Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Candy striper creates writer

And the world has been the same ever since!

When I was in high school, we had a "40 Hours" project our senior year. It meant we had to find some way to do 40 hours of free community service. Personally, it felt like a way for my community to get some free labor out of me under the guise of "expanding my horizons" and exposing me to the good wide world of charity beyond my own border. I called it poppycock, a word I learned from one particular Social Studies teacher. (Of note: this teacher also taught me "hoi polloi," and "rabble rouser".)

My mom worked for a group of surgeons so a natural place for me to go was the hospital. I'd wear the red and white striped uniform and be the cheery, bubbly teenager helping on the floors of patients recovering from all manner of illness and surgery. My natural effervescence and obvious love of humanity and physical human contact predisposed me to such a charitable endeavor. (This is called "sarcasm" for my non-native speakers, or those who are new here...) I filled out the paperwork and went for my orientation.

On the first day, I did these three things: changed the sheets on a bed in an empty room, and learned that when someone says "hospital corners" they mean something specific, I brought flowers to a room where the patient had left for a test, and then I did the worst thing of my entire life up to that point ever. I went into a room where a man was watching TV and refilled his water pitcher. HE SAID THANK YOU TO ME.

There was nothing noticeable wrong with the man. He was sitting up in bed, with his hospital gown on appropriately (ie- no chest hair showing or nip slippage), he wasn't bandaged, or tubed up....he was just some dude, probably recovering from an appendectomy, watching TV. 

And I never went back.

That was too much for me. Who am I - Florence Nightingale?? No, no...that was not for me at all.  

THIS is Flo Nightingale.
We don't look even a little bit alike!

So there I was in quite a predicament. I needed the 40 hours, but how? I thought about trying the zoo, but animals stink and poop. I could have found a spot with the local Senior Center, but again:  smells and poop, and probably some urine...and spittle. I cannot handle spittle. No dice on the old people.

And this is when I found the local mini-paper. Literally, the paper that was published for the residents of my teeny, tiny town. I didn't have to touch anyone, smell anyone, or help anyone. Depending on the subject matter, I didn't have to even talk to anyone! Glory in the highest, here was the place where I could type things onto paper, hand them in, watch them be published and get those hours! I tell you, a writer was born, without all the blood and guts normally associated with birth. (We've gone over my aversion to humanity and its normal stink, right?) 

Writing for that teeny, tiny paper publication was the answer to my teen-aged angsty prayers. And it set off a chain of events that would lead absolutely nowhere for 20 years. Pretty cool huh?

So when you feel like you've read enough of my drivel, when you find yourself wondering, "How much more of this crap can she possibly publish?" thank my local high school and its insistence that I work for free. But stay far, far away from me and don't be asking for water. 


  1. Thank you for your courage...

  2. You're welcome. My goal in life is to help people...but not touch them. Or talk a lot to them.

  3. Bubbly? Glad you clarified that as sarcasm. We weren't good friends in high school but bubbly is not a word that comes to mind. BTW, I did part of my 40 hours at a Boy Scout Haunted House. Very beneficial.