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Friday, July 26, 2013

An all-too-familiar confusion.

I have been working on another story in praise of this hospital and its staff, when this came up tonight. I thought it was worth holding the other story over for. This took place today. Friday, 26 July, 2013. It won't be news to Tracey. It happened all the time at home.

This is exactly how my green
jelly didn't look! Source


   I am suddenly awake – one of those sickening starts as if your bed was on fire."

   "I've brought your tea."

   Tea? I don't get it.

   "What time is it?"

   "Half past five. I'll put the tray over here till you get up."

   What? Tea at 5.30 AM? What's going on? Why is a cup of tea coming now?

   "I'll serve the others and come back when you're in your chair."

   I'm still totally disorientated.

   "Busy night, was it?" I ask on her way out.

   "It's pretty busy."

   Somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my brain it registers that she used the present tense. OK.

   My heart is still thumping. Lucky they don't come in to do obs right now. It would about 600/something.

   I'm still too groggy to work out what's going on.

   I get up, and carefully manage the couple of steps to the chair, sit down and have a drink of water, and a think.

   Yep, by the analogue clock, it's tweny-five to six.

   Then the penny drops.

   I have been in one of my dead-to-the-world afternoon sleeps. It's 5.35 PM, dopey. You've been sleeping 90 minutes. Less actually, but that another story.

   I wouldn't mind peeing, but she's here now. In the light I see it's not the nurse, but is indeed the Tea Lady. She's wonderful. Definitely a legend in my lunchtime.

   My long association with large organisations tells me that in a new one you observe as quickly as you can who are the true power brokers. In the university they are your Administrative Officers. In the old days they were called Secretaries, usually women, who were paid far less than they should have been, stopped the place falling apart and untangled the messes academic staff made. They aren't called that any more but they still do the same thing, namely, the real work.

   Fortunately, I always got on well with them. I'm looking at you, Trish and Gina. Loved you then and still do. If I didn't, I could safely say I don't. But I do.

   You do not cross these women. Do so as an Academic and you'll regret it. 

   That's all I'll say on the matter except that they can find a thousand ways to mess with you. In particular the mess you got yourself into. But if they love you, impossible becomes sorted like magic. A quiet phone call to another AO somewhere deep in the bowels of the Admin Building, and low-and-be-old, the problem ceases to exist.

   From a whole week's observations here I am getting the message that the Women of Power are the Tea Ladies.

   Look, we're not going to get into a spat about non-gendered terminology, are we?

   Denise is a Lady with a capital L, and if she minds me calling her distinguished, obliging, and charming, she'll tell me. Right?

   It's the Tea Ladies who seem to bring everybody to the same comfortable level staff of all sorts, patients. Bless them. This is true democracy in action. Look and learn, politicians.

   Anyway, on the subject of tea – as a meal description I mean. Growing up in the bush, there was breakfast, dinner and tea. When I moved into city circles, it was breakfast, lunch and dinner. I gather some of the upper classes in England have their own variation. Don't ask me. When I'm made a Lord of the Realm I'll know instantly.

   So you can see where my confusion arose. I interpreted "tea" as some weird new hospital rite all were bound to participate in at 5.30 AM.

   I'm rather glad it was 5.30 PM, not AM. Can you imagine being face-to-face with a dazzling green jelly at five-thirty in the morning?



  1. I remember tea ladies in offices - but only dimly (by mistake, I typed 'only dimply' there at first, [a rather nice error, don't you think?]). I used to think it would be a pretty good job, although the trolley looked quite heavy to heave about (just realised there must be an etymological link between heavy and heave). The thing that made it appealing, I thought, was that the arrival of the tea lady signalled we could all down tools, which meant she must always have felt welcome. That alone -being something people looked forward to - would have made the day enjoyable, it seemed to me. I've just been in Melbourne and I was also rather envying the job of a very sweet lady who was driver of the No. 70 tram - every time she saw someone running just after she'd shut the door, she stopped and opened it again. Power used wisely, a saintly soul. There used to be so many pleasant jobs that didn't tax the mind - which could be left to wonder if one day it might write a lyric poem. The saddest losses in the job market are the ones that promote social intercourse, including your lovely tea ladies. Apart from hospitals they are virtually extinct now. Tram conductors have vanished too. They were generally a cheery - and simultaneously calming -presence. I could burble on like this all night but I'll sign off before I launch into a melancholic treatise on lost job opportunities in 21st century Australia. Sleep well, Denis, don't eat too much green jelly.

    1. This was one I always meant to come back to, but you see what's happened.

      'Dimply' is very poetic, but you don't need me to tell you that. And yes, someone who brings good cheer can only be welcome. What saddens me, after years in the History Dept where everyone who wasn't teaching poured into the tearoom and shared gossip and the news of the day at 10.30am and 3.30pm, was that fewer and fewer began to come. They all became glued to their computer screens for that precious half hour.

      Something much more precious was lost.

      In my university undergrad days, my 'holiday' jobs varied, but included several different operations in the main office. Most I could learn in 10 minutes. Some spent their entire lives with such tasks. I quite enjoyed them for that time, but no way would I want to spend a lifetime doing them.

      Nor, I suspect, would you. Admit it, Z.

    2. You're right. Although, if you have to do those jobs, you can still have fun, if you set yourself new challenges each day -seeing if you can code up more forms than you've ever done before or, far more entertaining, trying to coax the furious person in the corner into wide open laughter, (if you work at it long enough, you usually can).

  2. I would get very wobbly presented with green jelly at any time! A wonderful post, Denis, and I love the comment from zmkc. I must share it, even though it is 3am!Trish [not the admin. Trish]:)

  3. The hospital tea routine has completely changed, and quite possibly extended, my life.

    Though English I was never a tea drinker. "Would you like a cuppa?" would trigger an almost epistemological soul search that in the end would most likely result in a "no". Now the answer is always "yes" and if some self-talk is called for "I never say no to a cup of tea"

    Why the change?

    In Rehab the seven times a day offer of tea is part of the care routine. Keeping the punters hydrated is way more effective with tea which gets cold and therefore begs for quick consumption than water which simply sits there saying nothing.

    Faced with this seven-times-daily onslaught on my decision making abilities I began to weaken. Witnessing my anguish, Ros who was visiting, suggested a change of approach. From then onward I always say yes to tea (but no to the snack that is also offered)

    The result is a sensible hydration routine which my kidneys and Ros relish.

    1. Gee, if I don't respond immediately it gets lost. This is a great comment. I also take the tea whenever on offer, but never thought of it as such a good way of hydration at intervals throughout the day. The water does tend to sit there because you aren't very active, and not get drunk as much as it ought. I try, but given the state of my kidneys now, the more the better. I also don't take the snack but Denise, the Tea Lady, is a bit of a snack seductress.

      Thanks for the reinforcement, Dave.

  4. I have great respect for kidneys. As you, and David, well know. They deserve much more attention than we usually give them. And so do Tea Ladies.
    Bless 'em, both, for the work that they do.


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