Call lights and promises



“Hey! Hey! Little girl!”
I’d mutter ‘what have I done now’…except I already know in this case. I seem to have perfect recall today: perfect recall and terrible timing.
Instead of going into the room, I turn and sprint the opposite way. Maybe I should turn off the call light first, but I don’t want to take another chance. No way.

Mr. C has taken to repeatedly pushing the button by the time I get back. I’m sure it makes him feel better, but it doesn’t do anything to the light. “Call light” is a bit of a misnomer, I’ve always felt. Sure, there’s a bulb lit up above his door…but the real attention getter is that incessant, irritating noise. Beep-beep-beep. I hear that sound in my dreams–not exactly as a nightmare, but rather my subconscious echoing with the sound I hear way too much. Beep-beep-beep. It’s the sound of promises I need to make, or reminders of the promises I’ve broken.
Like now.

Mr. C glares at the steaming cup in my hand.
“What the hell is that?” he demands as I switch off the call light. There’s peace for one blissful second…then, another call light goes off. Beep-beep-beep. How many more hours until shift change? One hour and four minutes.
“This? This is the cup of coffee I promised you,” I reply.
“Oh, the cup of coffee you promised to get me after breakfast?”
“After breakfast is such a wonderfully vague time-”
“-no, it’s not-”
“-as, technically, it is still ‘after breakfast’ and will be…until they bring up the trays tomorrow morning.”
I smile brightly at him; Mr. C glowers back. Okay, so this isn’t a laughing matter yet.
“Look, I’m really sorry I forgot. For what it’s worth, at least I remembered what I forgot. It’s been cr…it’s not been my day today.” It takes everything I have to pull the rest of that sentence in, but an apology isn’t really an apology with an excuse riding shotgun.
Another call light adds to the madness outside this room. One hour and one minute.
Mr. C sucks down his first sip. “Ah, that’s good stuff,” he sighs.
“I thought you weren’t fond of our coffee.”
“Anticipation equals appreciation…today. Well, go get your call lights, little girl. Those people out there aren’t as patient as I am, you know. Oh, could you get me a cookie? And specific, non-vague deadline for completing the task?”
“Yes, I’ll get you a cookie. Two cookies…before I go home.”
“Before you go home today?” he asks suspiciously.
I wave my hand at him, then rush to answer the nearest call light. I make a lot of promises during my shift; it’s like riding herd on a whole zoo. Some promises inevitably slither, fly or bound away…after all, there’s only one of me and a lot of them and their call lights.
That’s why I’m so passionate about adequate staff ratios: the fewer residents I have and the more help we have, the fewer promises I break.

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