Always a Silver Lining… The Upside of the Great Pager Swap Fiasco

If you read my last post, you might think the Great Pager Swap 2009 was all hassle and no payoff. But you’d be mistaken.

I have an unpredictable schedule that can keep me away from a computer for big chunks of time. I also have in-laws with dial-up whom we visit frequently.

Like every other author seeking representation, I don’t want to miss a reply from an agent when I can’t get online. So I set up an email filter that forwards messages with “Query” or “The Edge of Memory” in the subject to my text pager.

This works great, overall, but it did backfire on me once.

An email reply on my full manuscript was forwarded to my pager from an agent who’d requested my full after reading my partial. My pager displayed the beginning of the message:

From: Awesome Agent

Re: Requested Full Manuscript of The Edge of Memory

Dear Heather,

Thank you so much for letting me review The Edge of Memory. I’m really intrigued by the premise and definitely think it has appeal in today’s market


As you’ve probably guessed, I thought this might be good news, but the next sentence (which didn’t make it onto my pager display) started with “However.”  When I finally made it back online, I was crushed.

It turned out to be a great response nonetheless, since her feedback gave me a Eureka moment that made my manuscript much stronger. But I could have done without the false hopes.

Well, my new pager displays more than twice as much text as the old one did. And I doubt any agent will beat around the bush that long before lobbing a “However” or an “Unfortunately” at me.

So, you see… there is a reason for everything. Even for the Great Pager Swap Fiasco.


Today, In a Nutshell… or Pages and Pages

Today has been an uberwacky sort of day. Here’s a little rundown of the highlights:

  1. Woke up. Late. (cuz I was up late coughing. It’s the end of a stinky virus)
  2. Scuzzled around like a madwoman and lead-footed it to work.
  3. Arrived to big banner announcing that the hospital is switching pager service providers, which means the stinging sensation deep in the ample belly of the gluteus maximus muscle will reach 10 out of 10 on the pain scale. Seriously… the task: every single pager used by every single person in the hospital needs to be collected and deactivated, and every single person must be issued a new pager, which must be programmed and updated in the paging system. All the while, making sure that everyone can be reached by SOME pager, since this is, you know, a hospital and sometimes sick people need stuff. As you might guess, this changeover is a recipe for disaster.
  4. Contemplated this process which made me cough until my head hurt.
  5. Entered the physician lounge, where lines were short, so I paged the doc I was about to take over for and suggested she come down to swap out her pager.
  6. Swapped out my pager and was given a shiny new one as they swiftly pulled the battery out of my old one, ripped the label off, and chucked it into a large box. I was told my long-range number had changed and would now be the hospital area code and pager prefix followed by “1123”
  7. Exclaimed, “I get the Fibonacci pager”
  8. Endured blank looks from pager swapper chicks.
  9. Marveled at my own geekiness.
  10. Was sent to another “station” to get my pager activated.
  11. Was told I was activated, received a test page, and congratulated myself on escaping the Great Pager Swap with minimal casualties.
  12. Flagged down the other doc when she arrived to switch out her pager. Bear in mind, she’d been working for over 24 hours. She gave the Pager Swapper Princesses the pediatric admit pager by mistake. (The pediatric admit pager is carried by the senior resident most of the time, but when the residents are unavailable because of lecture or rounds or whatever, we cover for pediatric admissions to the hospital.)
  13. Watched her eyes widen to improbable size when she realized her mistake, by which time the pediatric admit pager was de-batteried, stripped of all labels and chucked into the Big Box o’Pagers with no identifying marks.
  14. Assumed a cheery tone as I said, “No problem! All the pagers need to be swapped out anyway. So let’s just switch your old pager for a new peds admit pager.”
  15. Felt a steely burn as the Page Swapper Princess narrowed her eyes. “We can’t do that here. We can only accept physician pagers. All the other pagers are being swapped in a room in the basement.”
  16. Pointed out she had, in fact,  already accepted a non-physician pager. She was not swayed.
  17. Dragged the post-call doc into the basement (since pediatric hospitalists do not leave a fallen comrade on the field), on a quest for a room neither of us had ever heard of called “The Four Seasons”
  18. Exhausted practically every hallway and was preparing to check for Narnia-wardrobe type closets when we finally found the appropriate room.
  19. Explained the situation approximately 19 times and then waited while the Pager Swapper Queen and a swarm of drones attempted to sort out the pager perplexity.
  20. Finally got upstairs to our office about an hour behind schedule, where we ran into our education director with an interview candidate. He was glad to bump into us and informed us we couldn’t be paged. As in, AT ALL.
  21. Checked the system and, indeed, no pager listed.
  22. Called the operator for help. She tried to send me on another pilgrimage to the Pager Swapper Queen, but when I protested, she told me to hold on. After a few minutes of muffled murmurs, she came back on the line. “We did something,” she said. “Try it again.”
  23. Laughed until I coughed and then coughed until my head hurt.
  24. Practically fainted when Lo and behold and gloryosky, the pager worked.

In fact, it’s been going off merrily ever since.

So, um… Yay?

The Doctor is In. In Deep Smit, that is…

Friday again. Yippee!

And this week I am deeply smitten with my awesome blog readers. As you probably know, I’ve been co-authoring the blog since December. I’ve recently started a feature there answering writers’ medical questions for their works of fiction.

It’s been a heck of a lot of fun, and the questions are now starting to roll in, which is very exciting.

So big thanks to everyone who’s already jumped in to get the ball rolling. And thanks to those of you who plan to send in your questions later, too.

Musical Musings

Someone today mentioned great “Dance Movies”, one of which was West Side Story. This reminded me of an inspiration I had for a silly project back in medical school…

A parody of West Side Story, about rival insurance companies. The sweet young couple love each other dearly, but cannot wed as their preexisting conditions prevent them from adding themselves to the other’s policy.

I thought one “gang” should be the Mets, but I never came up with a good Shark-analog. Still, I composed these parody snippets:

When you’re a Met,

You’re a Met all the way

From your first check that clears

to the last time you pay…


I feel sickly. Oh, so sickly!

I feel crummy and bummy and dead

And so sickly, I just want sit and hold my head.

I feel awful, oh so awful

It’s unlawful how awful I feel

And so sickly that I hardly can believe I’ll heal

See the sickly girl in that mirror there?

Who can that repulsive girl be?

Such a pale face! Such a fuzzy tongue! And such puffy eyes!

What a sickly me!

I feel icky and disgusting

Like my ‘pendix could bust… there it goes!

And my doctor has me paying through my runny nose.

And a friend of mine actually won tickets to see West Side Story while I was in medical school, so I told him about this idea and we whipped up this one that night (this is mostly my friend’s):

I’m an MD in America

Come and see me in America

I’ll make you healthy in America

For a small fee in America

If you are ill in America

I’ll give you a pill in America

Or some Ny-Quil in America

And send you a bill in America!

So, big broadway smash, right?


Music is extremely important to me. All types of music.

I love the melody and the rhythm, but they are mostly a vehicle for me to mainline powerful lyrics.

So, I recently watched “Easter Parade”, being as the season was right for it. And, as always, Fred Astaire sang about how he was “Drum Crazy”.

I’m not drum crazy.

I love the rhythms and all, but that’s not what gets inside me. It’s the strings that touch on transcendental. Acoustic guitars and violins, harps and cellos– that’s my musical language.

I was fascinated in medical school when I saw real heartstrings.



Open to Interpretation

I saw Juno last night with my husband and enjoyed it immensely.

The main character’s repeated questioning of “‘Sexually active’… what does that even mean?” reminded me of an incident during medical school.

During a rotation in the ER, one of the medical students I was working with saw a teenage girl who came in with abdominal pain. He asked if she was sexually active and she said she wasn’t, but he sent urine for a pregnancy test anyway.

When the test came back positive, he went to tell her the results. “I thought you said you weren’t sexually active,” he said to her.

“I’m not,” she insisted. “I pretty much just lie there.”

Words are such funny things. What is so clear to one person may be taken completely differently by someone else.

That is one of the things I really enjoy thinking about when I’m writing– considering how another character, with their own motives and experiences, will react to the same information differently.

I am looking forward to beginning editing in earnest and start making those careful word choices. I think I’m ready; it’s just been a bit nutty lately with my work schedule and the holidays.

But in the next week or so, I intend to really get down to it. 🙂