When I was a kid we had not landed on the moon. The Russians had sent Sputnik into space and we had sent a couple of Mercury Space Capsules into the new final frontier. We were still in fear of an “A” bomb attack and radiation poisoning creating giant ants. We were also watching the sky for little green Martians to land in our back yard demanding to be taken to our leader. Back in the 1960’s the hospital my mother worked at was one of the tallest buildings in my hometown. It had seven stories if you counted the basement. Now my mother had a fear of heights and couldn’t even look out of the windows of the sixth floor. Unfortunately she worked on the sixth floor. You see she was a cardiac care nurse and that was where the post CCU floor just happened to be. I also need to tell you that my mother wore her hair in a beehive that would have made Cindy Wilson and Katie Pierson of the B-52’s pee green with jealousy. Nurse Meme would not go outside in any type of wind for the fact that it might mess up her beehive. We lived in West Texas the wind blows all the time. Even at night.
I also need to give you a brief description of my hometown. It is wide open spaces and at the edge of town sits one of the biggest Strategic Air Command Centers in the U.S. It is presently the home of the B-1 bomber and housed the B-52 bombers before that. We would often be awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of sonic booms and the scramble of a full on squadron to secure our Nation.
This is where my story begins. One evening after medications were given and rounds were made. The patients had been settled into their drug induced sleep to be awaked again in 30 minutes to have vital signs read. Can I just say that I have never understood this, do you? I mean you are in the hospital trying to get well and sleep is important in health. Why the heck do they come in and wake you up and ask if you want a sleeping pill? Have you ever had this happen? I mean here you are sick and sleeping and you just want to sleep. Then they come in and wake you up and ask if you want a ding dang sleeping pill. WHY? I digress, again.
The nurses were gathered at the nurse’s station and it was well after midnight. Things were quiet and a few were fighting heavy eyelids. That is when one of the male nurses approached my mother with a box of pen lights. You know those small pencil shaped flashlights that fit in the palm of your hand with a small light bulb on the end. It seems a pharmaceutical salesman had left the staff a whole box of these nifty little utensils. My mother looked at Nurse Mark and said “Do we still have that box of awful rubber gloves that the detail guy left?” Nurse Mark a little lost said they did and went and got them from the cabinet. Then she looked around at her little crew of cohorts and with a sly smile said “I’ve got an idea.”
She delegated who would go and who would stay. Her group of coworkers all eager to lend a hand and do their part manned their stations. One person turned on and inserted the pen lights into the rubber gloves while another filled the glove up with helium. (Hey it’s a hospital they have all kinds of tanks of oxygen, helium, laughing gas etc.) They tied the bottom of the gloves off then they shoved them into a sheet and tied the top of that and went to the stairway. Remember my mother has a fear of heights but in the spirit of a practical joke she was willing to bite back her fear. Nurse Meme and Nurse Mark climbed the stairs to the roof. The wind was blowing and the night was crystal clear perfect for their little prank. Here Nurse Meme stood 6 floors above the ground wind blowing her scarf wrapped bee-hive braving everything she hated. They took the helium filled gloved to the edge and on the count of three let loose the fingered glowing globes. Nurse Mark commented to Nurse Meme that they looked like big fireflies and with that they went back to work not thinking another thought about them.
Only on the other end of town someone had seen the lighted hands floating through the sky. They decided it must be an invasion. They called the local police who in turn contacted the local air force base. Sirens (yes it’s pronounced Sigh-Reens here too) were sounded and squadrons were scrambled. We were under a full fledge alien attack. There were little Martian Pods everywhere. They were floating over the city to suck the life out of its inhabitants and make us all into zombies. Remember the old I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ethel dressed up like Martian women on the Empire State Building and scared New York into thinking they had been invaded. Yeah it was something like that.
Nurse Meme’s shift ended at 7:00 a.m. the next morning they gave report to the on-coming crew and grabbed a final cup of coffee. Nurse Betty, the morning supervisor, commented to the nighttime crew “Did you guys hear about the strange orbs and the Martian invasion last night?” To which they all looked at each other and then back at Betty and said “NO! Do tell.”
I don’t think that her and her partners ever fessed up nor did she tell that story until years later. Like I said she was a sly prankster.