Friday, January 01, 2010

Sorry, Mr. Jefferson

It was an abundant Christmas this year, due to Santa's new job as a nurse which increased our household income by 61%. I thought I would funnel all my earnings into the kids' college fund but instead most of my new income has disappeared into Frye boots (two pairs!), dresses from Anthropologie, Christmas presents and meats from the Organic Butcher. But I'll tell you, the $10-a-pound local bacon is worth every penny.

A Christmas Adventure

My father, stepmother, sister, and brother-in-law were here for Christmas. On Sunday, I suggested that we hike the trail to Monticello, tour the house, and hike back down. It would be an easy, no stress outing, I assured everyone. Monticello is a quick five-minute drive from my house. Our recent two-foot snowfall? No problem! Surely the path had been cleared by this time. Difficulty hiking two miles uphill? Never! Why, I was running that trail at least once a week during the fall and frequently encountered little old ladies, babies in strollers, even someone on crutches. The only problem I could foresee was finding a parking space in the tiny lot at the base of the trail.

The parking lot was empty, surprise surprise, and I had the uncomfortable feeling of being the only person who missed the memo but we pressed on. The trail was covered with snow, although previous hikers had trampled a path, which, through frequent partial melting and refreezing, was slick and icy. Walking up was turning out to be not a whole lot of fun. Walking down again was likely to be a nightmare. I had described the distance as two miles each way, but I guess people tend to hear "two miles" and think that's the total. My sister asked for clarification: "So, this trail is two miles up and two miles down." I affirmed this. "Four miles it is, then," she said wearily and I realized we ought to abort the whole project. We are all operating at a superior level of physical fitness, but I called a halt and we agreed to return to the car and drive to Monticello, except for my stepmother who wanted to keep going, and did, and, in fact, beat us to the top. I was right about walking back down being more difficult. At least I got the MRSA cleaned off the bottom of my work clogs.

A tour of Monticello involves a lot of standing around, and we had an hour wait until it was time for our tour so we had been standing around quite a lot that day. Then you stand some more and listen to a talk on the front porch, and another long talk in the front entrance before squeezing into a tiny sitting room, where you stand in one place for another long talk. I heard a little disturbance to my left where Drama Queen and Miss G were standing and my first thought was one of irritation: Don't those girls know better than to touch the furniture?

Then I saw Drama Queen, gray-faced, collapsing to the floor and everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Drama Queen's eyes were open but she was clearly unconscious. Her face was white, even her lips were white. I stared at her, dumbstruck for a second until I remembered that I'm a nurse, for crying out loud. I fumbled to check for a carotid pulse, forgetting the all-important first step of CPR, which is to check for breathing, but by this time she had regained consciousness and sat up, gasping, "What? What? What?" She clearly had no idea what she was doing on the floor. Meanwhile, a Monticello employee had appeared at my side--I never heard the tour guide call for assistance--and she capably got my family together and helped us out of the room. Drama Queen could walk now--her lips were still white, something I was fixated on--and she said she felt sick to her stomach. Like magic, a little waxed paper bag appeared, seemingly out of thin air--Drama Queen never actually needed to use it, and we were led to a side porch, assured by the employee that people faint at Monticello all the time, although usually in the summer. A box of tissues, a glass of water were brought and Drama Queen's color came back. She had hit her head so they got their EMTs to look at her, but she was fine. I was really chagrined later when I realized it hadn't occurred to me to ask them to check her blood pressure. Duh! A fine nurse I am, although there's a reason you're not supposed to treat family.

Poor Miss G was sobbing and my father and stepmother were shaken up too, but soon things calmed down and Drama Queen and I were driven down to the visitors' center in the emergency vehicle. My sister went for the car and by the time we got Drama Queen into the house, wet shoes off, a hot cup of tea and her pet bunny George to cuddle, she felt completely recovered. By the end of the night she was playing the boxing game on our new Wii and having a grand time. I chalk the whole thing to not drinking enough and too much time spent standing in one spot letting the blood pool in her feet, which were unusually cold and wet.

I was blown away by the efficient response of the Monticello staff. They were kind and helpful and the way they led us back through the crowds and out of the house while producing magic throw-up bags and glasses of water was so well orchestrated, it was like they rehearse such events every day. But I am sure they are well used to little emergencies.

Anyway, the punchline--because of course there must be a punchline to such a long story. The next day, Drama Queen noticed a splinter in her hand which triggered a memory of hitting her hand on something as she fainted, and we realized she had taken a splinter of Monticello--probably of the wooden chair she bumped--home with her. Sorry, Mr. Jefferson.


  1. I do believe this was your most entertaining post ever. I had to read several parts out loud to Yankee. My favorite was "until I remembered I'm a nurse, for crying out loud."

  2. Wow, glad she was ok. I always thought the Monticello staff were the best tour guides anywhere I've ever been, and now that I know they are also efficient at responding to emergencies, what else could explain it but Mr Jefferson's spirit?!

  3. Scary! Under normal circumstances, however, I would be jealous of her souvenir splinter!

  4. I'm glad that Drama Queen is okay!

    As a former Monticello guide, I can assure you that the staff is well trained to handle emergencies. And, yes, they've pretty much seen it all.

  5. I'm glad you're all okay. She's aptly named. ;)

  6. I'm glad she's OK.

    Think you could recoup some of the Christmas expenses by selling the splinter on ebay?

    I laughed out loud at getting the MRSA off your shoes. I'll pass it on to my sister.

  7. Oh wow--that is a good mix of hilarious and plain scary! But I'm glad she's okay--it's always nice when the staff anywhere has their game face on. Tape that splinter in a scrapbook!
    Off to find a butcher to buy good bacon from now...

  8. Mmm...bacon.

    Glad your DQ (and Mr. Jefferson's chair) escaped with a minor injury.