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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Tell Grinny Sue I Said ‘Hello!’

Recognition can be a funny thing. Not ‘funny ha-ha’, necessarily. More like ‘funny get pelted with tapioca pudding by an angry healthcare worker’.

Perhaps I should explain.

I work in a hospital. Along the corridor connecting one of the exits — the one often patrolled by Chipper the Enunciating Wonder Guard — and the main elevators, there are a series of photos. These are not little pictures hung on the wall; rather, they’re huge snapshots, screened somehow in montage format directly onto the wall itself. Pics of patient care and lab research, doctors consulting and biologists examining, compassion personified and science embodied. This mosaic of imagery is meant to inspire and awe all those who walk past, to show off the sorts of saintly work done around the joint. I pass by these pictures a lot.

Naturally, I’ve given everyone on that wall a nickname.

And just as naturally, very few of those nicknames are particularly flattering. For instance, there’s “Odd-Nosed Bed Nurse”. Near her is “Crazy-Eye Lab Coat” and the beaming “Grinny Sue”. There’s a whole gang of flattened folks to greet as I walk by — “Painted Kid”, “Palsy Pete”, “Buck-Toothed Cougar”, “Soccer Momster” and “Underpants”, to name just a few.

I’ve long wondered whether these were pictures of real employees or some kind of glorified glamour shots of actors and actresses who aren’t actually doctors — they just play one on the wall. There’s another set of pictures outside the building that I’m certain are staged, given the hokey settings, extreme close-ups and universally attractive nature of everyone pictured.

(I’m not saying the people inside are ugly, mind you. I’m just saying “Palsy Pete” isn’t going to be greeting pedestrians and passing cars outside the entrance any time soon. That’s all.

For that matter, neither am I. These poor people are sick enough, without dealing with that.)

“I’m just saying ‘Palsy Pete’ isn’t going to be greeting pedestrians and passing cars outside the entrance any time soon.”

So this afternoon I was in the cafeteria, scarfing Thousand Island from the salad bar, and there she was. Approaching the registers, right in front of me, a face I’d seen a thousand times. She was in hospital scrubs, was probably just getting lunch at a quarter til four, and had that baggy-eyed, downtrodden look that says, ‘I’ve been here for nineteen hours and I’d just kill myself right now, but I don’t have the strength.’

In other words: she definitely works here!

I couldn’t help myself. I don’t often get starry-eyed, but I was in the presence of a local legend. I’ve worked here for eight years, and I’ve never seen anyone — anyone — on that wall in person. I had to acknowledge her, to interact in some way. Maybe we’d chat a little, or she’d sign my granola bar wrapper. I could barely contain myself. So I pointed and shouted out:

HEY! IT’S YOU! ODD-NOSED BED NURSE! LOOK, EVERYBODY — IT’S ODD-NOSED BED NURSE!!

What was I supposed to do? It’s not like I knew her name. I had to call her something. And that’s what I’ve called her for the last eight years. In my head, anyway.

I always forget how important the ‘in my head’ part is.

Anyway, she looked over, whizzed her tapioca at me and snarled, ‘I’m a physician’s assistant, jerkwad!‘ I ducked too late, the pudding landed, and she wandered off, smiling.

As I negotiated soon after with the cafeteria attendant about whether I should actually have to pay for the tapioca, she offered a piece of advice:

Maybe you oughta try really connecting with people — see them for who they really are, not some superficial characteristic.

Maybe you’re right, Lazy Eye Cashier. Maybe you’re right.

She scowled. ‘That’s a buck twelve for the pudding, ya Bug-Eyed Jerkwad. Plus tax.

I paid. And I didn’t get Odd-Nosed Bed Nurse’s autograph. But at least I saw a celebrity. And now I know what they’ll call me, if my face ever ends up on that corridor wall. Also, some of the pudding from my shirt was delicious. I’d call that a ‘wash’.

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