Stop Your Wining
Updated: Jul 4
I had a sober Christmas in 2022, as I was on call. It was an interesting challenge to come up with alternatives to alcohol that were festive and tasty. I tried some nonalcoholic sparkling wine. It was not tasty and thus managed to also fail the festive test. I tried a teabaggy thing I found on the Internet called Stop Your Wining. The name should have warned me away but I was curious. This one, at a dollar a teabag, was really bad. Why would bad tea make you feel better that you weren’t drinking wine?
Being on call as a hospice nurse over Christmas has its advantages. They are few. In fact, I’ll be frank: you have to think hard to come up with even one advantage to spending the entirety of Christmas week with your work phone on and by your side, in constant vigilance. But the one advantage I came up with is that because it’s Christmas, the families of the dying take pity on us and only call us in extreme emergencies. This is helpful because it means the odds of getting called out in the night when it’s five degrees out are slim. But it’s not helpful in that you lie awake knowing that if your phone rings, it’s going to be an extreme emergency.
I made it through the Bomb Cyclone without being called out. I made it through a very stormy Friday night with tree limbs snapping like twigs. I even made it through Christmas dinner. I sat with my family having a feast and feeling that I was near the end of my week of edgy vigilance and really, what were the odds of being called out now? On Christmas Night?
The family I got called out to were about 40 minutes’ drive away and they were having a much worse night than me. On the drive I alternated between two moods. One: I’m so lucky, I got to eat dinner and it’s not stormy out. Two: godamn backup on call bullshit, what kind of crap is this?!?
It was very dark on the winding backroads where the family lived, but I found their house and I did not slip on the ice in their driveway and I gave them all my condolences and put my stethoscope to their father’s cold chest and pronounced him. I got them sorted with the mortuary pickup and listened empathetically to them processing how shocking it was that dad had up and died on Christmas night. They cried and laughed and did many of the things that freshly bereaved people do, and I stood in their kitchen pouring unused morphine and haldol into a trash bag with dish soap. Not for the first time, I thought how I get paid to do some strange things.
Then I drove home, congratulating myself on not getting lost, even though google maps was carefully talking me through every turn in the polite Indian male voice I have applied to it. I like being told in half a mile, take a slight right by polite Indian Siri.
A week later, I could have done with his talents, but alas, maps was unavailable in the highly sketchy area of Queens where I accidentally found myself. I had taken the subway from Grand Central Station to Jamaica to get to JFK. Somehow, I got off at the wrong station. There’s Jamaica Station and there’s Jamaica Center. Why? Why do they have two stations with very similar names on the line to the airport? It is a recipe for unsuspecting travelers getting off at the wrong one, and instead of being at the AirTrain to their terminal, finding themselves in a bleak warehousy neighborhood full of unlit railway tunnels and dumpsters.
I wandered round the neighborhood for a bit, feeling that it was decreasingly likely I was going to turn a corner and find the AirTrain. Google maps could not locate service, because I only pay Verizon hundreds of dollars a year to provide it. I asked directions from a gentleman who was limping about with a walking stick and he gestured vaguely up the road. It’s quite a long way, he said. He said it in a voice that sounded reassuringly like Indian Siri, so I felt a bit good for a moment. Then he said you look fit, I think you will make it before New Year. And once again I did not feel so good.
Uber to the rescue. Actually my daughter-in-law to the rescue. In an attempt to reduce my app load that places me firmly in the Old People generation of humankind, I deleted Uber from my phone a while ago. My daughter-in-law is young and knows the importance of being able to order a car when you are surrounded by warehouses and dumpsters. She ordered me one that arrived after two minutes. I was driven efficiently to JFK by a guy from Bangladesh who moonlights in a nursing home. We discussed living very far away from our countries of origin. We bonded over having elderly parents in those faraway places. When he heard I was a nurse, he said all the cold food served at his workplace is the fault of the nurses.
Used to being blamed for things entirely out of my control, I tipped him generously and we wished each other a Happy New Year.
So I made it to JFK with only the slightest of hiccups. My flight was on time, which distinguished me from millions of other travelers this holiday season. Plus I was booked on it, an improvement from my last flight to Ireland, for which I showed up four hours late. There are two flights a day from JFK to Dublin. I do have a good excuse for having booked myself on one and shown up for the other, which is that I bought my ticket in a rush that morning for a family emergency. And the story ended happily as there was a seat on the later flight and the gate agent got me on it. First he fussed a bit and told me I’d have to go back out through security. But then he saw my face and I mentioned the family emergency and he took pity on me and told me he would TP me and book it right there. I never found out what TP means, but I was grateful it did not involve toilet paper.
This time I made it to Dublin on the correct flight. A couple of hours in, the lovely Aer Lingus flight crew wished us all a Happy Irish New Year. 2023 already feels sort of buzzy and energetic. Things are moving and shaking. And I’m not on call, so I don’t have to drink bad tea and pretend I’m happy that it’s not wine.