After a lovely weekend, which was only slightly marred by having it pointed out several times by someone I love and trust that I am a klutz and a complete idiot, I was all set for a week of working hard from sunrise to sunset – admittedly, a slightly less impressive task, now that winter is coming up fast – in order to prove that I am not a klutz and an idiot. By god. And you can tell already that it was doomed to failure, mostly because I suspect only a klutz and/or idiot would set themselves such a task. Success, surely, means being comfortable in one’s own skin.
But, having spent hours on Sunday evening hauling furniture and washing carpets, I was nearly there; at least, until I went to work, where people promptly started trying to hand me over extra duties, which they have been doing every Monday for the last three weeks now (impressive, given I was not actually in the country for one of those Mondays).
The problem is, I have been told that in addition to doing all Dr Hurricane’s clinical admin for both hospitals, I will soon be doing all the admin for her operations waiting list too. Which is frankly a monster of a job, and currently handled by a dedicated Waiting List Scheduler. However, the Powers that Be have decreed that the post of Waiting List Scheduler will shortly go the way of the dinosaurs – you can only imagine the utter delight this was greeted with by the people doing this job – and so each secretary will have to take over their consultant’s waiting list too – and you can only imagine the utter delight this was greeted with by most of the secretaries.
-Myself not included, for a change, because I am almost unique* in working for two consultants – cancer consultants, at that – plus the nurses and the physiotherapist – and even the Powers That Be have to admit that such a workload, plus the waiting list, is outwith the realms of physical possibility, which is why I am suddenly only working for Dr Hurricane. (And, of course, the nurses and the physiotherapist). I have been assured that these latter duties will be discharged among my colleagues equally – although, as usual, the Powers That Be are rather less swift about this part than about the ‘piling it on’ part. C’est la vie.
*(A horrible oxymoron, so say rather, I think I am unique in this, but may not be.)
Since the Powers That Be have also not seen fit to inform anyone – or rather, seem to have informed absolutely everyone differently, or so everyone claims. But then, everyone would – regarding a precise date for when I get given the waiting list, my colleagues at the rival hospital have endeavoured to punt it into my lap at the start of every week for nearly a month now.
I have therefore done my bit for ‘wasting time that would be better spent keeping my head down and working‘ by fighting back, vigorously, over email and by phone and reminding everyone that they said there was no way in hell I was taking on extra duties without prior training and lots of backup and someone checking I have all the necessary software, because if I make a mistake in this and someone gets wheeled back out of the operating theatre for lack of a sodding piece of paper, which might well happen for all I know, they might well die.
I wish I was exaggerating about this. However, it has been mentioned many times, by a succession of bosses, that the Powers That Be who reside far higher up the chain of command than themselves are mightily vexed by the refusal of each department to act in a uniform manner. Even within our department, we do not all do the same thing the same way, because our consultants all specialise in different problems. (I presume, it is therefore difficult to assess how fast we are doing our respective jobs).
I think the reasoning is thus; if we have no waiting list schedulers, and all secretaries have exactly the same job description, everyone will therefore do exactly the same things in exactly the same way, and peace will reign eternal.
As I made the mistake of trying to explain to our last boss, however – we can’t all act the same way because our patients don’t all need the same care. For instance, the average letter in Ophthalmology (and I know this because I was helping them out on the fly, back when I had the time, but ssssshh) is about two lines long and relates to a patient’s eyesight and prescribes them a certain strength of glasses.
Meanwhile, my Colleague of Cakes works for a specialist in sinus problems, and while he will wax lyrical about the patient’s golf handicap and generally affable demeanour, the crux of the letter usually says, ‘take nasal steroids for three months, see me thereafter’. My Colleague of Skull Scarves, on the other hand, works for a consultant who specialises in nose jobs, and while his letters are highly codified, the crux of them is, ‘no, having a differently-shaped nose will not magically make you succeed at life, therefore I am not doing this operation; not on the health service, at least. No really, I myself am a highly-specialised surgeon, and look at the shape of my nose! …Sir, that is a racist comment, and you are hereby barred from my surgery.’
And then, we have Dr Hurricane’s missives, many of which are along the lines of: ‘clear the boards, this one’s got a metastasis, I need an ultrasound and an FNA and probably a CT too, make sure that’s booked urgently, and seventeen blood samples and they’ll need surgery this week, so I want everybody else’s operation put back a week and you’ll have to call them all and tell them. And rebook them. And I need the scans available on the system, the actual scans, not just a summary. I also need cardio in on this, since there’s a retrosternal extension, so you need to make sure someone’s available, start calling round, oh, and we need a type of scan you never even heard of before, so make sure that’s going ahead, although god knows who you’d call about it. And copy this to whoever in endocrinology’s dealing with the patient, and whoever’s dealing with them at the cancer specialists, and probably renal as well, and I need all the results before I’m in theatre, and you need to arrange an interpreter …are you crying?’
I guess what I am trying to say is, I cannot wait for the day when they have prescription lenses that will do all that for me. Particularly if I’m the poor sod who’s just been diagnosed.
But she is, by all accounts, very, very good. It’s just unfortunate that to deal with all this, I have to be very, very good too. And then go home and work like hell in the hope that, someday, I will be in a situation where I can be very, very good at something that isn’t this. And then I feel bad because, hey, I’m employed, and I have running water in my home and everything.
But by Monday evening, I was feeling pretty good – having successfully fought off having to take on extra duties I haven’t been trained in, for one thing. And having hauled furniture and washed carpets and taken time out to smell the flowers – well, stopped in to run like mad on a cross-trainer on the way home, at least. So I had an early night and was just asleep when my father called to say that he’s in the area this week and wants me to come out to dinner. Oh goddammit, when I didn’t see him the other week, he sulked and said it was the last time I’d get to see him before he spent six months abroad, and I believed him.
So it was a very tense week indeed. I don’t know why my father comes round every so often to take me out for dinner, because he doesn’t seem to enjoy my company at all. Unless it’s because he has a sixth sense for when I have a jam-packed schedule and delights in giving me no notice at all in disrupting it. (Although to be fair, he did seem to be trying this time – I got a choice of evenings and more than one day’s notice. So I supposed I should play nice too).
However, as I laughingly said to my Colleague of Skull Scarves, shortly before meeting him, and while debating if I could nip off quickly to the gym en route, there was no way in hell he’d be thinking he’d pick me up from work because I’d lay good money he doesn’t know where I work. I mean, I’d give him half marks for ‘in a hospital’ and half for ‘as a secretary’ though.
It was funny because of course my father knows I’m a secretary in a hospital, I harp on about it to him because it’s about the only safe topic of conversation. (Yes, I harp on about it here, too, and that’s to blow steam about it). So it came as a bit of a shock when later that very night, he raised the point that he doesn’t. At all. Although to be fair, I’ve only had this job, in its many and varied incarnations, for five years.
Hilariously, I had to intervene to stop my wee bro giving him a lambasting for this. Well, I say, ‘had’; but if there had been an outbreak of Unpleasantness, you bet your bottom dollar I would have received my share in full.
Well, that was Thursday night down the pan; so between that and other things on Friday (overtime and handing off my house-keys to a mate who wanted a bolt-hole for the weekend), I was late getting to Edinburgh to meet the Bossman for his last weekend of freedom before he has to go to Hell – or, as others call it, the Cote D’Azure. So I am not quite the world’s worst girlfriend, but I am down there in the bottom rungs. Despite taking an ultra-expensive train and taxi to speed things up. And I was stressed as hell – about work, about the tip the flat is in because I have still only hauled half the furniture into position, about the horribly believable fear that I may never get any further than this part of the rut, ever, and about having to drop it all to meet my father, of all people.
And about the way – which to my shame, I didn’t quite even pick up on until I got home afterwards – that the Bossman told me all my flaws over last weekend. I have been stewing quietly about that all week, too. Mainly along the lines of, ‘oh great the honeymoon period is over already. Again‘ – followed by the thought that perhaps other people’s relationships aren’t necessarily characterised by ‘and after x number of months, person A will spend the rest of eternity telling person B all the ways in which person B is sub-par, until death or irreconcilable differences tear them apart’. Sadly, I am utterly backward in noticing when the ‘gently mocking my flaws, in terms I can at least chortle at, for are we all not human and flawed’ turns to ‘not even bothering to make sure to be laughing with, rather than at‘ – and for this, cliched though it is, I can thank… my father, the archetypal person A. Which is a large part of the reason I dislike having dinner with him, especially since I can’t carry the tab for all three of us, and I can’t pay my share without a really embarrassing argument.
Or maybe everyone’s parents spend their formative years telling them they’re stupid and clumsy, so I shouldn’t be making a big deal out of it. But it’s one of those things you probably shouldn’t ask?
Although, the spirit of scientific enquiry leads me to note that, while I was told by my father that I would always suck at carpentry by dint of Being A Girl, and also that if I couldn’t saw through a nearby plank, that would ‘prove’ it; I was seven at the time, and the saw and I were roughly the same size. Which just might have had something to do with it. And recently it turns out I can cut and form shelves just fine, thanks. And also, when I was told I was clumsy and useless, so I never did take up martial arts, eventually I persuaded myself that the effort was worth the ignominy of failing, and showed up anyway, aged thirty-four – and gained a yellow belt and everyone was very nice to me. To my complete and utter shock.
So maybe people are talking through their hats.
But the ignominy, it is still strong, for this sort of revelation belongs in a badly-acted children’s programme from the seventies, dammitall, not in my goddamn life. I had always assumed I was rather more sophisticated than this. You know, for someone who goes everywhere in hiking boots.
And I suppose the only real reason I am putting this out there is because I feel so disgraced by it, and if I have learned anything from bad thrillers of the ’80’s, it is that anything you feel disgraced by can be used to blackmail you. God knows, I have nothing worth taking, but on the off-chance that one day I might, disseminating the information myself is the surest path to a blackmail-free life. (‘Oh that? Oh yes, it is the most embarrassing thing ever. I tell it all the time at parties’).
So I decided that it was just possible that the Bossman had accidentally hit a nerve, and I would wait calmly and collectedly through the weekend and wait to see if it had happened again before taking any precipitous action – and then, it would be calmly-considered precipitous action. I would not, on any account, pick a ding-dong fight with him the instant I got in the door or anything. No matter that this week had involved a helluva lot of stewing over everything, and I was at the end of my tether.
No prizes for guessing who failed spectacularly at that one, then. I shall close by saying that it truly does look like absolutely everything in my life is falling apart at the moment – not least, because when I got back on Sunday from seeing the Bossman off at the airport, I made a phonecall that revealed that someone I have known and trusted for most of my life has been telling absolute whoppers to me for nearly two decades, and my life is therefore on far shakier foundations than I previously thought.
And no, it is not actually my father. Although that did surprise me too. Plot twist!
And so much for my feeling blackmail-proof by disseminating absolutely everything on the internet, eh. Also, please, enough with the cheesy sub-Dynasty plotlines!
Those curtains of Damocles the other week? TOTAL harbinger of doom. See, I knew it.