Sunday, September 13, 2015

The trip up north

I attended a memorial service for my younger brother's mother-in-law yesterday.

I was a passenger in a van and the driver wanted to stop at a furniture store in Clare, Michigan to look at office tables.

He was looking for a table that was not starkly rectangular.  The office space dictated that it be mostly rectangular to use the space efficiently.  The people element required the coziness of some rounding and softening of lines.  You will see a soft curvature if you sight down the side of this table and you will see a beveling of the edges.
I was captivated by the wood grain on this table.  The wood is common oak***Thanks to Raven, now identified as elm*** You can see from the end-grain exposed on the bevel how the grain was oriented.  The wood was stained to make the grain pop out.  The driver was looking for cherry or maybe a dark maple.  He did not want the table to be a focal point.


One of the passengers is a nurse in oncology.  The driver asked her why she did not burn out, if she had ever considered transferring to a different department.  She told him that oncology patients were generally very grateful.  Cancer is an event that makes people reassess their lives and consider what is truly important.  "Nice" generally moves way up the list of what is important for most people.

She said she very briefly considered transferring into the Emergency Medicine but she did not have the correct last name.  Questioned, she said that every nurse in Emergency Medicine is named Asshole, Cocksucker or least according to the patients.  And that is not her name.

Granted, most people who come to the Emergency Room are angry because they had an accident and they are hurting.  But much of the uncouth behavior is driven by the entitlement mentality of the subset that use the Emergency Room as their primary portal to medical care.

Road Rage

Discussion turned to the recent fatality in Lansing of the firefighter who was collecting donations for muscular dystrophy research and was struck by a 22 year old with road rage.

It was clearly not accidental.  The 22 year old turned around.  He swerved to ensure he hit the firefighter.  Speed estimates are that the firefighter was impacted at 50-to-60mph.  It was not a "clip" or glancing blow.  It was a full-on smack down.  He did not have a chance.  Every organ experienced severe trauma.

The firefighter's wife is an Emergency Room nurse.  She was on duty when they brought him in.  She is pregnant.  The stuff nightmares are made of.

The firefighter's mother had a stroke the next day.

A disproportionate number of the firefighters are married to nurses.  In fact, many of them are emergency room nurses.  Part of it is "fishing off the company pier."  Firefighters and emergency room nurses have many interactions, interactions under stress that are bonding.  And much of it is because they have similar values and mind-sets:  Save lives, time urgency, results orientation, long shifts and dealing with the public.

Collectively: the wives are a wreck.  The firefighters have the distraction of the job.  The wives had steeled themselves to their husband possibly dying in a house or warehouse fire.  But at least they have a fighting chance.  Expertise, caution, observation and the buddy system armor against that death.  None of those things can protect a firefighter against a driver with road rage.

This is the first on-duty fatality for the Lansing Fire Department since 1971.  This one is going to sting for a long, long time.


  1. To all appearances the wood grain you admire in the table is elm. The feathery grain and lack of medulary rays give it away.

    1. Thank-you for taking the time to straighten me out. Corrections made to text for those who do not read the comments.

      Again, thanks!


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