Saturday, May 15, 2010

Free at Last

In the late 70s the second shift at Saint Joseph Hospital was mostly female, single and under 30. Everyone knew everyone else directly or by reputation. Because of the gender imbalance all the single men were celebrities--without regard for race, socio-economic status or sexual preference.

There was never enough help. When your unit was fully staffed someone got pulled to cover an absence elsewhere. If you got caught up you were pulled to a busier unit to help them catch up. The shifts flew by, but you were too hyped up on adrenaline and caffeine to just go home, brush your teeth and go to bed.

Coming home at 3, 4, and 5 in the morning went over big with my parents. The carefully thought out explanation I'd worked out on the drive home never produced the desired result. Drunken arguments with sober parents rarely ended well either.

After a particularly ugly scene I found a roommate through an ad in the local paper and moved into a two bedroom/two bathroom apartment at the Cloisters. The arrangement didn't last long. My roommate had to get up early and complained if I made a sound when I got home. I still owe him for my part of the phone bill.

I moved to an efficiency on Lansdowne Drive on the big hill between Reynolds and Reading Roads. You could see the complex from my parents house. My first floor apartment was on the front of the building that overlooked the pool on the side closest to Lansdowne Elementary.

Drunk and hungry, one night I came home and without even taking off my coat, threw a pizza in the oven and sat down on the bed to take off my shoes. I woke up still in my coat and shoes about noon the next day. I remembered the pizza an hour or two later when I overheard neighbors talking about the horrible smell in the building the night before. The oven was still on. We used the charred black disk for a frisbee the rest of the summer.

School slipped from the priority list to the back-burner. I had a full-time job with benefits. Wasn't that the reason you went to school in the first place? I quit after midterms without bothering to withdraw to focus on my career as a hospital ward clerk.

The luxurious, bachelor lifestyle of my dreams wasn't happening. I transferred to first shift and got a second job at McAlpin's in Turfland Mall for the extra income and the discount. That's when things really started to get crazy.

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