Today is the first day of my judge’s month-long vacation. When the courtroom goes “dark” like this, the courtroom staff is available to float and work in different courtrooms as needed. As it’s summer, there are a lot of dark courtrooms, which means we have a more than normal number of available personnel in addition to people specially assigned to float to where needed. These latter people’s job description is “floater.” I am not a floater, I’m an assigned clerk, whose courtroom happens to be dark right now. I’ve been dreading this dark month, and I’ve made sarcastic half-joking comments here and there that they’re probably gonna float me to Compton or downtown or something. Coworkers reassured me that wouldn’t happen, because I carpool to work from 40 miles away. Mr. W works near me so he drives us both to and from work. Carpooling means I don’t have a car available, and there had been a memo issued some time ago from the topmost supervisor of the county that gives carpooling priority over having a vehicle available per person. (Except, of course, if you’re a floater by job description.)

So I checked in before 8am this morning. I had beaten every supervisor to work but the administrative secretary said she’d let the supervisors know I’m in my courtroom, awaiting assignment, when they got in. (I’ll make a note here that other clerks don’t even come in at 8am like they’re supposed to; they get in around 9a, some deliberately, to avoid being floated out.) At 8:10 a.m., the district supervisor called me to make sure I was there and available. I explained that floating out of the building would be a difficulty, as I carpooled as usual and don’t have a car. He said he didn’t think that would be a legitimate reason for “downtown,” who would just tell me to take public transportation to go where I am assigned to go. He said he’d call me back if he heard from “downtown” that I’m to be floated out.

10 minutes later, that supervisor called me back and said that I’ve been assigned to go to Compton Courthouse (14 miles away, but through seriously dangerous and questionable neighborhoods). I reiterated that I don’t have a car, I don’t know how to take public transportation, and to figure out a train or bus route from work to Compton would not only be time-consuming, but stressful. Plus, I’d have to figure out how to get from wherever the train or bus dropped me off to Compton Courthouse on foot. Someone told me I’d have to switch buslines in Watts (major gang and high crime territory). I’m unfamiliar with public transportation and with the area, so I could see myself wandering around, lost, pregnant, and getting harassed by people. While 6 months pregnant with a baby that cost me $26,000 to conceive. The supervisor told me that “downtown” doesn’t care that I’m 6 months pregnant, although he does. He asked if I could take Mr. W’s car to Compton. I’m actually not sure I’d be insured in his car, but it’s his car and I’m supposed to strand him at work while I’m off to Compton and I don’t even know when I’d be able to leave to go home? They couldn’t ask me to do that if I’d carpooled with a coworker, so this should be no different. I told him I’d have to call Mr. W and check with him on that.

Mr. W was, of course, not happy with this situation. He didn’t want me wandering around Compton by myself, period. It’d be different if I weren’t pregnant and had my own car. As it is, driving is difficult for me because any abdominal pressure, such as that by a seat belt, causes Allison to repeatedly hit and push against the pressure. It’s very distracting and it’s okay if I’m driving locally for 15 minutes, but it’d be a serious issue driving an hour to work in crazy stop and go traffic, then half an hour or more depending on traffic to Compton while trying to figure out where I am and where to turn.

My supervisor called me back to check status at around 8:20. As courtrooms don’t even unlock their doors until 9am, t’s still early enough at this time to rearrange floating employees, which is often done in order to make the best employee fits depending on what any person is able to do. They had already made a change this morning; another dark court clerk was supposed to be in Department W, but because a family law clerk called in sick, they pulled that dark court clerk from W and put her in family law, then put another dark court clerk into Department W. A floater clerk was in another department where the regular clerk was on vacation. I asked twice if the supervisor can make rearrangements in assignments, since none of the other 3 clerks are pregnant, and all of them have their own cars available to them. He said he didn’t have any other options. I called Mr. W back and told him this, and could not stop the flow of tears. I thought it was so messed up that they’re favoring the other clerks who were ABLE to float out, but making me take a health risk when I was both pregnant and didn’t have a car. Very quickly, that supervisor called back. It was pretty audible by my voice that I was very upset and tearful at this point. He said that if I were his wife, he wouldn’t be comfortable with me going out to Compton, either, and that if I was having physical stress symptoms, that I have an option of taking sick time for today and he would then tell downtown that I’m going home sick and is unavailable to go to Compton. But then, I would have to bring in a doctor’s note. I told him I’m taking that option and spent the morning on the phone trying to get an appointment with local Kaiser hospitals to see me.

This is already pretty lame, considering I’m unable to leave to go home sick as I still don’t have transportation, so I’m stranded at work anyway. No local Kaisers had any openings today, and coworkers only had the lunch hour to give me a ride to any Kaiser anyway and turns out Kaisers don’t take appointments at lunchtime. The Kaiser appointment lady, who was very sympathetic, suggested I ask my regular OB (45 miles away from work so not commutable at lunchtime) to fax me a work restriction letter, excusing me from work today and from high-stress floating. She sent an internal email to have my OB or his nursing staff contact me ASAP. I was contacted around 10am by my OB’s nurse, who said that the doctor wouldn’t be in until 1:30pm today but that it was unlikely he would write me any such note to restrict my work due to the pregnancy, because there was no physical reason why I couldn’t take public transportation. She said lots of people in the country take public transportation to work regularly. (Okay, but they do this regularly by choice, not because they were unexpectedly told, morning of, to figure out a way to get to a different and unfamiliar location in a dangerous area while pregnant. And I’d also have to figure out how to get home from Compton after dark. Good gawd.) But she said she would talk to the doctor about my request when he got in, given how stressed I am about the situation. She said something about “fraud” if he were to claim I couldn’t do something I can. Let me note here that I also wouldn’t eat or drink the entire day when I’m floated out on public transportation, as Compton Court doesn’t have a cafeteria and I couldn’t go out wandering the streets looking for places to eat. Not good for pregnancy.

Here’s where friends make work worthwhile: Coworker Sandy, who had the week off on vacation, saw my distressed cry on the social networking site and wrote me an email. She said she’d be in the courthouse area for a doctor’s appointment at 1:30p, and offered to swing by the courthouse to pick me up and take me home after her appointment. I accepted gratefully, and now that I know I can get home a little early, I made an appointment with my primary care physician (not my OB) for 4:40p. I couldn’t believe he happened to have a same-day opening. Things were looking up! I was going to get my doctor’s note after all.

Coworker Sandy’s medical appointment ran later than she’d expected and she picked me up outside the courthouse with her husband at 3:15p. I was at work for 7.5 hours already when I was officially out “sick,” having to burn 8 hours of sick time, but I was so grateful to be able to leave finally. Given the time and the bad traffic, we all decided it’d be better for them to take me to the doctor’s appointment directly, then Mr. W can just meet me there and pick me up and go home on his way home from work. On our way, my regular OB’s office called me, and this time a different nurse spoke to me. She said the doctor wants to make sure I have a medical reason, and not a transportation reason, to give me work restrictions. I didn’t have to make up a thing; this IS considered a high-risk pregnancy by definition as I will be over age 35 at the due date, and I HAVE been having round ligament pains for 2 months now (they asked), it IS uncomfortable for me to sit in a car for extended periods of time, and I DO have difficulty driving so I DO have someone drive me to/from work daily. The letter restricting my driving to 10 miles/day and prohibiting long transport periods, such as would be required with public transportation, was prepared to apply immediately until late November, the duration of my pregnancy. It would be in an envelope waiting for me at the reception desk of my OB’s Kaiser hospital (nearer to but past home) which would be open until 5:30p, nurse said to pick it up anytime before then. Whew!

I was soon dropped off at the Kaiser halfway between work and home, where my appointment was this evening, then Coworker Sandy and her hubby went on their way home. I walked in, checked in with the receptionist, who informed me I’m in the wrong building. Okay, point me to the right building, and I’ll walk there. “No no, you’re in an entirely different facility,” she explained. “Your 4:40 appointment today is in [a whole different city farther south].” OH, CRAP. “You can still get there in time,” the receptionists said, looking at the clock reading 4:10.

I got on my cell phone and called Coworker Sandy. “I messed up!” I explained, she laughed, told her husband to turn around for me, and said they’d only made it one light down. Soon they picked me up where they’d dropped me off 5 minutes prior. I called Mr. W from the car to tell him the hospital I’d told him earlier to pick me up at is the wrong one, and to meet me at the correct one. He confirmed the correct one, then gave some cross-streets, which I passed on to Coworker Sandy and her hubby. The two of them said they were familiar with that Kaiser and would take me there. The freeway was horribly, horribly congested, and they passed the exit I’d expected them to get off on. I asked what exit they were going to, and they both gave the name of one of the cross-streets that Mr. W gave. I’m not very good with directions, so I let them go where they appeared to know to go. Exiting at that street took an extra 15 minutes through sluggish traffic, and when we got off, her husband said, “This doesn’t look right.”

Turned out, hubby got two street names confused because both street names started with the letter “A.” The one he gave them as the intersection of the hospital made us overshoot by 6.5 miles, which isn’t a big deal except that it took 10-15 extra minutes each way, making me now late for the appointment. I tried to call the hospital to tell them to keep my appointment, I was running late, but couldn’t get a number for that facility directly. Instead of being 15 minutes early as I was told to be, I was 10 minutes late when I ran in there, and hoped for the best. There was a check-in line at reception (first time ever in my experience at that facility), so I did a self-check-in at a kiosk. I wasn’t sure I did it right, but I was distracted anyway as Mr. W called me and turned out, I think he’d beaten me there, because he was right behind me. We took off to the appointment waiting area and I was very shortly called in.

The nurse there was very sympathetic and kind of horrified at what happened at work, and told me that the next time this happens, I should call her team and they will figure out a way to problem-solve for me. I thanked her. She took my blood pressure and said she was surprised it was within normal ranges. I explained that the numbers she was looking at, 122/76, was high for me because most of the time both numbers were close to/under 100. My primary care doc was great as always, and immediately proceeded to write me a work restriction letter after I explained what happened today, and what its effect on me was. (He diagnosed me with acute stress reaction, and said I appear to have had an anxiety attack in the morning. At the peak of my stress this morning, Allie uncharacteristically went crazy in my stomach at a time when she would normally be still; dr said this is not unusual given the stress hormones I was producing.) His letter didn’t deal with my pregnancy as much as my stress reaction, although it also indicated that I am a high-risk pregnancy patient. It orders “Modified Activity” to apply to both work and home for a month:

Patient is 6 months pregnant. No driving or public transportation. If patient needs to be floated to another work place, please provide her with other means of transportation.
If modified activity is not accommodated by the employer then this patient is considered temporarily and totally disabled from their regular work for the designated time and a separate off work order is not required.

So, if my supervisors ignore the letter and force me to float without providing transportation, I can immediately be off for whatever’s left of the month on full disability, which means they have to pay full salary and not dock my sick time. Awesome. Now I have a general note to cover the duration of pregnancy, and a very specific note to cover the next month we’re dark. By the way, I talked to another dark court clerk who 3 times in the past 2 weeks immediately put in a sick time off slip in lieu of being floated out of the building, and she said the supervisors never required her to bring in a doctor’s note. The rule is that a doctor’s note may be required for 3 consecutive days of sick time off, but is not required for one day. People call in for 1 day all the time, doesn’t mean they’re going to a doctor. So I think that’s another point of unfairness, although I jumped thru that hoop anyway cuz they made me.

Since my doctor very efficiently got me in an out, Mr. W thought we could make it to the other Kaiser to pick up my letter. It was 5:10, and we had 20 minutes. There were some slow people in traffic that Mr. W drove like mad to get around, and I ended up running up the door to that Kaiser at exactly 5:30. The automatic doors wouldn’t open, and they had closed either precisely on time, or a few minutes early. I was still in rush-rush mode and stressed, and was nauseated by that point and my head was hammering. Mr. W patted my knee and took me to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. I told him I still want to take tomorrow off on stress, especially since I already have a doctor’s note, so they can’t request another one. He said he would call in tomorrow to stay home with me, and go with me to pick up my OB’s letter, and we’ll catch a movie in the area afterwards.

Looks like I’m starting my weekend early. Looking forward to seeing college roommie Diana on Saturday. She’s in town for the weekend and we’re going to the Hollywood Bowl for a summer Philharmonic concert.

P.S. Earlier, I received an email from another coworker, who found out about what happened today. She offered to leave on a half-day tomorrow so that I would be placed in her courtroom to cover her instead of being told to float out again. It was very sweet of her, but thankfully, unnecessary. Late morning, a floater coworker who heard about what happened came by and found me, and offered to go to Compton in my place because he felt that as a floater, he should’ve been sent out first. I thanked him and told him I had already opted for burning a sick day. My coworkers are super-awesome.