Explode into ecstasy
Then slowly dwindle
I was not an only child, no matter how hard I prayed for God to take away my siblings. We did not have a lot of money so when we went on vacation all of us were crammed together into tight quarters in the family car. We slept on the floor with family/friends or in sleazy motels (think roaches and cigarette burned coverlets) and survived on McDonalds (you could get a sack of five burgers for five dollars). If we were super lucky, we got to take my grandpa’s motor home and ate hot dogs every day unless it was too wet for a fire, in which case we got spaghetti.
Oh, there was bickering. Lots and lots of bickering…
Stop poking me!
Mo-ooommmmm! She’s looking at me again!
He’s breathing on me! Make him stop breathing!!!!
My father had a government job and my mother was a stay at home mom. As such, when we went on trips over the summer it was for 2-3 weeks at a time. I travelled all over the US learning things. I don’t think there is a place with educational merit in the continental United States that I have not visited except for things in the state of New York which I was told was “the den of sin and iniquity and the home of those damn Yankees”. I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty something fierce but as far as my parents were concerned NYC in particular was not worth our time.
I saw the VLA (Very Large Array) radio telescope years before the movie Contact made it famous. I learned about hydrology from the huge scale mock up of the San Francisco Bay Area complete with working wave maker built in the 1950’s by the Corps of Engineers. I learned about the Civil War at Gettysburg and Texas independence at the Alamo and Washington on the Brazos and fossil dating from Dinosaur Valley and the Petrified Forest.
There were the obvious places like Yellowstone and Glacier and Mesa Verde. The contrasts of natural and man-made, like the arches in Utah and The Arch in St. Louis. And the obscure, like the Helium monument in Amarillo and what is left of Route 66 (no one cared about that back then).
I have so many good memories of those trips. For all of the bad my parents may or may not have done, they did get one thing right… those family trips.
Well. Except for New York.
So now, as I am weighing an expensive trip to Disney World with my kids vs a cheap road trip with them somewhere more… interesting, I think about my own childhood. I have the means to make my kids’ dreams come true, if I wanted to, but do I really want to? I never did see Disney World but I think I ended up with something even more magical, an understanding and appreciation of where I came from… my own history and the history of others. That is what I want to pass on.
So maybe Disney World is better left in our dreams and our imagination?
“Hey, Doc. Remember me?”
I quickly glanced again at the name on the chart. He was a new patient. His name did not ring a bell. I squinted at his face. Dark beard and hair with some gray in it, a bit shaggy, but fairly well groomed. Lips. No. Then his eyes. I remembered the eyes from somewhere….
My heart caught and my fingertips went numb.
“How do I know you?” I asked, playing dumb.
I knew good and well who he was.
He smiled at me. “February 14th, 2016.” He paused a second to let it sink in. “That was the day you found me guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced me to 10 years in jail.”
I quickly tapped a help message on IM to my office manager.
“I don’t remember…”
“Sure you do, Doc.” He leaned forward close, too close, and spoke again in barely a whisper. “They made a big deal about who you were during jury selection. Got out a bit early. I had very, very good behavior. Not a day went by, though, that I did not think about what I was going to do to you when I got out. I have a very good memory.”
He sat up straight. There was a knock on the door and my office manager popped his head in.
“This visit is over. Leave,” I rasped, embarrassed that my voice caught in my throat like a frightened fool instead of conveying strength and force.
A look of mock hurt crossed his face and he laughed. “Fine. See you around, Doc.”
He sauntered out, slowly, pausing before rounding the corner to look over his shoulder and wink.
In case it needs clarifying, this IS a work of fiction.
“Well, at least you will have some time off!”
I marvel at this well meaning sentiment because truthfully, jury duty does not feel like time off. It is more work than my real job.
First, I am spending hours on the computer trying to make sure patients’ results are communicated, orders and refills get sent, questions are answered. I do this in the mornings before I go to court and at the lunch break if they give us enough time. I have a ton of anxiety… that someone is going to get hurt, that a patient is going to get upset, that a ball will get dropped. The office is terribly short staffed right now and I have to be out next week for my kids’ spring break. My jury summons could not have come at a worse time.
Second, while it is mind numbing, it is necessary to pay attention to everything that is presented so as not to miss the details. Someone’s future hangs in the balance here. It isn’t like I can sit in the jury box tapping away on my phone or reading a good book. I still have to focus on what is being said, boring or not. In the clinic I get to talk, interact with people, use my hands. Here? I am a fly on the wall, watching. Always watching. Never speaking.
My fingers and toes have frostbite. Why the heck do they have to keep the room so cold? So the one big man in robes doesn’t sweat while the rest of us freeze our asses off? A sweater is just not enough. I need a parka.
Here is something else: I don’t like any of my fellow jurors. They are annoying as all get out. What are the odds of selecting a room full of crazies? And what does that say about me, getting picked to sit here with them? Hmmm?
I hate that the judge and the attorneys have made a big deal over what I do for a living. “We have a doctor here, let’s pick on her.” I have to give my employment details on all of the forms. Why is it then necessary to announce to the entire court room who I am, what I do? They did not do that to anyone else. I hate the silly, ridiculous and even inflammatory medical statements people like the bailiff make around me as if they are wanting to goad me into weighing in, handing out free medical advice. It isn’t the free that I mind, it is the fact that I know nothing of their history and we do not have time to do a proper consult about their chronic cough right here, right now.
This whole experience has been eye opening.
Rant over. For now.
“The staff doesn’t like you. They are all scared of you.” She sat across from me, feigning concern.
“Why?” I felt my face redden and struggled to keep the emotion under control.
“They just think you are too demanding. You should stop talking to them. Let me handle it for you so they can be mad at me.”
Too demanding? I was not being ugly. I just asked the front desk to check on a patient’s insurance coverage. How could that be construed as anything but an honest and necessary question so I could take better care of a patient?
“If you have a problem, come to me and I will take it to them.”
And with that I was not supposed to communicate directly with my staff anymore. Because they feared and disliked me. The practice administrator over her and HR supported this she said.
My head reeled. She left. I closed the door and had myself a good cry.
Unbeknownst to me, that office manager was telling the staff that she was the boss, not the physicians, that they should stop taking their concerns to us. If there was an unpopular decision the staff was told that it came from the docs even if it didn’t really. If it was something good, she told them that she had done everything in her power get us to reluctantly agree. She lied and lied and lied to the staff about everything.
If you have been reading my blog posts for a few years you may recall the angst of this period of time. How could I be doing the same thing I always did but now all of a sudden everyone thinks I am the bitch from hell? Is it really that I am so evil? Or is it that I am woman and as such people are taking everything I say and do and twisting it into something I am not? If so, why now?
What was going on?!?!!??!!
I had this niggling suspicion, as my staff continued to leave the clinic one by one, that my office manager was not supporting the physicians or the staff, that there was something else going on to which I was not privy. I reached out to upper management and they listened for a change. Within a couple of months she was gone. It was startling how quickly that occurred. Typically there is a huge HR process and blah, blah, blah. At the time I felt guilty, terribly guilty, blindsiding her with it when HR showed up to escort her out of the building. I worried that I had destroyed her career.
Yesterday I found out that there was an investigation going on, that each employee who had left the clinic during that period of time was approached by a contracted firm for statements as to why they left. The investigation supported what I was saying which was why upper management moved so quickly. But no one ever told me this occurred. I found this out from one of the employees that we rehired.
In fact, virtually everyone who has left this clinic has asked to come back at one time or another. On some level I knew it was not really me but how to rationalize that with what I was being told by an office manager that I trusted?
That whole period of time really messed with my head.
Friends and family started to doubt me. Hell, I doubted myself. I questioned my judgement. I questioned everything. In the end I realized that I had to let it go. All I could do was what I thought was right and I found my peace with that. While the maelstrom swirls around me, I can stand upright knowing I am doing right. In that respect the whole experience has been invaluable. I care so much less what people think about me.
Just do what is right.
I have been back to communicating directly to my staff again for over a year. The practice administrator last week complimented me on my “level of engagement with the staff,” saying that everyone always had positive things to say about me.
But I am doing the same thing I have always done. Maybe it is just the tequila I keep in my office?
“Doc, where do your kids go to school?” she asked casually.
I told her where and then explained that I was looking for a new place as they were outgrowing their current school. She mentioned where her kids attended, saying I should look into it.
“It’s strong academically and it is a multicultural place: Indian, Muslim, white, black…”
That is what I want. I want my kids to grow up understanding other cultures, not being afraid of them.
I come from a long long of white trash, the kind of people the US government once wanted to keep out. My grandmother was a Polish immigrant. The rest of me is comprised of little bits from all over the world. Read American history. Over the years it has been the Chinese, the Irish, Polish, the Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Japanese, Catholics, among others, who have been feared, blocked, and vilified. They were stealing jobs, destroying the language and culture, threatening Protestantism…. it was always something. Who among any of us can say we do not have any immigrant blood running through our veins?
It is the height of arrogance.
We are too good for the likes of you.
This is what the Third Reich said about Jews and gypsies and homosexuals. Keeping them out was not good enough. No. Why stop there? Kill them all.
We are forgetting, aren’t we? The survivors are dying and their voices are lost.
So here I am. Just one little voice but I am telling you and everyone who will listen that I cannot be forced to fear or hate and as such, I do NOT support the current immigration ban. It does not make me feel safer. It makes me more afraid.
Afraid for our future.
Look at what I did with them.
I’m not as fragile as you thought.
Mind the sharp edges, though. We wouldn’t want you to get cut…
Sometimes I see a patient in followup after something terrible happens in their life and I am awed by what they become. Being broken does not mean the end. Rearranging the pieces can mean something even better.