I get a lot of weird looks and odd questions whenever I tell someone my last name.
We prounounce it ih-thee-err.
Typically, the first thing people ask is, ‘What kind of last name is that?’
To which I usually respond,”It’s French, from the south of France, specifically.”
What usually follows that question is, “But you’re Puerto Rican, aren’t you?”
To which I reply, “Yes, I am.”
Now the questions that follow after those initial ones depends on the person I’m dealing with.
You get those types that speak a little French that try and correct the way I pronounce my last name.
“It’s pronounce ih-tee-ay,” one such douchebag said to me the other day. “You’re mispronouncing your name.”
“That’s one way of pronouncing it,” I replied.
“No, that’s the proper way, the French way.”
“Well I’m from Chicago, and it’s my name, so I’ll pronounce it the way I want to.”
Then you have my fellow Ricans, some of who tend to not focus so much on the pronounciation of my last name, but on the fact that I’m of Puerto Rican ancestary and I have a French last name.
“That doesn’t even make sense, bro” one of my childhood friends said to me when he first learned my last name. “You’re Puerto Rican, you’re brown and you have a French last name?”
“What can I say? I didn’t choose it.”
“Do they even have Puerto Ricans in France?” he asked. “Do they even have brown people?”
“I’m sure they have a couple,” I said amused by his line of questioning. “I’m sure they have black people too.”
“That’s crazy, bro,” he said in disbelief. “Brown and black people in France?”
“I know, right?”
“That’s cool, bro. Your like a Puerto Rican French dude.”
I just let it go. It’s amazing the hassle a French last name can cause a Puerto Rican brown man from Chicago.
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–Jesus that Janet has been riding my ass all shift.
–What are you going to do? She’s just one of those nurses that can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.
–All day long she’s running around the ER screaming out my name. I swear, it makes me hate the sound of my own name. And it’s always on some, ‘Can you do me a HUUGGEEE favor, pleeeeaaassseee????? Like every stupid little thing she needs is the biggest, most important thing in the world.
–I know, man. And God forbid you suggest that it might be quicker if she did it herself instead of waiting around for one of us techs to do it.
–Yeah, it would insult her “I’m a nurse, that job is for techs” approach to healthcare.
–The shit’s annoying as hell.
–What’s really annoying is that we don’t pull that shit on her. If there’s something I can do to keep her out of a room, I do it. Even if it’s not my job. Even if I’m busy as hell.
–Just do what I do to get out of having to do annoying little jobs for nurses.
–Always wear gloves, move around the ER fast and look upset like you’re so busy, you don’t have time for petty shit. Works like a charm.
–Seriously, dude. I do it all the time. I just move around the ER quick as hell from point to point, with a pair of gloves on, looking annoyed as shit, like whatever I’m currently working on is so important, it tops whatever silly request nurses like Janet might have.
–It’s an ER. Everyone is running around busy on one job or another looking busy.
–Yeah. Everyone is running around, but usually not while doing all three. Think about it. If you see someone moving quickly, looking annoyed, while wearing gloves, what comes to mind?
–That person has just touched some nasty ass shit or is about to touch some nasty ass shit–either of which I can relate to and know is annoying as hell.
–Exactly. And? You don’t want to fuck with them or ask them to do some bull shit that you can easily do yourself, right?
–I guess that makes sense.
–Fuck yeah that makes sense. Now, quick, here comes Janet. Put these gloves on and head over to the blanket warmer looking annoyed as shit. And if it doesn’t work, just scream out “Busy!” when she screams your name and keep moving.
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-Do me a favor, kid, and pass me that box of tissue. This cold weather’s got my nose all snotty.
-Here you go, Verna.
-Thanks, toots. Christ I’m falling apart.
-It’s been a while. How’ve you been?
-Well I’m sick as shit, I’m old as hell and I’m back in this shit hole ER again, so not so good. I tell ya, the asshole that called these years golden was high on some good shit.
-Well let’s see if we can get you feeling better and back home.
-Well let’s see if we can get you feeling better…. I’m sick of it. You know what you guys are like?
-Shitty mechanics. Yeah, I said it. You’re shitty mechanics.
-What the hell are you talking about, Verna?
-I’m like and old ass car, with a old ass engine, and I keep coming into your shop here and you guys keep sending home with patch jobs that only hold up for a month or two then I get busted down again and I’m back in for more repairs.
-It’s not the same thing, Verna. It’s not like we can order you a new heart from the parts shop and swap it out. This isn’t the movies.
-Jesus Christ, I know that, kid. It’s just a… a…Damn it, what do you call it?
-Yes, analogy. I’m trying to make a point here, kiddo. And that point is I’m sick of your shitty patch jobs.
-Well how about this analogy? As your mechanic, I have to tell you that it’s not worth putting anymore money and time into your old ass car. The engine is failing and the transmission is leaking fluid. It’d probably be better off if we put it out of its misery and drop it off at the junk yard and scrap it for parts.
-I’d probably say I want a second opinion.
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-Hey, New Kid, you got a minute?
-Yeah, Frank. Whatcha need?
-I just need help with this guy in room 19.
-You got it, Frank.
-Great, grab some patient labels off the counter there for this guy and come on in. It’ll only take a minute.
-Ok….Why are all the lights off?
-Cause we do that sometimes for the families.
-Hold on, I need to grab a bag out of the closet….
-A bag for what, Frank?
-For the patient, dummy. You get those labels?
-Yeah, Frank. Here you go.
-Let’s see…. One for the belongings, one for the outside of the bag and one for the toe. Alright, we’re set.
-Hey, New Kid, you wanna learn something, or what? Stop with all the questions and pull that sheet off the patient. I’m trying to teach you the job.
-Alright, alright. It’s just that… Oh, fuck. It’s a dead body.
-Of course it’s a dead body. The patient died an hour ago. Where the fuck were you when the radio nurse screamed out “arrest” and all the loud alarms were dinging and a dozen people were screaming shit back-and-forth, like, he doesn’t have a pulse?
-I don’t know. In another room. I’ve never seen a dead body before.
-Hey, sit the fuck down before you pass out. You look like shit.
-I’m fine. No, I’m good. Let’s do this, Frank.
-For fuck’s sake, New Kid. They’ll just hire any bastard that watched a medical TV show and thought it’d be cool to work in an ER, won’t they?
-I’m sorry, Frank. Seriously, I’m good.
-You pass out, or throw up, or piss your pants and you won’t get no sympathy, we’ll just send your sorry ass out on the floor all pissy and vomity to finish up your shift.
-I’m good. Really.
-Alright, roll the body to your side. But cover the mouth with this towel cause shit tends to come out and you don’t want it all over your scrubs or shoes.
-I’ll slide the bag under and we’ll flip the patient to my side and you can pull the bag under to your side.
-Keep your shit together, New Kid. It’s just a dead body.
-I’ve never seen a dead body, I’ve never touched a dead body….
-We’ll guess what, today you get to do both. Now flip the guy to your side. I wanna get this over with so I can go eat lunch.
-Alright, here I go.
-There, was that so difficult? It’s like touching any other human being, only a dead one.
-I feel sick to my stomach…. Oh God did it just move?
-Yes, asshole, cause you just moved it. Bodies tend to shift when you move them. For fuck’s sake….
-I’m sorry, Frank.
-Now I’ll flip him my way and unroll the bag under him, we tag him, zip it up and we’re done. There you go.
-Sorry I got all squeamish on you, Frank. And thanks for taking the time to teach me the job.
-Don’t worry about it, New Kid. We’ve all been there.
-So were you just like me when you started the job?
-Fuck no, are you kidding me? I wasn’t half the chump you are. You looked like you were ready to pass out. And you’re no where as good looking as me, so no, New Kid, we’re nothing alike.
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-The kid’s dead.
-Last night. Overdose. Fucker had a taste too much of that bad shit.
-For fuck’s sake. His ma know yet?
-Nope. Billy told me he passed this morning. Found him under the bridge on Fullerton Ave. Pockets emptied with the needle still stuck in his arm.
-Shit. God knows he’s been out of control for a long while. Now the bastard got what he wanted.
-Death is bound to get your ass when you’re chasing it the way he was. The kid was shooting anything he could get his hands on.
-Yeah. I guess when you chase it that hard, what’d you expect? The mother fucker is bound to show up.
-He’s so young, though. Never thought he’d catch it at his age.
-The mother fucker don’t discriminate. Act out and it’ll get your ass. Fucking kid.
-Fucking kid… Any word on the shit he got that did it? I don’t want to be fucking around with that shit. The kid was a fucking stud. If it got his ass, it’ll get us.
-Billy said it was that shit down south. Those mother fuckers always got that stomped on, chemical bullshit.
-Mother fuckers always do. Trying to make an extra buck.
-I told him to stay away from that shit. But it’s cheap. No young junkie I know going to turn down a cheap high.
-He didn’t know no better. Poor fucking kid.
-Well, whatcha going to do? Shit happens.
-Yeah it does.
-God I fucking need a taste.
-Let’s hit up Division, Billy says they have that good shit.
-Fuck it, let’s go.
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There’s this kid that works in our ER, a fellow tech, for the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Billy.
Now he’s not quite a kid–he’s of the legal drinking age and he‘s over six feet, 200 pounds–but I call him kid cause he looks like he’s 12.
Anyway, he’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Great with the patients, great with the staff and he always has a positive and upbeat attitude.
I’ve known him for over two years and I’ve never seen him angry or even remotely upset.
The kid wouldn’t hurt a fly….
Sweet as a baby panda bear wrapped in velvet….
Alright, maybe that last one is taking it too far, but you get the idea.
But recently, I saw a side of our old boy Billy that, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me.
The first incident happened about a month ago.
I was in a patient’s room setting them up on our heart monitor when I heard the sound of things crashing and people running.
I poked my head out of the room to see Billy and three of our security officers in hot pursuit of a psych patient that was making a break for our ambulance doors.
Wanting a piece of the action, I joined in. By the time I got outside, Billy and the officers had the woman and were bringing her down to the ground.
But during the struggle, Billy was screaming out in an almost drill sergeant-like voice: “GET DOWN. GET ON THE GROUND. GET DOWN NOW!!!”
Now, I couldn’t see him screaming it, but I heard him. But it was so unlike Billy that I couldn’t quite believe that it was him.
It was almost like a scene in the tv show, “Cops.” You know, when the cops go chasing a suspect through backyards and over fences and then catch him and wrestle him to the ground, all while screaming “don‘t resist,” but in their hearts they hope he resists so they can beat the shit out of him.
That’s what it looked like.
And for a second I thought, “Holy shit, Billy is a bad ass.”
But I brushed it off. That must have been one of the security officers screaming like that. Billy didn’t have that in him.
But about two weeks ago I got confirmation that Billy is, indeed, a bad ass.
A psych patient was brought in by the police department. He started to get all jumpy with us. Got it into his head that he’s going to have a go with myself, Billy and three security officers.
So we all grabbed him. He started going nuts on us, swinging and fighting. So we used more force and pinned him to the cart.
That’s when it happened.
Billy, his face red and with the look of a madman, started screaming at the guy at the top of his lungs: “STOP FIGHTING. GET DOWN. LAY BACK. GET DOWN!!!!!!!”
Shit, for a second, I got so scared that I nearly got down and laid on floor. Anything to make him stop screaming like that.
The kid was serious. He wasn’t having any bullshit. And at that moment, he went from Billy the Kid to Billy the Bad Ass.
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It’s common knowledge around the ER that I work in that I’m a damn good looking man.
I mean, I really have that “wow” factor going on. Some of the nurses have even taken to calling me “Eye Candy” or “E.C.” for short.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that some of our lady patients have the hots for me too.
I get comments like “aren’t you a handsome man” or “you’re so big and strong” or, even, “you look like a Greek God, a perfectly brown, Puerto Rican, Greek God” all the time.
I mean, all the time….
Ok, ok, so most of them are pushing north of 80-years-old and, yes, a few may have a touch of dementia/are old and crazy, but I was always told to take a compliment when you get one.
Now, I’m not going to say that they’re entirely right, but I’m also not going to say that they got it all wrong.
Who am I to question their judgement? They’re just calling it like they see it. And it makes them happy, which makes the nurses and doctors happy and in turn keeps all the techs happy.
It’s a win-win situation. Everybody’s happy. I, of course, have to deal with the crushing burden and long list of responsibilties that come with being the deparment EC, but I’ll leave that for another time.
For now, I’ll just keep fulfiling my duties and be comforted by the fact that sometimes all you need is a little eye candy to make things better.
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