February 14, a day we all hate to love… or something. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for most of my adult life, so things like “long weekends” generally mean the opposite of what the status quo are getting excited about – they get a weekend that is extended, extra days to relax and binge watch The Walking Dead. Nice. Us poor chumps in the service industry cringe when those civic holidays or special days pop up, because for us they mean loooooooong weekends, extra shifts, and extra long days.
Valentine’s Day. Lucky us, it fell on a Sunday this year, my favourite day of rest – in my dreams! An already busy day in the brunch world, made busier by all you lovebirds wanting to do something “special.” (I think having someone cook me dinner at home is waaaaay more special, but I do spend most of my waking hours in restaurants..)
SO, it’s Sunday, it’s Cupid’s day, we don’t have heart-shaped pancakes or anything but we’ve still got a lineup out the door. Managing a restaurant is a bit like herding cats sometimes – no matter how hard you focus or how great of a cat herder you are, getting all those little furballs moving in the same direction at the same time is damn near impossible. While families and couples gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes over their eggs benny, I spend nine and a half hours madly directing staff, directing customers, washing dishes, running food, clearing tables, blending smoothies, washing more dishes, and organizing paperwork. Good times.
Finally I’m home. I sprawl on the couch with my feet draped over the back, staring into space. My lovely man friend makes me a cup of tea and attempts to get me to play Scrabble with him, or have a conversation, or even just make out…. Eventually he decides that cleaning the storage closet is a more entertaining prospect, so that’s what he does while I continue to stare at the ceiling.
About an hour before bed my arm starts to hurt. It’s kind of numb and slightly uncomfortable, but I figure it won’t kill me and decide to ignore it. Around 1:00 am I wake up. I need to pee, and my arm still hurts – I’m not sure which sensation woke me. I use the bathroom, rub my arm, and fall back to sleep. 3:30 am I wake again, this time I’m certain it’s my arm that woke me, because the numbness has turned into full-fledged pain, radiating from my shoulder all the way to my fingertips.
I’m no longer certain it’s not going to kill me.
I lay awake for the next hour, getting increasingly panicky: “It’s my left arm, my LEFT arm, doesn’t your left arm hurt when you have a heart attack? Isn’t there some statistic about women dying from heart attacks because they don’t acknowledge the symptoms for what they are?? I’ve been pretty stressed lately I guess, am I having a heart attack???”
*pause while I put my hand on my heart and pay attention to it beating for awhile*
“Hmmm, my heartbeat seems to be pretty regular, and this pain has been happening for hours now, I guess that would be an awfully long heart attack. So, I’m pretty sort of sure I’m not having a heart attack. ….. BUT WHAT THE CRAP IS GOING ON??? Stress? Am I that stressed out? Is it some sort of physiological reaction to all the work cray cray I’ve been dealing with? Or maybe I’m out of alignment. That’s it. I haven’t been to the chiropractor in ages, I must’ve done some weird movement and I just wacked out my alignment. Dr. Mike will fix me right up, I’ll call first thing in the morning… Actually it’s extra special Valentine’s AND Family Day long weekend so tomorrow is going to be bonkers at work as well, weeeeeeeeeeee!!”
*not panicking, totally not panicking, I just can’t get comfortable, why can’t I fall back to sleep, WHY DOES MY FREAKING ARM HURT SO FREAKING MUCH?!?!*
Lovely man friend wakes up. I think I’m playing it cool, but he can’t get back to sleep either and asks me if I need to go to the 24 hour clinic. *do I need to go to emergency at 4:30am?! What does this mean???* I dig my fingers into the nerve at the top of my shoulder. The sensation sizzles down my arm, but somehow also relieves the pain just enough for me to stay clear-headed: I obstinately refuse to go to the clinic. I’m still on the fence about whether or not this is going to kill me, and until I’m firmly on the side of “Medical Attention Absolutely And Obviously Required” I’m holding out here at home.
More long, dark, uncomfortable, wide awake minutes pass. I ask Lovely Man to get me an Advil. In my head this is only a fingers breadth away from medical intervention – the scale is teetering towards death. I start to wonder how Lovely Man will react when he wakes in the morning and finds me cold and lifeless beside him. I start to feel bad for him, he didn’t ask for this, nobody should have to wake up beside their lover’s dead body. At least I get to die in my bed, that’s pretty alright.
About half an hour later the Advil kicks in (which is a bloody miracle, those stupid drugs never work for me) and I stop caring about dying as I finally drift back to sleep.
February 15. I’m even less impressed with my alarm than usual. My cat is also cranky – I must’ve kept her awake as well. But hey! I’m alive!!!!
My arm still hurts. I think it’s bearable? It’s only been a few hours since the Advil, guess I’ll wait and see what happens when it wears off. Back to work for the final installment of the February long weekend.
More managing, more directing, a few less cats to herd, but still more plates full of food, and more empty plates to clean… I duck into the dish pit to tackle a stack of dirty plates. I pick up the top one in my left hand, chisel off the eggy smears with the scrub brush, then slot it into the rack on my left. Next plate, same drill, into the rack… hey, my arm still hurts. Another plate. The plates are pretty big, and pretty heavy. Another plate gets hauled out of the sludgy sink by my left hand and I realize that this is actively hurting my arm, all the way up to my shoulder……. OHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
It’s a good thing I didn’t go to the stupid clinic in the middle of the night: “We’re sorry to inform you that you’ve done way too many dishes, and not nearly enough push ups. Go home, put some ice on it, stop being a baby, and do some more push ups.” See, I TOLD you it wasn’t a heart attack.
And for those who are wondering, or pitying, I got not one but TWO bouquets of flowers on Valentine’s Day, so it wouldn’t have been such a bad day to make my exit after all.