In the early 1990’s, many acute care nurses still wore traditional white nursing uniforms, often with more formal white dresses, support hosiery, clinic shoes and nursing caps. This is the unlikely and humorous true story of one such nurse in The Nurse and the Parking Lot Mishap.
It had been a grueling 8-hour evening shift that stretched into 10 hours by the time I got all my charting completed on our busy Medical/Surgical unit. As I recall, it was mid-January and the temperature had plummeted to a hard below-zero freeze on that blustery night. I walked out into a silent parking lot, with tired aching feet as most visitors and off duty staff had already gone for the night. I had given every last measure of energy and I was anxious to go home for some well-deserved rest.
Street lights illuminated the quiet parking lot as I approached my 1985 Maroon Nissan Maxima. I had bought the car from my brother and hadn’t bothered to learn how to change the code that unlocked the doors. I retrieved my key and tried the lock, finding it frozen solid and uncooperative. I recall thinking this was a bitter last insult to a long shift.
After I tried the locks on both sides, I decided to go back inside the hospital and heat a cup of water in the microwave to pour over the locks. With this effort, I was able to get the rear driver’s side door open, but not the front driver’s door. A plan was born. I would get in the rear seat, reach over the front seat to the ignition, start the vehicle, turn the heater on high, and wait for the locks to unfreeze. (The power windows were as frozen as the locks.)
What I didn’t see coming was the almost instant refreezing of the rear passenger door (thanks to all that water I had drizzled) once I was inside the car. So there I sat, trapped inside the car, engine running, windows frozen, locks frozen, and I couldn’t get back out, no matter how hard I pushed against the rear door. (Amazingly, not everybody owned a cell phone in the 1990’s, so I also couldn’t even phone for help.)
After what seemed like an eternity, the inside temperature warmed, and I was able to get the power window to go down about 5 inches on the front driver’s side and 2 inches on the rear window. The locks remained stubbornly frozen. Feeling ridiculous, I reached over the front seat, now with creeping support hoses beginning to crawl down my legs from all that reaching, and started blowing my car horn.
After about 5 minutes a man who I couldn’t even identify if I passed him on the street now, walked within 30-40 feet of my vehicle. When I saw him, I once again leaned over the front seat to the partially open front window and desperately started yelling for help. Thankfully he walked up to the window and, fear laid aside due to desperation, I began recanting my dilemma. ‘You’re probably not going to believe this, but here’s my problem.’ He didn’t laugh.
Although he was unable to get either of the doors open, he managed to reach his arm through the partially opened front window to the lever that lowered the backrest of the front driver’s seat.
‘Now what?’ I asked.
“You’ll have to climb over.” He directed.
‘You’re kidding.’ I replied. ‘I have on a dress and pantyhose. There’s no graceful way I can swing my legs over the back of this seat and climb between the console to the front seat.’
“You’ll have to; this is the only way. You’ve got to get in the driver’s seat. By the time you get home, you can push against the door from the inside and the locks will thaw. Ma’am, nothing matters but you getting home, right?” He replied matter-of-factly.
‘I know you’re right.” I responded, ‘but this is pretty embarrassing. Nobody would ever believe this story. I hardly believe it myself.’
To this day I have no idea how I contorted these legs, my generous torso, a white nursing dress and support hoses as I threw my legs over the back of the seat, between the console and slid feet first into the driver’s seat. I must have been quite a spectacle! All I remember is that my face was 20 shades of red from embarrassment during the transition and those support hose had nearly migrated south to my knees by the time I completed the hurdle.
It was a “Kodak moment” that could’ve won a prize on “Funniest Home Videos” but instead of watching it, I was living it. (Thankfully I am a person who can laugh at myself!)
Unfortunately I never got the stranger’s name that helped me that frigid winter night, I was just too embarrassed. I’m guessing he never has a frozen lock that he doesn’t remember the night he helped the nurse in the parking lot. Say what you like about traditional whites, but as professional as I might have looked at work, this nurse decided that night to embrace the practicality of the transition to scrubs.
I hope you enjoyed the nursing humor! If you enjoy humorous true stories, you might also like to read “The Great Dungeness Crab Caper” the “Story of the Dueling Wheelchairs” and the “Tale of Three Drivers.”
Pam Baker, RN
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