Nobody really asks me how my workday was anymore.
Note: I’m still only a veterinary assistant. Dr. Jarrett gets to do most of the really COOL gross stuff. Sad sigh.
Or rather, they ask me, but only out of common courtesy. It’s sort of like when an acquaintance asks you how you are, and you automatically say “fine” even if your world is falling apart. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at saying what I’m supposed to.
“Hey! How are you?”
“I feel that life is but a stinking abyss from which the only escape is death. Anyways, how are you?”
“I’m…fine, I guess.”
My work isn’t nearly as depressing as that, but the nitty-gritty details of it are still out of most people’s comfort zone. However, I’ve had many other jobs that could be publically discussed in depth, so I’ve developed a habit of sharing the details of them with anyone that will stand still. My jobs often are the most interesting parts of my life, after all. Most of the rest of my time is spent in exercising, studying, and writing for a blog.
*On a side note, some of you claim that there’s not actually enough of it focused on blog-writing. To you I must say: comment once in a while, you lazy bums. I’m tired of feeling like I’m writing in a secret diary, and there are other parts of my life that have been far more rewarding lately. Like my job, which provides a paycheck, so I don’t have to start being a hooker. Which I would be terrible at, by the way, just like Tina Fey.*
However, back on topic, it’s no big deal to talk about the ins and outs of being a grocery store checker, or an envelope-stuffer, or a waitress for a variety of different eating establishments. Having started my work life as an employee of an alcoholic movie theater manager, I quickly lost all qualms about ranting about my job to anyone who would listen. For the most part, people were glad to hear and agree with my opinion that rude people should go play in heavy traffic.
This all changed my first year of college. I can’t remember if I’ve written about this part of my life yet, so here’s a quick overview:
--Went to the University of Pennsylvania to become an amazing psychologist. Did not visit the campus first, did not renew my anti-depression medication, and flew there alone.
--Had panic attacks and vicious mood swings for a month or two. This should not have been as much of a surprise as it was.
--Took a hiatus for sanity’s sake, went back home for some much needed recuperation
--Decided to get a job so that I didn’t go even more crazy and start breaking things/people
--Got a random job at a veterinary clinic
--Was alternately disgusted and fascinated. The ratio of emotions shifted towards the latter as my work progressed
--Realized, in a moment of epiphany, that kicking people in the ass would never be an accepted form of treatment from an American psychologist
--Decided I liked animals way better
--HOLY CRAP THIS IS FUN MAYBE I SHOULD BE A VETERINARIAN
--Dove into my veterinary career with gusto, and started telling anybody who would listen all about it
One of the things that will make me an excellent veterinarian someday is my adult lack of an “EWW GROSS” reflex. I had actually considered being a vet when I was itty bitty, but decided against it upon realizing that I’d have to cut into living, breathing organisms on a regular basis. At that point, I didn’t even comprehend how much fecal matter and blood would be involved every day. I just didn’t want to slice up bunnies.
Later, I did realize how many bodily products are necessary for the day-to-day of a veterinarian, which convinced me even more strongly that I should stick to literature or botany for my future. I just assumed that my “yuck” tolerance would always have a low threshold, so I might as well plan for it. This assumption was quickly and violently eliminated when I began to work at a large and small animal clinic in southern Kansas. The animal I worked with most often was the cow.
If anything is going to cure you of a need to squeak in a high-pitched and shameful way when you touch fecal matter, it’s cows. Lots of cows. Lots and lots and whole bunches of cows.
They’re messy little buggers.
YEAH I just pooped and picked my nose with my own tongue at the same time! Wanna make something of it? Hmm? HMM?!?
To be fair to the bovine, however, their living situations don’t often coincide with a great deal of cleanliness. For example, when you examine a bunch of cows at a vet clinic, they’re usually all standing around in the same pen and being shoved through the same metal chute for HOURS. Cows can produce a lot of bodily secretions in an hour, and they don’t have any qualms about tromping right on through it. Now, when somebody says something like “the shit hit the fan,” I have a vivid and realistic mental image of the ramifications of that situation.
So, I got over any squeamishness in a hurry, because there was no avoiding the grossness. I even got to the point that I could keep an electrified anal probe shoved into a bull while a bunch of gristly old farmers stood around and watched me, occasionally taking a break to speculate about the bull’s sperm count.
Your technique is spot-on, young lady, but your deportment could use some work. This is serious business. Quit giggling hysterically.
Not sure if I ever stopped blushing, but by golly, I got it done.
Anyways, in order to adapt to this sort of situation, you not only ignore the horrifying things happening around you, you also start to actually be comfortable with them. You may even start to take a certain amount of pride in your ability to deal with unsanitary situations, because those who can’t are likely to be mocked.
The other day I had gathered a urine sample from a patient and was carefully trying to get it into the sample tube for tests. Dogs don’t really pee on command, so if you’re quick enough to dive in there and catch a urine sample when the dog finally decides to go, you don’t want to waste it. Dr. Jarrett came in to find me meticulously transferring the fluid from bowl to tube with a syringe.
“Kaitlin,” she said, face jokingly disdainful. “Are you really that afraid to touch pee?”
I looked at her in shock.
That’s right, I imagine myself as Sassy Wonder Woman. You really shouldn't be surprised.
“Wha-no, no, of course not! I’m not afraid of urine!” I spluttered indignantly. My courage had been challenged; I had to act quickly. “I just didn’t want to waste it! What was I supposed to do, just dump the bowl over the tube and hope enough gets in there? (Insert spluttering and harrumphing noises) That would just be sloppy!”
Dr. Jarrett looked nonplussed, apparently not expecting the vehemence of my response. Apparently she didn’t understand how thoroughly she had threatened my pride. For shame.
“That’s generally what I do!” she protested. She paused, though, and a look of epiphany spread across her face. “…Though now that you mention it, it does tend to make a mess.”
I would have laughed at that, but I was still too busy being all affronted.
“Afraid of pee,” I grumbled under my breath. “Bah. Bodily fluids are my life.”
Dr. Jarrett just looked at me and shook her head, then turned to leave the room.
“Only a good pre-vet student would be that proud of her ability to touch pee,” she threw over her shoulder as she headed back to her office. “Seriously.”
Which is truly a big compliment from her, believer it or not. It made me so happy that I forgot about being insulted. Because I understand what really matters in life.
Anyways, my vet people get me. They really, really do.
The other people in my life are sometimes less appreciative of my unique and fearless little self.
Just the other day, I was trying to cure my leopard gecko of what I was pretty sure was an intestinal impaction=nothing was coming out, so he certainly wasn’t going to eat anything and put more in. My lizard’s lack of common sense is worthy of a blog post of its own, so to summarize I’ll say that he apparently eats the sand that covers the bottom of the cage. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that this sand entered his digestive tract on the exoskeleton of a delicious cricket, but I’m not sure. He might just have gotten bored and decided to give sand a try.
Anyways, he hadn’t been eating or defecating for a few days, and I was starting to be pretty panicked about my lil’ friend. The lady who’d had him before hadn’t even wanted to touch Louie (my gecko), but apparently he’d never had a problem quite like this, so she didn’t really need to. Maybe all my affection stressed him out so that he had to turn to sand for comfort food. Maybe he’s a masochist. I don’t know, but it kind of ticked me off. My love should have kept him healthy.
Me: "I have just met you, and I already love you!"
Louie: "Please God, someone help me."
That right there is the face of lizard horror.
At any rate, I took all the mealworms out of his cage, gave him a warm water and Pedialyte bath, and rubbed his tummy as he squeaked in dismay. I think eventually he just got so angry that he evacuated whatever was bothering him, but once he did, I was so thrilled that I poked it to make sure it was fecal matter. It was indeed, and the glorious news of his functioning digestive tract needed to be shared with the world. I settled for sharing it with my roommate and her boyfriend as they ate dinner.
“He pooped! Oh my gosh, you guys, he finally POOPED!”
“That’s…great, Kaitlin. Really.”
“You guys gotta come see this, it’s as hard as a rock!”
“Oh come on, you guys! I’m almost positive that it was an impaction now. He tried to make gravel the hard way.”
“Wow. Just, wow.”
“Bow before me, humble peons! I am a HERPETOLOGICAL GOD.”
I could not find an accurate depiction of how awesome I would look as a herpetological god, so here’s a picture of a dog. You’re welcome.
At this point Chelsea and Bob decided to exact vengeance by loudly sharing more and more graphic sexual innuendos pertaining to their activities behind closed doors. Louie and I escaped back to my room, where people were much less disgusting and much more interested in plausible physical activities. Like those of a functioning digestive tract.
And basically, that sums up why I have never really wanted to be a human doctor.
People. Are. GROSS.