12 NOV 2007 Doubleflush good
Today I woke up at O dark thirty to participate in the Veterans' Day five kilometer run. It was postponed to the day after Veterans' Day for undisclosed reasons. Always keep Ali Baba guessing! I met up with Gastroenterologist B. who is an avid runner and insane early riser. I had been roused a few hours earlier by a controlled detonation at around 0300. A controlled detonation is when the Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts purposefully detonate enemy devices in a controlled setting. Why did they have to do it at three in the morning? Hmm.... Catch 22. But after the Giant Voice System's mechanized female dulcet tones advised me "All clear, all clear, all clear, command post out" I swiftly returned to dreamland.
As I bike to the track, I am careful not to be run over by the MRAP's exiting the wire for route clearance. The MRAP's are mine-resistant vehicles which are less vulnerable to IED's planted by insurgents. They patrol the highways, looking for IED so that they can explode them or remove them. (And you thought your job was tough??!!) Brave men and women, no doubt. So I was happy for my bike light "EL SOL" and my reflective belt. I bike a path straight and true with a wide margin around the convoy. I recite my mantra:
"This is my reflective belt. There are many like it but this one is mine. My reflective belt is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my reflective belt is useless. Without my reflective belt I am useless. I must wear my reflective belt. My reflective belt makes me luminous to my enemy, who is trying to kill me. Before God I swear this creed: my reflective belt and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen."
(Apologies and due credit to Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket, 1987)
Once at the arena, I lock my bike and helmet to reconnoiter. The track is a quarter mile loop with a grandstand at one end. Legend has it that Saddam Hussein shot the national soccer team here when they lost a match. How victorious that Iraqis won the Asia Cup in 2006. There are near 800 troops gathered. A good representation of Airmen has shown up to hold our own against the greater numbers of soldiers. The race organizers have run out of T-shirts. After a point they broadcast "Stop signing in, we are just going to line up an run." We do. I learn that runners like me who show up the day of a race and run unregistered have a name: bootleggers. I use different names to describe my behavior: lazy and cheap. Since the race is free (like the food, the gym, the pool, the concerts, the movies, and all the other creature comforts provided so we forget we miss our families) I can only claim to be lazy. By an awkward twist of location, Gastroenterologist B. and I end up in the second row with the swift pack. Several younger troops from the hospital gather with us. They talk a good game, but we will leave some of these youngsters in the dust. The race starts.
I've been shuffling around the base a bit and calling it jogging, but I run a respectable seven minute pace today. I must have had something left at the end because I didn't vomit! Old age and treachery beat youth and beauty again today. One of our hospital staff, Anesthesiologist C. beats out some of the youthful fleet feet with a seventeen minute time. My days of running cross country at Xavier H.S. in Middletown, CT with Coach C. are long behind me. I'm just a shuffler, but now that I'm solidly in the Masters division, The field can't drown me out completely.
Then it was back to the hospital for my day job. What a pleasant surprise to find that Thoracic surgeon J. only admitted a handful of patients! How beautiful to imagine a day when the violence is over and we are thankfully put out of business. The casualties were few, but a teenage girl died of wounds when fragments of metal pierced the base of her skull after an explosion. One fewer to grow up and see where her country lands. It is obscene and intolerable.
I have little to do today (for the moment!) I have to check on the little boy who had his colostomy removed a few days ago. Yesterday I saw him strolling through the ER with translator N. Just a little man with a sore belly and a suction tube hanging out of his nose. He looks good, better than I would look after having my belly opened for the third time! All he has to do is let a little gas slip by the southern border and he can even get rid of that tube! Again with the surgeon, always concerned with bodily functions. Perhaps it will explain my next topic.
If you have little interest in toilets beyond knowing that they exist, you might just want to tune out now. I, on the other hand, can (and will) talk about toilets for hours. This inappropriate behavior stems from the fact that I can over analyze anything to death (have you thought about the way the word shrapnel sounds?) and I have never quite abandoned the sense of humor I cultured as a nine-year-old boy.
When I arrived at the new Air Force Theater Hospital in September, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the contractor had installed dual-flush toilets. I hadn't seen them since a handful of hotels on a visit to Europe. The theory is, you use one smaller flush for light duty and a separate larger flush for heavy duty. (Ahem) This is a more mechanical and technical advance beyond the guerrilla dual-flush philosophy of "yellow's mello, brown goes down" which posits a flush of zero gallons per flush in response to number one.
But I was curious, if the little elliptical button gave a small flush, and the big crescentic button gave a big flush, what would happen when both buttons were pushed? Would the toilet deliver the large flush, or would a super-flush result, a sort of summation of the little and big flushes? Well, some may be satisfied to wonder, but I'm a surgeon. My sanity (or flawed facsimile, thereof) would not allow me to rest until I investigated. So, I opened the upper body cavity of the call-room toilet for an exploratory.
Inside the tank, (home of the notorious "upper-decker") there was a modern and highly modified fill tube with separate white and blue buttons. The large crescent corresponded to the white button, the small ellipse, the blue. Pushing the white button internally resulted in a brisk emptying of the entire tank. When the blue button was activated, a curious thing happened. A little portal opened on the side of the fill tube, two-thirds of the way down. When the water dropped to that level, there was a brief sucking sound, then a click as the effluent was interrupted, limiting the flush to a smaller size.
Lastly, wonder of wonders, when both buttons were pushed, the side portal was still opened, and the abbreviated smaller flush was delivered. Such is science. It is always worth doing the experiment and never sufficient to guess, because you cannot know when you will have an unexpected result like I did.
Hard as it is to image, I could go on much longer. Chronicling our search for the foetid miasma that rises from the shower drain in the call room would take volumes. Suffice to say that our hasty accusations of one of our surgeon colleagues were unfounded and I hope our apoligies are accepted. I'll leave you with this last nugget, one that Gastroenterologist B. appreciated. I share a wet trailer with one other troop, wherein our living spaces are divided by a small bathroom with running water. I'm spared the need to traipse out to the portable toilets when my bladder complains in the middle of the nippy night. In the interest of both conserving precious water and fostering warm diplomacy with my neighbor, I have self-imposed a policy of "Number 2 walks."
In the sanguine words of surgeons everywhere, "Have you passed gas yet?"