There’s a really good burger joint in my Andersonville neighborhood that I frequently visit called Hamburger Mary’s.
If you’re not familiar with the joint, it’s kind of a quirky place.
Most of the exterior and interior is painted some variation of the color purple and there are colorful pictures throughout of its mascot– a buxom, blond cartoon named Mary.
They have burgers named “Queen Mary” burger, “The Spicy Mary” and “The Sloppy Mary”.
And then there are the drag queens. Go there on a weekend and you’ll see plenty of them. Mary’s has different cabaret and karaoke shows that feature drag queens.
All in all, it’s a colorful place. And I enjoy eating their burgers. But I run into the same problem every time I go eat there.
It has to do with my favorite burger that I always order. More specifically, the burger’s name: “The Guacamole BJ”.
It’s a half-pound burger topped with Jack cheese, lettuce, pickles, applewood-smoked bacon and a big serving of guacamole.
It’s a damn fine burger.
But I always feel awkward ordering it. And it doesn’t help that every time I order it, it’s a guy taking the order. Not that I’d feel any better if it was a woman.
It’s just feels like I’m soliciting some kind of weird sex act at a restaurant.
I know it’s all in my head, but I still feel awkward ordering it. This one time, I even went as far as trying to order something different.
“What can I get you, today?” the waiter asked.
‘This burger looks good,’ I thought to my self as I checked out the other options on the menu. ‘Maybe I’ll get this one instead.’
But in the end, I gave in.
‘Man, who am I kidding? I really want the BJ,’ I thought to myself.
“I’ll take the Guacamole BJ,” I mumbled awkwardly, avoiding eye contact with the waiter, hoping that he’d just take my order and walk away.
“How do you want your BJ?” he asked with out hesitating.
“Oh, I’ll take it well done, please,” I said, still feeling awkward.
“Cause I like mine with no teeth.”
I could feel myself turn red with embarrassment. I let out a uncomfortable laugh as he turned around and walked away.
I wish they’d change the name to something that’s less awkward to ask for.
But in the end I guess it doesn’t matter, right? It’s just a burger.
Who cares what it’s called.
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-Hello, mam. What brings you to the ER today?
–I feel sick.
-Ok, sick how?
-Well, I’d think you would. Why are you here?
–Where do I start?
-Let’s try with why you came to the ER today.
–Two weeks ago I’m on my way to my sister’s house for lunch. I wanted to have lunch at the deli over on Dempster, you know, the place that has those amazing sandwiches, but she insisted I go to her house. Why she insisted? I don’t know….
-Mam, can we focus on why you’re here today? What’s going on with you?
–I’m getting to that. Don’t rush me.
-I’m not, it’s just that we’re really busy. I need you to tell me why you’re here so we can help you.
– So, like I was saying, I’m on my way to my sister’s house and I stop by the dry cleaners to drop off some of my husband’s shirts–you know, because he’s so busy in his retirement that he can’t drop off his own dry cleaning. God help me, the man is useless.
-Mam, really, let’s get to why you decided to come here. Not two weeks ago. Not yesterday, but today.
–It’s all part of the reason why I’m here. Will you stop interrupting me already? Jeez I thought you were supposed to make me feel better. You’re making me worse with all this aggravation.
-Mam, I’m just trying to understand why you’re here today.
–And I’m trying to tell you, but you keep butting in. Let me finish, will you?
-I apologize, mam. It’s just that you are in the Emergency Room and we are dealing with emergencies. I’m just trying to manage it all in a timely manner, but, please, continue.
–Thank you. So I stop off at the cleaners and drop off my husband’s shirts. I’m pulling out of the parking lot when this punk on a bike cuts right in front of me and scares the life out of me. I slam on the breaks, my purse goes flying off the passenger’s seat and my seat belt locks up and slams across my chest, knocking the wind out of me.
-So you’re here for chest pain related to that incident.
–No. No. You’re not listening.
-Ok, so again, why are you here?
–Let. Me. Finish.
–I gather myself and head to my sister’s and we have lunch. I tell her about the whole thing. She can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. The nerve of this punk–darting out in front of me like that. He’s lucky I didn’t kill him.
-Yes he is, mam…
–So I get home later and tell my husband what’s what. I mean, I’m really tearing into him. It was his fault that I nearly killed someone. He’s going to start taking his own damn shirts to the cleaners. I’m not his slave.
-No, you are not, mam…
–And you know what he tells me?
–It’s all my fault cause I’m a bad driver. A bad driver!
-Mam, please, I really need to move on.
–So that brings me to why I’m here today. I’m just so upset about it all that I’ve developed a terrible headache. I mean, something really horrible. Is there anything you can do for it?
-Sure there is. Just wait here and I’ll be back just as soon as I can. We’re going to bump you up to our number one priority….
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I kind of fell into health care some years back. I’d been abroad studying — partying, really — and needed a job when I got back home. I applied to a local hospital, got the job and the rest is history.
It paid somewhat decent and had good benefits — it paid for school, too, so I did what I had to.
I remember when I interviewed for the job.
The boss asked me if I had what it took to work in an ER.
“So, Rolando, you’ll be dealing with a lot of crazy stuff,” she said. “You’ll be dealing with blood, sickness and death. You think you can handle it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I can handle it.”
That was all bull shit. I was about as squeamish a dude as you could find. I couldn’t handle blood, let alone death.
You’re talking about a guy who nearly passed out at the sight of a dead piglet in biology class.
I took the job, though. Shit, if I only knew what I was facing.
The first time I had to touch a dead body, I nearly fainted.
It was my first week on the job. One of the techs training me asked for help in one of the rooms.
“O.K.,” I said, not knowing what I had agreed to.
“Let’s go,” she said.
We went into the room. The lights were dimmed and the room looked a mess.
Knowing what I know now, that should have been a sign, but I was new and didn’t know any better.
I noticed she was carrying a package that had a white bag. That, too, didn’t set off any alarms in my mind.
There was a hospital cart with a white sheet over it. I didn’t think anything of it.
I followed her….
“Hey,” I said. “What do we have to do?”
“We just got to bag this body,” she said. And before I could process what she said, she removed the sheet, exposing a dead body that was on the cart.
I remember this fear coming over me, working its way from my gut to my extremities. I was weak all over. I felt sick.
I had to lean on a wall, and struggled to stay on my feet.
Imagine a six foot, 240-pound man struggling not to pass out at the sight of a dead little old lady. Not exactly one of my manliest moments.
The tech said I looked pale and mumbled something along the lines of: “Oh, my god –what the hell….”
Shit, what the hell was a guy to do? I’ve seen a lot of shit in my life, even death from a distance, but I’ve never had to touch a dead body.
After I snapped out of it, I was thinking: “Fuck decent pay and good benefits. I’m not touching this old lady.”
With time shit has changed.
Several years later I can bag bodies with no fear or emotion.
But from time-to-time, I think back to that day and have a good laugh.
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As a person who has first-hand experience working on the front lines of Health Care, I have, for some time, felt the need to put together a short list of things you should not do when you come to an ER.
Though the things that I’m going to list may seem completely absurd to the average person, they do indeed happen on a daily basis.
So, for the benefit of the general public, here goes my list of things not to do when you visit an ER:
1. If you’re over 30 and come in with a complaint of chest pain, chest tightness, a heaviness in your chest, radiating pain down your left arm and into the jaw, a rapid heart rate, or left arm numbness, don’t ask if you’re going to stay over night in the hospital. Just know that you are.
If we let you go and you have a heart attack the same night or the next day in a Burger King drive-thru while you order a Triple Whopper, guess whose fault it’ll be?
2. This one is somewhat related to number 1: If you feel you must come in with any of the aforementioned chest pain complaints, please don’t take the time to fold each article of clothing you’re wearing and neatly stack them on a chair in the room as you undress. It’s stupid. No one will care if your clothes are wrinkled when you die from a massive heart attack.
And, besides, when you do die, your clothes will just get tossed in a plastic bag and sent along with your body to the morgue, so they’ll end up wrinkled either way.
3. If your pain scale is a “100 out of a possible 10″, and you scream and writhe in pain when a nurse sticks you with a needle, your pain scale is not 100, because the 100 you are supposedly feeling should not be out done by the 0.5 that is a needle stick.
You’re a melodramatic baby. And if you can’t understand the concept of the painscale of one through ten, and feel the need to increase it by 90 in order to better describe the pain you’re feeling, well, you’re just plain dumb.
4. Drug seekers: You have “drug seeker” written across your forehead. You may not know it, but it’s painfully obvious who you are.
You say things like, “I’m allergic to all pain meds except narcotics.”
Or: “Can you give me something for the pain” before we can even assess what your problem is.
Or: “My doctor is out of town and I need my prescription of 400 vicodin refilled.”
Stop it. It’s pathetic. You’re better coming off clean and saying you want a fix.
5. Please don’t come to the ER for an enema. Buy an over-the-counter enema.
If the first words out of your mouth are, “I think I need an enema,” you’ll instantly be hated. No two ways about it.
You think someone wants to shove a tube up your ass, beg you to squeeze and hold it in, and inevitably get shit water sprayed on their hands and scrubs?
Well, if you do, you’re not only wrong, you can be certain the lube might “accidentally” be forgotten when your enema is given.
6. This should go with out saying, but history has says otherwise: Don’t be a dumb ass.
If you have a fever, take Tylenol.
If you threw up a couple of times because you were out drinking all night, that’s called a hangover. Eat something greasy and take a nap.
If you smoke weed, and become paranoid and really, really hungry, that’s called being high. Don’t waste the time or energy. There are sick people out there that really need help.
7. Don’t come in with a problem that’s not life threatening, sit in the waiting room for five minutes and then start bitching about the wait time. There are people in the emergency room that are in critical condition as you complain about your left pinkie toe pain. Show some consideration and wait your turn.
8.When you come to the ER, don’t tell the nurse triaging you, “It’s a personal problem — I only want to talk to the doctor about it.”
It’s pretty obvious what that means. It’s something weird like you stuck something up your ass and can’t get it out, or you’ve been messing around having unprotected sex and now your holy of holies has some weird shit coming out of it, or you knicked yourself down there while shaving and the bleeding won’t stop.
If it’s something stupid and weird, just say it.
This is a truncated list of things you shouldn’t do when you visit an ER. Your next ER experience will be a lot smoother if you avoid these things I have listed here. And for those of you who wonder — yes, if you do any of the thing listed here, you are being made fun of when you leave the ER.
So don’t be an ass. The ER is for emergencies.
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-Where you headed?
–I finna go over by Mike’s and them house over there right off the Jarvis stop.
-What you gonna do over there?
-Can I come with?
–You know damn well Mike and them don’t fuck with yo dumb ass.
-Well fuck ‘em anyway. I’m on my own shit.
–Yeah? What you finna do?
-I got me this here pint of Cognac and fresh pack of Newports. I’m going to the crib and getting right tonight, baby.
–You got you some Newports and some yak?
-Best believe I do, baby.
–Can I get a square off you, then?
-Nope, can’t even do it. But I’ll sell you one for 75 cent.
–See, that’s why nobody wanna fuck with yo ass. You too god damn cheap.
-I tell you what. Why don’t you come over the crib and you can get more than a square. You can get some of this bottle and a little bit of some break you off right delight.
–Fool, you done lost your damn mind? Ain’t all the Newports or yak in the world gonna make me go home with you.
-I’ll treat you right, baby.
–You’ll treat me dead. I’d have to kill myself if I ever laid down with yo scrawny, dirty, no front teeth having, ass.
-It’s all the same to me, baby. I’mma get mines with or with out you. This my stop. See ya later, baby.
- Last chance, baby. We can… Turn off the lights, and light a candle. Tonight I’m in a romantic mood….
–Boy, take yo dumb ass on.
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-Best thing in the world….
-Die of a massive heart attack.
-It’s the best way to go–massive heart attack.
–How would you know?
-Well, hell, it’s got to be better than fucking cancer. I’m dying piece by miserable piece, instead of all in one bang.
–Why would you want that? It’s so sudden, you don’t even see it coming.
-Exactly. I don’t want to know about it or sit around thinking about it. Save all the bull shit and get it over with already.
–I get what you’re saying, but at least you get to take care of any loose ends and spend some time with your family. Get yourself right with the man upstairs. That’s got count for something.
-Fuck if it does. This is no way to go on living. The whole thing is twisted and fucked.
-And what’s with the man upstairs crap? You think any man, woman or thing up there gives a crap about me? If they did they would’ve killed me quick and called it day. Not this shit.
–People get spiritual when they’re facing the end, try and connect to a higher power. I just thought you might be in to that.
-There was this guy, a surgeon, on the news the other day. He slipped into a coma and was dying. While he was in the coma, he said he saw God. He ended up waking up from that coma. He never believed in God or in an after life before the coma, but after it, he believed.
–That wouldn’t be the first time that happened to someone or the last.
-Well I say good. Good for him. He believes. I’m happy that he does, but I don’t. I wish that I could, but I don’t. There’s nothing after this.
–You don’t know that for sure.
-Kid, as sure as this fucking cancer is eating away at my body, I know. You live, then you die and that’s it. Some lucky bastards get to go quicker then others.
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A week had passed since the whole swag incident happened, and things had returned to normal at our plush Michigan Ave offices.
Benny Jay was cooped up in his office, the smell of Popeyes fried chicken permeated from behind his closed door. You could hear the occasional snore as he slipped into a fried chicken coma, then the sound of a gasp for air as he snapped out of it.
Milo was back to verbally abusing interns for messing up the personal errands he had them run during business hours.
“Come here, you little prick,” I heard him scream as he chased one poor intern down the hall. “I said I wanted a pack of Bugler tobacco, not this American Spirit hippy bull shit.”
“I’m sorry, Milo…”
“You’re damn right, you’re sorry. You little chicken shit.”
And the staff, well, we were doing what we always do: work our asses off generating content for the site.
I was seated in my cubicle, banging away on my keyboard, trying to produce a Third City-caliber story, when I felt someone standing behind me.
I turned around and Benny Jay was standing at the entrance to my cubicle with a chicken wing in his right hand and a packet of Louisiana hot sauce in the other.
“So, how’s it going, fuck face?” he asked as he spread Louisiana hot sauce all over the wing.
“Hey, Benny,” I replied. “Uh, things are ok, I guess. Just working on this piece.”
“Ok, Ok… what’s it about?” he said as he bit into the chicken wing.
“Um, It’s set in a bar and you and Milo are drunk and you get into it over who has the best fried chicken. You say Popeyes and Milo says Church’s,” I said, hoping he would show some sign of interest.
“It’s a shit piece. Everyone knows Popeyes has the best fried chicken,” he said as he threw the remains of the chicken wing at my computer screen. “It’ll never get published. Trash it.”
Benny Jay stormed away and I sat at my desk and watched as the chicken wing stuck to the computer screen for a moment, then slowly slid down and fell onto my keyboard, leaving a streak of Louisiana hot sauce in its path.
‘Fucking, Benny,’ I thought, as I grabbed a tissue and cleaned my screen off. ‘He always is a wild card whenever he’s hopped up on fried chicken.’
I finished cleaning my computer screen, threw out the chewed-up chicken wing and got back to work.
About 15 minutes later I was clacking away again on my keyboard when I felt someone else was standing behind me.
I looked, and it was Milo this time.
“Hey,” he said as he knocked back a swig of booze. “You want to go out back and blaze one up?”
“Milo, I’m working, man. Plus, it’s 10 in the morning,” I said.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those bastards,” he said as he knocked another one back.
“One of who?”
“You know, you know, one of those, ‘Oh, I don’t drink or rip bong hits cause it’s too early,’ fuckers.”
“We’re at work, Milo,” I said.
“Benny Jay is right: You are a fuck face.”
He took one last swig of the can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, crushed it on his forehead, and bounced it off my head.
I don’t know how your work place is, but like I said, things have returned to normal around here.
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