Elevator Observations Part III - Quasi-Celebrity? You decide.
I ain't on some "oh, I'm a celebrity" I deal with the real so if it's artificial let it be.
- from The Roots "Baby, You Got Me"
So, here's something funny. A little over a year ago, the head of nursing along with some one from Grady public relations approached me and my two friends/fellow Grady doctors, Neil W. and David M., about taking a photo for a handwashing campaign they were unrolling at Grady. "Having some of our Grady doctors along with some nurses would send a great message," she said. "What I have in mind is some nice laminated posters to put on the wards with a catchy slogan about hand hygiene." I'm down for some clean hands, and also down for Grady, so I went along with it.
We meet up a few weeks later, and get our picture taken by a professional photographer in front of this funky green backdrop. (I have since learned that such funky backdrops are actually quite high tech, depending on what you plan to do with the photograph.) They posed us into these very "somebody posed me" positions, and after about 30 minutes we were done. I recall receiving an email with a proof of the picture, along with a kind word of thanks from the head of nursing for our participation in promoting clean hands at Grady. Again, I am down for some clean hands, and also down for Grady, so I remember saying something like, "Cool, my pleasure."
So fast forward a few weeks or maybe a few months to the beginning of August 2008. I walk through the doors of one of the main entrances to Grady, and what do I see? This ginormous banner scaling the wall with hands the size of King Kong's when he scooped that screaming blonde out of that building. The hands look ultra sanitized and are surrounded by these animated bubbles. . . .below them is the what obviously won the catchy slogan contest-- "CLEAN BECAUSE WE CARE!" Aaaaah, but the best part? Nestled just beside the King Kong clean hands--no exaggeration--was a life size print of the picture we took in front of the funky green backdrop. (I should've known something was up when they put us in front of that thing.)
I was dumbfounded, gobsmacked, and whatever other word you can come up with to describe something that dumbfounds or gobsmacks you. Hello? This wasn't a laminated poster! I couldn't decide whether being on the Grady jumbotron was kind of cool or really, really weird. I have since settled on something in between.
Riddle me this: What's the only thing more bizarre and gobsmackable than unexpectedly walking into a lifesize picture of yourself in the lobby of Grady Hospital? Try unexpectedly walking into a lifesize picture of yourself in the other lobby of Grady Hospital. . . .and in the cafeteria of Grady Hospital. . . .and on nearly every floor of Grady Hospital! (Picture me with big, fake smile and fingers in my dimples)
Now, of course this has led to a myriad of comments from everyone from students to janitors to patients to complete strangers. Sometimes they just stand next to me at the elevator and do a double take, saying nothing. Other times, they come right on out with a comment.
My favorite one of recent memory happened just a few weeks ago. There was this Grady environmental services employee who joined me on the elevator near one of the scary, lifesize photo banners with the King Kong clean hands. She looked at the picture, and then at me. Back at the picture. Back at me. Here we go. When our elevator came and we stepped into the empty car together, she didn't hold back. "You know what, Miss Manning?" Deep breath. . .this is Grady, so this could go anywhere. "You was fatter when you took that picture," she told me matter-of-factly. I sort of smiled at her; the kind of smile you give someone when you taste a mouthful of something they cooked and it really, really sucks but they think it's worthy of Top Chef.
"Was that right after you had your baby? I remember when you was pregnant." Wow. Not the postpartum headcrack! "Um, no," I tried to answer cheerfully, "my baby was almost two when I took that picture." Let's end it here. Good place to end it. We can ride this thing out with awkward silence. Better yet,let's just talk about the "Real Housewives of Atlanta." That always goes over well in the Grady elevator.
"Oh, okay then. You must've just been eating more back then, 'cause you was fatter on that picture." Wow, this is brutal. "But you was still cute. But you was fatter, though." Aaaah. At least I was still cute. Hmmm. Trying to decide if I ever want to be referred to as fatter. Looking her up and down now and trying to decide if I should tell her my assessment of her appearance, because I do have one.
"Really in your face, though." What? "Beg pardon?" I spoke aloud. Immediately, I regretted it because it clicked right then that she was still on the "fatter" thing. "In your face, you was fatter," she clarified as she inspected my face. Were fatter. WERE not was fatter."But you was still cute." See, Kimberly? There is a bright side. Was cute or were cute works for me. "Even though they put too much make up on you. But you was cute even with the make up and your face fatter." Is she serious? Why is this lady hazing me? Doesn't she know I'm almost 40, and all weight-related comments good, bad or indifferent get internalized and compartmentalized forever? Dude, let me get to my floor. More people getting on. Sweet. Maybe she'll stop.
She stepped aside to let folks into the elevator but that didn't stop her. "They had a professional do your make up? Or did they airbrush it?" Killing me. Hope my expression does not show what I am thinking. "You know they can airbrush pictures. You could have told them to airbrush it so your face wouldn't look fatter." She cannot be serious. "That's what they do to Tyra and Michelle Obama. Oh yeah, and especially Oprah for that magazine of hers." Bananas. "They look a hot mess and then they get airbrushed. You shoulda had them to just airbrush you, Miss Manning. 'Specially since they all over the hospital." Oooophh! Body blow. Thanks for reminding me. All over the hospital, on every floor, and probably on a MARTA bus somewhere. Okay, I give up- can't take it any more. Need to attack before further annihilated.
(Insert cheery, fake smile here) "Nope, did my own make up, wasn't pregnant, and think I may have even been lighter in weight then than I am now." (Cheery, fake smile even bigger now.) "Glad you thought I looked cute, though." 7th floor. Finally saved by the bell. Okay, can't resist one more little dig. "Will ask for that airbrushing next time they take a lifesize picture of me to plaster all over Grady." Snarky, I know. But she was asking for it.
Now I have since decided that her commentary was meant to be some sort of unknowingly camouflaged compliment. That whole episode has been added to my list of Seinfeld-esque moments I'm stacking up from my Grady experience. For a brief spell, I felt bad about my snarky sarcasm, but my sneaking suspicion is that she didn't even catch it. Especially because she had smiled and waved saying, "Alright then, Miss Manning!*" when I exited the elevator. *(Remember "Miss Manning" is a term of endearment.)
Take home message: Being on the Grady jumbotron seems to have given folks in my Grady family this green light to have familiarity with me. And in a strange way, that part is kind of cool. . . .
So I guess I'm a somewhat of a quasi-celebrity inside of Grady. As long as nobody paints a mustache on my fatter, non-airbrushed, overmade up face, I'm okay with it. :)
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?