Friday, July 10, 2009

Public Transit Hissy Fit

After any shift (especially night shifts), I throw on a jacket over my scrubs* and hurry home to my shower, kitchen and lavender-vanilla scented bed (I love Downy). While I’m rushing home, I like to decompress by getting lost in my own world while surrounding myself with a giant bubble of silence. So imagine my irritation on a sunny morning I’m completely zonked out of my mind, I’m approached by a seemingly normal looking guy who looks directly at me and then loudly asks, “Excuse me miss, are you a nurse or a doctor?” Having just gone through a break-less shift liberally peppered with loud obnoxious alarms and patients screeching every two minutes, I ignored him and started to pray that he was addressing the other scrub-clad people on the train. Nope. He was talking to me. Once again, he very loudly asked me,

“Are you a doctor? A nurse?”

This time, I took a perfunctory look around the train to a) make sure that there wasn’t some dire catastrophe about to unfold and b) catch another scrubbie’s gaze and maybe get rescued from the asshattery of the buffoon standing in front me. Once again, my hopes were crushed.
I reasoned that he’d eventually tire himself out and since he did not look to be in any distress (clearly his ABCs were intact), I could go on ignoring him for another couple of minutes before getting home. Yet again, his unrelenting questioning did not cease.

“Miss, I need to ask you a few questions! Are you a nurse or a doctor? Where do you work miss? I NEED to ask you some questions!”

This was pushing it too far! I can normally get away with my standard “No speakie English” line and have public transit folk leave me alone but this guy was clearly not going to buy that. As the train hurtled towards my stop, his questioning became louder and more persistent. He then inched towards me (in the off chance that I did not hear him the first several times) and very loudly repeated himself again, this time trying to reassure himself that I was a nurse. Unable to contain my rage at having my decompression time and post shift latte sipping interrupted so rudely and without any justifiable reason, I snapped. Oh boy did I ever snap. While he was firing off the next round of questions, I screamed,

“Just leave me the f**k alone! I don’t wanna f***ing talk you jackass!”

Normally, I would have tried to cover my crimson face in a newspaper and quickly get off at the next stop to avoid strangers’ stares, but that morning, I felt a wormy self-righteousness in screaming back at this guy and keeping my seat. He was of course stunned and quickly sinked back into his seat. I’m sure I did not do the image of nursing any favours with my little outburst, but did it ever feel good. When I told my coworkers about this, some of them were high-fiving me for telling him off while others were aghast at how I handled at the situation. The latter group felt that I should have politely but firmly told him to seek medical attention from his family doctor or at a hospital.

So what should I have done? Should I accept the congratulatory high-fives or should I have handled the situation with more grace and dignity while keeping my ‘nurse’ face on?

*Changing out of them is not always an option because I would much rather catch the train on time than hang around work for another hour especially on weekend mornings. I am not safe to drive after a night shift.

19 comments:

Jason Acosta said...

Wearing scrubbs does not give the pubic the right to free medical advice. If you see somebody on the train wearing a suit, tie and pocket protector, is it ok to hit them up for 'free' advice on doing your taxes? No, of course not. If you need help with something, you should expect to pay for it, whether it's your taxes or a leaky faucet, yet somehow, this distinction has escaped the medical/nursing profession. I'm only a nursing student married to a nurse, but even I get hit up all the time for advice. Usually I'm polite and just refer people to their primary care docs, but in your situation, I would have done the same thing-female/nighttime/train/etc. If you really decide you want to feel bad about that exchange, next time you could say that you are a housekeeper or orderly, and everyone at your hospital is required to wear scrubbs......take the high-fives.....

Anonymous said...

I think idiot boy on the subway got exactly what he deserved. If you were "polite but firm" to him he would have continued to pester you.

midwest woman said...

Throw on the floor and start "chest compressions"...to face.

Sapphire said...

You could of said that your were a nursing home worker. They wear scrubs too. I don't think he would have bothered you after you said that.

ICU RN said...

A sober reprimand would probably have been sufficient...then f-bombs if necessary.

LivingDeadNurse said...

hmm i guess curiosity would have gotten to me first...i would have wanted to know what the hell he wanted...then i would have said i was a nursing student...i will be happy to give you advice that would most likely kill you...lol or you could have said that your like to play dress up...and tomorrow is cop day...then he might think your mental...he would leave u alone then...lol

Jason Acosta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Acosta said...

I meant to say 'public' not
'pubic'.....sorry.

VetRN said...

You could say you are a veterinarian or vet tech, qualified only to practice on small animals, and that you really don't have much experience with jackasses.

RehabNurse said...

I second you, VetRN.

To that I reply: "And show me your badge, please, if you want me to answer any more questions."

gabbiana said...

I probably would've done what you did, honestly. Men are just so *willing* (eager?) to approach and hassle scrubs-wearing women out on the street, and it's like, what the fuck? Your ABCs are clearly in working order; my job here is done. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I would have high-fived you!

I hate when people on the bus try to talk to me when I'm clearly trying to ignore them. They see the A&P book, ask me if I'm a nursing student (I wasn't, and I told them I wasn't. I was only in pre-reqs at the time), then they start asking questions that I can't and don't care to answer, or they share info that I really didn't want to know.

It's gonna be so much worse when I start nursing school next month and have to catch the bus to clinicals wearing the white uniform. I might just do what LivingDeadNurse said and tell them that I am only a nursing student, but "I will be happy to give you advice that would most likely kill you."

Old MD Girl said...

He got what he deserved.

Bo... said...

Bless your heart, I totally know how tired you were.

I know doctors who can't even grocery shop in their own town because of people bugging them. Once I was on a KLM flight and the call went out over the PA begging for a doctor. Out of 460 passengers, NOBODY stood up. After 3 more fruitless calls, I finally identified myself as a nurse. They wanted help with a sick passenger. I told them, of course, that there was no way to tell what was really going on---and that the best thing was to land quickly and have an ambulance waiting on the tarmac. Which they did, heh! Never knew a 747 could actually speed up FASTER than how fast they already go! (My reward was a bottle of French champagne and applause, yeah!)

Anonymous said...

Good for you! Annoying self centered idiot wanting to tell you his medical problems - who needs it?

therapydoc said...

Wow, what a story! This is where you say, I no speak English, and act real dumb. But your method worked, too, didn't it? Certainly taught that guy not to speak to strangers :)

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Lie.

"No, I work in housekeeping at the hospital. But I just love scrubs, they're so comfortable."

Maha said...

Thanks for supporting my hissy fit and the excellent alternative suggestions! I think I'm more prepared for the next round of public transit weirdos!

suzanne said...

Four words: "Why do you ask?"

This is my response anytime anyone asks me something that is none of their business.

They are four very valuable words; not only can they be used to deflect nosiness, but they can also be used to deflect other types of requests, as well ("Are you busy Friday night?"/why do you ask?/"Well, because there is this concert that I want to go to, and i was hoping you'd work my shift for me ..."/Sorry, can't help you. )

Sometimes after the nosy person explains why they are asking, I simply say "Oh," and go back to doing whatever it was that I was doing before. At that point, some people realize that they were being nosy, some keep probing along, and others just begin to look very confused (much to my amusement).

Not that I think there is anything wrong with your response; but, this little phrase has worked very well for me.