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The Time I Was Told to Burn for the Good of the Company

August 11, 2013 1 comment

Burning-Man

Back when I was working my terrible receptionist job, I learned a lot about corporate culture. Namely, that nobody gives a single shit about you unless you somehow bring in lots and lots of money.

There were several low moments for me. One time, one of the salesmen on the floor lectured me at length for “not doing enough with my life” and told me my self-esteem sucked. I hardly knew him at all. Another time a crazy man came in through the door and blew past the reception desk. I was told to physically chase him down and tackle him, which I refused to do. At 5’0″, I didn’t get paid nearly enough to risk my life trying to trip up a crazy person who was possibly armed.

But one of the worst was when there was a fire in the building. Not a drill, but an actual fire, at least as far as we knew at the time. The alarm went off, and I gathered up my purse to begin evacuating with the others. My boss told me put my things down, stay put, and keep answering the phone (despite the fact that the alarm was so loud that it was impossible to hear who was calling). A missed call could mean a missed sale. He told me that there probably wasn’t a real fire anyway, so I should just keep doing my job. He stood over me as the rest of the employees filed out the door, watching me answer calls in vain, shouting, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!” as the phone rang again and again. He finally left with the others, telling me to keep manning the phone unless I saw smoke.

As soon as he fled out of the door, I ran to a different exit, fearful that I was going to be burned alive on the 37th floor. I headed to the stairwell, and hoped he wouldn’t turn around and see me. He didn’t. I headed to a local cafe after reaching the lobby, and continued to hide from my coworkers. It turned out the fire was real, but small, and not on our floor.

After we finally got the all clear, I tried to run up first. My boss found me still at my desk, answering calls. As far as he knew, I stayed at my post. He gave me a little nod, perhaps impressed that I was willing to risk my life for the good of the company.

I hope to never work in a corporate office ever again.

The Time I Slept Through a Fire Alarm

May 31, 2013 2 comments

Lightning Strikes Jesus Statue

As covered before in this blog, I really like sleep. As in, I would gladly pay a stranger $100 each morning to allow me to sleep a few more hours. I would go bankrupt, but damn it, I would be well-rested.

To wake up for work, I have multiple alarms set up all over my room, and none of them work. I will get up in a stupor, walk to the offending alarm, switch it off, and fall back into bed without even realizing what I’m doing. I have snooze alarms as well, which are ignored each and every morning. As a result, my arrival time to work has been getting steadily later and later, but hooray, I haven’t been fired yet!

In junior high school, the smoke alarm went off in my parents’ house since my dad had burned some toast. I mean, the damn bread must have been a flaming chunk of wheat given how far away the smoke alarm was from the kitchen. In fact, the alarm was directly outside my bedroom. I blissfully slept through nearly the whole thing, though I do vaguely remember rousing myself slightly, thinking, “Hmm, that must be the fire alarm. Well, if it’s serious, my dad will wake me up,” and going right back to bed, the alarm wailing the entire time.

After telling my dad this, he said I had far too much faith in him. Evidently, he would’ve fled the house in his bathrobe, perhaps stopping to scoop up a cat, but nothing more. Sigh.

I also once slept through a tree falling on our house. A massive, full-sized Ohio beast of a tree which shook the entire house left not a single impression on me. My sister and her friend once bodily picked me up off a couch where I had been sleeping, dropped me from a few feet up, and I didn’t so much as twitch.

And yet a single tweeting bird these days will wake me up even with ear plugs, so I don’t know. I’m doomed to either coma-like slumber or the delicate sleep cycle of a paranoid insomniac. Lovely.

The Time I Had a Meltdown in Language Arts

May 5, 2013 2 comments

reality_show_meltdown

In 9th grade, all students at my school were required to take Language Arts. To my dismay, this turned out to be a public speaking class disguised as a writing class, which meant that my easy A was about to become a desperate C. Though friends have pointed out that I can be loud as fuck in public, especially while talking about embarrassing stories, I suddenly lose the ability to be coherent when placed in front of an audience.

I start talking about a mile a minute, sweating all the while as my face either turns as red as a drunkard’s, or as pale as someone about to pass out. My eyes will dart all around the room as if trying to identify who from the crowd is about to get up and shoot me. Whatever latent paranoia I have (which is a LOT) kicks into high gear, and I become convinced the audience is plotting my downfall at all times.

So yeah, public speaking and I don’t really get along.

But sadly, this class forced me to do it on a regular basis. It all culminated on one unfortunate day when we had to read a short story that we had written out loud to the class.

The assignment was to write a “funny” retelling of a classic fairy tale, and we all had to choose different ones. As a somewhat angry and depressed teenager, my idea of “funny” was a dark as shit Goldilocks and the Three Bears that took place in an apocalyptic future where weapons were as common as loose change. The body count in my story was startlingly high, and I was probably only saved from arrest by virtue of this being written before Columbine. My tale ended with both Goldilocks and the bears burning to death after Goldie’s flame thrower showers the house with fire. Goldie manically mutters that the temperature is now “juuuust right” as her hair bursts into flames.

I did not know in advance that we would have to read this out loud.

I heard about the change in the lesson plan during lunch, as students who had the class earlier in the day recounted their classmates’ “hilarious” stories. My only thought was, “I’M FUCKED.” I knew very well that my story was going to be seen as the ravings of a homicidal maniac, and I ran to the computer lab to shit out a different story in the ten minutes remaining before class.

I was unsuccessful.

And thus I found myself perched on a stool at the front of the class, having to read out loud some of the most disturbing shit I had ever written. As the bullets began to fly and blood ran from one end of the bears’ cabin to the other, I started to feel like I was watching a car wreck from afar. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop the brutal scene that was unfolding before me. Soon enough, my anxiety crested and I completely lost it. I began to laugh hysterically, describing the deadly fire between giggles as I gasped for air. I actually started crying as I plowed through the morbid tale, laughing so hard that my words about graphic murder came out as squeaks. I eventually slid off the stool to the floor in a desperate attempt to abort the insanity. The teacher insisted I continue reading from the cold linoleum. He did not much care for me.

In the end, I received a C- on the story (my teacher cited disliking “black humor”), and I gained a reputation for being batshit INSANE for the rest of my freshman year of high school. Fucking fantastic.

The Time I Had a Rogue Hair

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

furry_man

So yeah, everybody gets these. If you haven’t found one on your own body, you simply haven’t been looking hard enough, and it’s probably at least six inches long by now. SEARCH THYSELF.

I remember discovering mine for the first time, growing out of the right side of my abdomen like it fucking belonged there. It looked like it came off Gandalf’s head (the White, not the Grey), several inches long and as glossy as a unicorn’s mane. I plucked it with horror, only to have it grow back again and again, the thin strand as white as purely driven snow. Now I monitor the spot with grim vengeance, razing the area as soon as it pokes it’s tiny silky head out of my stomach.

I remember a girl in my class in college who had a massive two-inch black hair emerging from her chin, like Satan’s own pube. I couldn’t understand how she had never noticed it before, but it became more clear as I watched her glance in the mirror in the bathroom. She always angled her head in such a way that she never saw the offending hair curling in the breeze. My God, had nobody ever told her? I didn’t know how to approach that situation since we were merely acquaintances, and she soon ceased coming to class altogether. Had she been strangled by her rogue hair in the night? Perhaps she looked on it fondly, stroking it gently before drifting off to sleep each night. I will never know.

The Time I Wrote About Electronic Health Records

April 14, 2013 1 comment

So, I don’t usually tackle serious topics on this blog, unless you consider severe anal trauma to be a subject of national importance. But I’m going to go ahead and break my informal rule.

Full disclaimer: I work in the field of electronic health records (EHR, also known as electronic medical records, or EMR). I’m not a vendor, and I’m not a provider, but rather I work at a nonprofit advocacy group for the modernization of American healthcare.

The USA is behind in so many ways. Most of our citizens’ health records are still on paper that must be schlepped from office to office, from hospital to hospital. Perhaps if you don’t have a chronic health issue, you don’t realize the inconvenience and incompetence this systems fosters. Imagine having cancer and having to carry a stack of files taller than 15 iPads stacked on top of each other to every specialist you see. Picture having to trust your medical records to a family member because you are too ill to take care of them. Wonder how a doctor will ever be able to read the horrible handwriting on a an old, yellowed piece of paper from 1992 that nonetheless may hold the key to diagnosing your condition.

Paper health records slow down a process that is already painful enough on its own. If you are admitted to an ER after a horrible car crash, how will the doctors and nurses on staff know about your allergies or past medical conditions? Yes, you could carry a flash drive or something on you at all times, but who’s to say it didn’t get crushed in the crash? What if the nurse on duty doesn’t have access to a computer that can view your files? In short, the system is FUCKED.

But this is not only a problem for John and Jane America. As Jon Stewart has recently brought up on The Daily Show it affects our veterans as well.

The Red Tape Diaries – Veteran Benefits

The Red Tape Diaries – A Modernized Department of Veterans Affairs

(I would embed these videos, but that feature apparently doesn’t work on WordPress. Lovely.)

Watch those two videos (er, assuming you have an American IP address, and try this app if you don’t), and tell me that those veterans don’t deserve better. That they should somehow be expected to wait over a year to hear a decision regarding their benefits. Benefits they never would have been eligible for had they not been wounded serving our country. To have recently returned soldiers grappling with their physical and psychological trauma with NO assistance from the government or anyone else is criminal.

The barriers to implementation are two-fold. One is the resistance of the old guard to change their ways. Though this sector is rapidly decreasing, it is still there, and it is full of providers who performed their jobs just fine on paper since the 1960s, and see no reason to change to a newfangled electronic system now. Why fix what ain’t broke? The second is the sheer cost of purchasing and using an electronic health record system. Imagine a room full to the brim with paper records. As Stewart pointed out, the weight of them can be enough to collapse through floors. Now think about the work and time required to transfer all of those to an electronic system. Is it impossible? No. But for many smaller practices, at least, the prospect of closing a practice for a week or more to perform the switch is simply unthinkable. The lost revenue alone makes it a nearly impossible scenario. Then of course there is the cost of the EHR system itself (not cheap), and the training needed for staff to actually use the new technology. There are government incentives available to qualified small practices to help subsidize this huge cost, but for doctors close to retirement, the benefits simply do not outweigh the investment.

However, for Veterans Affairs? What is their excuse? They are not a single doctor practice. They are not even an urban hospital. They are responsible for ALL US MILITARY SOLDIERS. The thought of them spending money on a new hand-crank filing system rather than investing in EHRs is laughable. They have the means, they simply seem to lack the will.

Though of course, even once you have an EHR system, there is still the difficulty of having each system talk to each other. That is what the first Daily Show clip addressed. Two systems, though electronic, cannot speak to each other unless the same vendor supplied both. This is one of the things my organization is currently working on – how to get all these disparate systems to talk to each other so that information simply FLOWS instead of becoming bogged down in red tape and misery.

Yes, there are many complexities associated with EHRs. What of privacy issues? What of security? What about the records of minors? But we have to face it – the future is coming, whether doctors, patients, or government bureaucrats want it or not. And to spend resources fighting against it rather than working to ensure its success dooms not only our generation, but the next to the medical inadequacies of our forefathers.

The Time My Boss Showed Me Her Boobs

April 7, 2013 Leave a comment

fireant

So, my former boss had boobs.

This, in of itself, is not remarkable. However, when she sustained an injury to said breast that she insisted was my fault, I found myself face to face with a lot of boob meat.

It all started when I decided I simply had to have a pet in the office. Our soulless span of cold grey cubicles seemed like a parody of a stifling office, and I was beginning to crack. I had already decorated my cube with a lava lamp, a Rubik’s cube, some putty, and other assorted toys, but it still felt like a desk of despair. Perhaps it was the lack of visible windows, or my beautiful view into a dangerously overcrowded supply closet that maimed many a fellow employee.

Whatever the reasons, I somehow felt that introducing LIFE would be a good start.

The natural cubicle pet is, of course, a plant. But given my previous experiences with plants of all shapes and sizes, I knew that I would somehow manage to care it to death within a few weeks. Either that or it would thrive, but then become infested with tiny mites that would then spread across the thinly carpeted floor. Plus the aforementioned lack of sunlight would doom all but the heartiest vegetation.

No, I wanted something that would move.

And so came the purchase of an ant farm. To save myself time and frustration, I opted for the creepy blue gel version of the farm, in which the unfortunate ants would both dig, eat, and shit out only a space-age gel the color of Windex until they ultimately died from despair. Because owning an ant farm as an adult is truly one of the more depressing experiences out there. As the Onion so eloquently observed, an ant farm is a “fun, interactive way to teach children ages 5 and up about unceasing, backbreaking toil and the cold, inescapable reality of death.”

The ants are all female, and fucking PISSED OFF when you receive them in the mail. I placed mine in the workplace fridge to calm them down, which upset many coworkers who felt I was doing some sort of cruel experiment. In a way, I suppose I was. After depositing the now semi-comatose ants into the enclosure, they quickly perked up and began to dig. And die. And dig. And then muse on the ephemerality of life. And then die some more.

The bodies piled up quickly, and the living ants seemed determined to dismember the dead rather than dig more pointless tunnels. A fat ant with glasses was at some point hunted down by a roving pack of insects covered in war paint. The conch lay forgotten at the dead end of a tunnel into which no one dared enter, for a spectral beast lurked within.

Anyway, each day the environment within the farm became more and more bleak. I occasionally had to pry open a corner of the lid to allow the ants some precious oxygen. But upon lifting the plastic, every ant who still possessed the will to live immediately tried to swarm out. They were shockingly fast, and had large mandibles that would leave fiery welts on your fingers.

And so the day finally came when my coworkers begged me to set the ants free. Most were now lying on the surface in a stupor, unwilling to eat, drink, or move. They were waiting for their inevitable extinction.

My boss, a kindhearted soul, took it upon herself to empty the remaining ants into a nearby park. Tired of looking at a constant reminder of my own mortality, I gave her permission to do what had to be done.

She came back with stings on her boobs as the imprisoned ants had ravaged her chest in their haste to escape. She threw the empty ant farm, which resembled some sort of horrible chemical bomb, into a park trash can. I imagined it being surrounded by the NYC bomb squad and detonated within hours. She showed me her battle wounds with a mixture of anger and pride, as if to show me that she had been strong enough to do what I could not.

But she still blamed me for the whole fiasco, and ant farms are now not permitted in the office. However, her boob scars were showed to all for weeks afterwards.

The Time I Fainted Regularly

March 31, 2013 1 comment

So right around puberty, my body decided it could go fuck itself.

I mean, not literally. Well, maybe a little bit literally. But more like my body thought that betrayal of itself was the order of the day.

The first time it happened, I was in the kitchen getting some breakfast around 6:30 am before school. Suddenly, while in mid-sentence, I keeled over and thwaked my head against a counter before slumping to the floor unconscious. I had no memory of what had happened, but came to with my parents’ concerned faces floating above me, and a goose egg slowly forming on the back of my skull. After testing that I had my full wits about me, I was sent to go catch the school bus with little fanfare. My head ached the rest of the day, but I otherwise felt fine.

This scenario would replay itself several more times over the next few months, finally culminating in a fainting session where I stopped breathing and my mom had to call 911. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was conscious and talking, but couldn’t stand up without immediately passing out again. But I refused to go into the ambulance, and simply sat on the floor slowly eating cereal until I could get myself onto the couch.

We never really figured out what the problem was, but it seemed to be related to blood sugar. I started swallowing spoonfuls of sugar whenever I started feeling a bit out of it, which usually preceded a fainting spell. I began carrying hard candies around with me always, for a quick sugar boost on the go. To this day, I know I need some candy or soda if I start getting the “sweats and shakes,” as I call it.

It’s bizarre, but luckily the days of collapsing like a felled tree seem to be behind me.

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