It’s a big week. In the three days since Sunday, we’re having two major events that can literally put us at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and car accidents.
Today is election day. I just want it to be over, even if I am not going to be happy with the results. It just needs to end. The phone calls need to dry up. The constant news, the commercials, the fighting! For the sake of all of us.
We’re ready for it. We have our maps, our crayons, our coffee, our wine. It’s going to be a long night. A painful night. I’m not happy with either choice, with my candidate now a lost dream. I’ve done my grieving. But now I can put a clothespin on my nose and exercise my right to try to do damage control. Every election year, Jason and our kids—who he has raised to be passionate about politics as he has been all his life, crying at 8 when his candidate Hubert Humphrey lost to Nixon—color in their electoral maps as the results come in. The states called for the Republican candidate, or that “go red,” get the Scarlet crayon. Democratic states get Midnight Blue. Or maybe Cerulean, if you’re feeling really bold. It was a real dilemma in 2000 when they’d already called Florida for Al Gore and we filled it in with the blue crayon. Then it all shifted and they said no wait, it’s George W. Bush. What do you DO with that? You can’t erase crayon! Everybody knows that! Clearly, there’s all kind of reasons to have heart attacks today.
And then of course we can’t forget the time change—not as bad in the fall because we gain an hour, but still, any change messes with our circadian rhythms and causes things to go wonky inside of us.
I’ve seen a lot of time changes, right at the exact moment that a new hour magically appears or disappears. If you’re a graveyard shift worker—nurse, cop, bartender, air traffic controller—unlike everyone else, you actually prefer the “lose an hour” scenario more than the gain one.
The times when I worked night shift on the weekends that we gained an hour, it made for a long, long night. 3:00 a.m. is hard enough when you don’t have to face it twice. In intensive care units, we have to do things at least once an hour, like vitals, meds, suctioning, etc. And the care has to be documented. In my unit, our flow charts didn’t have room for an extra hour (we used paper charting, like giant spreadsheets). So in the 2:00 a.m. column, we just drew a long line down the center and split the cells. One was the first 2:00 and the other was the second 2:00. When our clocks got to 2:59, we just turned them back and did it all over again. I went home tired and ready to sleep until Tuesday.
This past Sunday afternoon, Molly called me from work and said, “You didn’t change the clocks back.” Her voice might have reflected a little bit of disapproval.
She’d gone in an hour early, using the kitchens clocks to gage her departure instead of her phone. She’d been rushing around, trying to get something to eat before leaving for what was certain to stretch into a long, late night. Her phone wasn’t handy. The kitchen clocks were. She was right, they were still on last week’s time. Sadly. And I could relate.
One year when I was working the weekend with two twelves back to back (you work, go home and sleep, and go back to work), I crawled out of the warm bed on a cold October Sunday morning, threw on some sweats (I’d change into scrubs anyway at the hospital), and walked the six blocks along the abandoned, dark streets of Chicago between our apartment and Children’s. I walked into the lobby, looked over at the security guard’s desk, and spied the clock over his head. And moaned. I’d come in at 6 a.m., forgetting all about the time change. I turned right around and walked back to our apartment. I climbed back into bed and went to sleep for about fifteen minutes, then I had to pry myself out of bed again. I should have just stayed in the lobby and read a magazine.
So, all that is to say, since it’s election day, just go back to bed. No, wait. Go vote, then go back to bed. Sleep might feel better. When you wake up, it might all be over. In so many ways. I’m a little nervous, but I don’t think I’m going to have a stroke. But maybe just to be safe, when I get out my crayons and work on my coloring page later, I think I’ll make sure I have plenty of medicinal wine right there with me. This night might just feel like longer than we’ve had in a long time.
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