Thursday, May 20, 2010

On past lives and old friends

I'm 48 years old.  For the past 2 years, I've been a stay at home kitty mom, and for the 4 years before that, I worked as an insurance adminstrator, running my husband's business.  However, from the time I got my first job in L&D at age 19,  until we moved back home in 2003, I worked full-time as a nurse, moving from obstetrics to critical care and then to the emergency room and flight nursing, with a seven year stint in nursing management thrown in for good measure.  In total 22 years as a nurse.  I met a lot of great people.

In a lot of ways, it seems like a different life.  Not better or worse, at least not in totality . . . I mean I certainly don't miss the brutal hours and physical work, but I have to admit to occasionally missing the blood, guts and adrenaline.  But, on days like today, what I find I miss is the people I came to know, and shared such an affinity with, in the trenches of healthcare. 

People like J. Alan Baker.  I first met Alan when he was working as a paramedic for Victoria EMS (way back in the day, when it was a seperate entity from the Fire Department) and I was a wet-behind-the-ears ICU nurse.  His sense of humor was torqued a little left of center, just like mine, and we got along great.  He did a stint as an ER tech, and I got to know him better, and always enjoyed his humor and compassion.  He went on to marry a fellow ER nurse, Debbie Binford-Baker, and for the better part of the last 20 years, they had a great love affair.  Alan became a college faculty member, teaching for years in the EMS program at VC.  He touched even more lives there, and everyone who had him as an instructor was a better medic because of him.   Including me.

We went our seperate ways and fell out of touch . . . I moved to San Antonio to work with AirLife.  Alan and Debbie relocated back to New Mexico, where she was originally from, and he went to work for PHI (Petroleum Helicopters, Inc) as a flight medic, and eventually their training coordinator.  I have no doubt he touched and saved many lives there, too.  The last time I saw Alan was about 3-4 years ago, a casual run-in at the mall.  I wish I had seen him since.

Alan died unexpectedly Wednesday morning.  He was only 52.  And the world is surely a poorer place for his passing.

So while I used to sign my name Leslie Bennetsen-Hurley, RN BSN CCRN CFRN CEN, EMT-P, and now I'm just plain 'Leslie', I think today, I'd like to sign as 'your friend' . . . because the people you come to know, even when you lose touch, still hold a place in your heart.

May all God's angels carry you gently Home, Alan.  You will be missed.
Your Friend,

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Great iPad Chase

My wonderful hubby has been absolutely salivating over the Apple iPad, since before it was even officially announced, and as the launch date came and went, he just got more and more obsessed with it.  (Even I admit it looks like a pretty cool gadget.)  So since his birthday is coming up later this month, he's been all about getting one. 

Now, for a little background - Steve gets paid once a month, and since he's a commission sales guy, there's considerable variation in what exactly he does get paid.  Some months are good, some are pretty lean . . . but what they ALL have in common, is that by the 3rd week of the month (which coincidentally, is where his birthday falls) we're pretty much universally broke.  So when payday rolled around last Thursday, he was chomping at the bit to get his birthday present a little early.

We live in south Texas, about equi-distant from Houston, San Antonio and Austin.  There happen to be 5 Apple stores in Houston, 2 in San Antonio, and 2 in Austin.  How do I know this?  Well, because he's been calling them all compulsively.  And NONE had the iPad available.  So he was pumped when he called last Thursday evening (at 7:40pm) and was told that one of the stores in Austin had 'several' of them, and 'yeah, man, if you're here when we open tomorrow, you're golden', he was pretty excited.   

(A little more background:  My husband hates ordering things . . . his philosophy is that if they've got his money, he wants his product . . . NOW.  And secondly, it is apparently Apple's policy that they will absolutely not, never, ever, under pain of death, hold anything for anybody, anyhow or any why you cut it.)

So we got up with the chickens last Friday AM, and headed out to Austin, a little over 2 hours from here.  Steve was Mr. Happy Man the whole way there.  'Jaunty' is the word that comes to mind to describe him.  We arrived at the Apple store at Barton Creek Mall at exactly 10am, and were just about the 1st folks in the store.  So it was a little surprising when he asked for the iPad, and they laughed at him.  "No, man, we're sold out of those."  Really, REALLY??!!??!!??!!   And you couldn't share this over the phone before we drove over 2 freaking hours?  That's a customer friendly policy, alright. 

So he begged and pleaded, and no luck.  Then one friendlier guy offered that they might be getting a shipment in later that day, between 11am-1pm, and if we could hang around until 1pm, when it should be there, he could be on a reserve list for one.  Well, OK.  So he gives them his email and phone number, and is told he'll be on a list for an iPad at both Austin locations. 

OK, it's Austin.  I love Austin.  I can happily kill a few hours here.   I thought . . . except I didn't take into account that my formerly happy-go-lucky hubby was going to morph into his alter ego 'Grumpy Man'. 

He was pretty good though the 1st stop at a Michael's so I could peruse their beads.  By the time we headed to the 2nd stop at Bead It Austin, the good humor was wearing mightly thin around the edges.  For instance, traffic in Austin, TX is probably about the worst in the state . . . it's not the biggest city in Texas by a long shot, but it's probably the one with the poorest infrastructure in place for handling the amount of traffic it has.  Put that together with the fact the state's largest university and it's accompanying gazillion students are on the road there, and the general 'fuck it' attitude of many Austin drivers (reference the gazillion students) and it's not the best place to be driving when you're mildly homicidal anyways. 

I didn't kiss the ground when I got out of the truck at Bead It, but I did briefly consider it.  I passed only because I'm fat and arthritic, not because I didn't think it was a worthwhile endeavor.

So while I was happily pooring over all those wonderful beads (and avoiding dealing with Grumpy Man, who was obsessively checking his email for a notification that his very own personal iPad had arrived on his iPhone) Steve just stewed in his own juices.   I came out of the store, to find his cousin had just texted him with attached picture of him (cousin Paul) with his very own new iPad . . . the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, even if it did eventually turn out to be a joke, with him just yanking Steve's chain.

By the time I'd completed my purchases, he'd worked up a pretty good pity party.   It was about 12:15 by that time, and he was just SURE they weren't going to have an iPad for him.   So we headed south to the world's largest Disc Golf store (no shit, even though it's tiny, it really is the largest specialty disc golf store) which is on Slaughter Lane, on the far south side of Austin.  Which is the way we'd be heading to go home anyway. 

Steve had promised me a nice lunch in Austin, but Grumpy Man was driving, so I was starting to look at Sonic and Mickey D's like they were serving manna by this time.  I just sighed and decided I'd force him to stop for something on the way home. 

So we got to Disc Nation, and I stayed in the truck, while Steve/Grumpy Man went in.  By this time, I was ready to go to Silicon Valley and build him an iPad myself.  Feeling that wasn't really a time effective solution, I pulled out my iPhone and started calling around.  It only took me 15 minutes to get through to a human at the Barton Creek Apple store, who told me that no, they hadn't gotten any iPads in today.  Dammit.   He gave me the number to the Apple store at The Domain, a very ritzy development in north Austin.  I called them.  Lucky me, I was only the 7th caller in line (and had my place announced to me every 60 seconds from then on).  About this time, Grumpy Man came back to the truck, sans purchase at the Disc Golf store, a sure sign he was in a truly pissy mood.  By this time it was after 1pm, and there was still no notification that the shipments had arrived or that he was going to get an iPad.  Picture a toddler on Christmas day, who comes downstairs to find Santa has forgotten to stop at his house.  I'll just summarize as 'not a happy camper' and leave it at that.  So we headed home . . . or tried to, as the traffic required a U-turn to get headed in the right direction, and he made one, cussing the whole way.

Stil on hold 25 minutes later (no shit, I really did time them) an actual human from the Apple store at The Domain did get on the phone, and tell me well, yes, they did have iPads in stock.  HALLELUJAH!!!  And no, she could neither hold one for me, nor could she tell me how many.  Even after I explained the whole 2.5 hour drive, mislead by other store, hubby's birthday, yada yada yada.  She seem supremely unimpressed that Grumpy Man was now in charge.

So we try to head back north to The Domain . . . I say try, because by this time we were headed south on I-35 (Satan's own little stretch of Hell on earth) back towards home.  We finally get to an open exit (I-35 has been under construction my entire life) and get headed back north in the right direction.  We blew along at 75mph for oh, about 90 seconds, before coming to a screeching halt in typical Austin/I-35 traffic.   As we inched along, Steve was practically vibrating over the steering wheel.  I tried calling the Apple store again.  This time I was only the 2nd caller in line . . . waaahhoooo!  I got a very nice young man on the line, and gave him the whole spiel again.  No dice, they will NOT hold anything.  Not even if I give you my credit card number and you just go ahead run it now?  Now about for my first born?  I considered offering sexual favors, but just figured I'd be turned down anyways.  Nope, no how, no way, except getting there in person. 

"Well, we're stuck in traffic on I-35".  He actually laughed . . . I'm guessing that wasn't the first time he'd heard that one.  But he did give me great directions for the quickest way to get there, and even where to park the closest, etc.

We finally get through the worst of the traffic, just by virtue of getting off I-35 and onto US 183.  Fifteen minutes later, we're pulling into the parking lot at The Domain. 

Now at this point, you would think we'd be home free.  Not so much.  The Domain is still under construction in some areas.  Think poor signage and lots of detours/blocked routes.  We can't even find the right parking garage.  Eventually we did, and then half the routes through it at blocked off, so we can't park where he told us to.  We eventually found a parking place and hot footed it towards the area I thought we should be going.  OH, GLORY!  I spy an Apple logo!!!

We get in the store.  It was packed wall to wall.  I thought Steve was going to come unglued.  We finally get to a sales associate, who directs us over to talk to the ONE employee in the store who seems to be capable of getting an iPad for us, and who coincidentally has about 12 people in front of us in a line to speak with him.  They're sold out of the cheaper one.  I absolutely didn't care.  If they'd told me it was a million dollars, and I'd had a million dollars to spend I would have bought it.  With a smile even.  Fortunately, it was a mere $699.  What the hell . . . we'll eat macaroni and ramen for the rest of the month. 

Thirty minutes later, we were the pround owners of an iPad.  By this time it was 2:30.  Grumpy Man was gone, and my sweetie was back.  I made him take me to Pappadeaux's for a late lunch.  The email telling him he had an iPad on reserve arrived around 4pm, just after we started home. 

Timing is everything.  And it is a really, REALLY cool gadget.