&%#$ Drawbridges!

I’ve been making people late to work for more than 18 years. I open drawbridges for a living. And I love my job. Getting cursed at is, unfortunately, part of that job.

Once, a supervisor gave me some sage advice. “If you’ve safely opened the bridge and then you hear someone shout, don’t look. Because you probably won’t like the gesture or projectile that follows.”

It’s true. I’ve been pelted with eggs, rotten vegetables, and once, a full glass beer bottle, which shattered and drenched my clothes. I’ve also been flipped off, threatened, and called any number of unsavory names. Par for the course.

Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) Bridgetenders are not trying to ruin your day. Truly, we aren’t. There are simply certain rules and federal regulations we are required to follow. Specifically, Coastguard Federal Regulations 33 Part 117. These regulations dictate when a bridge must open, when it can be delayed, what signals we must use, what equipment we must have, how we operate in an emergency.

Not only are we required to follow these federal regulations, but according to 33 U.S. Code 499, if we don’t, we can be fined up to $2000 and/or be thrown in jail for a year. Nothing personal, but I’d much rather make you late to work.

In less legal terms, consider this: Maritime law was around hundreds of years before cars existed. And heavy vessels can’t exactly slam on the brakes or take a side street if some bridgetender doesn’t want to hurt a motorist’s feelings.

So, yeah, from street level it may seem really annoying when one slow moving boat is backing up traffic for a mile. Even worse, the bridge may require an opening for maintenance purposes when there are no boats in sight. It may make you want to curse and throw things. But, you know, you should have thought of that before you chose this particular route. (Harsh, but true.)

So next time you’re waiting impatiently for a drawbridge to close, please remember that the bridgetender’s one and only goal is to maintain the safety of the traveling public. All of them, including you. And that may mean you have to wait your turn. At least try to enjoy the spectacular view while doing so.

For a really interesting podcast on this same subject, check out KUOW’s SoundQs “Um, why does that boat get priority over Seattle drivers?”

St Lucie River Drawbridge

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Patient. Until I’m Not.

I got a unique look at myself from the outside the other day. It happened like this: I had a full-blown meltdown in public.

From the inside, it made perfect sense, because it had been building and building and building for hours. So the transition, for me, didn’t seem very abrupt. It was simply the last freakin’ straw.

But from the outside, I must have looked like I was completely and utterly unhinged. “What’s her problem? She was fine a second ago…”

I think most people would say I’m a patient, tolerant person. I take pride in those qualities. But every once in a while, you’ll go too far, and the Kraken gets unleashed.

I had a cold. A bad cold. And I had been struggling with it for three, count ‘em, three weeks. I couldn’t take it anymore. But my doctor had retried. And the new one I want to start seeing wasn’t taking new patients until February. I didn’t want to start up with a third, only to switch a month later. What a hassle. So I decided to go to an urgent care clinic. There’d be no loyalties to break there, right? They live for walk ins.

Indeed they must, because the waiting room was filled to overflowing with what looked like the walking dead. I was informed there would be an hour and a half wait. Sigh.

But what the heck. I just needed someone to prescribe me a z-pack and some cough medication, so when I finally got in, it should only take about 5 minutes. Worth it.

They gave me some “please don’t try to sue us” forms to fill out. Which I did. But even in my oversick, addled brain, I sensed that something was weird. Oh. They didn’t have me fill out anything about my medical history. Uh, don’t they care? They ought to care.

But I was so sick. I asked at the desk. They said to each other, “Oh, she’s urgent care.” The way they said “urgent” led me to believe that we, the urgent ones, actually were their lowest priorities. I was told they’d take care of that when I was called in.

So I settled back in my chair, between the man who was shouting that the birth date on his birth certificate wasn’t really when he was born, and the defeated looking woman with the five kids with green snot running out of their noses. And I think I dozed off out of sheer self-preservation.

Two hours later, I was called in. The usual stuff. Weight. Temperature. Blood pressure. Then the lady sits in front of a computer and starts asking me medical history questions. My answers never quite seemed to fit anything in her drop down menu. So she’d click “other” and have to type things in. Which was just dandy, because she couldn’t spell. I had to spell everything for her, and she kept stopping me in the middle and making me repeat it over, because she was throwing in random letters that I hadn’t said. I wanted to snatch the keyboard from her and do it my danged self. Heaven only knows what their file now says about me.

Thirty minutes later, she tells me the nurse practitioner will be in in a moment. I fell asleep again. When she finally comes in, the nurse practitioner confirms that I am, indeed, very sick. And she prescribes, as predicted, a z-pack and some cough medicine.

She also says she’ll write a doctor’s note so I can miss two days of work, which makes me want to kiss her on the lips. (In Florida, a right to work state, you practically have to be bleeding out of two of the five major orifices before a doctor will even consider writing such a note. God, I love the left coast!)

She says someone will come in and get my pharmacy info and give me the note. And then I can go. Yay!

Indeed, the same illiterate woman comes in, asks me my pharmacy info, and leaves without saying a word, and without giving me the note. I fall back asleep.

I wake up with a snort, look at my phone, and realize I’ve been in the clinic for 3 ½ hours. Seriously? I mean, what the actual F is the hold up? I open the door. I try flagging several staff people as they walk by, not meeting my eyes. I finally get someone I haven’t seen before, and I burst into tears and say, “Look, I’m supposed to have two prescriptions and a doctor’s note, and I’ve been here for 3 ½ hours, and I just want to go home!”

Much scrambling around. Turns out the prescriptions had been called in ages ago. But no one can find the note. They track down the NP, and she confirms that she wrote the note ages ago. Why had nobody printed it out and sent me off? Good freakin’ question.

The note was stuck in the printing queue. The staff had somehow forgotten I was there, and apparently, even though the place was overcrowded, they didn’t find it at all odd that some random woman was snoring in one of their exam rooms.

Finally, the note is printed out and handed to me, but in my sick fog, I can’t find the exit. The woman offers to show me out. Tears are running down my face. She stops. Says I look hungry and thirsty. Offers me a bottle of water and a granola bar.

I look at her. I screech, “I. Just. Want. To go. HOME!!!!!!!!”

All activity around me stops. I’m shown the door.

And I realize that from the inside, what appeared like a well-deserved, slow-building, epic last stand, from the outside probably looked like an abrupt and unexpected temper tantrum. Because I really am a patient person. Until I’m not.

When I got home, I finally read the note, and it only gives me one day off work instead of the promised two. Sigh. Whatever.

puu_oo_cropped

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The Other Shoe

My whole life, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. That feeling intensifies when things are going well. Because I can’t have the nice things. I’ve never had the nice things. At least, not for long.

Sooner or later, everything seems to turn to sh**. If I’m braced for it, I can usually handle it, and come out the other side. I’m nothing if not a survivor. But if that darned shoe takes me by surprise, then that would be bad. Really, really bad.

I remind myself of Nelly, a wonderful dog, who flinches every time you reach out to pet her sweet head. She knows all about what having it bad used to be like. She learned early that flinching can soften the blow. How do I explain to her that I love her, and I’ll always love her, and I’ll never hurt her? She deserves to be petted and cuddled and adored. I want her to be able to own it.

I deserve the good stuff, too. I know it. And here lately I have been experiencing it. And I enjoy it. Mostly. But I can’t seem to get out from under that mental shoe of mine. It’s always there, stinking up the place.

I think there are a lot of people out there, walking around with a shoe in their heads. Please be patient with us. We may not show it well, but your goodness really is appreciated. Probably even more than it would be if we were one of those lucky shoeless people.

one shoe

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Hunting for Unicorns

I have always wanted a man who would actually listen to me when I talked. One who treated me with respect. Someone I could be proud of, due to his integrity, decency, honesty, kindness, and intelligence. A mentally healthy, confident, age appropriate, dog loving, nonsmoking, liberal guy. (Bonus points for being child-free and taller than me.)

Pfft. What are the odds of that? I mean, come on. Just the “listening” part excludes most of the world’s population. And finding someone who met all those criteria and then, on top of that, was also attracted to me — inherently flawed, overweight me… I may as well be wishing for a unicorn.

So, my whole life I set the bar lower. And sure enough, I always wound up with less than what I wanted or needed. Funny how that works.

But the older and lonelier I got, the more I started to think, what the hell, I may as well hold out for the unicorn. And if the unicorn never materializes, well, then, I’ll just do me. (I strongly suspected I’d be doing me for the rest of my life.)

But let’s just say, for a moment, that unicorns really do exist. Yes, they’d be rare. But what if they’re really out there? How would you find one?

Well, first of all, you have to be able to describe what one looks like, to you, at least. Done. See above.

Next, you have to feel that you’re deserving of a unicorn’s company. No self-respecting unicorn is going to hook up with just anyone. You have to be special. It took me a long time (I’m talking decades), to feel that I was unicorn-worthy.

Once you’ve achieved that level of self-respect, you need to start spending time in places where unicorns might hang out. Surround yourself with good, decent, loving people. Do not waste your time with fools. Don’t hang out in bars or places where you aren’t forming strong, long-lasting bonds.

And it’s important to be ever-vigilant. That unicorn might be right in front of you, and you just haven’t noticed. (Hard to believe, I know, but be open to the possibility.)

Once you’ve spotted a unicorn, it’s important to be patient. These things can’t be forced or rushed. They’re too important. Calmly state your intentions, and then, if the unicorn wants to come to you, he will. If he doesn’t, the horn is probably fake, anyway.

So did I find my unicorn? I believe I finally have. And may I never forget how magical it is to be by his side.

unicorn

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Nature Doesn’t Clash

I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)

Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.

While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?

Painted Hills Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon

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Living with Pain

At the moment I have a migraine and I’m at work, so I can’t do anything about it. To say I’m not functioning at my peak would be putting it mildly. I wish I could go home, take my meds, crawl into bed in a dark, quiet room and just wait for the pain to go away. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. But at least I can comfort myself with the fact that this, too, shall pass. At least until it happens again.

Not everyone is that lucky. Speaking from (thank God) past experience, living with chronic pain is life-changing. If you’ve never experienced it, you simply don’t understand. You become like an animal. You are all about the pain. Nothing else matters. Everything takes ten times as much energy, and you are constantly exhausted. You would do anything, anything, to just stop hurting.

When you are in that state, you often feel very misunderstood. People become impatient with your foul mood, your lethargy, your increased mistakes. They don’t get why you have trouble focusing, and why you are forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. They may become frustrated with all the things you can no longer do, and the accommodations and compromises they must therefore make.

It’s very hard when you’re doing the best that you can, but your best isn’t nearly what it ought to be or what it used to be. The constant pain never lets you forget that, but the people around you often can. It alters you. It makes you and everyone who loves you feel helpless.

If you are living with pain, I wish I had a solution for you. I hope you find one. I also hope that you at least get a little bit of comfort from the fact that many of us really do understand.

[Image credit: examiner.com]
[Image credit: examiner.com]