Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 1:21am
OK. I am going through something. Have you ever looked in the mirror, and stared deeply into your own eyes? And then noticed that you don’t recognize the person you see? I don’t mean, “Wow. I’m old. When did that happen?” I mean you see so deeply into yourself that you look completely unfamiliar - alien or evil, almost? (I look alien at the moment due to my accident, but I’ll get to that). I have, many times - most of them in my adolescence. Now, I am not seeing my real soul in the mirror, but I keep seeing myself in others. In their qualities I don’t like. Yeah, definitely going through something…
Anyway, as previously mentioned in other reviews, I work a lot. November has been one of those months (up until now) when I have had two off days.
As a result of this, I have been seriously considering a career change, or at least a career consolidation (I love both my jobs, but doing them to the degree that is required to make enough money and keep everyone happy is problematic) – to what, I know not. I am just waiting for the perfect job that utilizes my skillZ of sarcasm, literacy, and inappropriate humor to find me.
And pay me six figures a year.
A string of recent experiences has contributed to my decision to change my life (or at least my career).
First, I was working in Toronto on Election Day, and had to vote absentee. That was fine, as my candidate won – finally. I have felt from the beginning (and have oft discussed this with friends) that Barack Obama is the right leader for this time. As much as I love a Clinton, I knew from the moment I heard him speak, that Barack was the one. Yeah, I have a bit of a school - girl crush, I admit it. And though I would not kick Bill Clinton out of my bed for eating French fries, he never gave me the goosebumps that I get whenever I hear Obama speak.
The odd part was that every time I saw a newspaper headline that week regarding the victory, I would start to cry. I was seated on a plane from Ontario to Ottawa when this happened the first time; and the French Canadian gentleman beside me lowered his paper (featuring a headline reading, “Obama Overcomes”) below his gray-bearded chin, and said, “Mademoiselle? Are you all right?” I shudderingly replied, “Yes, yes – I’m fine. It’s just that I’m American and I voted for him, and, and… I’m SO relieved!” He responded, “Ze whole world is relieved.”
I had received many text messages and pictures from friends on election night informing me that we won. That was lovely, but when I saw that many of my fellow New Yorkers were celebrating in the streets, I felt keenly homesick, and intensely aware that I was missing out on something special. (Believe me, if it gets New Yorkers in the streets being nice to each other, it’s special) Normally, I appreciate the perspective that traveling gives me on our country, but I have started to wonder exactly how much longer I want to experience important life moments on airplanes or in hotel rooms…
The second week of November, I was in Chicago staying at a cute little boutique hotel, “The Monaco”. I was ready to hit the haystack at 9PM having had a long day of traveling and working, but I was unable to because a construction crew was using a JACKHAMMER directly outside my room for SEVEN hours straight. At 8:30, I called the front desk and said, “Any idea when the construction will stop? They’ve been at it since 6:00.” Front desk girl replied, “Hopefully, any minute, Miss Wood.” I called again at 9:30 and said, “I’m sorry, but I have ear plugs in, and not only can I not sleep, I can’t even concentrate enough to read.” I was told that as the crew had a permit, they could jackhammer as long as they wished. The front desk manager had asked the foreman of the crew to stop, and he said they would “at some point” (read, 1AM). When I suggested that maybe I should call the police personally as they were surely in violation of a city noise ordinance, I was informed it would do no good, as they had that permit. At 10:30, I called down to the front desk again, and asked where I could get a permit to sleep. They apologized profusely. At 11:30, I called and asked to be moved to a quieter room. I was informed that the construction noise was disturbing the entire hotel, and that further more, they were sold out, so they could not accommodate me in any way. I replied, “The reason one gets a hotel room is to have a place to sleep, and since that is not an option here, you have to do something to compensate me.” They took a hundred bucks off my bill, but that didn’t help me feel any more chipper or rested the next day.
I flew from Chicago to Phoenix, and worked a 12-hour day, then boarded a 5-hour flight from Phoenix, to JFK (on an airline with which I don’t have frequent flyer status). As I was silently thanking the universe that there was an empty seat between me and my elderly, sweet lady row mate, thus allowing me to catch up on some shuteye, I saw Jaba the Hut lumbering down the aisle right for me and the vacant middle seat on my row. I thought, “I gotta make a change.”
Honestly, this man was 6’7, dripping with chins, and by his own admission, weighed over 400 pounds (perhaps to compensate for the fact that he was overflowing the armrests and forcing me up against the window so that I looked like a can of smashed assholes, he was extremely nice and chatty). I have a drop of the claustrophobia, anyway, and being seated next to a man so huge that eating my packet of peanuts (the only food one is given on a 5-hour flight, these days), required me to pin my elbows to my sides and awkwardly bend my mouth to my little clenched hands like a Tyrannosaurus Rex contributed to my general feeling of entrapment, and made me long for a career that requires less public transportation.
Last week found me in Toronto again in an Intercontinental Hotel with a brand new, but still magically non-functioning business center. If one has a problem, one is to report to the front desk, though there is no sign that says this. In fact, there are credit card machines (that actually only take “access” cards that are the exact size and shape as credit cards, only less convenient, that one must purchase at the front desk, but there is no sign saying this, either) that read, “System offline, please see business center attendant.”. This message appears only after one has wasted precious minutes foolishly shoving one’s credit card into the machine repeatedly and to no avail. There is, of course, no attendant, so once one has telepathically intuited that the front desk is the only option for accomplishing any task in the “self-serve” business center, one has to walk all the way across the giant first floor lobby only to discover that none of the front desk employees have the slightest clue how to assist with or repair anything in there.
After thirty dollars in access cards and three unfruitful trips to said business center culminated in a single printed sheet of paper, and me waiting “five minutes” that spanned three quarters of an hour for Raoul, the IT guy, to arrive, I asked the front desk manager to refund all of the money I had spent in vain on their crippled printer and computers, and pay for a cab to take me to the nearest Kinko’s. They agreed, but it was midnight before I had completed all of the necessary printing for the next day’s meeting, and tumbled wearily into bed.
At 3AM, an unholy blaring that sounded like an air raid siren jolted me out of my king-sized slumber, and had me disorientedly grabbing my cell phone and trying to shut the alarm off. After seven piercing shrieks, approximately one banana apart, would sound, a recorded announcement would say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm. We are investigating the source of the alarm, and will inform you as soon as we have more information.” This cycle, of shrieks and message, repeated over and over for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, I called the front desk (the circuits were jammed, but I finally got through), and asked if I was actually in danger, and should I evacuate? “NO, NO, MISS WOOD,” she shouted over the deafening siren, “I KNOW IT’S LOUD, BUT EVERYTHING’S FINE. SOMEONE LEFT A DOOR OPEN IN THE KITCHEN, AND IT WILL STOP SHORTLY.” When it finally did stop, I was too jarred to go back to sleep. The next day’s meeting was for several hundred people (more than the usual number of attendees for this client), and very challenging on a 3-hour nap.
I left Canada at 9 PM, landed back in New York late Friday, and had to be at Trader Joe’s for work Saturday morning. And Sunday. And Monday. Tuesday night, after working a closing shift, I went to a karaoke party in the east village to honor my friend, Kaylen (it was her birthday/going away party – she will be singing on a cruise ship for the next 7 months, and traveling the world), and had a great time, despite my fatigue. I left the bar around 3AM, sober but very tired. I went to another bar with my co-workers, and stayed approximately five minutes. I then bought a bottle of water at a bodega, and shared a cab with a friend.
The cab driver didn’t want to continue to my house from my friend’s place, so I called my regular car service to pick me up. When I pulled up in front of my building, I realized that I no longer had my wallet. I then remembered that I had dropped my water bottle in the last cab (though I had heard it fall and retrieved it), and realized that my wallet must have fallen out at the same time, unbeknownst to me. This necessitated me making three trips up to my apartment to find a credit card with which to pay the driver (that wouldn’t require immediate canceling). I then spent an adrenaline-filled morning calling and canceling/freezing every card and account that had any possibility of being in my missing clutch. I also filed a lost property report with Yellow Cab of NYC (for which they made me pay $15 – bastages.)
I finally went to bed for a few hours of precious sleep before work, but could not drop off because the floors in my recently deceased neighbor’s apartment were being sanded/refinished. If you have never heard this procedure, allow me to describe it: Basically, it feels and sounds as if someone has installed the motor from a Harley Davidson motorcycle, along with one of those wind engines they use on boats on the bayou in your own bed and is driving it through some super rough, gator-ridden terrain, with you in the sidecar. When they pause in their work, but leave the sander idling, it feels merely like you are in a cheap motel bed with a malfunctioning “Magic Fingers” massage attachment (Think “Vacation”). And this is in the neighboring apartment.
I finally gave up, removed my eye mask and ear plugs, and headed for the shower, only to find that there was no water in my apartment. None. A quick call to Denis, my wall-eyed Super, who resides in the basement with his constant companions: a hyper Yorkshire terrier, and a Marlboro Red, informed me that the water was shut off in the entire building while a valve was being replaced, and would not be back on for at least an hour. An hour I didn’t have, as I needed to leave for work in 30 minutes.
I handled the situation thusly: I called a girlfriend in L.A. and told her all about my night, berated myself for losing my wallet (first time, ever, by the way), and generally bitched about my crappy morning, all the while pacing the apartment and intermittently testing the kitchen faucet to see if the water was miraculously back on. It wasn’t. With no other options, I decided to approach the situation as though I were a pioneer woman. I boiled some water from the Brita water pitcher (OK, so they didn’t have water filtration systems, then, but there was less pollution, so they didn’t really need them) in my fridge and used that in combination with my oatmeal and jojoba for sensitive skin make up remover cloths to take a whore’s bath of sorts near and around the kitchen sink. I used the remainder of the Brita water to brush my teeth and fill the kitties’ bowls. This meant that I had to forego coffee, which is unacceptable on a normal day, and even more untenable on a day with no sleep.
Decaffeinated and semi-clean, I left for my job at Trader Joe’s Wine Store on the day before Thanksgiving – A.K.A. “The Busiest Day Of The Year”, A.K.A. “Black Wednesday” (Seriously, there is a line that is half a block long comprised of cold, cranky, New Yorkers just waiting to GET IN to buy their Three Buck Chuck. It’s like we are an exclusive club, and all of the would be patrons are Tom Arnold instead of Mary Kate and Ashley.) I made it to the train station and realized that my recently purchased unlimited metro card was in my lost wallet, and hurriedly dug my one remaining credit card from my purse to purchase another one. I rushed down the steps to the platform just in time to see the back of the train I needed speedily retreating down the tunnel; and waited over 20 minutes for the next one, making me late for work. I needed coffee and water and some type of food item, and had no cash or time to purchase any of them.
I got to work, and somehow, I rallied. I was nervous about my errant wallet (especially after I realized that I had had a small, business-card-sized cheat sheet with two of my bank accounts listed on it inside it), but I work with some really great people, and the day turned around. I was visited by several of my city pals, who were in the neighborhood, or came to make purchases, and that made me happy. The bank was still open on my 5 o’clock lunch break, so I was able to run over and close my potentially compromised accounts, and open new ones. The woman who helped me at WAMU was incredibly kind and understanding.
Finally, there were only 20 minutes left in my shift, and I could see the light at the end of a very long 24-hour tunnel. I went over to the grocery store to share some supplies that we had at the wine store (They completely ran out of TP, all right? It was an emergency), and as I walked out the swinging doors into the corridor in which we receive deliveries off the street, I stepped on a pile of folded plastic trash bags, that someone had left lying right in the middle of the slick, cement floor. I was wearing sneakers with thick, rubber soles, that normally have lots of traction. I wasn’t running. I wasn’t pirhouetting. I was merely walking at my normally rapid pace, but my feet shot out from under me the moment I stepped on the bags and I didn’t have time to catch myself. I landed on my left cheek with a sickening crack, and immediately after, my ribs and left knee slammed into the floor. Everyone around me who saw or heard my fall gasped, and admonished me not to get up. I was so stunned, I didn’t know I was down, until I was attempting to stand back up. Instantly, my left cheek started to swell, as a giant goose egg took formation right under my eye. My ribs were hurting so badly I could only hold myself in one awkward position with my head leaning way back, thus elongating my rib cage.
People I didn’t even know (we have lots of new hires at the grocery store), and a few that I did, swarmed around me – getting me a folding chair, helping me up, helping me sit, pressing bags of frozen peas and vegetables to my cheek, ribs, and knee. Steve Dingle, one of our managers (who I believe has a military background) was in my face saying very loudly, “You’re gonna be alright, sweetie! Just relax, just relax! Don’t cry, darlin’! We got help coming for you!!!” I said I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I hate doctors, and I REALLY hate emergency rooms. I didn’t want to sit there for hours by myself, either, and tearfully said so to my friend, Chuck, who is also a manager. He said, “Give me a minute,” and ducked back into the grocery store.
My friend, Will Ferrell, (no, not that one) who is 6’4 and plays rugby, stopped by. He said, “Brookie? You OK?” I responded by saying, “I fell down,” and removing the bag of peas from my cheek. He said, “I heard.” Then, when he saw my face, he visibly blanched. I explained that it did not fill me with confidence to see a rugby player grossed out by my wound. Just then, Chuck emerged from the grocery store with all the necessary paperwork to process my worker’s comp claim, and someone got my coat and bag from the wine store. The EMT’s arrived soon after.
There was a female EMT and a male one, and it became quickly apparent that they had some kind of good cop/bad cop MO, with the woman being the bad cop. She roughly examined me after saying, “You’re just gonna have to deal with the pain for a minute,” and basically treated me like a suspect in a murder case instead of an injured person. She led me to the ambulance, but wouldn’t allow Chuck to follow me, saying, ‘”Give me a minute, “ even though he was hovering behind me with my purse and coat. She then proceeded to give me grief about the fact that I had only my passport for I.D.; and when I explained that I had lost my wallet the night before, I could almost hear her thinking, “You’re just the type to fall down – irresponsible. Probably drunk, too.” While Bad EMT was busy interrogating me, Good EMT was checking my vitals. He pronounced me hypertensive, which seemed to further convince Bad EMT that I was up to no good. Trust me, you'd have high blood pressure too, if you thought you had just broken your face off.
Eventually, Chuck was allowed to climb aboard, and Bad EMT loosened up a bit. Chuck has that effect on people. He knows absolutely everyone in New York City, and has never met a soul he couldn’t shoot the breeze with indefinitely. It is a very brief drive to Beth Israel Medical Center, and after another check of my vitals and temperature, I was given my own little stretcher in the ER. Chuck stood at the foot of my bed rapping with Good EMT, who was filled with questions about Trader Joe’s. I swear, working there in NYC makes you a minor celebrity, or something. While some hospital personnel wheeled an extremely chemically altered young man in on a gurney and shoved him up against the wall, Chuck and Good EMT engaged in a conversation that went something like this:
Good EMT: “So, three dollar wine, huh?”
Chuck: “Yep. ‘Three Buck Chuck’.”
Good EMT: “I’m not much of a wine drinker, but for three dollahs….”
Chuck: “Yeah. We got some good beer, too – in the grocery store.”
Good EMT: “Yeah?”
Chuck: “Yeah. We got microbrews, Brooklyn Lager, of course. And,
for $5.99 a six pack, we have a great beer from Germany…”
At this point, Chemically Altered Guy decides to stand up and walk out of the hospital, which results in him landing on his head so hard, it bursts open and squirts blood. Both Chuck and Good EMT pause and look at the floor.
Good EMT (bending down toward Chemically Altered Guy): “Sir, you seem to have bumped your head. I’m gonna get someone over here with some butterfly sutures, alright?”
(Back to Chuck): “So, $5.99, huh?”
Good EMT eventually took his leave after wishing me well, and we settled down for the long wait to see the doctor. Chuck sat on the end of the bed, and we were having a quiet conversation about the alien baby hatching out of the side of my face, when we suddenly heard the following from the neighboring bed:
Nurse: “Well, Mr. Weintraub, what seems to be the trouble?”
Weintraub: “Ohhhhh. I have horrible gas.”
Weintraub: “It’s HAHrrible. It’s pressing on my lungs, and I feel like I can’t breathe. I’ve taken everything over the counter. You have to give me something really strong for this hahrrible gasssss.”
Cut to Chuck and Brooke silently shaking with inappropriate/church laughter so hard that the hinges on Brooke’s stretcher start to squeak.
After that, I am unsure of the order of events, but eventually, a cute Indian doctor came in to examine me. He was concerned that I had actually broken my cheekbone, and decided I needed to have a CAT Scan. In the interim, he sent in a nice nurse who asked me to pee in a cup and then gave me a shot for pain, (which was quite painful in and of itself). Then Mr. Weintraub chimed in about his gas, or began dry heaving, or making bizarre belching sounds. Then, Cute Indian Doctor came back to tell me he thought I had a fractured rib, but since it wasn’t puncturing anything, there wasn’t much he could do about it. At some point, I walked painfully over to the bathroom only to discover that my motor skills had deserted me, and I had temporarily forgotten how to open the bathroom door.
There was more from Mr. Weintraub – “Oh, my gasssss!”. Then, a crazy – haired young woman with one sock on, and her right hand gripping the back of her hospital gown, scuffed across the floor towards the rest room, glancing furtively over her shoulder all the while. Chuck, pointing at her, said, “Your homegirl is gonna get in there and blow it up.” He was absolutely right, as I discovered on my next trip to the loo.
Someone’s monitor started incessantly beeping, and damn near drove me insane. It wasn’t beeping in an “I’m gone die way,” but more like an “I’m sending Morse code signals” way. In retrospect, maybe it was the pain medicine talking, but I remember telling Chuck that I couldn’t stay there any longer listening to those Morse Code signals. I said, in the general direction of the beeping, “You’re in the hospital! Help has arrived! Shut up!” I also tried to convince him that I didn’t need a CAT Scan, and to let me walk out. He was adamant that I stay and said, “What if your face is really fucked up? What if you can’t even get out of bed tomorrow? Is that what you want?” He was kind of bossy, actually. He also started “making a beat” out of the Morse code monitor sound. As I was shaking my head bemusedly at Chuck's beat-boxing, a short, wiry guy whose entire demeanor screamed, "NATIVE NEW YORKER, 100% ITALIAN" walked by in a hospital gown. Unlike my "homegirl" from earlier, he made zero effort to close the back of his gown, and actually strutted as he wheeled his IV pole by us. I couldn't help but laugh at the contrast.
So, the CAT Scan was clean, and I was finally allowed to leave at midnight thirty with a prescription for hard-core Ibuprofen, and one for Vicodin. Kaylen came to meet us at the ER, and took over from Chuck, helping me get my prescriptions filled, and riding home with me in a cab. She measured out the correct dosage of medicine and when she read on the bottle that I was to take it with meals, she gave me Cheez –its and Jelly Bellys, and said, “Here, Dub. Let’s call this a meal.” She came into my apartment with me, carried my stuff, and after turning off the kitchen faucet that I had accidentally left on that morning, even fed the cats for me. I was extra grateful for the Cheez-its, when I opened my refrigerator and discovered that I had nothing but a box of Corn Chex and a six-pack of Ginger Ale. I mean the cupboard was BARE, Mother Hubbard.
My ribs are still ridiculously painful, even several days later. Whenever I move a certain way, there is an undulating wave of pain so intense, that I moan, or cry out. Then, I laugh at how ridiculous I sound. The neighbors probably think I am having a long weekend of REALLY rough sex. Also, my face is HIDEOUS (No shit – I went to my still-living neighbor’s door to get a package she received on my behalf, and she gasped and covered her mouth when she saw me. She said, “I’m sorry, I was expecting someone else. My friend was just here, and I thought it was her, coming back.” I said, “Martine, you asked me who it was before you opened the door. I fell at work.” She started laughing at her own discomfort, and said, “Well. Is there anybody you can sue?”), but I cannot help but feel very fortunate.
I am fortunate to have two jobs, when some folks don't even have one. I am SO rich in friendship. Giv, Ryan, Fannie, and my friend, Whitney, all brought me food and medicine, and kept me company on Thanksgiving. Chuck has checked on me everyday, and made me laugh (though that is quite painful). He is also taking care of all my worker’s comp crap. My friend Bryan, in L.A., sent me flowers. I have gotten countless calls, emails, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and co-workers. I am very lucky that I didn't suffer a serious head injury. And, a good Samaritan even mailed my wallet to the address on my Driver’s License, which is in L.A. My old roomie is forwarding it to me, and it should be here on Monday, which is also my birthday. I think the universe is forcing me to slow down a bit, and in spite of the pain, I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. When one is in constant motion or deeply fatigued, even simple tasks like getting from A to B with all of one's belongings becomes challenging.
I have decided to work my repugnance to my advantage, thus calling my previously-planned birthday party “Brooke’s Horribly Disfigured Birthday Bash.” I might even don a black cape, get a barge pole, and ride a skateboard from my bedroom to the living room to greet party guests, since I look like the Phantom of the Opera at the moment. (When I mentioned this to him, Chuck, ever supportive, said "You could totally rock a skateboard. I have one if you need it.")
In conclusion, I have to say that Vicodin rocks, and I would totally have sex with it. It even made “Must Love Dogs” (which, in spite of featuring my future husband, John Cusak, and the fabulous Diane Lane [whom I want to be when I grow up] is an absolute piece – even among other Romantic comedies of that ilk) watchable.
So yeah, Happy Disfigured Thanksgiving/Brooke’s Birthday Bash!