Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dead Wrong

When I was a senior in high school, I felt like I ruled the world. Totally indestructable was I, full of hope and optimism and strutting around my town like I owned everything in it. Everything I did was fun and exciting and felt new, and I was brimming over with life. It was in this state of mind that I applied to a job at the hospital where I was born. I needed extra running-around money, and what better way to line the pockets of my acid-washed jeans than to do a little office work for the local hospital? File some papers, answer some phones, chat with the other workers in the office. Like the rest of my life at that point, it was perfect. I set it up, and showed up to the Records Office on my first day.

"Hi, welcome! Let me show you to your desk."

This was a thrilling sentence to me, as any job that I had ever had until this point had never involved anything called "your desk." I got a desk! Mine! I immediately began fantasizing about myself at my own desk, in a cute 40s-esque pencil skirt with Lauren Bacall hair and back-seamed nylons. I decided I would put a fresh flower on my desk each day that I worked, and I hoped that I would be lucky enough to have a sassy desk neighbor who would crack jokes with me and give me advice about boys.

"Follow me please."

I don't remember who this disembodied voice that I keep quoting belonged to. I remember she was female, and my supervisor, and that she seemed nice enough. I wish I could remember more about her so that I could piece together the kind of person that would put young, fresh-faced me in the position that she did. Because, you guys? It was messed up.

We got in an elevator and she pushed the button for the lowest level ever created. It was like, a sub-sub-basement. I figured my fantasy desk would most likely not have a window nearby, but I kept the faith. I was still hopeful.

The doors opened, and I swear to you, I was in hell, people. We entered a gigantic room, with no overhead lights. There were cubicle walls as far as the eye could see. The only lights in the entire room were from little desk lamps that were placed on each desk in each cubicle. As the disembodied supervisor led me through the maze of cubes, I peered into each. There sat sallow-faced workers, typing on computers, the green glow of the screens (this was back in the day when computers were all black screens with green letters like in the Matrix) illuminating their blank faces. There was no talking. There was no sunlight. There were no fresh flowers and Lauren Bacall hairdos.

"This is your desk. Have a seat."

I sat in my little cubicle, in front of my little computer screen, and looked at the tall stack of folders next to my keyboard that reached well above my head.

"Each of these is a patient folder of a deceased patient. You'll just take each folder, look up that patient's name in the computer files, and find the field that says 'status.' And all you do is change whatever is in that status field to a 'd.' D for deceased."

Oh yes. You heard that right. Old Disembodied was telling me that my job was to sit there and look up all these dead people and then change their active records to inactive by typing in a little d. For deceased. D for Deceased! Did Cookie Monster ever sing a song like that? "D is for Deceased, and that's good enough for me"? I don't think so. Because it's not good enough for me. In fact, I can counter that statement with a whole lot of other D statements. Like D is for Damn, that's fucked. Or D is for Dude, are you shitting me?

Anyhow, with those instructions, Disembodied walked off and left me there. And I, although a product of parents who taught me never to take any shit from anyone at any time, put my head down and got to work. I don't know why I didn't object to the fact that this was not what I agreed to do when I applied and accepted this job. I was a very strong-willed 17-year-old who had lived on her own and fended for herself many a time, but something about the environment was overwhelming. I just forged ahead and started in on those folders. Not too far into this project, as I looked at the names of these faceless people and officially switched their status from alive and kicking to dead as a...dead guy, a thought occurred to me. A thought that was even more horrifying than the task at hand. What if I came across a name of someone I knew? My city was not tiny, but it was interconnected enough that I could imagine such a thing happening. This thought put me over the creep-out line. I called my boyfriend on the phone that was thankfully on my desk.

Me: (whispering) Hey. It's me. You've got to come pick me up.
Him: Why? What's wrong? I just dropped you off an hour ago.
Me: I can't do this! I have to look at dead people's files!
Him: What?
Me: I can't talk about it right now. Can you just come and get me?

And he did. I just walked right out of there. I wish I could say that I never went back, but I did. Every day for about two weeks. I never could finish a shift there though. I always, always bailed early. And I never took myself home, or called my parents. I would call my boyfriend, who would ride up on his motorcycle, and I would get on the back and we would ride the fuck out, usually way too fast. Looking back, I think I needed this dramatic exit each day. Something to remind me that I was young, cocky, and indestructable. Something like grabbing onto my boyfriend with my arms and knees from the back of a speeding motorcycle. Something to remind me that I was seventeen and life was delicious. That was the statement I needed. D is for delicious.

Kiss the rings, I'm out.
Librarian Girl


french panic said...

Boyfriend with a motorcycle at 17?


That slice of coolness almost cancels out the acid wash. Almost.

Librarian Girl said...

Come on! The acid wash was STYLIN' back in the day. TOTALLY HOT.

Sauntering Soul said...

I once worked in a hospital too. Also in the sub-sub basement. I was right next door to the morgue (and spent my shifts working totally alone). And I got to wash up the bloody surgical tools. I so wish I was kidding but I'm not. At least now I know I'm not the only one who had a creepy hospital job back in the day. Shudders.

Anonymous said...

FSC - Librarian Girl was THE COOLEST in High School (still is today). She got the guy that was older that we aaaaaaaall fantasized about while in our choir class. THE OLDER MAN! He was in a band. I mean the cool-ometer blew up! Seriously.

Librarian Girl said...

Al--"the coolometer blew up"???? HA HA HA HA HA. I'm crying from laughing over that one.

Darlene said...

Well, I think that story had all the makings for a great movie- Shitty job, monotone disembodied natzi boss, and hottie boyfriend saving the day on his motorcycle. good times, good times....

Anonymous said...

I also worked in a hospital basement. The department next door to mine was The Morgue. All the newly dead rolled in and out past our window to the hall. The most disturbing dead dude ever had been shot with an arrow, so when he rolled down the hall you could see the feathered end of the arrow sticking out through the zipper on his body bag. Seriously, disturbing.

Desperate Housewife said...

You must have been POPULAR in high school!

Anonymous said...

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