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.
I’m slowly getting settled into North Dakota. I’ve been here almost a week. They tell me this has been a very mild winter so far – I believe them and I’m grateful. It was snowing this morning when I got up, but not very hard and it was not predicted. There was just a little snow on the roads. It was a hard pellety kind of snow, almost like little styrofoam balls coming down.
I ate breakfast in the hotel this morning. They have a “free” breakfast every morning. It’s pretty nasty, especially because I’m still on Atkins and all I can eat are the eggs and meat. The scrambled eggs the other morning were like dried up little yellow goat turds – pretty gross. The only other alternative is to eat Atkins bars for breakfast, which I really shouldn’t do because I eat them for lunch. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that every single dish they make in the hospital cafeteria is loaded with raw onions just before it is served. Everything I have eaten in there has left a nasty taste of raw onions in my mouth. I can deal with cooked onions, but raw ones? The food there is pretty bad. The vegetables are overcooked and so mushy that they fall right off your fork. The meat and fish are dry and generally covered with some kind of coating I shouldn’t be eating. So it’s Atkins bars for lunch.
And I must feed my diet Coke addiction. I get a big one when I get there first thing in the morning and another one at lunch. At least they don’t put onions in that. I consume untold quantities of diet Coke. Except for the 12 pack I exploded in the trunk of my rental car. That’s there to stay. And it’s pretty cheap – 30 something ounces for $1.02. People understand the Diet Coke Imperative when I explain that I can’t drink coffee.
Clinic is pretty dang light. I’m not sure why they need to bring in all these travel doctors, seriously. A big load for clinic here is 5 patients in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. Hell, back home I saw that many in about 2 hours. Today I had only one patient after lunch. The other two docs only had one or two also. So I went home at two o’clock and decided it was laundry day. I wore my last pair of Cuddl Duds today and must have fresh ones. They get kind of sweaty under those scrubs. Plus, I didn’t have time to wash them before I left home when I got them out of my ski box. They were kind of musty. So off I went to the laundry room on the third floor and now I have all soft fresh scrubs and socks and undies and Cuddl Duds. Nothing I love more than warm fresh laundry!
There’s a lot going on in the background with what my next job will be. I thought I had a pretty guaranteed repeat job here in N.D. but the way they’re hemming and hawing at the locums place, I really don’t know. They’re still unable to let me know if I have any days in April. And April is soon. I need work. Now they’re offering me a job in South Dakota starting in March, and I don’t know what to do. I only have 5 work days here in March, the fourth through the ninth. I can do two weeks at the end of March in S.D., but then I don’t know what to do about April, since I still don’t know about days here. They’re already wanting me to fill out paperwork for S.D. I have a bunch of papers to fill out and mail, but they’ve all been emailed to me and I don’t have a printer hooked up to my laptop, obviously. So I’ll have to figure out a way to download and print all that stuff from clinic. I feel very confused and disoriented. And I can’t always get in touch with my rep at the locums place when I want to, and I can’t always get in touch with my husband, and I always forget to ask one or the other one of them something that I need to tell the other one. Is it too much to ask for just a nice recurring gig? The new South Dakota deal is supposed to be that, but so was this one. They’ve got too many locums here.
I’ve been making jewelry in the hotel room with all my free time from clinic. Here clinic starts no earlier than 9:15 and the last patient is at 3:30. If that. Hell, at home, we started at 8:30 sharp every morning, sometimes 8:15 and ran till noon, and then afternoon was from 1:15 to 5:00. I don’t even have any patients here tomorrow until 10:00. So, wow, I can really sleep in, which I love. And I don’t have any call, which is good because I don’t have to stress over it, or be up all night, but which is bad because I would get paid a lot more if I had it.
I’m waiting to get some real snow so I can get out and get some pictures in it. I’m beginning to wonder if I should have taken up all that room in my suitcase with my camera equipment, because this little town is not all that picturesque. I think it will look better if covered with snow, but then there is the whole matter of driving in the snow in my tiny little Chevy, which is so not equipped for heavy snow and ice driving. I’d like to go out in the country a ways to get some pictures, but I’m scared I’d get lost in the cold or slide into a ditch. So for now, since there really isn’t any snow, I think I will stay in my nice warm hotel room and make some more jewelry. I’ve already made eleven pairs of earrings. I wore some of them today.
I’m just really confused with sorting out all the job possibilities and opportunities, and I feel like I need to be able to communicate more and better with my husband, so I don’t sign up for something that will mess us up or piss him off. For example, I called him about two hours ago to see if the attorney gave me a tax ID number for my new P.C., and he hasn’t called me back yet. And since I am now a P.C., and not just me, I need to have all the checks deposited into my new business account. But to do that, they need my tax ID number, and hubby still has yet to call me back.
So here it is, 430 in the afternoon, I’m off work for the day, have written a blog post and done all the laundry. Now I’m off to make some jewelry. That I understand. That doesn’t confuse me. In fact, I downright enjoy it. Then I need to recheck Facebook to keep up with all my nurse and doctor friends back in Alabama, because they are getting fired daily just as I predicted, which is why I left that crazy town anyway. They fired a great nurse last night, and I hear they let one of the doctors go today. So I’ve got lots of communicating to do. And then I don’t have to be at work until 10:00 tomorrow morning. I’m so glad they pay me by the day and not the hour!
When I left for my 3 week engagement in North Dakota, my daughter gave me Guck to travel with me so I wouldn’t forget her (like I could ever do that). Guck has slept in bed with me every night. Guck goes to clinic with me every day and sits on the counter and helps me with my charts. The nurses think Guck is very cute and love that my daughter gave him to me to travel with. They’re not sure how she could give him up since he is obviously so well loved. Guck has been featured widely in our Skype conversations and in clinic photos I have texted for my daughter. I have special plans for Guck. When I have time to explore around here and when there is snow for beautiful photos, I plan to feature Guck in all the pictures just like the traveling gnome in Amelie. Then my daughter will have a special souvenir of my travels with Guck!
Wow. Holy crap! What a day!
I arrived in North Dakota yesterday, in preparation for a 3 week stay as a temp doc (known as locum tenens). I have never been to North Dakota before, I don’t think. My parents did a lot of traveling when I was a kid, so maybe we went to North Dakota and I just forgot. I have definitely never been here in February.
My first day of work was today. I had to arrive at the hospital at 7:30 AM to start my hospital orientation. Even though my hotel is like, five minutes up the road from the hospital, I got up at 5:30 (ouch) to make sure I had time to shower, dry hair (so as not to become a docsicle), put on makeup (which I rarely do, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take), eat breakfast, deal with any ice situations, and find my way to the hospital on time.
I got to the damn hospital 45 minutes early. I hope they were impressed with my punctuality. Tomorrow I’m sleeping later. It was supposed to snow 3 inches last night, which was part of why I got up so early. Instead of 3 inches, there was just some loose snow eddying in the wind in the parking lot. I was unimpressed.
The lady who was to meet me at 7:30 was actually already at the hospital when I got there, so we went ahead and got started. I was photographed, rephotographed, processed for a badge, guided through several hundred pages (a somewhat abridged version, but still) of the hospital rules and regs, given a crash course in the hospital computer system, which I must say the IT girl had an alarmingly low understanding of, taken to medical records for dictation numbers and instructions, and given a full out tour of the hospital.
As I have no sense of direction, I have no idea where anything is. They took me to the clinic where I will be working at about 11:00. My first patient wasn’t until 1:30. I met the nurses, and some of the doctors, and became aware that the system is pretty much chaos. They have so many temporary doctors coming in and out of there, there are hardly any permanent ones. Maybe because, hmmm, it’s North Dakota? Actually, it’s because this place is a boomtoom. Hundreds of people are pouring into this little town because they are now fracking full steam ahead. I will have no office – I will just work out of whatever area they have available for me with whatever nurse they have available for me each day. It’s crazy.
Now here’s where the serious craziness comes in. Since I didn’t have any patients for a couple hours, I started asking questions. At the time I finished my residency and was looking for my first job, I interviewed with a woman who was a very strict Catholic. She informed me that she could not condone tubal ligations or basically any other form of birth control. So I thought, well, surely since we’re in the twenty-first century, that would no longer be the case, but this hospital is a Catholic hospital. So I asked. Holy crap, Fertile Woman! They don’t tie tubes. They don’t do IUDs, or Implanons, or Depo Provera shots. If you give a prescription for birth control, you pretty much have to establish a medical reason for it. Other than just not wanting any more babies, which appears not to be a valid reason. Shit, when I was working in Alabama, I put everyone on birth control. Seriously, I made sure my teens, and my patients without insurance, and my patients who wanted no more babies had birth control and plenty of it. Isn’t that kind of a big part of the job of an Ob/Gyn? BUT NOT THIS PLACE!!!! (Yes, I am screaming here). How can I be an Ob/Gyn and not help with birth control? WTF?
So I chewed on that bit of craziness over lunch. By time for clinic to start, I was pretty well convinced I wanted to go home and never see the place again. But once again, the patients won out. I saw some great patients, and after a little conference with the nurse taking care of me, I established that I could, in fact, prescribe birth control. We just don’t install it. So if they want a shot, or an implant, or an IUD, we send them somewhere else in town. So there are options.
By the end of the day, I was feeling better. The nurses were nice, the patients were nice, and I was learning a few things about how to get along in the clinic. I felt sufficiently energized at the end of the afternoon to go home and read and write a little and had a lovely Atkins dinner of eggs and cheese. And Mom called to see how my first day of work went, so I filled her ears with all the details of my first day at work. And now I’ve filled your ears (or at least your eyes, since you’re reading) and feel much better. And soon I’ll have a little Skype with my husband and sweet little daughter, and I don’t need to be in clinic tomorrow until 10:00!
Tune in tomorrow for more fun-filled North Dakota escapades! Beadstork OUT!
Well, here I sit, wore slap out. I got up at 3:20 this morning to get to a 5:30 flight on time. Today is Dickinson day! 5:30-7:30: in Atlanta. 8:30-10:30: in Denver. 11:30-1:30: in Dickinson.
Wow, that alarm went off early. My husband and I both staggered out of bed. I had taken my shower the night before, being unwilling to wake up early enough to wash and dry my hair. The last thing we packed up was my computer. I had my purse loaded up with money, ID, printouts of plane tickets, Hertz reservations and hotel reservations. There was also plenty of gum, and Atkins bars. My little quart Ziploc was loaded with various liquids under 3 ounces. I did a tight pack job on my backpack, which is designed to carry my laptop plus some other stuff. The other stuff was spare thermals, spare scrubs, clean underwear and socks, in case they lost my luggage, along with scarf, muffler and gloves. And more Atkins bars. We scooped our daughter out of bed in her footie pajamas and tucked her into the van with her blanket and a stuffed animal. And we were off!
I made it through security without being cavity searched, which is an acheivement for me. Well, I did get patted down AFTER I went through the little x-ray revolvy thing. The connection in Atlanta was going to be pretty tight, and I was worried that my suitcase might not make it. The suitcase contained my camera equipment in a hard case, about ten pairs of scrubs, about 20 pairs of underwear, a couple pair of jeans, my tennis shoes, a pile of thermals, some polar fleece and yes, you got it, more Atkins bars. Just in case they don’t have them in Dickinson.
I barely made my connection in Atlanta. I sank with relief into the airplane seat. I was actually so exhausted that I was able to sleep on the plane. I also discovered two great things about traveling with a big fleece jacket: you can wear it like a blanket when it gets cold on the plane, and you can wad it up into a ball and make a dandy pillow.
When I arrived in Denver, I had to go all the way to the A terminal. It seems the A terminal is kind of where the misfits go: international connections to Montreal and Cancun, and the dreaded Great Lakes Airlines. There is a basement in the terminal just for Great Lakes. You are at the level of the tarmac and have to walk out to your plane. Their fleet of planes are all twin prop jobs, alarmingly primitive and ancient in appearance. Then I got a nasty shock. A woman in a uniform came up to me and told me I would have to check my backpack; only one piece of carry on was allowed on these tiny planes. My backpack had my laptop in it! Unless, she told me, I could somehow fit my purse into my backpack. Impossible! My purse was very large, and very full, as there is no point in bringing a small purse as one of your carry on items. You have to pack as much stuff as you can. I started freaking out; they were going to smash my laptop in the cargo hold. I quickly discovered that it is amazing what you can stuff together when you have to. The woman did say that they wouldn’t say anything to me if the backpack was unzipped, as long as the purse was all the way in it. Well, I STUFFED that sucker in there. And no, it wouldn’t zip, but it was in there, and if I held it with both hands, it would hopefully stay together to make it onto the plane.
They let me on the plane. Then another awful shock! The overhead bins were so tiny, I couldn’t even fit the backpack in them. I started to panic, then realized that the gaps under the seats were pretty roomy. I stuffed that sucker under my seat and kept kicking it until it fit like a cork in a bottle. I sort of rested my boots on top of it, so the flight attendant couldn’t see that it stuck out a little bit. And seriously, she was the Carry On Police. She inspected each row on each side to make sure not even a tiny bit of anything was sticking out anywhere. I rested my fluffy jacket on my lap to make it hard for her to see down there. Somehow I passed muster. I made it on with my stuff and saved my laptop! The downside was, I couldn’t access my purse, as hard as it was stuffed into the backpack, which was jammed under the seat. So I couldn’t get to my Kindle and had no way to entertain myself.
The view out the window was not reassuring. I was right over the wing, with its rickety looking propeller, with warped looking metal and graying rivets. Now, my husband owned a Cirrus, and I am used to riding in a prop plane, but his plane was new when he bought it, and the whole plane is fitted with a parachute in case the engine goes out. This plane had no parachute, and seriously looked like a relic from the 1940’s. I closed my window because I did NOT want to see the engine when it caught on fire. I stuffed my jacket up against the window and buried my head in it. I woke up and we were landing. Yay for landing!
I was surprised to see there wasn’t very much snow on the ground. I had expected feet of snow just lying around from previous snows, but it seemed like most of it had melted. Today was a super warm day here too. I’d been following the weather out here before my trip, and had gotten used to seeing temps like -8, so it was at once a relief and somewhat of a disappointment that it was 44 degrees. However, it seems the weather is going to oblige me tonight with a blizzard of at least 3 inches of snow and a precipitous drop in temperature. I’ll be ready for it!
We trekked from the plane into the tiny airport. The baggage claim was a single slanted straight ramp. Lo and behold, my suitcase was on it! I went to the Hertz counter and they had my reservation all ready, with a packet of keys and instructions. He was nice enough to have a guy bring the car around, and gave me some directions to get into town. Frankly, navigating town wasn’t too hard as it is laid out with two intersecting main roads, and the population is only 18,000. I made it straight to the hotel and got checked in. No problems! The girl behind the counter said she was incredibly bored. I verified that they had an exercise room and a laundry room. I got her to give me directions to the WalMart, which turned out to be about six blocks north.
I decided to do the WalMart trip this afternoon, before the cold snowy weather set back in. I drove up there, and I think I have the only car in town. Everyone else has big pickups, vans, and four wheel drive SUVs. WalMart was WalMart. I’ve never been crazy about the place, but as far as I know, there’s only one other Mom & Pop grocery store in town and I’m not sure where that is. They sure are optomists in there, because they had aisles of Easter candy and little short-sleeved Easter dresses on display. I think Easter is in March this year, and surely these people are aware that it will still be freaking cold here in March. I was pretty amused. In this unseasonably warm 44 degree weather, I saw families and teens without coats and wearing shorts! I guess it’s kind of like a heat wave. But the snow is supposed to come in tonight, and by tomorrow night, the temps are going to be down around 3 degrees.
I’ve explored the hotel and unpacked my bags and written a blog post. I texted my hubby to let him know I made it OK, and I called my folks and chatted with them. They were anxious to hear all the details of the town; they’ve always enjoyed travel wherever it led them. They are considering coming to visit me while I’m up here. So I’m going to force myself to eat a frozen dinner (I’m not really hungry) and then I’m going to load up my backpack for my trip to the hospital tomorrow. And then I think I’ll go to bed, because I’m exhausted. So tomorrow I will post about the first day on the job in Dickinson, ND.
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.