Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Medicine is not for me

Though I am an attorney now, for a brief period I considered going to medical school and becoming a pediatrician. I even declared biology as my major when I transferred from a junior college to the University of California. (I quickly discovered and introduced myself to my university guidance counselor after one lecture in a college-level biology class; I knew immediately I needed to get out of the "science" college and enroll in the "social science" college instead!)

While in college, I took a weekend trip to visit a friend attending a college about 6 hours away. We had a great time; lots of loud music, dancing, a bit of karaoke (gasp!) and on the Saturday night before I had to leave we ended up continuing the party at someone's home into the wee hours of the morning (as college kids are known to do). One of the guys dropped his beer bottle just outside the jacuzzi, leaving glass all over the patio, and then he kept stepping in it. He complained that he was walking in glass but he kept doing it. When we were finally leaving, he decided to walk us through the house and out to our cars, but wanted us to wait while he got out of his wet bathing suit and put on some dry clothes. As he walked down the hall, we noticed that his foot was bleeding - badly - and he was tracking blood all over the WHITE carpet. We kept telling him to stop walking around, but he wasn't listening. Finally, as my friend examined his injuries to see if we needed to take him to get stitches, I looked at his foot, my brain engaged - ooh, that's really bleeding - and I hit the deck. I didn't actually fall, but I felt dizzy and had to sit down. I was 21.

When I was in my senior year of college, I dated a loafer-or-sneaker kind of guy. I finally convinced him to wear cowboy boots so we would blend in at the country bar where we were taking line dance lessons. When we got home, he used his right foot to wedge his left boot off ... and split his big toenail right in half. There was blood everywhere, and it was NOT pretty. (What is it with me and men with bleeding feet??) I took him to the emergency room and made the mistake of watching while the doctor anesthetized his foot (with a needle between the toes!) and proceeded to lift his toenail off. When I saw the exposed "meat" of his big toe, my brain engaged - ooh, that's human meat - and I hit the deck. This time I actually fell. Ever fainted? The next thing I know, there's this really awful smell wafting in the air. The nurse actually used "smelling salts" to revive me. After she helped me up, she made me sit with my head between my knees. Literally. I was 23.

A few years later my mom had some surgery to remove a tumor from her adrenal gland. The surgeon showed me a picture of the tumor - it was huge! - and it didn't bother me one bit. Then I was standing by my mom's bed and looking at her shortly after she woke up. She looked grey. My brain engaged - ooh, that giant tumor in the picture actually came out of her - and I hit the deck. Again with the smelling salts and again with the head-between-the-knees. I was 25.

Still years later, my then-fiance had some knee surgery and couldn't really move for about four days. I played nurse and changed his bandage. I pulled the dressing off, cleaned the incision, and when I got up to take the bandages to the trash, my brain engaged - ooh, blood was oozing - and I stumbled into the wall. I was 32.

Somewhere in my late 30s I turned a corner. None of the miscellaneous fluids associated with pregnancy, birth and c-sections bothered me. I'm very calm when my kids bleed. My own blood doesn't seem to phase me. A few years ago, my mother called me from the emergency room to tell me she had a nosebleed. About 8 hours after they packed her nose, she woke me in the middle of the night to tell me she needed to go back to the hospital. Her nose was bleeding so much that it was soaking through the packing and pouring down the back of her throat, making her choke and gag. Blood was everywhere; it looked like someone had been murdered in her kitchen. I took her back to the hospital, where they packed her again. A few hours later, she was bleeding all over the place again. We went to a different ER - clearly the staff at the first one didn't know what they were doing - and they packed her a third time. (By the way, according to my mother, having your nose packed is VERY painful ... and it hurts worse if you're already sore from the first, and second, packings.) Through all of this drama, I was fine (except for my anger and frustration that they couldn't get the bleeding to stop). I cleaned up the blood in the kitchen and I was fine. I washed the towels she had used to try to stop the bleeding and I was fine. Maybe my fainting days are over. If true, then I've hit the deck - or come close - four times that I remember.

And what did I learn from all of this?? It's a darn good thing I didn't go to medical school!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The People of Wal-Mart arrive in Sacramento?

Have you ever seen or heard of that website called something like the People of Wal-Mart? If you have email and you have friends, you probably have at least heard of it. Supposedly, the website features pictures of real, actual Wal-Mart customers - from all over the country, I presume - wearing some of the most outrageous and ridiculous outfits. These outrageous outfits are pitched as the person's "regular" attire. Frankly, I'm not certain if I believe the photos are what they claim to be, but I can tell you this: Every time the "People of Wal-Mart" email - sent from a well-intentioned friend or sometimes (gasp!) my own mother - lands in my inbox I can't help myself. I know it's going to be awful. I know I'm going to cringe. I know I am going to make derisive comments and be all judgmental and stuff. But I do it anyway. It's like a car accident; you know you don't really want to see the carnage but you slow traffic to rubberneck anyway. Thankfully, I haven't received an "updated" email in about a month or so because that last one? Nauseating. No, really.

The greater Sacramento area has several Wal-Marts; I can think of about 8 off the top of my head. Some are nicer than others. I live in a southern suburb of Sacramento, and our Wal-Mart is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. I don't even like to go in there, but alas, it is close so sometimes I do. A little north from me - literally, maybe 5 miles north - is a new one in an area that is being refurbished, and it's pretty decent (though it may not last because the neighborhood just really isn't recovering). In the next county to the west, the border city opened one of those Super Wal-Mart megastores about two years ago. There's another big one in the heart of the Sacramento area that is big enough to have its own elevator. I have been to every single one of these stores at one time or another, on different days of the week, and at different times of the day and night, and I can tell you one thing for sure: the "People of Wal-Mart" featured on the website and in the emails do NOT shop at Sacramento Wal-Marts. For example, I have never seen a size 24 woman stuffed into a size 6 hot pink romper. I have never seen butt crack (though I've seen plenty of boxer shorts peeking out of pants belted mid-thigh). I have never seen hair so long it drags on the floor. I have never seen children being dragged on the floor behind the cart. I guess that's why I'm skeptical about the authenticity of the website and the emails.

Sacramento hosts the California State Fair each year, which is humongous and full of all kinds of folks, some of whom travel the entire length of the state to get there. It is at the State Fair each summer where I see what I think of as the People of Wal-Mart, wearing ill-fitting clothes, showing too much (overweight and butt-white) skin, swearing a blue streak, and stuffing their faces with fried Twinkies and fried Snickers Bars. (Yep, they deep fry ANYTHING at the California State Fair.) In their defense, California hosts the State Fair in late August and through the Labor Day weekend, which, if you've ever spent a summer here, you know is MISERABLY HOT. I get why people try to get away with as little clothing as possible, but seriously, do they not look in the mirror before they leave the house? Even though these People of Wal-Mart populate the State Fair, I have never thought they populated Sacramento because I've never seen them.

Everything changed yesterday. I took my boys to the Sacramento County Fair. It's small and just like any other county fair: 4-H livestock and farm animals, photography and science project contests, displays, carnival rides, exhibitions and shows, and deep fried food. I always refer to it as a "shrinky-dink" version of the State Fair. The significant difference (other than shear magnitude) is that the county fair is really only populated by Sacramento-area people. We might get a few out of county people, but not many, because it's not really publicized and is just a "local" thing.

So imagine my surprise when I noticed the People of Wal-Mart walking around the fairgrounds! I saw some really interesting fashion configurations yesterday. One woman was wearing black zebra-striped stretch pants - at least two sizes too small - with a fringey black top and kitten heels. Really? I don't know what she was thinking. It might have made sense if she were there with a man on a hot date, but she was there with her little kids. It was so hot her heavily made-up face was melting. I saw a man with a beard so long that he literally tied it in a bow below his chin. Seriously. One woman and her "man" - dressed in black biker-type gear - were so drunk at NOON and so loud that their pre-teen children kept trying to get away from them. The mom kept slurring "guysh, wait for me. Wasyer hurry? I jes needa getta more beer." The children - boys about 12 or 13 - looked like they just wanted to die. The piece de resistance, though, was the very large man whose shorts and shirt were so small that he looked like Borat in his mankini. It was NOT pretty.

I guess the People of Wal-Mart do live in Sacramento. They just don't shop at Wal-Mart.

(I wonder if I should start a website called The People of Fairs and Festivals. That might be fun. Not.)