My Social Life

Yesterday I spent three hours at Mount Zion hospital. I was the designated driver for a patient who wasn’t sick. It’s a small hospital, founded in the late 1800’s by members of San Francisco’s Jewish community, but has provided medical care to the community-at-large, or more recently, to those in a UCSF health plan as the University of California acquired the place years ago. There is no longer an Emergency Room, so it’s not a destination if you think you’re in the throes of one virus or another.

All the entrances were closed except the main one and visitors like me were allowed to wait in the lobby or in the cafe after it opened at 7 am. The checkpoints were staffed by personnel wearing masks and surgical gowns – one also had a cotton type cap that some medical personnel wear. Like everybody else except the staff who had a separate entrance, I answered questions about my physical health and proximity to any Covid victims, pumped out the required hand sanitizer, replaced my face mask with one of theirs, and on instruction, stuck one of the round yellow stickers on my chest which I guess meant I’d been through the checkpoint. I said “see you later” to the patient who was off to have a procedure.

I thought Great. I just touched that sanitizer pump that has been touched by all the other strangers. Maybe some of their germs still cling to my skin, my hands must be contaminated now. I found the bathroom, used my elbow to hit the wheelchair button to open the door, went in and washed my hands using paper towels to turn the water off and on. Then I elbowed the wheelchair button to reopen the door and looked for a seat in the lobby. Every other chair had a big, pie sized sticker on it with a message not to sit there, but there were plenty of chairs available.

I lucked out and got one off by itself. I was careful not to touch the arms of the chair.

I caught up on the news on my iPad (should have skipped that activity) and didn’t need to look up to see how mobile the passers-by were – I could see comings and goings of wheelchairs, walkers followed by feet, and legs supported by crutches without raising my head. There were brisk paced walkers too, I assumed doctors or medical professionals rushing to get to where they were needed.

I waited until 7:15 to go to the cafe. I thought there might be a rush when they first opened and I wanted to avoid that. There were only two people in front of me in line but as they were ordering food and I was only getting coffee, I stepped ahead. It was self-serve coffee with pumps on the thermos lids. I took a glove out of my purse to push down on the pump and left it on while I held the handle of a pitcher and added some milk to my paper cup. I only had one glove in my purse as the other had gone missing. It’s a cloth glove that can withstand the washing machine and it has one of those patches on the index finger so you can scroll through your iPad but that never seemed to work for me. I have other gloves but I would never wear them in a hospital these days.

To pay, I used one of those touch free, insert your own credit card machines which was a relief. Afterwards I took off my glove and turned it inside out. I didn’t want to accidentally touch the germs.

There was only one person at a table, sitting and eating, so I took a seat by a window and had a table to myself. I was careful not to touch the chair or the table. I unwrapped the foil around the two hard boiled eggs I brought from home and ate them while I sipped coffee.

I read my book for a while then tried to send an email. Failure. I realized I didn’t have cell coverage down there in the cafeteria which meant I wouldn’t be receiving the call from the office that the patient was finished and ready to go home. I rushed upstairs and was relieved to see I hadn’t missed any phone calls, texts, or email.

Three hours after we’d arrived, we were out the door headed for home. That was the longest I have ever worn a face mask. I was glad to take it off the minute I shut the car door. Kudos to those who work for eight hours or more wearing face masks and more!

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