My Kind of Town

by Don Chapman

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Striking out

>> Queen's Medical Center

Dr. Laurie Tang's thoughts were on Sherlock Gomes and their dinner this evening as she retrieved her Mercedes in Physician's Parking. There was something about the detective that made her feel like she'd never felt before. She wanted to feel his strong arms around her again.

Exiting the garage, Laurie had to brake for a group of striking nurses waving signs. Most she didn't recognize but one she did. Van Truong, Laurie's charge nurse in the ER. More than a trusted colleague, Van was a friend with whom Laurie could share intimacies of her private life that nobody else in the ER heard.

They made eye contact through the windshield. There was something Van needed to know, but the way one of the women glowered at her, as if Laurie was the hospital's chief negotiator or something, she didn't feel like getting out of the car.

Laurie made a quick shaka sign -- thumb to her ear, pinkie to her lips -- and mouthed, "I'll call your cell."

Van nodded as Laurie's car pulled away, and wondered how she was going to pay her cell bill if the strike continued much longer. And whose big idea was it to strike just before Christmas anyway?

Van had nieces and nephews, a brother, two sisters and her mom to buy gifts for. Tough to do without a paycheck. And several of her friends out here had it worse -- they were single moms, and what kind of Christmas would their kids have if mom was on strike and not getting paid? Van reached into the fanny pack she wore around her tiny waist for her cell phone just as it rang.

Dr. Laurie asked how she was. Van said her feet were killing her -- way worse than a day on her feet in the ER -- and she still had two hours to go. "I probably shouldn't say anything, Van, and please don't take this the wrong way. But this strike is the absolute worst thing for you nurses."

"How do you mean?"

"The truth is, Van, with the replacements they brought in from the mainland, patient complaints are down."


"Yes, these gals are really good, very professional, they document everything. And doctor satisfaction is up. I heard one of the physicians suggesting they hire this mainland crew full-time and lock you guys out."

Van wanted to cry.

"I can't tell you what to do, Van, but you ought to think about crossing that picket line while you still can. The nurse I worked with today, from Seattle, is good, but she's not you."

"I really can't talk now. But I hear what you're saying. Thank you."

Laurie felt for Van. But she was also feeling like some Sherlock Gomes.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin
with weekly summaries on Sunday.
He can be e-mailed at

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