Friday, October 21, 2005

It's the little things...

Student health centers. You first come in contact with them in college. You remember – when you got mono, or the flu, or needed birth control. Well, not if you went to my college – they wouldn’t give you birth control, but always assumed you made an appointment because you thought you were pregnant. Even if you croaked, “I think I have strep” they heard “I think I’m pregnant.” Rather annoying, but understandable. Apparently unplanned pregnancies can be a common problem on college campuses. Kind of ironic that they didn’t want to hand out birth control, but I digress.

If you’re lucky, you get out of the academic system and plunge into the real world with real doctors and nurses who aren’t jaded by years and years of working with college students (read “they don’t assume you’re pregnant or STD-laden due to having myriad sexual partners”).

I, unfortunately, stayed in the academic mill and am therefore financially forced to find my health care at yet another student health center. Thankfully I work on a campus that is integrated with several hospitals, so you can’t swing a cat without hitting a physician and knocking the cell phone or pager out of his hand and sullying his pristine white lab coat (which he will never actually wear into a lab).

What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, the health center on my campus.

I got into the routine of regular check-ups while in college, and carried it on into grad school. My first few visits to the student health center were rather unpleasant. Meeting new people with preconceived notions (again with the jaded medical practitioners!) and having to go through more of the embarrassing “getting to know you and your medical history” sessions. Women, you know what I’m talking about.

Most of the time I had appointments with the same nurse practitioner, C. I don’t know if they just assign students to certain nurses, or if that was just my luck of the draw. C is about 4 foot 10, and extremely no-nonsense. She doesn’t pussy-foot, and she doesn’t sugar-coat. She gets down to business. I’d been taught to always be respectful and polite, so I was, even through the initial stereotype-busting.

And what do you know, it actually WORKED. C recognizes me (even though she’s not only treating the college set, but also the grad student set – tons of women). She actually believes me when I said I truly wasn’t sleeping with half the campus.

I don’t know much about C – she definitely knows more about me. What I have been able to glean: she’s a republican, she loves the Tribe, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s a lesbian because she never refers to her partner in pronoun form (e.g. he or she), the few times I’ve been able to get anything out of her it’s been simply “we.” Her privacy is her business, that’s fine by me, I can respect that.

But today was different. Today she went beyond the usual chit-chat of “how are things going in the lab?” It went beyond “Kate’s been polite, I can be polite back.” She surprised me by actually wanting to know how things were going with my march toward graduation and my plans for afterward. She wanted to give me advice, help me weigh my options. She asked probing questions. She actually cared. I didn’t know she cared. For the first time in a long time, I left the health center with a smile on my face.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Have I mentioned that I’m living alone again, now? I am. My boyfriend (J) has moved out and several states away for a job. The plan is for me to follow, but not just yet. Consequently, we’re doing the long-distance thing. So far we’ve managed to have a chat every night. I use my cell phone for all of my long distance calls, so throw in a few visits with family members, and my cell phone bill was about 3 times what it previously has been. J gets a better deal, and a better paycheck, so lately he’s been calling me on the landline. Hey Verizon – can you hear me now?

It was hard at first, adjusting to daily life without him. We’d been living together (officially) for 2 years, and you can tack on maybe 6 months of unofficial living together prior to that. You know, the whole “have a drawer at each other’s places” type thing going on. He’d always had roommates, and I had been living alone.

You get used to having someone around. They become part of your routine, expected, dependable, and ultimately taken for granted. After he left, there was a palpable hole. The apartment felt empty (though I was the one with the majority of the furniture). My social life felt decimated, my playmate and best friend were gone (not that we were attached at the hip). I had gaps in my daily routine where he used to fit (and I’m pretty anal, so that did NOT go over well). I won’t say that I fear change, I just don’t particularly like it. Especially when it’s not in a controlled situation – like, say, a vacation – when you know you can go back home to things familiar. Everything feels slightly askew, out of sorts, off center. It’s not disastrous, but it’s certainly uncomfortable.

The last couple weeks have been better. I’ve gotten back into my groove of living alone, remembering what I’d liked about it before. Like I said, I’d lived alone before moving in with J, and I had LOVED it. After having had roommates in college, and a roommate for another year after that, I was ecstatic to have my own place. I could go to bed and get up when I wanted to, without worrying about putting a damper on my night owl roommates, or creeping around quietly in the morning. I could brown beef without nauseating a vegetarian roommate. Leftovers didn’t mysteriously disappear in the night. When I cleaned my apartment, it was to my standards (which could change at my whim), and it actually stayed clean! As I mentioned before, I’m anal, so this was supremely satisfying and comforting to me. No one likes to come home from a stressful day at work to a messy apartment. For me, it just perpetuates the stress.

Anyway, despite being reunited with all of these good things about living alone, there’s been a slightly disturbing development. My new roommate is the TV. We have a standing date every Friday night for a series of my favorite shows. If I’m home, the TV is on. If the TV’s not on, the radio is, or I’m on the phone. We fall asleep together at night (whoever invented the sleep function for TVs was a GENIUS).

I just need to have something making noise, so I don’t feel quite so alone. And I’ve started talking to myself, or the TV. Not constantly, (no need to worry about my sanity, I swear) but here and there. Usually some smart remark that I would have said to make J laugh. As you can imagine my wit is so sharp, I just have to let it out whether I have an audience or not.

Most of the time I’m not really even paying attention to what’s on the TV. Part of that is also due to my disappointment with cable TV. I have about 75 channels, and more often than I’d like, I can’t find anything I want to watch. Maybe I just have tastes that are too particular, or the majority of popular TV is crap. Whatever. TV and I are not going to break-up. The “It’s not you, it’s me” line just wouldn’t work. The handful of shows that I do like, I am addicted to. They make the cable bill worth the cost. Still, I’m starting to feel bad about always having the same answer to “Hey Babe, whatcha doin’?” when J calls. “Watchin’ TV and _____” [insert some form of work, chore or diversion here]. This time I could say “Watchin’ TV and blogging.”