Can You Hear Me Now?

I used to wonder why Gizmodo et al are always taking jabs at Verizon. To me, they've always been friendly, with good plans and coverage. Sure, Verizon disables some cool features thge manufacturers put on their phones, but that just makes hacking them more rewarding, right?

Then I got a text message from the company, noting that I hadn't visited my "Pix Place" (online repository of my camera phone pictures) in 150 days, and if I didn't log in within 30 days, all my pictures (approximately fifteen, in total) would be deleted.

Cheerful, huh? Because these blurry photos must be taking up about 200 kb on Verizon's servers, and clearly, a competitive company in a cutthroat industry can't afford to give out free memory...

Then, when checking my voicemail a few days later, I heard a disturbing new automated message. Instead of informing me I had my regular three saved messages, I learned I had "three saved messages, whose retention time is about to expire."

A confession: I saved some messages for a long time. One, for instance, dates back to when the Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and a friend called me up and made some kind of drunken hooting noise that I thought was worthy of repeated listens. Every 21 days, Verizon would play the message to me and ask if I wanted to delete it, and I'd always smile and press no.

Well, I guess they'd had enough, or maybe Verizon is run by a Steinbrenner acolyte, because in a few days those treasured messages were erased.

I think someone at the Onion is also frustrated with this company:

Verizon Introduces New Charge-You-At-Whim Plan
August 21, 2006 | Issue 42•34

NEW YORK—Verizon Communications, Inc. announced a new service package for its wireless and residential customers that would charge them widely varying, but always high, fees every month depending how the communications giant feels at the time. "Our Charge-At-Whim packages offer the same mediocre quality and insufferable level of customer service you’ve come to expect," a Verizon spokesman said Tuesday. "But it adds an unjustified, arbitrary and, if you’ll allow us to boast, frankly unjustifiable method of determining just how much you’ll pay for them." Packages start at "oh, $69.99 a month, let’s say?" and went into effect about three or four months ago.

Feels about right.

Lost my Driving Wheel

I just concluded the best, hardest month of my residency thus far.

I've taken call many, many times before this, but never with the same potential for frenzied activity, 27 hours straight (24, for my readers on the Bell Commission). After the first few calls for the medicine ICU, I grew efficient enough to get in an hour or two of sleep. But, unlike floor medicine, where the overnight intern is awoken a dozen times for generally trivial concerns, all my pages in the ICU were genuine problems.

I performed more emergent intubations, more lines, more spinal taps, and about a thousandfold more ABG's than in any single rotation before this. Running a code no longer paralyzes me with fear. Most incredibly, from my perspective, was that I was making so many of these critical decisions.

Because of the crazed sleep schedule, in which I'd be unconscious for about 15 of my 21 free hours post-call, life outside the hospital became filled with malaise and dysphoria. My apartment has never been messier. So many obligations got punted to September -- relationships, phone calls, emails, workouts, blogging.

Nothing was getting done -- nothing was worth doing. I didn't get out much, and when I did, things seemed unbearably slow or purposeless. I never felt really alive until I was on call again. Isn't that a lark? Maybe I was so conscious of my agency because most of the people around me were heavily sedated.

I did call my parents a lot, often to thank them for happy childhood memories that would surface at odd times. This was likely prompted by the wrenching conversations I would have with families about their sick loved ones. Until now, too often, talking with families in the ED was been a chance to gather history and transcribe medication lists, or explain why someone is going to be admitted / discharged (when all the family wants is for them to be discharged / admitted). But this month had more than its share of conveying painful news, of asking families to make difficult decisions.

It's remarkable, how thoroughly and abruptly lives can be disrupted, how strong people are forced to be, at their most vulnerable.