passes, my age only moves farther and farther away from the 21 year threshold rather than closer to it, so the longer you ask me for my ID and the more forms of that ID I bring to you, the person who looks increasingly like an idiot is you rather than myself.