Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Weekend Assignment #332: Walking Past the School

There are few people to whom the main thrust of Weekend Assignment #332: Back To School is less applicable than me. But I'll answer anyway:

Weekend Assignment #332: Back To School

In just a couple weeks, students will be heading back to school. Share with us what that means in your life. Are you currently shopping for school supplies for the students in your life? Are you planning on going back to school? Maybe everyone around you is rushing to get ready for the new school year, but you can sit back and relax. Tell us what that's like.

Extra Credit: Tell us what you liked the most and disliked the most about the first day of school!
I'm going to give you an uncharacteristically short answer, and then move on to another topic. I promise it will be painless - well, for you, anyway!

I wasn't able to have kids - a long story which I don't care to discuss right now - so I've never had to go out and buy school supplies for anyone but myself. The last time I was in school was November 2002 to February 2005. My school supplies at the time consisted mostly of a laptop computer and textbooks in book or pdf form. Conventional school supplies are so far in the past for me that I remember buying them at Weber's, a three room department store in Manlius, NY. I haven't lived in Manlius since 1975, and Weber's is long gone.

My only contact with school these days is with St. Michael's Parish Day School, which started classes last week. I don't do the school's accounting, and I don't teach there. But I do walk past their first through third grade classrooms on the way to the church office where I work. Sometimes I have to step to one side to avoid a gaggle of third graders and their teacher. That's my big concession to the school year: avoiding kids outside the classrooms so nobody gets nervous about a strange adult approaching a small child.

There is one other school that I visit once or twice a year. I was there today. Wheeler Elementary is my polling place in November, and sometimes for primaries, and rarely for bond issues. I was there today to vote for the Democrat I most want to see on the ballot against John McCain for Senate, quixotic though that goal may be. Most of the other races in the Democratic primary weren't contested, at least not in my precinct. As much time as I spent trying to research all the races online, from Superintendent of Public Instruction to whichever legislative district I'm in (29 or 30, I think), I still ended up with one race for which I had no cheat sheet and had to take a wild guess from the vaguest of name recognitions.

And first day of school? I don't really remember much about the first one in 2002, let alone the one in 1975, when I was in college the first time, or the one in 1962, when I started kindergarten. I do remember that at midyear, my mom pulled me out of my half-day kindergarten at Manlius Elementary, and placed me in first grade at Pebble Hill School in Dewitt. I was told at the time that if first grade didn't work out I could switch to Mrs. Peterson's kindergarten at Pebble Hill, which was all day. (This was the main thing, to give my mom more time to go to work without hiring sitters every day.) That first day, I saw my first word with a silent k in it, freaked out a little, and asked at lunch time to make the switch. My memory is that my request was granted immediately, but more likely it took a couple of days.

My first day at Syracuse University was all about colored flyers, a course catalog and orientation, and a stack of punch cards, on for each class I wanted. I truly remember no more than that. My first day at University of Phoenix in 2002 was an evening class, GEN 300. That course was mostly about how to write a paper, work in teams and avoid plagiarism, with a smattering of pop psychology thrown in.

But that's not what I've been wanting to tell you about.


This past Friday, I spent several hours in the ER at St. Joseph's Hospital, two doors down from St. Michael's. I wrote the following on the back of a pay stub, mostly because I had nothing better to do:

Few places in the world are more tedious than the average ER. It is a place of waiting - waiting for word of admission or release, waiting for an x-ray or an ultrasound, waiting for a friend or relative, and sometimes waiting to die.

I was in the ER today, but not in the way you might think. I was in cubicle 14, waiting. The little partitioned area was utterly empty at first: no bed, no chair, no patient. Bed 14 was supposed to contain my friend, J., but she was off in x-ray. For well over an hour. So I waited. 

The manager of the Park Place Mall Borders had called me on my cell....

And that was as far as I'd gotten when J. was wheeled back in. She had fallen at Borders, possibly tripping over one of those little stools on wheels that bookstores use for reaching the top shelves. J. had hurt her knee and was in a lot of pain.

Before I left, the doctor on duty came in with the preliminary results of the x-ray. J. had fractured her knee, badly. The knee was unstable, and would need pinning. An orthopedic surgeon had been called, and would be operating on her on Saturday. J. would have to wait to find out whether she would fly to West Virginia in mid-September to celebrate her 62nd birthday with a family reunion.

It turned out that this didn't happen as advertised. The operation was Sunday, and they put a whole plate in. So much for getting through metal detectors, but that's moot for now anyway, because she'll have to postpone that trip.

But here's the thing. As tedious as that Friday afternoon wait was, I was quite impressed with the nurses, doctors and EMT there. They were extremely responsive and patient, not just with J. but also with an abusive drunk down the hall, and even with me - they brought me a chair to sit on. The men and women of the Carondelet health system, which also runs St. Mary's on the west side of town, really seems to take "a mission for healing" seriously. Good for them.

That goes a long way toward making up for the doctor in that same hospital in December, 2002, who told me that they would be moving my mom to a hospice if my mom didn't hurry up and die (my words, not his). She accommodated him about half an hour later. And the other people at the hospital that day were wonderful. That, by the way, was also the last day of my GEN 300 class. I had to go to class about eight hours after my mom's death, and participate in my team's PowerPoint presentation.

Ah, school. Can't say I miss it much.


1 comment:

Stephen Watkins said...

1.) That was too funny about the "Silent-K" incident. I have my own funny memories of Kindergarden... just didn't occur to me to share them on my blog for this one.

2.) Sorry about your friend. What a place to get hurt: bookstores are supposed to be safe havens for the bookish among us.