Monday, briefly

Cats are lousy first-responders

I accidentally stepped on the tail of one of my three cats Friday. She was uninjured but let out quite a screech.

My other two cats immediately rushed to the scene, apparently to see what they could do to help. When they realized they didn’t have opposing thumbs or first-aid supplies or any EMT training beyond the application of cat saliva, they discovered there was little they could do to help.

So, they figured, what the hell — let’s attack the injured party.

Very catty.

A rare celestial alignment of my three cats

Excellence = survival

My wife and I accompanied a friend to a recent hospitalization for some tests he was having. We helped him recall his family’s health history for the admissions official. Both his parents are in their mid-80’s and still relatively healthy despite their age and the accompanying maladies one might expect at that point in your life.

As we recited those illnesses, you got the feeling the hospital lady was missing the larger point that, despite a case of high-blood pressure on his father’s side and a bout with diabetes on his mother’s, these people were still alive. Would she have preferred that they died disease-free from a double homicide in their forties? It certainly would’ve made her job a lot easier.

Soon, the on-duty nurse arrived to introduce herself. Like most hospitals, they hang a small whiteboard near the wall clock where they can write some basic information the hospitalized person will need to know: his room’s phone number, the names and hours of the nurse and her assistant, etc. After posting these, the nurse wrote the word “excellence” and an equal sign at the bottom of the board and turned to the three of us.

“And how would you define ‘excellence’ during your visit here?” she asked.

We looked at each other, puzzled, as we struggled to understand the question. The nurse waited, offering no clue about what the correct answer might be.

Suddenly it occurred to me, as a former trainer familiar with some of the nonsense that passes for continuous improvement efforts, that we were the victims of a corporate quality initiative. These poor nurses had been yanked out of service, yanked out of time that could’ve been spent training worthwhile skills like offering snacks and keeping people from dying, and run through some worthless quality course. “Find out the customer’s expectations,” I imagine they were told by a consultant, “and then find a way to exceed those expectations.”

As our silence continued, you could tell the nurse was starting to get embarrassed about the whole thing. She doubtless had a checklist on her clipboard reminding her to ask this question, lest she forget that one of her goals should be adequately caring patients. Maybe she thought about an earlier family who wanted to look up “excellence” on dictionary.com through their Blackberry, or the working-class parents who wanted to know “what they hell are you talking about? My kid is sick here.”

“Um, I guess we’d consider our stay an excellent experience if we find out what’s wrong with our friend, and you can help us fix it,” I said. “And then maybe exceed our expectations a little as well.”

The nurse smiled broadly. Oh, that’s a great answer, I could see her thinking; it’s just like the one the consultant gave during his role-playing exercise. She scribbled it into her notes.

I was happy I could heal her discomfort.

When a body meets a body …

As I drove toward home last week, I feared I had made a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Juarez, Mexico. Lying in the gutter, just across the street from my house, appeared to be a lifeless corpse.

The subdivision homeowners’ association is going to absolutely freak. And they’ll think it’s my fault because it’s near my driveway. My annual dues are going through the roof after this.

When I got closer, the legs came into clearer focus. Poking out of the long beige pants were a pair of avocado green shoes. Odd, I thought, those colors don’t really coordinate very well.

Finally, I realized that it wasn’t a body at all, but rather a rolled-up shag carpet, likely dumped by one of the condo owners across the way.

Now I was really upset. We’ve complained about those people and their illegal trash disposal practices before. And shag carpet, no less!

Fortunately, not a poorly dressed victim

My thoughts are with you, I guess

There’s a nice guy who worked in our office several years ago who transferred to another division. We still see him occasionally. Recently, he and his family were called to New York, to be at the bedside of his mother who was in the final stages of heart disease.

Former coworkers who heard of his plight circulated a sympathy card in my department. It seemed to me that sentiments like “may your memories bring you comfort” and “others care deeply and are remembering your loved one with special thoughts” might be a little premature, even if well intended. It also occurred to me that I didn’t really know the guy, much less his mother, yet was being asked to sign the card.

What could I say about the pending, probable loss? How could I possibly find the right words to express how I felt about the sad passing of someone I didn’t even know existed? Maybe this would’ve been appropriate:

“Like others have written, your family is in our thoughts and prayers, though in my case it’s more of a vague awareness. I didn’t really know you, or your mother for that matter, yet I admire her courage for hanging on long enough to be appalled at getting this card. Assuming she does eventually pass, may it help to know that a total stranger wishes to add his acknowledgement that dying is bad.”

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2 Responses to “Monday, briefly”

  1. Kym Says:

    Thanks for the belly laugh! That last sentence left me with a smirk that should last through several loads of laundry.

  2. Oscar Says:

    I am a victim of that corporate BS.

    I’ve cussed stuff out before seeing it closely. LOL

    Fitting tribute to “whatsername”.

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