19 May 2009

Walking in blue and gold

Gandhi in Glebe

I guess I'm a bad blogger nowadaze. It's been four weeks since the Christchurch convention ended, and two since I broke my arm, and in almost every respect my life is not at all what I thought it would be just now.

Seldom have I enjoyed a BookCrossing convention so much. It was so close to perfect, with the setting, the season, the fun and the friends. I don't think anybody wanted it to end!

I got home, and felt so incredibly blue. Yes, I know that Canberra is a beautiful city, and autumn is the best time of year, but after a week in paradise, everywhere else is bleak winter.

My friends found ways to buck me up, and I'm back to my normal operating mode, fondly remembering the good times past and dreaming of those to come. Looking forward to the Edinburgh trip, capped off with a few days in Rockhampton, which is always pleasant in midwinter, compared to Canberra's chill. Especially with the family around me. I'm getting to be one of the older generation now, with the youngest members down around kindergarten age.

I had a fairly normal week back in the cab, swapping shifts with my day driver, enjoying his twice-daily chats, and getting back into the swing of things. But then he went away on his own delightful holiday - and yes, I'm grateful for the updates, Paul - and I did double shifts until the owner found me a co-driver.

Doubles mean that I have the car 24 hours in a day, and it pretty much means dawn to dusk and beyond. Fifteen or eighteen hour shifts with a nap in the middle.

And then I broke my arm. No more driving, not even my own cars. I stay at home, do all the things I've been putting off for months if not years, read books, do housework, cook meals, and best of all, get to enjoy the company of my wife. My usual cabdriving life sees me spend huge amounts of each week either absent or asleep, and that's probably not the best way to be a good husband and father.

I'm enjoying the break. Could not be happier in fact. It is so pleasant to be able to chat with my friends online, or watch evening tv shows with the family. And I'm even getting a bit of exercise. My plan is to lose ten kilos of excess over the next 50 days, which should see me reach a healthful weight, rather than being just a bit tubby.

I walked into Civic yesterday, listening to my "Smiles" playlist on the iPhone, kicking through piles of leaves under trees of rapidly disappearing gold, and feeling on top of the world.

14 May 2009

Just a friend

This happens sometimes. They hop in the cab, all funked up, I put a music video on, they start singing and I singalong. I don’t have a wide range of stuff available on the iPhone, but I’ve usually got something.

Pleasant as it is to cruise around this beautiful city, enjoying the bus lanes and the easy parking and the other perks available to cabbies, it’s the people who make the job for me.

Most people are nice, a lot are good company, and a few are simply wonderful. Sharing their lives for a few minutes is what keeps me jumping in the cab, firing it up and heading out for another twelve hour shift.

It’s poor pay, long hours, appallingly unhealthy, sometimes stressful and dangerous, but Oh Lord, is it fun!

12 May 2009

Cast away


Today was my day for a review. Last Monday, I slipt over at the service station, breaking my fall with my outstretched wrist. The next day I had it x-rayed, confirmed as a break (though not a major one), given a sling and a temporary cast, and told to return in a week.

The temporary cast was sturdy enough, but basically just a moulded plaster slab along the underside of my forearm, held on with tightly wrapped gauze. I had to keep it dry, and it allowed a certain limited amount of movement, which although I tried to keep it down, was painful.

After battling my way around the hospital this morning - such an amazing rabbit warren of a place - I filled out various forms and got my wrist x-rayed afresh. Again, I barely had time to sit down and read a page of the book I brought along, so smoothly and efficiently were things going on.

Doctor called me in, showd me the images, and explained that the break wasn't serious enough for surgery - they probably wouldn't be able to fix it any better than was going to happen anyway - and I was to be put in a solid cast for four weeks. No driving - I asked specifically - and I would have a greater susceptibility to arthritis as I got older.

Then they put me in the comfy chair, rested my elbow on a little rubber cushion, and a pretty young nurse cut away the old cast. "You could probably unwind the gauze," I pointed out.

"Quicker this way!" she said, snapping open a set of mean-looking shears. She chomped them through the material and my arm was exposed to view for the first time in a week.

"You might want to give it a wash now," nurse said, directing me to a nearby sink and indicating the controls for the water flow. Wave your hand in front of the sensor and the tap runs.

I gave it a quick wash and patted it dry with paper towels. Swelling had gone down, mostly, and when I looked close, there was a fading pastel yellow purple bruise. I had a better one on my backside - really spectacular - but happily no photographs of that ever got taken.

At this point my nurse was called away, and I got a good look at the bloke in the next chair, who had either had some bad compound fracture, or had been given internal fixation of some sort. There was a long wound in his forearm, sutured shut, and I figured I'd gotten off lightly, considering. I averted my gaze when his nurse unwrapped something really sharp and began unstitching him.

First step in my new cast was a sort of sticky white bubblewrap underlay, wrapped around my arm to layer the skin against the cast. Nurse took some care with this, and I admired her professionalism. This had to guard against chafing for a month, and she wrapped me up carefully, cutting out bits around my thumb to allow finger movement.

Then she stuck on two blue strips of heavier tape, one each side. I raised an eyebrow.

"When we cut off the cast, this will stop the saw giving you friction burns."

Right. Hadn't thought that far ahead.

"You've done this before, haven't you?"

She smiled.

"Can I take a picture?" I pulled out my iPhone when she nodded yes.


"Good idea!" the bloke next to me said, and he whipt out his phone to capture his rather more gruesome forearm for family consumption.

"You've got a choice of colours," my nurse said, showing me several swatches. "Anything but white."

Two shades of blue, black, white, and a dark pink. I indicated the pink. "That's more my colour."

She smiled at that. "We've actually got white - I just won't let you have it!"

Then she drew on some purple rubber gloves, dipt a roll of the pink material in water, and carefully wrapped my arm up. Three layers, just slightly inside the white underlayer. I could feel the thing growing warm. Some chemical reaction, triggered by the water, turning the flexible material into rock.

"We've got maybe five minutes before it hardens, so there's only a small window," nurse said, deftly cutting away curves for my thumb, working quickly and efficiently.

She smoothed in a few curves around the palm, giving me a bit of finger movement, and the thing was done. She handed me a sheet with some tips for care, and a card for an appointment in four weeks time for removal.

And that was it. It had all been very quick, efficient and friendly. Smiles all round, and I was outside, waiting for a ride home, texting the cab owner to let him know I was out of action for a month.

10 May 2009

Life in a sling


If Kerri's right on this, there's at least a month to go. "Bones don't knit in a week, Pete," she says.

Likely scenario is that I'll go back on Tuesday, get re-x-rayed, have an orthopaedic surgeon from over the pix, and then get my forearm encased in a full plaster until the middle of June.

That's going to stuff up my taxidriving career no end!

It's also going to put a serious dent in my income stream, just when I'm needing money to top up my credit cards and build up reserves for the Edinburgh trip.

Mind you, the time off isn't hard to take. It's been a long while since I had several days in a row to do nothing much.

The flip side of that is that it's bloody inconvenient to have my left arm in a sling. Not half as inconvenient as it would be to have my right arm out of action, but still...

Simple tasks, such as opening a jar or splashing aftershave on my face, become simple or impossible. Having a shower is interesting. I have to keep the plaster dry, so I wrap the cast in a plastic bag, slap a rubber band over and hold the arm high out of the way. Can't squirt shampoo into one hand with the other, so I apply it directly. And, of course, it's almost impossible to soap up my right arm!

Drying gets patchy, once I step out of the shower. And I have to wear my watch on my right wrist now.

Sleeping can be patchy as well with this great unbending lump clunking around. There's only a few positions where I'm remotely comfortable.

I can't drive, so if I can't walk someplace, I have to depend on others.

But, all in all, the discomfort and inconvenience is nothing compared to what some folk in the community go through. It's giving me more of an insight into the problems of others, and I trust I'll be more patient and understanding with them in future. As a taxidriver, meeting the very real needs of others is a big part of the job.

05 May 2009

Live at the Hospital Bowl

Hospital bowl

I went to bed, relatively early, with a planned 0300 start to my shift, but a bit after midnight I was awake with the pain from my wrist. I'd hoped it would settle and I'd be able to drive, but no, this was serious. No strength in my grasp and if I held my hand the wrong way or bumped my wrist, the pain would make me gasp.

I took another dose of painkillers and resigned myself to attending hospital. Kerri had warned me that if I had a break there and I toughed it out, then I'd likely have pain and arthritis for the rest of my life. One thing about having a doctor in the family, we might hide splinters and minor injuries from her, but if it's serious, we listen carefully.

She dropped me off at Accident & Emergency on her way to work. I was prepared for hours of waiting in a crowded room. Computer, painkillers, nice thick book.

But within a few seconds of entering the room, I had a nurse taking the details, probing my arm, testing the extent of injuries, tying a sling - "Um, could you bend down a little, please?" the tiny woman asked as she looped it over my head.

They wanted me to take off my wedding ring against potential swelling, but it hasn't been off my finger since Kerri put it there quarter of a century ago, so I promised I'd keep an eye on it.

That was triage, a few details from the clerk, then I barely had time to open my book and a doctor was calling me over. She looked carefully at my wrist, agreed that an x-ray was necessary, and escorted me to the waiting area. Just a page read, and I was inside, getting the images taken.

A little longer afterwards, but I took the time to twitter updates and take a picture of this lovely great silvered mirror dome on the ceiling above a four way intersection, which incidentally showed me with arm in sling and book on knees.

Pete in sling

"Yes, it's broken," the pretty young doctor said said, "but not badly."

The x-ray showed a tiny fracture line along one knob of my radius bone. Didn't look too bad, but she said a cast would be needed for a week, then review by an orthopod.

She then took me into the plaster room, and under supervision from a jolly nurse who called herself the Plasterqueen, I got a cast. What they call a volar slab, so it's not a big heavy thing, just a stiffener secured with some gauze.

Kerri says that's in case of swelling, and a full cast will go on for another five weeks after review.

And that was it. Quick, efficient, even enjoyable. Kerri picked me up and I was back home for a late morning tea in the sun.

I told the cab owner. I doubt he was happy, but if I can't drive, I can't drive. Somone collected the cab in the arvo, and I won't see it again for a week.

What worries me is the prospect of six weeks off work.

No sick leave or workers compensation in the taxidriving game, and I've got an ongoing tax liability, not to mention a world trip coming up in seven weeks, for which I've got no savings. I might have to find something else to bring in some money.

This is all a bit of a worry.

04 May 2009

Day tripper

While my day driver's off on a five week holiday - yesterday he drove the Great Ocean Road - I'm on the day shift. At first I was doing doubles, meaning that I could drive the car whenever I wanted within the 24 hours of the day, maybe with a nap here and there, and then I was supposedly given a night driver, putting me on the day shift.

I say supposedly, because as yet I haven't seen him, and though I know the cab was driven on the weekend, it certainly sat idle last night after I finished at three in the afternoon.

I've been enjoying day driving. There's more traffic on the road, but there's also fewer kangaroos, drunks and crazies. I get more of the little old ladies and gents who are scarce after dark but fun to chat up and be nice to.

And I get to be out on a series of glorious autumn days. Cool and clear, leaves in red and gold and everything in between. It's pure pleasure.

I was doing well yesterday. Took in about as much as I do in a nightshift, thanks mostly to a long duration "wait and return" government job. Banked the big notes, gassed up, ran the car through the wash, vacuumed it out...

And then, as I walked the tangled vacuum cleaner hose out across the service station forecourt to straighten it out before replacing it on the holder, I tripped. I lurched backwards, trying to gain some support from the slack hose before I went down under the wheels of an oncoming car, but after one or two steps, I landed heavily on my backside and outstretched hand, cap flying off.

Luckily the car stopped, the driver laughing on, I retrieved my cap and limped the hose back. Hurting like blazes, but that's how these things go - a day or three of bruising to show off and then fadeaway.

I drove home, unloaded the car, and waited a bit for a night driver. But not too long. I was hurting in two places and exhausted after a long day.

Woke when Kerri came home. She wasn't too concerned about my bum, but the wrist was a worry. It was hurting a lot, and though painkillers were found, I still have no strength in it. Maybe it's broken rather than spraint.

I'm to take the day off and get it x-raid. If it's broke, there's the chance of six weeks in plaster. Six weeks of no driving. Six weeks of no income. And me with a world trip coming up in seven weeks.

But if I can't hold the wheel firmly in two hands and lift baggage in and out of the boot, then I can't drive a taxi.