Friday, September 01, 2006


Back To School: I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don't get in a fight

I swear. At 27, this Back To School (hereafter: BTS) never gets old.

Psych! Its wicked old. I found myself having to consciously restrain myself from buying the obligatory BTS spiral notebook, black&white composition notebook and compass at every store I've entered since July. I'm in nursing school and I'm trying to buy the 10-pack markers and staring at all the Trapper Keepers. Ugh. I still have notebooks, #2 pencils and all the Bic pens I can stuff in my backpack from last year's inability to walk past the swell Target displays of all the sweet BTS supplies that I can buy en mass and not have to beg my mom for.

Well, thankfully, this is the last year -- for an extremely long time, anyway. The plan for the next 10 months is basically that I'll get a few blood pressures, pass some pills, physically restrain a psych patient, use some scantrons, put some tubes in and, yes, out of people and take the boards. With any luck, by this time next year: I'll be a nurse. (And probably a mental case due to impending nuptials post-nursing school -- but that's another blog for another day.)

I'm pleased to say that since the official kick-off of BTS this past Monday, it's been a mostly smooth ride (Not so fast, GMU parking services. Yeah, you heard me. All of you guys can bite me. I've a good mind to park my ride in your asses -- with or without your precious $180 pass.). The best part of the first week was probably the field trip. Yeah, I said it. Quit being all jealous. Not only am I, theoretically, a senior in college, but I'm also in nursing school. Other than a hospital unit or some other locale with relatively ill persons therein, what other location could be beneficial to a nursing student and earn real field-trip appeal?

Why, it would be your local, friendly (and surprisingly stink-free) neighborhood sewage treatment facility. You see, and here's the nursing relevance, it's important for nurses to understand why the WHO ranks sewage management & drinking water treatment with fluoride and chlorine as two of the top 10 best contributions to public health -- ever. And no lie, it was way interesting. A thousand years ago my 8th grade class visited the Charlottesville/Albemarle County sewage treatment facility (yeah, most people never visit these places, and here I've been twice. It almost seems unfair!) as part of our city/county units in Social Studies. I have truly fond memories of staring at enormous vats of my community's refuse & listening intently to stories of what people attempt to (with varying amounts of success) to flush : alligators, babies and pythons. I was only all-to-thrilled to learn that I'd spend Thursday doing it again, Northern Virginia-style.

What I learned: Loudon County poop doesn't smell bad. Or maybe it was just because it was a way small treatment plant that served only a small development (a mere 60,000 gallons processed a day.. compared to Fairfax County's largest plant at 225,000 rank gallons or DC's 350,000 politically incorrect gallons). Our kind and, strangely, overly enthusiastic tour guide explained that most of yesterday's "inflow" was already aerated and lost its methane (read: stink). In fact, once they remove all of their "solid sludge", a septic company comes and collects it and then sells it back to Loudon County agricultural groups to use as fertilizer. A larger Loudon plant dries it into pellets and then will give it to any L.C. residents free of charge. Amazing. I give you my poop, and you dry it and give it back to me. That's modern, metropolitan living, friends.

Additionally, I learned where people who really love their jobs work. Mr. Sewage Treatment has a Masters degree from a fairly impressive alma mater. And he loves your poop. He, actually, contacted GMU years ago and offered to set up tours for any of the students. He's been giving 3 tours a semester for nearly 3 years now. And he was wonderful and frighteningly knowledgeable about poop Post-Flush. And you know what? If you even knew the public health crisis that could happen if your waste and sewage wasn't managed for even a day, you'd be sending dude a Christmas card (and even your cheesy newsletter) twice a year for being so damned into and on his job.

Oh, and dude mentioned that flushing condoms is a bit of a problem for most plants. It jacks their machinery since it's pretty un-biodegradable. Sadly, the county can't see a way of asking or educating homeowners to quit flushing their sex supplies in a way that won't out said homeowners to their children in a non-embarassing, mommies-and-daddies-who-love-eachother-talks kinda way. So quit flushing your condoms. As a nurse, I applaud your safe sexual practices but really, destroying the evidence is pointless. We all know you're hittin' it. Yeee-ah.

Our afternoon field trip took us to a drinking water treatment plant -- actually the drinking water treatment plant of Northern Virginia. If you live in 703/202/571, chances are you're drinking water that's run through their pipes - and be damned glad of it. Why? Because the other 75 % of people who love their jobs work there. Nerds and geeks who filled our college chemistry and biology labs are tittering around the labs of the treatment plant making sure that not only is your water drinkable, but that it is "aesthetic". We're all so fashionable here in the DC Metro -- heaven forbid that our water be totally safe to drink but "unaesthetic".

My next field trip is more self-scheduled. Over the summer I had contacted the Fairfax County EMS groups asking if they would take me for ride-alongs in the ambulances. While they all were congratulating me for entering the medical profession in the midst of a bad shortage, sadly they could not invite me to join them due to HIPAA limitations and insurance liabilities. Not quite crestfallen, I accepted their refusal. And then I got to visit the flight-school. Because few of you know that I aspire to actually be a flight-nurse, you may not understand how giddy I was to be able to go to their hanger and ask a myriad of geeky questions. {Basically, due to all of the training, certifications and experience needed to be a flight nurse, and rightly so, they told me to aim for it for my 40th birthday. Yowzers. Alright, I can get on board with 13-year goals.. }

Before I knew it, they were offering me a seat on the helicopter during a 12 hour shift solely for observation. Yeah, I know. The ambulance cock-blocks me and the helicopters are already buckling me in for lift off. So next Friday I'm airborne. I hate to wish for a gruesome accident scene or advocate for human injury, but I am not getting this amped up to sit in their lounge with no calls for 12 hours. But if you choose to not wear a seatbelt next Friday, maybe we can get together a lot sooner than we had originally planned. In any case I.CAN'T.WAIT. Ah, I get to spend a day observing what I think I'd like to do with my Over-The-Hill years AND I get to cross "fly in a helicopter" off my list of "Things To Do Before I Die". Suh-weet.

Phew. All that being said, it promises to be a busy semester. The sooner we get this semester over with, the sooner I get to start the last one. And the sooner I get reminded what a pay-check looks like.


Surry old dear, as much as your story moves me I don't intend to quit flushing my rubbers after sex. Besides is one less rubber in the sewer going to make any difference?
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