Monday, May 14, 2012

Smoke Signals

This man walks into the ER (classic start of a bad joke, why should today be any different).  He noticed that some thick, black smoke was pouring out of one the the chimneys in our very old building as he was passing by a couple of hours ago.  He was on his way to an appointment and just didn't have time to stop but, hey, nice of you to check in with us on your way home to make sure we were not burned to a crisp in the interim.  He suggested we might want to have our maintenance guy check it out.

Ellen gets nervous about these things and wondered if we should call maintenance now, on the off-shift and also off-site, or if I thought it could wait until the following day. Or if she should call the fire department.  I'm the nurse in charge which I guess also makes me in charge of everything else.  Besides, six months earlier there was a back-up of thick smoke that cleared out the building and left an odor for days.

Me:  Yeah, put a call in.  What the heck is a little overtime when we might be fully engulfed in flames in a little while?

Ellen: Wouldn't we have a lot of black smoke if there was a problem in the boiler room?

Me: Well it's a catholic hospital so white smoke means that a new pope has been elected.  Black smoke would mean they haven't made a decision.  Although  I'm pretty sure the old pope has to be dead first but I don't really keep up with that type of thing.

Ellen:  I don't understand.

Me:  I'll go check the boiler room; you call maintenance.

Ya gotta love Ellen.  She is so earnest; she always means well and would do anything for anybody.  She has at least 10 "get well" or "Happy Birthday", cards going around.  New people are powerless to  escape the Spanish Inquisition when it comes to Ellen's Vital Records:  Life Events, Spouse's name, Children, Pets (and their names), and especially Birthdays.  Everybody gets something; a cake, brownies, raspberry bars, or our favorite, Whoopie Pies.  And hers are goooooooooooood.   But I digress.

On another night I had a problem with a strong odor of smoke.  Cigarette smoke.  It was coming from somewhere......close.  REEEally close.  From inside the building.  From....Holy Shit!  That asshat was smoking.... in the bathroom?

Old Drunk: "Nope, I wasn't smoking"

Riiiiiiight.  "Sir, you cannot smoke in here.  If you do it again, I will call the police and have you escorted out"

I had to open up the ambulance bay doors to get the smell out.  It is bad enough that people reek of cigarettes in triage while they claim to smoke "2 or 3 cigs a day"; sometimes at the end of the day all I can smell is stale cigarette smoke.  It is so disgusting.

I am a reformed smoker.  I last smoked 33 years ago, my final pack of cigs hitting the trash bucket at the same time as my first positive home pregnancy test.  It was tough to do, no doubt about it.  I just don't get that people with kids think that they are not exposing them to the dangers of third-hand smoke by merely smoking outside. The chemical residue clings to clothing, skin, hair, furniture, and builds up in the car.  If you are "only smoking outside", you are exposing your family unnecessarily to harmful toxins.

OK.  Off my soap box.