Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sometimes, The Suitcase Has It Right

Chicago suburbs: Just so you know, you suck.

No really. You do. Now, I'm sure that there's lots of good things to be said about them and I'd be willing to bet they're filled with lots of lovely people and food and drinks and parks and what-not, but all that is cancelled out by the fact that each and every time you need to use a traffic ramp, to either enter or leave the freeway, you must pay a toll. And that's just so very wrong.

So, until you change this by, say, replacing it with a potato chip tax or a bottled water tax or a car tire tax, I'll continue to disparage your good name and assert that you do, indeed, suck.

Which leads us to how I spent my days off last week. No, it was not cleaning the house or reading a pleasant book or filling plastic eggs with Easter candy (all worthy things that I now need to do at the end of this week), it was spent in the glamorous Chicago suburb of Lisle, IL. (Motto: We're just an exit and another two tolls down from Naperville.)

I had my very first occupational medicine conference and, boy was I excited. Well, slightly excited. Somewhat.

The day I left, Wednesday, started rather dreadfully. In fact, if I believed in omens, I'd have faked appendicitis and never left the state. Being the anal soul I am, I had packed all I could the night before and made a list of all that still needed to be packed the next morning. As I'm ready to head out the door, I quite naturally go to zip the suitcase. It was full but not over packed. It had never been used, in fact I had to cut the tags off. It clearly had issues as within the space of 3 minutes, both of the zippers had broken off and I was cursing steadily under my breath as I jimmied the damn thing open, pulled my trusty duffel bag from the closet shelf and crammed what I could inside, adding a second small case for good measure. So, now we have me sweaty, cranky and leaving later than I wanted. And laden with an extra bag.

I staggered out to the minivan (because nothing says "cool" like a grey minivan) and heave the luggage in, pull out of the garage and reach for the remote to close the garage door. It's evaporated. What the hell? Who the hell drove the van last! Me. Being (all together, now) anal, I always return the remote to its place of repose, in the dash. Ah. Charles. Yes. He drove the little black Honda and must have taken MY remote to open the door as the Honda is missing its remote. OK, fine, I'll just take the one from the shameful SUV, that I hope we don't need to use until next November, when the snows start to lay deep. I hop out of the van with much vim and vigor and ......wait for it.......hit the solid sheet of ice that is the surface of the driveway. Slooooooooowly, I fall as a result of Somebody's law about a frictionless surface vs force and bodies in motion tending to stay in motion (damn Newton) and hit hard. During the approximately 5 hours it seemed to take to actually land, I was able to consider quite a lot of things:

  • That this was going to hurt like hell.
  • That it'd be a very good thing to avoid hitting my head.

  • That this was a really stupid way to start the day.

  • That this was a really stupid way to injure myself.

  • That if I lost consciousness, I'd likely lie there until Sara left for school after lunch, as there'd be no reason for anyone to look for me.

  • Oh! Wait! Work would probably miss me and I'd only lay here in sub-freezing temperatures for about 2 hours, and the cold would probably be a benefit to the head injury, slowing metabolism and retarding swelling (actually, they thought I was going to the conference that morning, like my partner, rather than working the morning, joke on me).

  • That this is really taking a long time to hit the ground, lets just get it over with, already, and remember to watch the head, shall we?

  • That this is really, really, really going to hurt.

There's something to be said for planning, as I did, indeed, not hit my head, just my wrist, back and butt, and nothing broke. So good. Oh, and the neck got a good whiplash-y sort of thing, but that's a small price to pay.

Got up, trotted (slid) gingerly to the house, where a large bottle of ibuprofen was sitting conveniently on the counter (Waiting for Colin, in the throes of the influenza, to need another dose.), swallowed 4 and poured a goodly amount in a sandwich baggie for later. I then drove like a nonagenarian, just waiting for the kamikaze deer to leap in front of the van to finish my day, but all was well.

After seeing the morning's patients, I hopped in the van and drove the 2 hours to where the conference was held, in a Hilton. Actually, that was harder than anticipated, as I kept taking every wrong turn possible (seems the area had grown up a bit since the directions were posted on the Hilton website), but after an additional hour and much paying of tolls for the use of the unavoidable on- and off-ramps (Chicago suburbs, you really suck), I did arrive, somewhat safely and more soundly than I deserved to be.

The good people at the Hilton were very welcoming and didn't even lose my reservation. And they keep a good bar (which my friend and colleague, J, and I availed ourselves of, for therapeutic reasons, of course; wine is a good muscle relaxant). And as I was feeling a bit shell-shocked, or freeway exit and ice shocked, we had no alternative but to avail ourselves of their rather good hotel restaurant. Salmon topped with crusted scallops has healing powers. As does chocolate-ginger creme brulee.

The conference itself had some good talks and a lot of meh talks. I am just not an occupational medicine doc at heart. I am an internist. I love my same day care clinic. But I know my job, as it currently exists, will be gone in a year or less, and I really love the people I work with. I had a group I loved once before and left them for my sanity. I don't want to do that, again. For me, the people I work with are even more important than the work I do. And it is still medicine. It's still doctoring. It's just from the work comp end, rather than the private end. And I am a good doc, I'll provide the best care I can, regardless.

I was also rather surprised to find that, if I wasn't the youngest one in the room of about 150, I wasn't far from it, at the ripe age of 42. Good lord, but we are a group of stodgy, old farts. I'll miss that about internal medicine conferences--the mix of ages and styles. I was one of the few not in a suit or at least a sport jacket (a suit? for a medical conference?), choosing to wear jeans and cotton shirts. Also annoying was that most of those in the audience who raised their hands were not actually asking questions or seeking clarification, but making statements trying to impress others with their methods. I hate that. Always makes me want to throw something squishy and smelly.

A few days later, I returned to home and hearth, husband and kids, laundry and dog hair, all in one piece, with a glimpse of my future and no closed head injury, so it's all pretty good, isn't it?

I'll take it.

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Blogger amymalia said...

Ah, the old affirmative statement masked as a question bit. Yes, yes, I do love me some "isn't the spleen the largest of the lymph tissues? And isn't it true that there is both B and T cell distribution throughout? And would you not concur that I rather resemble a horse's ass?"

Usually I reach for the bed pan. I've been quite pleased with the results. Feel free to try it yourself.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Do you still ache all over?
You are SO lucky to have not hit your noggin. i have taken two tumbles when on my morning runs and I know exactly what you mean about how a few seconds seems like eons and a whole litany of repercussions goes through your mind.
My friend Sue is here at a toxicology conference. Don't you pick any exciting locales for workshops and conferences?

10:23 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Oh. That had to hurt...

I bet you have a rainbow of bruises to match.

But at least you got to feel like a kid compared to your conference company. :-)

8:11 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Amymalia (or do you prefer "Amy" or "Amy Malia" or "Sparky"?)- Yes, indeed, I do find the spleen to be the largest of the lymph tissues and I do, indeed find you to be a rather large horse's ass, in an ugly sport coat, to boot. Next time I shall know to add a bed pan to the duffel bag. (Or, for convienience, one of those collapsing emesis bags that the clinic keeps stocked. You can use them multiple times, thanks to the patented open and close feature.)

Teresa- Only the neck is a bit cranky. The wrist bruise is fading. I've taken running tumbles, too. Nothing like being a few miles from home with blood pouring from your chin. Next fall the conference is in Indianapolis! Woot! Plus, I have a two part conference in Peoria in May and June. Shall I pack leis?

Lauren- Yes, it is, indeed gratifying to my ego to be, once again, one of the young 'uns. My favorite part was when the program head introduced one of the speakers, a physician with kids in college as "This young lady" as though she were 12. He ammended himself and started calling her Dr Lastname, but I don't think she was pleased.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds just like a school conference somewhere. Much postering by conferees and a ample supply of BS.

The Ole RF-er

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Chocolate-ginger creme brulee is the antidote to any ailment, I'd wager, from hard falls to old farts.

As always, a terrific story.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Rob Hopcott said...

A totally superb piece of writing, dammit ;-)

If ever you want to give up being a physician and become a writer, all us so called professional writers would be really challenged.

Of course, if you did turn to writing professionally, you would probably not only experience annoyance paying the toll charges on the motorways but also, like the rest of us impecunious authors, experience difficulty finding the money.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Just so you know, the Chicago suburbs do indeed suck. That's a fact.

About the only good thing that can be said for Lisle is that is the location of Morton Arboretum, but that does you little good when it's snowy, icy, black slushy March and you've got a conference to attend all day, so for all practical purposes, the Chicago suburbs have nothing to offer you except the opportunity to lighten your wallet.


I'm not at all biased.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Dumdad said...

Glad to hear you survived!

1:35 PM  
Anonymous christie said...

Ah, the slow fall...I know it well. Nothing is like it, having what seems like eternity to ponder which body part you're about to break and what a dumb ass you are for doing it, whatever it may be (not implying you're a dumbass...implying I usually am when it happens to me). Glad you're okay and all the necessary doctoring parts are still functioning (and didn't get lost in Chicago either).

10:08 PM  
Blogger Coffee-Drinking Woman said...

It sounds to me as though the Thug Deer are in cahoots with Jack Frost. I'm just sayin' - spring is nearly here. they are waiting for you...

(glad you survived without too much damage...)

11:15 PM  
Blogger PixelPi said...

There is no good way to actually get to Chicago. It's the place that is the basis of the truism "You can't get there from here." At least you didn't have to suffer O'Hare by flying. I will book a trip through Dallas or Cincinnati to get where I'm going, price no problem, to avoid O'Hare.

Hope the wine, and especially the creme brulee, worked wonders on your whiplash. My doctor says it always hurts worse the second day. Is that true?

6:03 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Dad- people are people, aren't they?

Jocelyn- Too, too true.

Rob- So nice to meet you! I don't think I've met anyone with more blogs than you. Your compliments are terribly nice and not at all deserved, but thank you all the same. The tolls are terrible, especially the ones that run several dollars.

Rozanne- Of course I thought of you with this. I actually did get out and walked around a bit at breaks, but only around the neighboring office complexes. Still, it was nice to get out in the sun and see the melting snow. The Canadian geese were everywhere.

Dumdad- Me, too!

Christie- No, no, no. Dumbass, here, all the way. Complete, clumsy dumbass.

Teri- If the herds of them that wait by the side of the road are any indication, I'd say you're right. (But what the hell is with this snow storm for Friday? Bastards.)

PixelPi- See, you've hit it on the head, exactly. It always looks so deceptively easy on the maps, but it keeps growing up all around so fast that you've really no hope but to plan for at least an hour of driving around lost. I had to change planes in O'Hare last year and it wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but I had 3 hours between connections, so that helped. I also didn't have to go through security and all that, having done it from the airport I came from. And, yes, whiplash classically hurts much worse the secong (and third) day, which is true of most strains.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

All the way down to Lisle no wonder you had to sell your first born.

3:26 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I hate you (no, not really).

People are people something something, you and I should get along so awfully. Something else

Well, that'll be stuck in my head all day. Grr.

ICE is evil. I hate it and will avoid it like the plague, not easy in MN. So glad the fall wasn't worse. Had the same slow fall but mine also included the thought:

How much cat litter is going to end up on me?

I was taking the trash out and the answer is, quite a lot, leaving me to smell like cat pee all day because some of it ended up in my boot. Grr.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Lioness said...

See the ice, ICE IS EVIL, I tell you, EVIL! As is snow and Winter, surely you will see the need to move now? God, you could have been there for hours, all twisted and broken and hypothermic, have I mentioned hypothermia?? God I hate posts like this, where the perils of your wild environment are brougth home with gale force.

*collects self*

Conferences are the pits and the very best, it never ceases to amaze me how many tiny deltas there are strutting around trying to be silverbacks. Then again, I've seen my share of silverbacks strutting around as well and behaving like utter wankers, so maybe only a very small percentage of us are normal?

Oh, and the fall? It mightily reminded me of the sperm whale soliloquy while about to embrace the ground. It was *Thud* + *curtains down* for the cetacean, though. Maybe ice isn't that bad. (Is it Spring there yet? Hope you're all healed.)

5:13 AM  
Blogger listie said...

"But I know my job, as it currently exists, will be gone in a year or less..."

Wait! What?! Did I miss something?!

10:57 AM  

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