This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Belayne Book
First Printing, 2002
All rights reserved. Copyright © 2002 by Alan Neibauer
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission. For information, contact Belayne Publishing at www.belayne.com Longport, NJ 08403
For more information on Alan Neibauer, please visit www.neibauer.net
ISBN: 0-9718989-1-X Library of Congress Control Number: 2002092153
Belayne Publishing and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to Belayne Publishing
Lunch at the Ritz is a registered trademark of Lunch at the Ritz Earwear, Inc.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
From the Philosophy of Brooke Castle, MT (ASCP)
I love guys, but they aren’t the brightest of the species. It’s just amazing that of the billions of sperm fighting their way upstream out there, it’s usually the stupid ones that make it all the way to create the men.
Okay, so I’m like flypaper for freaks.
No earrings or shoes were harmed during the making of this book. A few egos were bruised, but there’s no law against that.
Dedicated to Barbara Neibauer, MT (ASCP)
Any similarities between Barbara Neibauer, MT (ASCP) and Brooke Castle, MT (ASCP) are totally hysterical.
I am woman, hear me bitch.
I admit it; I love most things about being a woman. I love clothes, shoes, and earrings. I love flirting and getting doors held open for me.
What do I hate? I hate getting out of bed before 10 AM. But most of all, I hate menopause. And I really hate getting out of bed at 6 AM Monday after a bad night's sleep because of those damn hot spells every 30 minutes. I mean, a bad night's sleep wouldn't be so bad if I were up all night doing the nasty with Cameron, my favorite soap star.
But instead, I'm hot, so I throw off the blanket.
Then I'm cold, so I pull on the blanket.
I roll over into a pool of sweat on my pillow.
I get hot again, and open the window.
Then I get cold, and close the window.
All night, almost every night.
My friend Ryan won't even sleep with me anymore during the week. I keep him up all night. You'd think that free sex – and great free sex, if I can boast – would be worth a bad night's sleep. How's that for depressing? I call Ryan my friend, by the way, because at 48 I'm too old to have a boyfriend and too young to have a gentleman caller.
Life sucks, middle-age sucks, and menopause sucks.
You know, if men had menopause there'd be a cure so it wouldn't last longer than a week.
"Calm down, Mr. Schwarzenegger, don't be a silly hysterical male over this. It's just natural. Your body is adjusting to changing hormones; it's nothing to worry about. In a few years it will be all over."
It's not even like I'm waking up for anything good. Today is the first day on a new job, the only job I could find since I quit teaching after 18 years. I had to fall back to my old profession, clinical lab science, being Brooke Castle, M.T. (ASCP). The initials mean Medical Technologist, registered with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, and I'm damn proud of it.
Two weeks ago I had an interview at Seaview Memorial Hospital, here in southern Jersey, where I live now. Seaview Memorial is in a town called Somers Point, on the mainland across the Longport Bridge, about a 10 minute drive from my place.
I was interviewed by John Lipschitz, director of the lab. Formally, he's Dr. John J. Lipschitz, with a doctorate in Clinical Lab Science, but to me he's a bad comb-over, a pregnant belly that would make a grandmother proud, and dried white stuff at both corners of his mouth.
He's about five ten, sleeps in his clothes, from the looks of it, knows nothing about color coordination, and looks at you about 45-degrees north latitude from the waist. Oh yeah, he also smells like the dead, burnt stuff at the bottom of a toaster oven. The moment he left me alone with the staff last week, they told me their favorite saying – "If you're Lipschitz, my ass talks."
Being an ASCP, a national certification, used to mean being at the top of the heap, the cream of the crop. But that was the old days. Now everything is so computerized it doesn't mean much anymore.
"Well, I do have an opening as a phlebotomist in the outpatient lab," he said.
That would mean taking blood in a small building across the street from the main hospital and used strictly for outpatient tests. Not even in the main hospital lab.
"But I'm ASCP certified. I went to college four years for that."
"Brooke, I understand. But let's face it, you've been out of the field for some time now. Being a tech just isn't what it used to be. It's largely drawing blood and turning on machines. A monkey could do it."
I love guys, but they aren't the brightest of the species. It's just amazing that of the billions of sperm fighting their way upstream out there, it's usually the stupid ones that make it all the way to create the men. That's why I just don't knee the next guy that calls me "hot."
So that's how it got to be 6 am on Monday morning, my alarm going off, and my sheets drenched from another night fighting off the estrogen monster. My new job was just waiting for me to arrive, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
I’m not a morning person, but somehow I got dressed, in the only uniform I had left over from the old days. It was a little old fashioned, but I didn't want to invest in new ones until I actually started the job. I also had to wear my old white nurse’s shoes, which looked left over from the First World War, and white pantyhose so thick they they’d repel bullets.
My only concession to the new millennium was my earrings. I like earrings that say something more than "See I have holes in my ears." My favorite earrings are Lunch at the Ritz, very chic and reasonably priced. They make earrings for everything, so I have earrings that look like Chinese food takeout when I go to a Chinese restaurant, small pizzas for Italian food, burgers and fries for fast food. I have hair dryers and brushes for getting my hair cut, patriotic earrings for holidays, earrings with beach chairs and umbrellas for the beach, monkey earrings for when I'm just fooling around, even pit bull earrings for complaining. I have small earrings and others so large that I can only wear them for a few hours. In many cases, each of a set is different, but coordinated.
For this special day, I was thinking of wearing my Medi-Snack set – one gold encrusted thermometer and one rhinestone jeweled stethoscope – but decided on Health Care Snacker set instead. One looks like a white uniform with a red heart and two rows of rhinestones down the front. The other is a matching nurse's hat, also with a red heart but with one row of rhinestones.
So with my matronly uniform and shoes, and my cool earrings, I jumped into my car, an 8-year-old gray Toyota Corolla with pink pinstripes I added myself, and drove off to my first day at my new job.
"Good morning," I said trying to be cheerful as I entered the lab.
Lipschitz did formal introductions last week when I filled out all my forms. Joan was the senior tech in the lab, a stunning blond who somehow made a uniform look like a tight-fitting toga. She took blood but also did some of the routine tests that were done there; more complicated tests were performed in the main hospital lab. Gail and Eileen worked over at the in-vitro lab next door, but they hung out in the outpatient lab a lot. A group of doctors lease the space for their fertility practice but the lab is managed by the hospital.
"Morning." "Hi." "Hey, Brooke." That last from Joan.
Jesus, did I feel out of place. I was standing there half awake in white matronly combat boots and an over-starched uniform, while they're all sparkly, wearing comfortable sneakers and colorful scrubs. Did I feel old. Maybe nobody would notice, I thought, if I talked fast and kept moving.
"A beautiful day. I just love the view from here. Such a nice drive." God, I sounded like a tourist. And maybe I was imagining things but everyone was looking down toward my shoes.
"I'm ready to start. Just point me in the right direction."
Amazingly, everything went smoothly that first morning, and most of the afternoon. Joan seemed to be a real sweetheart, and privately told me to wear sneakers from now on, get rid of the white stockings, and look for some modern uniforms. Because Joan was such a knockout, I took this as advice, not criticism, and didn't scratch out her eyes.
All went well until just before closing time. Everyone else had cleaned up and gone. The outpatient lab closes at 5 PM, and it was just my clunky white shoes and me. I felt good that they thought they could leave me here alone.
The printer started to grind, indicating that a customer was outside for a last-minute bloodletting. CBC, lipid profile, PSA, complete metabolic profile, all standard stuff that I had learned during the day. A Mr. Reynolds.
"Mr. Reynolds," I called from the doorway. It was easy to tell who he was; the waiting room was empty except for one white-haired man, about late 50's early 60's, in a toned-down gray suit. Even the receptionist had gone by then.
"You can come in now."
"Thanks. I know it's closing time, but this is the earliest I could make it," he said apologetically.
"No problem. That's why I'm here."
He was short, about five eight, and with a very plain and undistinguished face. He was the kind of guy that you wouldn't notice as he walked past you on the street or in the mall. I sat him down on the chair, lowered the armrest and started to collect the vacutubes.
When I started out as a Med Tech, we'd draw blood with a syringe and then squirt the blood into test tubes. The tubes had various reagents in them that prevented clotting or otherwise aided in the particular test the blood was destined for. Now they use these sealed tubes with a vacuum inside. You insert the tube into a holder, insert the needle into the arm, and push in the tube so it breaks the seal and withdraws the blood. When you need another tube, you just slide out the first without removing the needle from the arm, and insert the next tube.
Reynolds was looking around the room, with a little nervous twitch. Some men just can't stand needles. Even the biggest and strongest of them turn into mush just as you're about to push the needle in.
"Don't be nervous, Mr. Reynolds. There's nothing to it. You'll just feel a small pinch in the arm, and I'll use a pediatric needle to make it easier."
"I'm okay. But you look a little nervous yourself."
"Me? I've been doing this for years. This is just the first day in this lab for me, but an arm is an arm."
"Where did you work before?"
"I worked as a Med Tech, then took some time off to teach in Philadelphia. Now I'm back with my first love." So I lied. If a lie can make both Mr. Reynolds and me happy, God will forgive.
"So you're new here?"
"Yep." I thought about it. "But don't let that worry you, I'm the best there is." God will have to forgive that one as well.
I had three tubes for Mr. Reynolds.
I looked at both arms, deciding the left had the best veins. I tapped here and there to draw a vein out, swabbed it with a little alcohol, and tied around the tourniquet.
"Just make a fist. You'll feel a small pin prick and it will be all over."
He was starting to look a little white, with beads of sweat appearing on his forehead.
"Don't tense up the whole arm, Mr. Reynolds. Just relax and make a fist."
I inserted the needle, finding the vein in the first try. Am I great, or what? I then pushed in the first tube and watched the blood flow.
He started to fidget, shift in his seat, and move his arm. I was able to keep the needle in place but it was getting difficult.
"Try to hold still, please, Mr. Reynolds."
"I don't think I can do this." He was starting to panic.
"Just a few seconds more." I removed the first tube and inserted the next.
"See, one tube is all done. I'm starting the next. Just a few seconds more."
"Please make it quick," he said. He was in obvious distress, but I wanted to continue. I wanted to prove that I could do it on my own.
"Almost done," I said in my most reassuring voice.
Second tube out, last in. And that's when all hell broke loose.
Reynolds slid off the chair, under the armrest, onto the ground before I could do anything. I went down with him, my skirt somewhere between my knees and the netherworld.
"I can't," he started yelling. "No! Please!"
The needle slid out of his arm and blood was everywhere. The chair overturned, and the completed tubes fell on the ground. He was on his side now, lying on my arm. I couldn't move it, and I somehow got this feeling that the needle must have stuck him again.