Monday, January 28, 2013

Better but busy

So, yes, I'm mostly out from under the cold/flu/funk that everyone's had and been having lately, though my energy is only at about 90% of my usual energy.  I'm still having to work on a bunch of random tasks for St. Ermahgerd as we barrel towards 100% Design Development (DDs), and I'm absolutely wrung out when I get home every evening. The extra travel hasn't helped.

It's the rare architect who can do all their work within an easy commute of their office. I suppose if you do residential work in a large metropolitan area like Chicago or New York City, you can accomplish this.  But because we do hospitals and healthcare at Design Associates, Inc., we have to go a lot farther to get work.  After all, there are metric assloads of houses and condos to build and remodelin the Denver/Front Range region, but only so many hospitals and clinics. Furthermore, DA's business model allows us to make a good living off of smaller hospitals, which are really in the middle of nowhere--Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, and the Dakotas. Getting to these places involve driving four hours or hopping in a 19-seater twin-prop puddle-jumper plane, or even multiple puddle-jumper planes.  I got on one of those heading to Bieffee, MT for a visit to St. Ermahgerd before Christmas, and I swear I saw Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens sitting in the exit rows. Those fuckers always get the good legroom.

So, Howie calls me from the road last week, sounding groggy and slow.  He was on his way to the contractor interviews/selection meeting for a 14-bed hospital project we were working on, and he was finally suffering from the funk that I had for most of January.  "Pixie," he croaked, "I'm double booked for a meeting tomorrow.  Can you go with the engineers and contractor to look at a surgery renovation at Wide Place Memorial Hospital in Wide Place, Nebraska tomorrow?"

Wow, tomorrow? Thanks for the warning.

Well, those are the wages of rural healthcare work. And they're the wages of my promotion. I'm now deemed able to be seen alone by civil society (i.e., present and potential clients) without having a partner standing next to me to point and say "the short chick in the Ann Taylor pantsuit and heels is good at this stuff, and you can talk to her just as well as you can us". So, off I went to a wide place in the road in Nebraska.  (Which was a nice little facility with great staff, by the way.  You don't do rural healthcare work and not give a huge damn about patient care.  It's a labor of love, at the very least.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

...but sick is a four letter word.

Last Monday afternoon, my throat felt scratchy from maybe talking too much in meeting after meeting or from breathing office air.  By Tuesday morning, it was clear that Something Was Wrong. End of day Tuesday revealed that I had the cold/flu/plague that was taking down scores of the American public right now, including many in my office.  It's rare that I really get sick, like bad sick, needing to take sick days sick, so I found myself unable to cope.  I wasn't totally lay-in-bed sick, but Christ knows I didn't feel fine.  So there I was, working almost-full days and only leaving at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  We had three deadlines coming up fast, and I had a metric assload of meetings to attend and lead, so there was no staying home. I was furious about this, but I'm not sure where the blame lies. I'm sure I have some culpability for the situation--as Vinnie once said to me, "Pixie, if you were hit by a bus and in a coma, what would happen?  Would the project stop? No, they'd manage to get it done.  So go home and pretend you're in a coma."

Towards the end of the week, we got good news. The economic climate in Bieffee, MT had changed slightly, and some of the doctors that St. Ermahgerd was hiring either weren't coming on board or wouldn't be hired as soon as we all initially thought.  Therefore, the hospital didn't have to start contruction next month as originally planned.  We now had an extra two weeks for DDs, and the clinic portion of the hospital would finally have a real DD phase instead of going straight to CDs. The entire team breathed a sigh of relief.  I went home at 3 instead of 5.

My team will further be buoyed by the news that over the weekend, my cold turned into a runny nose and a violent cough which has rendered me mute. If I need to talk to Guy, I have to stand in the doorway of the TV room and wave at him, whispering hoarsely like a debarked dog with opposable thumbs and a flannel robe. According to Mom (who had this ailment over the Xmas holidays), the coughing means I'm on the road to recovery, but my throat hurts so badly from the coughing that it seems like a pretty poorly-maintained road with washboard ruts and big rocks in the middle that you could high-side on.  Blech. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Awesome is (not) a four letter word

I returned to work the day after New Year's Day to immediately have to go to a client meeting to review interior design concepts and have a user group meeting. We needed to show the clients what kind of finishes and colors we'd be using, and I needed to show the actual users of the space what kind of cabinets and rooms they were getting and where do you want the head of the patient in this operating room and is it better for you if the crash cart on this side or that side of the nurse station?  I generally don't mind these meetings--I even find them invigorating at times--but this time, I just wasn't feeling it.

After spending nine or so days away from architecture, I realize how much I didn't feel like being an architect.  Not that I suddenly decided that I now want to do something else for a living, it's just that I was tired of buildings and flooring choices and equipment locations.  See, if you're a dentist, you aren't forced to constantly look at teeth all day as you walk and drive and go to the bank.  People don't walk around with their mouths wide open so you can see their molars and hey, that might be a cavity right there! If you're an elementary school teacher, you don't have to teach everyone you meet in the grocery store and at the dry cleaners and the vet's office how to do long division and where Italy is on a map. But as an architect, I'm constantly, constantly confronted with the thing I do for a living all day: buildings.  I see them everywhere I go, I interact with them, and I compulsively analyze them. And what I have in common with doctors and dentists (but not with teachers) is that if anyone finds out at a party what I do for a living, they want me to analyze yet something else and give them free professional advice.  And to that, I say fuck you.

After throwing myself into my work for all of 2012, I'm pretty sick of being super awesome architect girl all day. i need a break from all this archicrap in 2013, and I needed the break in an untimely fashion on January 2nd during my user group meeting.  As I sat down to talk with  the head of patient care and the OB surgeon, I just thought, "Well, fuck it. Just be nice and get this over with."

And it went strangely well. I asked questions, we talked, I made some joke about how designing a hospital is like taking a ring into Mordor and made everyone laugh, and three hours later, we had a lot of good information to keep moving. Even Howie complimented me on how well I did in the meeting.  I didn't think I did anything exceptional or worth commending, but a pat on the back is a pat on the back.  I'm beginning to think that I've set my threshold/bar for awesomeness a little too high.  Maybe my 85% or 90% is good enough most of the time.  Maybe.