Saturday, June 12, 2010

Random Reflection: Ready (to go)

"You ready-ta-go, ain't ya?"

That's what people used to walk up to me say, like every day, in the last four weeks of my pregnancies with both of my kids. It was like this universal term that intimated that I was not only term but so term that I might deliver right there on the spot. What amused me about it was that I'd never heard anyone say that to me or anyone else before getting pregnant, yet once my protuberant belly reached critical mass, it was all I heard.

For the record, it's pretty unusual for anyone to approach me in Grady Hospital with phrases I've never heard at all. I mean, this is a hospital that cares for a large population of African-Americans from the southern United States. Let's be clear here: I'm African-American, my folks are from Alabama, and I attended both college and medical school down south. So I know these patients. They're my aunties and my uncles. My first cousins and my second cousins. Usually they don't surprise me with their terminology-- but every now and then something catches me off my game. Or just amuses me. The "ready-ta-go" thing definitely did both.

"Good morning, gentlemen! Y'all doin' alright this mornin'?"

This would be a standard greeting I'd make to the handful of middle-aged men sitting in the "Smoking Area" outside the hospital on most mornings. The standard reply would almost always be, "Alright, Miss Lady!" or if they actually knew me from the ward or clinic it might be "We don't know nothin', Miss Manning!"

Now, let me quickly digress to address a few things that may have caused you to take pause:

"Smoking Area"--What?? Yes, there is a designated smoking area outside of our hospital. It's a small area with benches and standing ash receptacles, and people use them. I would say that this is an indigent care, public hospital in explaining it, but it has nothing to do with that. I think it comes down to the reality being that some people smoke. And rather than having them smoke near the front door flicking cigarette butts and ashes on the toe of somebody's child, our solution is the "Smoking Area." Got it?

"Miss Lady"--What?? Miss Lady is kind of like this term of endearment for young to youngish women that I often hear around Grady. Sometimes the person saying it is being fresh. Most times they're just being nice. Got it?

"We don't know nothin'!"-- Huh?? That's just a way to say, "Nothing's going on" or "It's just an ordinary day." If you're really savvy, you might greet someone you know by saying, "Hey there, sir, what you know good?" To which he might reply, "Awww, I don't know nothin'." This is equivalent to "What's new?" "Not much." Got it?

"Miss Manning"--What's up with that? At Grady Hospital, "Miss" is a term of endearment, even when you are a doctor. Yep. I said it. And am not offended by it in the least when I hear it. Got it? (For background on this, see this post: Miss Manning, but not if you're nasty.)

Okay. So when I was what felt like 12 months pregnant, I greet the dudes in the Smoking Area who collectively say: "You ready-ta-go, ain't ya?" I smile and just wave in return. Up the stairs, and into the hospital. Passing through the automatic doors where an elderly woman is buying a newspaper. She makes eye contact with me:

"Good morning, ma'am! You doin' alright today?" I say with my standard greeting complete with the southern twang that somehow inhabits my body the minute I enter Grady.

"I'm fine, thank you!" she replies with her wobbly voice and then adds, "You ready-ta-go, ain't ya?"

"Yes, ma'am!" I'd laugh. "Any day now!"

"Look like tha's a boy in there. You have a blessed day, doctor."

" 'Preciate you," I reply.

Down the hall, to the elevator, looking at my inpatient billing cards while waiting for the lift to arrive. Crowd forms at elevator, southern hospitality and pleasantries exchanged. Young woman, looks me up and down. "You ready-ta-go, ain't ya?" she says with a chuckle. I smile and nod.

"Tha's a boy, all day!" adds another woman. (Did I mention that every Grady patient, no matter what their age, could always accurately tell me the gender of my child just by looking at my belly? But that's a whole different story. . .)

I step off the elevator and two men are in the hall who look lost.

"Can I help y'all find something?"

"We lookin' for 5J."

"It's right behind you," I say with a smile, "Just push that button and somebody will let you in."

"Wooooo. You ready-ta-go, ain't ya?"

"Yes sir. One more week supposedly."

"Alright then, Miss Lady. 'Preciate you."

And so it went on. All day, every day until the moment I left for maternity leave. Finally, when I went into labor and it came time to push, all I could think in my head (which is probably not normal) is: "you ready-ta-go, ain't ya?" Indeed, I was.

Is there a deep message in this post? Nope. This morning, I'm just reflecting on the special communication and endearing exchanges that I have with the patients and people in this public hospital. I'm smiling as I imagine them calling me "Miss" even though my badge clearly says "Doctor", and my heart is warmed by these universal "isms" that somehow permeate everyday conversation at Grady. And the verdict is simple. Love it. Love Grady.

1 comment:

  1. Love this. In my (non-blog) writing lately I've been focusing a lot on world-building, on the little details that ground people, and I always get such a strong sense of that from what you write.


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