Sometimes when sitting at my desk, I become engrossed with what I’m doing, and though I have a readout of the time on the bottom right-hand corner of my computer screen, as well as a clock hanging on the wall right in front of me, I lose track of the time. Consequently, I forget about lunch. I forget about eating.
The other day, I was having a conversation with my six-year-old granddaughter. She’s reached the age where she can actually converse and she’s interested in everything, always full of questions.
This day we were talking about batteries, and how their function is to provide power. We discussed all sorts of batteries, from toy batteries to car batteries.
“Where do you get your power?” I asked her.
She thought for a moment and then shrugged, downcast. “I have no battery,” she said.
We happened to be sitting at the dinner table alone, my husband and her mom both delayed at work that evening.
“You have power right on your plate and in your cup,” I told her. Her big brown eyes got even bigger as they took in her chicken, rice, broccoli and apple juice.
“I’m eating power?” she asked, incredulous.
Back in the day, what mostly powered me through my work shifts was a healthy dose of adrenaline. In all the years of hot-footing it on cold, hard hospital floors I can count the times I actually got a lunch break.
I mean a real lunch break, where you leave the unit, walk to the cafeteria, fill your tray and then sit and eat leisurely like they show on TV. Or walk outside, find a bench and eat your bagged lunch under the healing heat of the sun. I think I got to do that maybe five times in all, and that might be an exaggeration.
On rare occasions, I got to go across the hall to the nurse’s lounge (an oxymoron of the first degree) and try to eat what I’d brought with me, or what another kind soul had gotten for me during a food run. The only problem with that was that there was a phone on the wall and everyone knew where I was.
A lot of the time lunch consisted of a bottle of Pepsi, from which I’d take a swig as I rushed through the nurse’s station on my way to another ICU room. It had power: sugar and caffeine.
In President Vicente Fox’s memoir, Revolution of Hope, he writes about his time as a truck driver for Coca-Cola saying, “In Mexico, poor people drank Coke and Pepsi as food.” It seems surreal that I would end up doing the same, only in my case it wasn’t for lack of money. The currency I was short of was time.
I still see myself practically running headlong down a never-ending, solitary corridor that was enclosed with green-tiled walls. I, too, was green. A new nurse dressed in green hospital scrubs, my scrub gown flowing behind me like a green cotton cape as I sped along. It was the middle of a long twelve-hour night and I’d reluctantly left the familiar confines of the ICU.
It was my turn for a food run and the vending machines were in the basement of this 1000-bed hospital. I power walked through that corridor not only because it was spooky down there, but also because the minutes I was allotted were precious and few.
My fuel of choice was usually a slice of pecan pie. It offered a delicious concoction of power: sugar and calories. As a result of this frequent indulgence, I ended up gaining the freshman 15 after I graduated from college.
I think of all this sometimes when I finally take time to eat in the course of my day. This year, I’m spending Thanksgiving in the Deep South, awaiting the new arrival. I think I will request a pecan pie be added to my son’s table, just so I can savor the memories.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving surrounded by your loved ones. Don’t power up too much y’all!