Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “ice”


Mud is a season. In North Dakota, it follows Deep Freeze, which lasts about half the year. Spring is for sissies. In North Dakota, they have Mud.

When I arrived in North Dakota this time, I was excited because the weather was going to be unseasonably warm. I wouldn’t feel the sensation that the skin was cracking off my face when I went outside. I could walk, not skid, down the stairs off the plane onto the tarmac. I wouldn’t risk frostbite and death while looking for my rental car.

I strolled off the plane and went to pick up my rental car. They didn’t have a reservation. My liason at the locums company had forgotten to make it. I am so well known at the Hertz booth there that they call me “Alabama”. They simply pulled up my old info from my million previous rentals, and billed the car to the usual company billing number, no questions asked. They handed me my keys and I went happily out to pick up my car, secure in the knowledge that I would not turn into a pillar of ice while looking for it.

I dragged my luggage up the sidewalk towards the rental lot, which is unmarked, unpaved and unlit. Ahead of me, I could see what looked like a large puddle so I detoured into the road to get to the parking lot.

The puddle was not a puddle. Sometimes a cigar is NOT just a cigar. The “puddle” was a massive swamp, over a foot deep of pure mud. The whole parking area, which is glare ice all winter, had thawed in the warm snap and the permafrost was now perma-mud.

Everywhere, mud covered cars were sunk into the muck. There were two other rental patrons whose tires were spinning in the slime, finding no purchase, because there was nothing but more mud below.

It was pitch dark out there, what with the no street lights and all, but the gleam off the mud was unmistakeable. And I made the most intelligent decision of the night – I left my luggage on the pavement and made no attempt to drag it into that field. If I had, archeologists might be excavating it centuries from now, commenting on the sociological implications of lace thongs and jewelry making tools.

I contemplated opening the big suitcase and getting out my snow boots to wade into that mud, but that seemed like just too much trouble. I stepped as lightly as possible onto the mud, and with a SQUELCH my shoe pulled off my foot. Wily me, I was ready for that and promptly put my foot back in it. I began questioning the boot decision. I squelched my way to the car and climbed in, leaving huge fecal looking mud smears on the rug.

Without pausing for my usual seat adjustment/mirror adjustment/car charger/glasses routine, I started the car. I wanted to get onto the pavement and collect my luggage before it was run over or stolen. Or sucked into the La Brea tar pits.

At least I knew not to gun it. I have done a bit of driving in my life, and I knew gunning it would slew mud everywhere and dig me a deep slimy trench from which I would never emerge. I started the car and put it tentatively into drive. I gave it a little gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas: a familiar skewing slipping sensation told me that I was about to dig myself into a hole if I wasn’t careful.

I tried putting it in reverse. Same sequence of events. Only in reverse. The car wouldn’t budge. I cursed the rental company for not including cat litter in the car supplies.

I saw a big fella walking up to my car. I reckoned he saw I was stuck. He told me he would push the rear of the car while I slowly gave it some gas. He pushed. I accelerated. The car slid forward a few feet, hit a slight upward incline, and started digging into the mud. He indicated he would push from the front, and I would try it in reverse. Same outcome.

We surveyed the lot and identified an area where the mud appeared to be at least a bit more solid. We would aim for that area and I would try to turn the car around there and take a run up the little hill to the pavement. Nope.

We were both swearing politely when a second fella showed up. I love chivalry! I have never believed for a moment that it was dead. With both guys pushing and shouting “JUST DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!!! DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS! WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!”, I managed to slush the car onto the pavement! Triumph over the elements! I even remembered to collect my luggage, even in my manic excitement at having defeated the mud. As I pulled off, the one fella hollered, “HEY! Welcome to North Dakota!”

I yelled back, “No shit! And I was just happy it wasn’t 17 below!” I was extremely relieved, not just by my escape from an untimely mud embalming but because the bigger fella didn’t fall over dead while pushing the car. He had a great big beer belly and was puffing and panting after pushing that car. I just kept thinking, Lord, please don’t let him have a heart attack. I do NOT want to administer CPR on my knees in this mud!

As I drove up the road, I could hear the rattling and spattering of the mud off the chassis and wheels of the car. I kept fighting a belief that if I slowed down, I would be forever mired in a corn field.

I began to wonder if I was just a big ole weenie, whining about some mud in a parking lot, until I got to work the next morning and heard the nurses ranting about The Mud. There was no talk about budding leaves, or flowers, just MUD. One has a stress fracture and has had to wear a Hefty bag over her boot to just cross her yard. She can’t get a cast because it will get muddy and wet.

In North Dakota, the chirping of birdies has been eclipsed by the thawing of the permafrost and the release of primeval mud on a scale worthy of triggering mass extinction. Spring, thy name is MUD.

White Out: Snow On Alabama

Things A Southerner Has Learned About Northern Winters

1.  It is very difficult to push the key’s unlock button for the car with thick gloves on.

2.  Ice is very slippery.  It strikes fear even into seasoned Northern winterers.  They describe a universal knuckle whitening clutch on the steering wheel when driving on fresh ice.

3.  Ice somehow can gradually disappear, even when temperatures remain below freezing.  I don’t know if it sublimates, if they put out chemicals that change the melting temperature of ice, or if the heat of the tires on blacktop eventually melt it.  Where does it go?

4.  As I may have mentioned before, soft drinks left in the trunk of the car explode, and make diet Coke-sicles that hang off the lid of the trunk.

5.  Weathermen are frequently wrong.

6.  A blizzard is almost more about the wind than about the snow.

7.  Scraping ice off your windshield is like scraping glass off of more glass.

8.  Your car windows freeze closed and you can’t open them.

9.  There are many different kinds of snow.

10. The wind will blow the hoods and hats right off your head.

11. The dry weather makes the blankets on your bed crackle with blue sparks.

12. They say the dry weather causes an increase in paper cuts.  I believe it.  I have the paper cuts to prove it.

13. You have to go through a careful checklist before leaving any building.  You have to have things that you need to access organized in your outerwear so you don’t have to fumble around looking for things with clumsy gloves in sub-zero temperatures.

14. If you dress correctly, you really don’t feel that cold.  Especially after scraping ice.

Packing And Pacing

Today is packing day.  And tomorrow too.  But I have actually made amazing inroads into the packing situation by lunch time today.  Most everything on my to pack list, or sitting by the suitcase ready to pack, is ready to go.  I remembered at the last minute that my folks had taken a trip to Antarctica, and that they invested in all manner of thermals , and downs and fleece.  My mom, being the awesome person that she is, ran down to the FedEx place to overnight all their snow equipment so I would get it before I leave on Sunday!  Small issue here:  the suitcase is already full, but the fleece care package has not yet arrived.  I may have to pack yet another suitcase.  That will be unwieldy and expensive.

I think I am ready for the cold.  I have my ski jacket; my dad’s down jacket is coming, I have hats, and ski gloves, and thermal socks.  I have Thinsulate lined snow boots.  I have my camera, in its hard case, and with any luck I will get pictures of some beautiful snow.  My Kindle is on the charger and will be ready to go.  My MP3 and charger are ready to go.  If I pack a second suitcase, I may pack my jewelry-making supplies.  After all, I will be there for three weeks and there is only so much TV I can watch.  I am not much of a TV person.  I have more wretched forms to fill out for the freaking locum tenens people.  Apparently there is some standardized form that is used to apply to most locums jobs.  If that is the case, why didn’t he have me freaking fill it out for this job so it would already be done and ready to go?  This agency has been very kind, and helpful, but the right hand definitely does NOT know what the left hand is doing.  They have made me so many duplicate reservations for the car, the flight, and the hotel, that I am not even sure which one to use.

I am just marvelling at my good luck as it begins to sink in today that I never have to go back to that job again.  I am free of those negative, grumpy, unfriendly, cliquish, sarcastic people.  I will miss a lot of my patients, but I am friends with a lot of them on Facebook and we will be able to keep up.  I don’t have to deal any more with the hellish whirlpool of ill will that is the hospital merger going on in this town.  I am free to travel the world and work as I please!  Despite some setbacks (and there will always be setbacks), I feel very excited and ready to go.  We have the computer set up for Skype so the hubby and daughter and I can chat nightly while I am gone.  I will be able to exercise in the exercise room at the hotel.  I am racking up all kinds of frequent flyer miles.

I am still a bit nervous about the cold, but the flight is now arriving in daylight, which will make it easier to pack my car, scrape the ice, and find the hotel.  Then I must get up early the following morning and report to the hospital at 7:30 to get my tour and badge and keys and all that good stuff.  I don’t know if I will be working in the clinic or not my first day.  I do know I may have to take up drinking coffee again, even though it is bad for my stomach, because it will be so cold there in the mornings.  And I do love coffee.

My flight now has three legs, because they waited so damn long to book the travel.  I have to go from Huntsville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Denver,, and Denver to Dickinson.  My flight leaves at 5:30 AM.  Ugh.  We wil be getting up at the crack of doom, folks.  I do hate early mornings.  I just don’t think anyone should ever have to get up before the sun comes up.  It’s unnatural.

My daughter and I will be going out to do something special tonight since I will be gone so long.  I don’t yet know what, but if I know her, it will probably involve a trip to the Cracker Barrel.  That way Daddy can get some work done while we are out, and we can spend some Mommy-daughter time.  Maybe this will involve a pedicure.  I could sure use one.

So things are looking up.  Stuff is getting packed.  Plans are being made.  Soon I will be off on my new exciting travel journey!  I am sure Sunday will roll around very soon and we’ll be up in the dark, and racing for the airport.  I’ll keep y’all posted, hopefully with pictures of me in towering mountains of snow!

Come To The Land Of The Ice And Snow

So here is how I, a presumed redneck toothless Southerner, imagine that my upcoming trip to North Dakota will go:

I will undergo a full body cavity search when embarking on my journey out of Alabama because I send off some kind of weird vibe to the TSA that causes them to believe I am a Hijabi on a Jihad.  Don’t ask me why, because I am a little white German girl with blue eyes, but there is something about me that screams to the TSA:  TERRORIST!  I am the one chosen out of every line to be randomly searched, radiated and mauled.  Every single time.  They even did it once when I was travelling with my ten month old daughter – I literally had to hold her in one arm while I held the other one out so they could pat me down, and then switch her to the other arm so they could pat the other side.  She was screaming in terror of the strangers in their blue gloves.  I can’t say I blame her.

When I arrive in Denver, I will climb into a rickety prop plane that resembles the one full of goats and chickens in Romancing the Stone.  Yes, I am showing my age here.  The goats will actually be caribou, and the chickens will be those snow-shoes feathery footed birds that I can’t spell.  We will bounce wildly up and down in the frosty air, because the wings and prop will be freezing over.

We will land with a thud.  And a skid, because the runway will be covered with glacial ice.  We will have to climb down the stairs of the plane onto the icy tarmac, I in my puffy coat, and the cold will hit with a blinding force that will remind me exactly what a bad idea it was to go to North Dakota in the winter time.  There will be a blizzard.  And a whiteout.  I will not be able to see my hand in front of my face.

When I arrive at the Rent-A-Car place, half frozen, they will give me a Prius to attempt to drive on ice.  And it will not have snow chains or whatever thingies that I don’t know about to keep me from skidding off the road.  I will have to stagger out into the frozen tundra to find my car in the lot, which will be frozen shut with sheets of ice.  I will be unable to open the doors.  I will not have an ice scraper.  The GPS in the car will not work.

I will get lost trying to drive from the airport to the hotel.  I may slide into a ditch.  I may or may not be rescued by large Paul Bunyan-like men in red flannel coats and hats with earflaps who say, “Oh, yah” a lot.  I will finally find my hotel, and stagger, a frozen docsicle, weeping into the lobby.  I will have to go back outside and get my stuff and I may or may not get frostbite.

My first night there, I will listen to coyotes and wolves howling outside my room.  And the constant sound of fracking.  I may be going to a fracking boomtown.  I will learn everything I never wanted to know about fracking.  The room will probably be icy cold, and I will sleep in my coat.

Overnight, a massive blizzard will have descended on the town and covered the roads.  They will not be cleared and I will have no idea how to find the hospital.  Or how to drive there.  I will finally get there, and I will be late, and my nose will have the beginning stages of frostbite.  When I find the clinic and Labor and Delivery, the nurses will all have incredibly funny accents, right out of the movie Fargo.  There may or may not be murderous kidnapping psychopaths throwing people into wood chippers.  There may or may not be a pregnant cop whose husband designs postage stamps.  They will all say, “Oh, yah,” and then make tremendous fun of my Southern accent.  They will get me to talk just so they can hear how funny I sound.  They will ask me, “Say y’all,” and I will say YAWL with the biggest Southern drawl that you can imagine.  I will hit them with all my little Southern witticisms.  I will be an ambassador of Southerness!  I will show the world that just because I come from Alabama, I still have all my teeth!  And then we’ll sit down and have one of those incredibly gross bowls of french fries with gravy slopped all over them.  Cause that’s how they roll up there.

A Spot Of Snow

We had a little bitty ole snow yesterday that brought northern Alabama to its knees. The appearance of a snowflake immediately causes two things: mass carnage on the streets because drivers skid out of control on the snowflake when it lands and the rest of the drivers run into each other while staring at the snowflake as it is falling down, and a run on the grocery stores for milk and bread.

I have never figured out milk and bread. The bread, OK, it’s fairly nonperishable and can be used to make cold sandwiches, but the milk? If your power goes out, it’s a goner. And you can’t eat milk, I’m fairly certain, unless you freeze it. Maybe that’s the rationale.

Within a couple of hours of the snow beginning to fall and sticking a little on the streets (and let me say, people, it was above freezing all day – most everything melted immediately when it fell) people were skidding and wrecking all over the place. The major interstate that runs up north Alabama (I-65) had come to a complete standstill in both directions. People were off in ditches. Trucks were jackknifed onto the road. The major highways fared similarly. Our ultrasound tech headed for home and turned around in defeat because the roads were “glare ice.” She came back and slept at the hospital that night. Others took four or more hours to get home, as they had to wait for wrecks to clear and timidly limp their way up and down hills with a little wet snow on them.

The schools were immediately canceled. Parents were notified that school was over at one-thirty and we had to have everyone picked up. People were getting their kids and bringing them back to work with them since no work had let out. The schools also had delayed openings for two hours in the morning, thus messing up further workdays. And all this for less than an inch of snow that melted within a couple hours!

Multitudes of our patients called and canceled their appointments. They were scared to drive in the snow and they were all stuck with their kids. And yet, we had to sit around at the clinic until the last patient was seen at five o’clock. They didn’t have the decency to ALL cancel.

My daughter came home to my husband and played in snow that was so shallow you could see the grass under it. She still insisted on trying to make a snow ball. She would have tried to make a snowman but that was impossible. Pictures immediately popped up all over Facebook of families playing in “the big snow”. Snow was scraped up to make tiny snowmen. Tiny snowball fights were had. Some areas did get more snow than others, I’ll admit, but it never dipped below freezing. The main concern, as far as I was concerned, was that it had been raining for three days before the snow came down, and there were floods and the roads were wet. But since it never got below freezing…

We got not a morsel of snow in the downtown area where I work. I was seeing snow pictures all over Facebook, but there was not a drop near the hospital. Not a flake in the air, not a flake on the ground. It was all very disappointing. We got a tiny amount of snow at the house, but it was all melted by the time I drove home at five o’clock. My husband sent me a text with a picture of our daughter out playing in the “snow”. We must have been the laughingstock of the northern states. I was thinking about my impending trip to North Dakota and rolling my eyes imagining what the North Dakotans were thinking about the little Alabamians paralyzed by a little snow. It was really rather embarassing, as it always is when we are paralyzed by snow. In our defense, our communities own no equipment to remove snow, so the roads really can become a little dicey. By this morning, there was not a trace of the snow to be seen. But the schools still opened two hours late.

All day at work, the topic of conversation was the snow and how awful the roads were. My morning surgery got canceled because a pipe burst in the OR, for which I was eternally grateful because I got to sleep an extra hour and a half. I swear, we’d better not get any more snow or it’ll shut the whole state down. Having come from healthy Nebraska stock, I am a little embarassed at living in an area where we can get shut down by a few flakes of snow like that. Just wait til I get to North Dakota! The stories I’ll have to tell!

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