Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Census Night, 2011.

Yesterday evening was Census Night in Australia. We are visiting with Dr Tabubil in Brisbane at the moment, so she had herself, one sister (currently unemployed by virtue of recently winding up her last job) and one brother-in-law (an engineer on his way to a new job in another country) to prod and poke and tally up for the public record. 
            A census turns into a thing - deep terminology, that. It's sort of amusing, and sort of embarrassing, sort of like getting undressed in front of a doctor and sort of like getting undressed in front of an auditorium.
            It's Very Important, so you feel full of Public Virtue, and even faintly Self-Important, because your little statistical data point can build hospitals and inspire public works initiatives like highways and bus routes (so the carpet-bombing pre-census advertising told us) but when you're a doctor working 16 hour shifts six days a week or a couple that has spent the last two weeks eating their way across the continent in the arms of wonderful and wonderfully hospitable relatives, some of the questions tend to come across a little uncomfortable, and put a nasty leak in your deeply inflated chests.

"Have you provided any unpaid childcare for relatives in the past five days?"
"Have you performed any charitable activities in the last two weeks?"

And you begin to feel rather like Butterflies - or even Mayflies - and Parasites, and Pimples on the hard-working arse of society.  
So your answers start to get a little bit dippy.
"Provide a comprehensive description of your job duties."
"Hah."  Doctor Tabubil said.  Reinflating, she took up her pencil and  solemnly inscribed: "I SAVE LIVES."

Things got a little misty after that. From Mr Tabubil, the engineer who was last seen helping to re-line the blast furnace of a steel mill, I distinctly remember the words "contributing to the carbon load of the Australian atmosphere" being bandied about, and me - well, if we're determined to be pedantic, I've got no job at the moment and haven't actively sought a new one in the past four weeks, and that doesn't look like an example of productive public virtue any way you slice it. 

I do remember Mr Tabubil posing his sister-in-law the following question:
            "Have you performed any unpaid domestic work for your household in the last week?"
            "Oh yes."  She replied, relieved.  "Lots.  At least three hours." 
I'm sure that I hooted. 
            "Oh yeah?"  She said.  "And I suppose you've done any on your holiday?"
            "Yes."  I said smugly.  "I washed out our underwear and socks every night while we were traveling.  And I unpacked and repacked our suitcases every four days."
            "I'll put you down for under five hours then.  That's the lowest option.  And if you were washing the socks, then Mr Tabubil wasn't doing anything, was he?  Typical male.  You won't be shaking up any demographics here, will you?"
            "If you would care to recall" Mr Tabubil said with great dignity "I spent most of that holiday in various beds with a case of the flu."
Dr Tabubil made a rude noise and wrote something uncomplimentary in the comment box. 
            "Ahem." She said.  "Another question - are you willing to have your name, address and other personal information made available in the public archive after ninety-nine years?"
Mr Tabubil and I looked at each other and shrugged.  "Sure. "
            "Really? All public?"
            "Why not?"
            "Well I'm not sure that I want...I mean, that's pretty... Hah, wait a second! I'm the cool cat who saves people's lives!  Hell yeah!"

And with that, the party rather broke up.  Five years down the track, lets see if we can be in a permanent-enough situation to make us out to be rather more than mayflies and drains on the public purse.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chicks dig scars.

Yesterday while my sister was working in Casualty, a small boy came in with a small cut on his chin.  His parents were slightly over-concerned.
The child was barely pushing four years old, and the two-centimeter cut on the underside of his chin didn't even require stitches, but his father said anxiously "We have private insurance.  Can we please make an appointment with a plastic surgeon?"
The nurse and the consultant and Dr Tabubil and the resident, (the parents really were a wee bit over-concerned about the injury) looked at each other, but Dr Tabubil got the first word in.
            "Pssssh."  She said, and flapped a hand in unconcern.  "Chicks dig scars!"
            "I'm a little worried" she told me later, "that I'm getting a reputation as That Intern who has absolutely no filter between her mouth and her brain.  This morning I had to introduce myself to a consultant in the ER and you know how I did it? 
            I said 'Hi!  I'm Dr Tabubil, the resident!  Actually, I'm a first year intern, but saying that I'm a first year intern makes it sound as if I don't know anything, which is only sort of true because I've learned a lot this year so far and apparently I'm really good at suturing, and I want you to have confidence in me so that you'll show me the interesting things, so it's better if I call myself a resident!'  And at that point I managed to stop talking.  A bit too late, don't you think?
            But the consultant didn’t seem to mind.  He took me off to see a really cool shoulder dislocation and let me do all the pulling.  I can't actually move my own arms tonight after doing it, so I think he might have been trying to make a point.  What do you think?"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Monkeys in the Zoo

Yesterday we went to the zoo.  We looked at the meerkats and the giraffes and the lemurs (perched on top of their heat lamps) and the siamang monkeys and the seahorses in the bio-education pavilion.  We visited the orangutang – she was sitting on the edge of her moat, watching the visitors and chewing grass.  When children stuck their arm out and mimed shaking hands, she would put out her own hand and solemnly mime shaking back.  When the idiot British tourist threw peanuts at her (his aim was extremely proficient) she gave him looks of calm disdain and let them bounce off and had absolutely zero interest in chasing them down in the grass.  So the twerp threw  more – in the feeble hope that she hadn’t gotten the message the first time, or possibly that she had the three second memory of a goldfish (although that’s in dispute now, isn’t it?) and would see every projectile as a brand new exciting opportunity.

We were leaning over the rail, peacefully contemplating a pleasant Sunday afternoon, and a woman arrived with a toddler and a baby in a stroller.
            “LOOK at the MONKEY.”  She boomed.  “LOOK at him sitting on his bottom.  LAZY boy!”
            “Yah-” attempted the child.  Mother cut him off in mid-voice.
            “DO you see the LAZY BOY there?  WHAT a lazy BOY!  He’s not doing anything at ALL!  Tell me, do YOU think he’s Lazy?”
            “WHAT A LAZY man you ARE!  Sitting on your BOTTOM in the sun instead of being a USEFUL person.  NAUGHTY Boy!”
The long suffering orangutan grunted and knuckled to her feet and turned her back on her audience.  Giving us one hopeless look over her shoulder, she hid behind a stand of grass and say down again.
            “LOOK at him!  SHOCKING!  He’s not going to do ANYTHING today but sit around!?  What do you think of THAT, you LAZY Man!  I’m WATCHING YOU!”
Not all of the monkeys were on the INSIDE of the cage.