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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid


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It's early in the morning on Tuesday, January 2.

I'm at Mario's apartment with Mario, Jocelyn, Amy, Mario's brother Angelo, Vince, Jill, and a few of Mario's friends - and we're still celebrating. Since New Year's Eve is the one night Lanie and Victor don't allow staff at the Bar to drink while on duty, there's traditionally a pretty serious afterparty, and when I say pretty serious, I mean we're still celebrating early in the morning on January 2. Mario offered to host as soon as he found out that Jocelyn intended to partake of this tradition, and nobody put up much of a fight. So we've been here, drinking and partying more or less non-stop, since about five in the morning on New Year's Day. The crowd has gradually thinned to its current state from a couple of dozen at the start.

I've been valiantly fighting a cold since right after Christmas, between the ridiculous changes in the weather and the stress of working the holidays. But I guess somewhere around the fifth or sixth glass of wonderful champagne, I laid down my king and accepted my fate. Now it's early in the morning on January 2, and I'm sick. I consider myself lucky for the moment that I'm not the kind of sick I've gotten in the recent past from drinking too much, but this kind of sick isn't much better. Whatever has been in my nose for the past week or so has now found its way into my lungs, and I can't stop coughing. I can only hope I haven't infected the Bar's entire New Year's Eve clientele; that would be a poor showing of gratitude for the ridiculous sum I walked away with in tips.

My coughing fits have become a source of amusement for the assembled group, all of whom are stumbling drunk or stoned or both. But this one is making my eyes tear and my chest hurt, and I start to head for the bathroom. I never quite make it, though, because as I heave myself one good lungful of air and try to expel whatever gunk is in there, my day suddenly gets much worse. With one wrenching cough, I feel my neck spasm, and I cry out. I lean against the wall and slide down to the floor, holding my neck.

Most of the group laughs, but Vince is there almost immediately, looking me over. He's got some First Aid training, so I let him check me out while I sit there with my eyes closed tightly in pain. "You probably just pulled something, Debra, but you ought to get it checked out."

I squint at him. "Do you think they'll give my lungs a good vacuuming while I'm there?"

He smiles, then just as quickly he stops. "Hey, open your eyes all the way for a sec, okay?" I do. "Okay, I'm taking you to the hospital. Jill," he calls over to his girlfriend, my roommate, "can you get my stuff? I'm taking Debra to the hospital." He's this serious seldom enough that Jill barely hesitates. Both of her. I'm seeing two of her. And of everything.

"Vince, I'm seeing double."

He's already putting on his jacket. "Debra, don't be alarmed - it's probably nothing serious - there's blood in your eye."

"I've been awake for almost two days and I've been drinking and smoking pot all night."

He leans back down. "You're not just bloodshot, there's blood in your eye." And now I'm panicking. Vince tells me to close my eyes and try to relax, and he lifts me up in his arms. All I can do is cry and keep coughing.

A few hours later, my father is standing next to my bed in some hospital's emergency department, holding my hand. They've given me a narcotic - I can't remember which one - that has the marvelous multiple effects of suppressing my cough, easing my neck pain a little, and calming me down. There's a bandage over my eye. I'm sure my father is supposed to be at work, but I'm glad to have him there.

Finally a doctor stops by to do more than just poke and prod at me. She says, "Debra, we don't think there's anything seriously wrong with your eye; you probably burst a blood vessel from the stress of the coughing, and that should heal and reabsorb on its own in a few days. The double vision concerns me a little bit, so we're going to have an ophthalmologist come down for a consult, but it's likely just part of the same trauma."

"What about her neck?" asks my father.

"Well, we ruled out a bunch of things with the X-ray, so I'm going with good, old-fashioned whiplash."

"What?" I squeak.

"It's actually not that unusual to have whiplash outside the car accident arena. It's a soft tissue injury caused by sudden reversal of neck movement, and I've seen it from coughs, from sneezes, even from rough sex." My father clears his throat. "Plus, people with long necks and lower body mass are at higher risk for it, and you're in both categories." I pull the sheet up a little higher over the evening gown I'm still wearing from Sunday night, and I wonder who's got my shoes. The doctor goes on to prescribe rest, drugs, and physical therapy.

"So can I go home soon?"

"Well, to tell you the truth, after the ophthalmology consult, I'd like to admit you. From your X-rays, I'm also pretty sure you have pneumonia, and between that, your neck, and your eye, I think you'd be best off staying with us for a couple of days."

"I thought people catch pneumonia from being in the hospital," my father says.


"I'm sorry, what kind of attorney did you say you were?" the doctor quips.

My father smiles gamely. "Trusts and estates. But I have friends."

"Well, I can appreciate your concern, but given your daughter's overall condition I think we're in a better position to care for her than she is to care for herself right now."

"Daddy, I have to get someone to cover my shifts."


It would be the weekend again before I made it home.

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