Monday, July 21, 2014

Me and My Wonderfully Horrible, Awful Day at Work

Life has settled down lately.
It almost makes me believe in seven-year-life-cycle theories, since it was almost exactly seven years ago that some not-so-good stuff started happening to me. Some of it was my own fault; most of it was not. Some of it had silver linings; most of it did not.
But, thankfully, there seems to be a lull at the moment. In fact, not only has my life been devoid of cataclysms, but I have had a few nice surprises.  That's a good thing, right?
Sort of. Without jinxing what I hope will be the trend for the next seven years, I confess that my state of beatitude has a drawback: whatever am I going to write about?
Truly, as I have struggled over the past few weeks to come up with a topic that doesn't sound like a dispatch from Hello, Kitty's litterbox, I have come to realize how much of my creative genius relies upon the adrenaline boosts provided me by anger, frustration, dread, and a general contempt for the American middle class. (I can't decide whether this is healthy or not.)   I am like a soldier, home from the wars to find that peace can be a little boring.
However, as I wallowed in my new-found bliss with little more than my upcoming colonoscopy to provide some much-needed dread, Life Itself intervened with a treat for me:  last Friday I was scheduled to work at my least-favorite location, an office in a government building.
There are several reasons why hate this office and this building:
  1. Like most government buildings, this one is dark and dirty and has inadequate temperature control;
  2. The denizens of the building - and hence our clientele - are government workers, who personify the American middle class.  They almost universally share the delusion that they are important, and should be accorded the same deference and awe they feel are due a freely-elected, high-ranking official.  Like the President;
  3. There is one, two-stall, public ladies' room, to be shared with the entire female homeless population of downtown Chicago, many of whom are disgruntled with the treatment they have received at the hands of the government workers, probably for not showing sufficient deference and awe, and they find the public restroom a perfect venue for revenge.  And bathing. 
Anger and frustration ebb and flow.  The American Middle Class is forever. Culturally, if not economically.
So it wasn't long before an incredibly annoying person walked in.
"I broke my glasses."
(I can see that.)
"This is the second time."
(Which does not surprise me, since you weigh at least 300 lbs. and have hands that Oscar Meyer would want to deli-slice.)
"I'll come back for them."
(Okay.  Your name?)


(Got it.)
"Don't you think you ought to write that down?"
(No, Brenda, I don't.  And I already have a supervisor.  Not being a government worker myself, I'm pretty sure I can remember a two-syllable word.  But I am also post-menopausal, so you may have a point.)
An hour or so passed without incident, and then we were visited by a veritable harpy who seemed to step out of a very scary Greek myth directly into our office, and who proceeded to tear into one of the sweet, quiet technicians, who was just sitting there and minding her own business, woefully unprepared for the maelstrom to come.
"It's hotter than HELL in here!"
(Maybe it's just you.)
"I am bringing in my MICHAEL KORS glasses, which I waited FIVE WEEKS for, and which are BROKEN now!  I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!"
(If I stand very still, perhaps she won't notice me.)
(That's what you get for buying a yesterday's-news designer.)


( I completely agree.)
(This is where the technician promises you anything, just to make you go away, though you interpret it as victory-is-yours and calm down a bit.  Noblesse oblige.)
"You know, I'm not yelling at you."
(Yes.  You are.)
"I'm just VERY FRUSTRATED with the whole situation."
(And now we all are.  When will women with big butts realize that a khaki capri is not their friend?)
The technician basically promised Mrs. Harpy that Michael Kors, himself, would be making her a new pair of glasses by hand, which would be ready on Monday, giving her - the technician - time to find a new job on another planet.
The phone rang.  I answered it.  Brenda.
"Did you just call me?"
(No, but maybe it was someone else from this number.  Did you listen to the voice mail?  No, you didn't.  Because pressing one button is so much easier than pressing two.)
"Who is this?"
(This is your doctor's office.  If you had listened to your voice mail, you would know that your glasses are taking a long time to fix - since you managed to mangle them almost beyond recognition - and therefore aren't ready yet.  We will call you when they're ready.)
Silence.  "What agency are you from?"
(Okay, I'll say it again.  More slowly and with shorter words.)
More silence.
"Why did you call me?"

(I'm beginning to enjoy this.)
But my hands-down, personal favorite nutbar-of-the-day was a mousy little creature who apparently forgot to take her medication that morning.
"I would like to have my glasses adjusted.  They're too loose."
(So far, so good.  Of course.  Gladly.)
One of the technicians tightened the glasses - no charge, thank you - and Mrs. Mouse went away.  Only to come back an hour later.
"These are terrible!"
The technician who had helped her before tried to take the glasses to see the problem.  Mrs. Mouse recoiled in horror.
"Not youYou stay BACK!  I don't want you touching them!!"
(Simmer down.  She's not trying to lance your plague boil.)
"You didn't even listen to me!  You just ran off with my glasses and ruined them!  I don't want you touching my glasses ever again!!  You did a terrible job.  TERRIBLE!  I want somebody else!"
(Sure.  Share the love.)
"And if she can't do it, I can find somebody in the suburbs who will."
(Ah, yes, the suburbs.  Where you reside in a little condo, since your husband ran away years ago, in a building full of commensurately demented souls.  Suburbs are such a wealth of talent.  Remind me to move.)
"You didn't know what you were doing.  You adjusted the WRONG SIDE.  They're worse than ever!  They hurt!  I'm in pain!!"
(, pant.)
"Only ONE person has ever been able to adjust my glasses!"
(I believe you.  But don't you find that odd?)
"I'm VERY sensitive!"
(Really?  That must mean that we "non-sensitives" should understand that our only role in life is to provide you with an appreciative audience for your bullshit.)
Brenda came in to pick up her glasses.  You're welcome, Brenda.
But no underemployed workday is complete without a soupcon of adventure on public transportation.  I had decided to forgo a martini-for-the-road, feeling happily inspired from my day-out-with-humanity, and had just settled in with a book for the ride home, when my train car was invaded with young suburbanites, feeling bad-ass after a day at a Chicago beach, giving a loudly spectacular display of the combined effects of sun, alcohol, and a suburban upbringing.  Summertime commuter trains are usually full of these little tourist groups, who merrily harken back to their halcyon days of school buses and field trips.  And, of course, we poor drudges are welcome - nay, compelled - to appreciate their ongoing festivities.
I immediately regretted skipping the martini.
Fortunately - for me, unfortunately for everybody else - the train broke down and we all had to switch to another one on the far side of the station.  Which afforded me the opportunity to avoid the beach party.  And to get that martini.
Recently, I have entertained thoughts of going out and finding fulfilling work - something significant, something I love.  My life now permits this pursuit.  But last Friday showed me that, no, this is what I love.  This is what I live for. 

Who else will speak for The Underemployed?
Maybe I should be moving in the other direction - Walmart,  McDonald's.  Radio Shack.  Sears!  Comcast!  Each day a tour de force of survival.  I'm ready.  Bring.  It.  On.
I think I've found my calling.  And it was right here all along.

Friday, July 4, 2014


The Fourth of July is an American holiday which commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States from England in the year 1776.  In a nutshell, the actual Declaration of Independence was a document that politely requested England to take their toys and go home.  The English said no, and what ensued was the Revolutionary War, a nasty business at best.  To be fair, the English were not bad as far as colonial oppressors go, at least on the North American continent, and certainly there were a great number of colonials ("loyalists") who were pretty much okay with the status quo and appreciated the help fighting Indians.  But contemplating the state of affairs in places like Ireland was enough to convince the more rebellious element amongst the colonials ("patriots") that even something as innocuous as a tax on tea wasn't going to lead to anything good.  Amidst mounting tensions, the non-European residents of North America were probably rolling their eyes and hoping that both sides would get back on their ships and disappear, but this didn't happen, and thus began the United States of America.

On this solemn occasion, I am taking the opportunity to do some musing on the topic of freedom.
In particular, I would like to say a few words about the Supreme Court of the United States.
To begin with, the Supreme Court of the United States is more and more commonly known by the Twitteresque acronym of "SCOTUS" which, for some reason, brings to my mind "scrotum" one of those awful words that comes to English from Latin to identify things of a sexual nature.  On account of this unfortunate word association, I am - at present - predisposed to thinking of the Supreme Court as "icky".

Wouldn't it be better to call them, "The Supremes"?

That being said, I now turn my attention to their recent ruling on "buffer zones".  In summary, there are some people who are anti-abortion who have been offering something they call "sidewalk counseling" to people entering health care facilities that provide the procedure to which they object.  In response, many of these facilities have resorted to establishing buffer zones of various size around their entrances, since some of this sidewalk counseling has tended toward the overzealous.
The sidewalk counselors say that this violates their freedom of speech.  The health care facilities say that their patients have the right to freedom from harassment.
The sidewalk counselors won.  Personally, I think that if certain like-minded citizens chose to display the same enthusiasm for sidewalk counseling in front of gun shops, this case never would have made it to the Supreme Court.
Without raising a moral or religious issue, I confess to being on the side of freedom-from-harassment.  And I was disappointed at the ruling.
But there's still hope.  Because, now follow me closely here, it is still legal - at a local level - to establish, not buffers, but bubbles, harassment-free floating buffer zones surrounding individuals.
And I am ALL for that.
In Chicago, where I live, the bubble zone is an 8-foot radius.  I want to know how I, as a private citizen, can apply for one of these.
Think of the possibilities.  For example, here is a list of people I would keep outside of my bubble:
  1. Religious nutbars;
  2. People who haven't bathed in more than two days;
  3. People in suits who are talking on mobile phones and using the word "feedback";
  4. People wanting to stop me on the street to talk about "the environment";
  5. People wearing more than one designer label;
  6. People whose entire vocabulary - nouns, verbs, and adjectives - consists of various forms of the word "fuck";
  7. People with small, unhappy children;
  8. Politicians;
  9. Clowns;
  10. Anyone with the job title of "regional manager".
My husband thinks there should be prenuptial bubble contracts, too.

I'm with you there, babe.
But never pass a law you can't enforce.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Business Psych 101

I have just arrived home from New York, a city where EVERYBODY dresses better than you do, except for the people in Penn Station waiting for New Jersey Transit. 
Previous to this trip, New York - for me - was synonymous with Manhattan, an error that my daughter was determined to correct.  Consequently, she took me to Flushing, which besides having the most amazing Chinatown in the United States, provides one with the opportunity to see signs like "Keep Flushing Clean" and t-shirts that say "I Love Flushing", and goes to show you what kind of fun can be had when you're in a place named with a gerund.  Similarly, while in Flushing (which is located in Queens), one would  - I presume - eventually espy something saying "I Love Queens", which is also fun, and thus the same rule applies to nouns.
I had a great day there, and I encourage travellers - upon arrival in New York - to go to Times Square and catch the #7 train to Flushing.  When you get to Times Square, avail yourself of the opportunity to shop at the local H&M.  It may very well be the most perfect place on Earth, in spite of the fact that, if you should decide to buy something, you will spend an inordinate amount of time waiting to make your purchase, especially if you are in line behind someone trying to do an exchange, which takes a minimum of twenty minutes and a three-fifths majority in Congress to transact.
(On this vacation, I was also planning spend a day on pilgrimage to my husband's childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn, until I found out that it is, for all intents and purposes, in the Bronx.  He refuses to accept this.)
Some things I learned on my trip to New York: 
  1. Fashion continues to dictate that all females, under the age of 70, need to be five inches taller than what nature intended.  This needs to be explained to me in short, easily understood sentences;
  2. The behavior of smart phone users leads me to believe that nobody, not ONE person, ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME, is with the person they actually want to be with; 
  3. It is never a good idea to sing opera in a subway tunnel.
I learned something else, too:
  1. Air travel has become ridiculously expensive;
  2. Especially if you're flying to or from New Jersey;
  3. Maybe because nobody flies to New Jersey anymore;
  4. Perhaps because they're afraid Chris Christie might suddenly shut down a runway, just for the fun of it.
Upon expressing my concerns about the future of aviation travel to my son, he told me about Jet Blue.  According to him, Jet Blue:
  1. Is cheap;
  2. Allows you to check a piece of luggage without charging you .0005 percent of the gross national product;
  3. Does not fly out of ratchet airports.
But most impressive:  They give you free chips.  That's right.  Free chips.
"Free chips?"
"Yeah, I ordered a drink and they asked me, 'Do you want chips or cookies?'"
"For free?"
"For free.  And apparently, you can have unlimited quantities."
This was a stunning revelation for me, so stunning that it took some time to completely grasp the psychology at play here.  Yes, you could buy a bag of chips before you get on the plane, but...WOULD you?
The answer is no.  What you would do, in this age of in-flight food deserts, is to consider buying a bag of chips as you wandered aimlessly through the airport, waiting for your boarding time.
You would consider the calories, the fat and/or sodium content, the price, the sordid lure of junk food.  You would do this and continue to wander aimlessly until it was time to board and then say to yourself, "Screw it, it's only a three-hour flight."
And, chipless, you would get on the plane.
No, the "yes-to-chips" moment comes when someone hands you a cocktail.  Jet Blue understands this.  "Do you want chips or cookies?"  "Yes!  A thousand times yes!  Bless you.  And your descendants to the tenth generation." 
You will never forget it.  The timing is perfect and they have earned your eternal love and gratitude, with little cost or effort to them.  These people are fucking geniuses.  Obviously, a company that displays this level of perspicacity can surely be trusted to fly a plane.
Business psychology at its resplendent best. 
I'm sold.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Waterfront

I am on vacation in the beautiful city of Boston, Massachusetts - where there are lots of wharfs (wharves?) - and I am happy.

I am happy for several reasons:
  1. I am far, far away from my place of underemployment, where an incident last week with possibly the dumbest woman alive nearly cost me what little sanity I have left;
  2. I am far, far away from Chicago, where the body count every weekend between Easter and Halloween is a becoming a little unnerving;
  3. The people here talk funny, an endless source of amusement, though this from a person who is a longtime resident of America's Midwest - where we quack like ducks - works both ways, I'm sure.
In addition to their charming accent, which truly sounds like the result of brain damage to the uninitiated, Bostonians are really nice.  Granted, historically this is not true, as the book I am reading on the Battle of Bunker Hill and other events leading up to our Revolutionary War is not slow to point out.  Were it not for Boston's propensity to mass hysteria, this country would probably have continued on to be much like Canada, where one can now purchase marijuana from a vending machine, and this is not a bad thing.

Actually, there is one thing about Boston that leads me to believe it is really a suburb of Canada.  Bostonians have the same inferiority complex regarding New York that Canada has regarding the United States.  When I was travelling in Canada a while back, I found it interesting that Canadians spent so much effort on being Canadian (my daughter, reading a Canadian newspaper one morning, commented that it was like being in a big theme park called "Canadaland"), and worrying about what the United States was thinking about them, whereas, far as I can tell, Americans don't think about Canada at all.  Same thing with Boston and New York.  Bostonians seem to have a great many ready and negative opinions about New York (mostly valid), yet New Yorkers barely acknowledge Boston's existence, except as a place where you can't get a hot dog in a ball park in October.

All in all, though, I am having a wonderful time.  I spent my first day here walking the "Freedom Trail" which is truly awesome - in the dictionary sense of the word - stopping only to enjoy St. Anthony's Feast in the North End (don't call it Little Italy, you moron, that's in New York, which is dirty and ugly and has Yankees), and was a nice surprise.  I have this memorable encounter with St. Anthony's devoted followers, which included a visit from a marching band in the pizzeria where we were dining, to thank for the spiritual revelation that during most of my waking hours in Chicago I am actively engaged in trying not to act Italian.

I spent my second day here not technically in Boston, but in Cambridge, at Harvard University where there are a great number of very smart, friendly, and attractive people.  Harvard also has a kick-ass natural history museum, open to the public, with miles of dead animals, the slimiest of which are kept attractively displayed in fluid-filled jars.

But getting back to the Boston-New York thing, much on my mind since my next destination is New York, I have distilled the differences as follows:
  1. Boston is surprisingly small, physically, but surprisingly large, culturally.  New York is physically large, but has a children's playground named for Diana Ross, which automatically cancels out most of its claims to culture;
  2. Boston traffic signals seem to contain a secret code known only to Bostonians.  Every time I think I have it figured out, I almost get killed.  A person of average intelligence can cross the street in New York;
  3. Every drink in Boston costs $11 and contains exactly one-and-one-half ounces of alcohol, certainly not the case in New York, where a good drink is easy to find.  Boston needs to work on this.
Tomorrow, more culture and more seafood is on the agenda and then I am off to New York, where my daughter is promising to introduce me to the wonders of Coney Island and Flushing.  I'm sort of done with Manhattan, since I never want to see a guy in an Elmo suit again, so I am looking forward to it.
Speaking of my daughter, I am seriously considering an arranged marriage between her and that handsome bartender at the pizzeria where we were serenaded by the North End Marching Band.
She has no objections.  We can act Italian here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rules of Engagement

Every now and then, some tidbit of popular culture - usually emanating from California - comes to my attention unawares and reinforces my profound belief that sometimes being poor and obscure is much, much better than being rich and famous.
I am talking about the ongoing Twitter tiff between Charlie Sheen and Rihanna.  For those of you who are blessed with a sufficient amount of self-control to prevent your reading celebrity gossip on the Internet, here's what happened.
Charlie Sheen and his fiancee were celebrating her birthday in the same Italian restaurant where Rihanna happened to be dining.  Charlie Sheen's fiancee wanted to meet Rihanna.  Rihanna did not want to meet Charlie Sheen's fiancee.  Charlie Sheen retaliated with a ten-paragraph, insult-ridden rant on Twitter (yeah, I'll bet your fiancee really enjoyed spending her birthday watching you struggle with that), which was countered in like fashion by Rihanna, and so on.
To the average resident non-alien of Earth, this is extremely silly.  In fact, it could serve in court as Exhibit A for a case of why Twitter shouldn't be allowed to exist.
But to the primaries involved, life simply doesn't seem to be able to move forward without more "I know you are, but what am I?" and the world awaits on tenterhooks for one or the other to blurt "Infinity!"
In the absence of anything more important to occupy my mind today, and before the feudsters progress to holding their breaths until they turn blue, I'd like to offer some perspective.
Rihanna -
  1. Honey, I understand your position.  "I'm a celebrity and so are you" is not a relationship, and you have no obligations to this man whatsoever;
  2. On the other hand, it never hurts to make a friend.  You may need bail money someday;
  3. But the only person for whom you should let your pasta fazool get cold is the Pope.
Charlie Sheen -
  1. Rihanna has one name and you have two.  This is not an affectation on her part, but a measure of her popular regard.  When you are known simply as "Charlie" then you will, indeed, be "kool" enough to introduce your fiancee to Rihanna;
  2. In fact, your middle name is Irwin, is it not?
  3. And you have a fiancee.
Frankly, I am sick to death of "fiancees".  Case-in-point, Charlie Sheen is 48-years-old, has three ex-wives under his belt, five kids, and I'm pretty sure his affianced isn't saving herself for the wedding night.  Engagements (and the ensuing weddings) are for those under the age of thirty, about to embark on their "starter" marriage, whose limited imaginations preclude conceptualizing better uses for a large amount of money.  Engagements are not for people who have been sleeping - and/or living - with each other for years, those with a marital rap sheet, and those with live issue. 
I know of a young lady, someone I am very fond of so it hurt to bear witness to this nonsense, who languished in genuine suspense - until she was six-months gone with his child - for the man of her dreams to finally "pop the question".  She later told me that she was "so surprised" (seriously?) and that she "cried".  If that were my daughter (and I hope she's listening), under similar circumstances, the only crying being done would be that of Mr. Right removing the buckshot from his ass.
Call me a traditionalist.  But I don't blame Rihanna for not wanting to get involved.
In other celebrity news, I also read that Leonardo DiCaprio's new abode features (and I'm quoting from a quote here, allegedly the New York Post, whatever that is):
"...purified air and water, a circulated aromatherapy air supply, posture-supportive heat reflexology flooring and dawn simulation provided by a circadian lighting design."
Wait, Leonardo, you’re a guy, right?  Dude, there are rules.   Do you comprehend that, once this information becomes public knowledge, no sane human will ever want to be left alone in a room with you?  Have a PB&J and go lie down for a while.  Watch some TV.  These things pass.
In your favor, I will allow, you regularly give money to worthy causes, do not litter your trail with fiancees, are planning a trip to the moon, and already know Rihanna.  Which more than makes up for the circadian lighting design and all. 
Sort of.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Job History

Just a casual observation, but isn't it a little odd that when you apply for a job and submit a comprehensive, detailed, and up-to-date resume (upon request, and one that you have spent a gazillion hours and/or dollars to make sure it stands out amongst the competition), the company to which you are applying inevitably asks you to fill out a job application that contains, exactly, the SAME FUCKING INFORMATION that you JUST GAVE THEM on your resume?

Is it me?

I presume the recipient of the resume can read (though how well is always a subject for speculation), so what possible purpose could this exercise in redundancy serve?  I can think of three:
  1. They are weeding out pesky people who would otherwise apply to every job in the universe, since it is so pathetically easy to send one's resume as an attachment by email;
  2. They are testing the applicant's tolerance for bullshit, although I know from my own experience that the better employees have a healthy low tolerance for bullshit, so they have this backwards;
  3. They are morons.
And if option #1 above is the reason, why ask for a resume to begin with?

It boggles the mind.  At least the minds of sane people.

Of course, it is possible that such a requirement is the written equivalent of the so-called "stress interview", a popular stratagem utilized by companies run by really stupid people, to test the prospective employees' ability to withstand abuse from idiot corporate tools who would probably cry themselves to sleep if they were ever the recipients of the same treatment they dish out.  I have instructed my children not to work for organizations that would do such a reprehensible thing, and my children are brilliant, hard-working, and attractive people, so there exists two stellar potential employees that these organizations will never be able to call upon to step in and save their sorry-ass companies.

("Hmmm...Haven't had a job in two years?  Do you have children?  Are they hungry?  Hmmm...")

Think about what kind of people would do this.

But still, one can't get past first base without a more-than-presentable resume, and this has been the case for several decades now, spawning an entire industry of "resume consulting", and driving everyone else to distraction and despair over something that is completely superfluous.  The common-folk resume has been around long enough to go through several fads deemed pleasing to the sensibilities of human resource personnel - that repellent breed of useless, untalented corporate leaches whose main focus is holding your life hostage, in lieu of having one of their own.  (If my assessment of human resource employees appears to be the ramblings of a lunatic, I will tell you that once - due to a reluctant position in management - I had the opportunity to follow around a human resource employee while she distributed two-week notices and inadequate severance packages.  She was particularly brilliant at making the people she was terminating feel as if the company's demise was really their fault - personally - and not the short-comings of dimwitted corporate funboys who were escaping with millions of dollars after running the company into the ground.  I truly hope that this woman's fate was to contract a particularly virulent and disfiguring fungus from an unsanitary pedicure.)

Getting back to resume fashions, I have taken note that lately the push for one-page resumes has all but vanished, resulting from the fact that most people have worked at more jobs that can fit on one page, due to the lilypad-hopping employment culture that has developed during the Great American Recession.  This interests me, since I have a long and colorful job history, including:
  1. Carny (actually I worked in a small and disreputable amusement park, but I worked with enough real-life carnies to appreciate how loathsome they are);
  2. Radio advertising salesperson (thank God for recreational drugs); 
  3. Secretary, Department of Physics ("Big Bang Theory" gets it right);
  4. Astrologer (no, really);
  5. Insurance Whore (there are simply no other words to describe this).
Obviously, four-out-of-five of the above jobs would not be included on my resume, unless I were trying to get a job with the circus.  Speaking of which, several years back I had a photo taken of myself at a circus, with a boa constrictor draped around my neck.  I once submitted this photo, upon request, with my resume ("please include a recent photograph") when applying for a teaching position out in yahoo exurbia where I was living in misguided, self-imposed exile.  Needless to say, I did not get the job, or even a callback.  And people started avoiding me on the street. 
Which just goes to show, you can't be too careful.
One of the things I would like to include on my resume is the fact that I bear a remarkable (if unintentional) likeness to Hillary Clinton.  Or at least I did before her latest poufy haircut.  But in her Secretary of State days, when her hair was long and she was wearing glasses, we could have been twins.  More than one person commented on this, and I have noticed the occasional double-take while wandering the streets of Washington, DC, where my son lives.
Now I find out, to quote political bezonian and Pillsbury Doughboy Karl Rove, "...she's" (Hillary, and me, too, by extension) "wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury..." 
And I am shocked. 
Not that I think that Hillary is suffering from a serious traumatic brain injury, though my mind reverberates with images of pudgy Southern women in polyester shorts saying to one another over the fences of their unkempt backyards, "Did y'all hear about Hillary?  She's got brain damage."  No, I am shocked because I'm sure people will now think that I have brain damage.  My glasses, along with the fact that I talk to myself without a Bluetooth, will be a dead giveaway.  Of course, I realize that Mr. Rove was referring to the lenses in Hillary's glasses, but I'm afraid that subtlety will cruise safely over the heads of many Republican voters, and I predict that not a single pair of black plastic frames will ever again be sold south of this country's Mason-Dixon line.  Nor will I ever again be able to submit a resume with a recent photograph.
Thanks a lot, Karl.  Five hundred bucks down the drain.  Just because your Sam's Club specials, vintage 1972, do nothing to mitigate your unfortunate resemblance to a bowl of oatmeal, doesn't mean you have to screw things up for the rest of us.
Or maybe you do.  After all, "forcing people to deny groundless accusations" is an dominant theme in your own job history, a skill you swagger as a "political consultant" without any apparent remorse.
In keeping with the spirit, sweetheart,  Hillary and I both hope that your rumored addiction to extraterrestrial vampire zombie porn and penchant for Nikita Khrushchev memorabilia never come to light.
Three can play at that game.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Good Doctor

About this time last year, I found out that my doctor was retiring.  And I knew that life was over as I knew it.

It isn't that I adored my doctor.  I didn't.  Rarely did our relationship stray beyond the prosaisms of a routine check-up, but I understood the reluctance for further intimacy on the part of a person performing my Pap smears.

Nevertheless, it was a comfortable relationship, at least on my part.  It was simple.  And, aside from the scourge of yearly mammograms, free of discomfort - physical, emotional, and spiritual.

A typical exchange between us would go like this:

"Are you trying to quit smoking?"


"What are you doing?"

"Well, I don't smoke in the house anymore, so that means I've cut back."

"Good.  If you need any help with that I would be happy to prescribe a drug that might cause acute renal failure and/or episodes of extreme fear."


I am going to miss her. 

I had a feeling that switching doctors was going to be traumatic.  And it was.  I had a couple of recommendations from the office secretary.  After an Internet investigation, I promptly took them off my dance card.  It was all about their hobbies.  Dr. A's hobby was being active in the Christian Fellowship Evangelical Free Church, and Dr. B's was running.  I'm sorry, but I didn't feel that I could share with either of these ladies the details of some my fonder memories from the '80s and their potential implications for my life expectancy.

I found a third doctor, Dr. C, whose hobby was reading.  Which seemed sensible to me.  However, Dr. C had moved her practice far away, and that led me to Dr. D. 

By now I was getting desperate, since I needed my prescription for Synthroid renewed, without which I would become a blimp.  So I chose Dr. D, since she was located only six blocks away, in spite of the fact that:
  1. She also listed running as a hobby.  But she also listed music and reading, which I hoped would offset that (it didn't);
  2. In her profile photo, Dr. D looked like she was about 17, which placed her dangerously close to what I consider "Doogie Howser" territory.  But she had a nice smile.  Unfortunately, I never got to see it in person;
  3. Her name is Mary Kathleen, something that looks better in print than it sounds ad alta voce, when pronounced by an adult.
Obviously, I was a little nervous.  And because I have been with the same doctor for the past 18 years, I was little prepared for what awaited me.

I started at the front desk, where it was remarked that I would be "establishing" (now, apparently, an intransitive verb) with Dr. Mary Kathleen.  Weird grammar, especially that which smacks of corporate-spawned psycho-voodoo, has always put me on edge, so I was off to a bad start.  I was then sent to another office, one floor down, to officially register.  Why registering for a routine check-up had to be done in a remote location by a designated registration squad is a puzzlement but, hey, I work in health care and I ask people to do stupid things all the time.  I politely cooperated, not wishing to emulate my more emotionally unstable patients.

After registering, I was treated to a brief session with a nurse who looked like she was about 17, too, and had lost her comb.  She took my height and weight, pointing out that the height measurement included my shoes.  I pointed out that the weight measurement also included my shoes, a remark I thought witty.  It did not elicit a reaction.

The nurse started asking me questions.  She seemed particularly concerned that I was depressed.  Lord knows why.  I have no history of depression.  I am not on any medications for depression.  I dress nicely, smile, don't slouch, and say please-and-thank-you.  She was apparently reading off a list.  I wisely answered "no" to everything.

Then came the alcohol questions, which were oddly numerous.

"Do you drink alcohol?"

(Yes.  Thank God.)

"How many drinks do you consume a week?"

(Depends on how many places I find myself where they make a decent martini.)

"Do you get angry or upset with people when you drink?"

(No angrier or upset than I would if I weren't drinking.  That's not quite true, but only when they deserve it.)

"Do you ever have a drink first thing in the morning?"

(I'm a little surprised that enough people answer "yes" to this question to warrant it being on a routine questionnaire.  That certainly makes my morning commute a little scarier.)

The doctor came in.  And then, no kidding, introduced herself as Mary Kathleen, with a thin-lipped smile that made me want to ask her the battery of depression questions.  She did all the usual things that my old doctor did, but with a very different result.  At the end of the consultation, during which I had endured a Pap test, I  also had orders for:
  1. A complete blood chemistry;
  2. A colonoscopy.  (Eight years overdue.  I was hoping to dodge that particular bullet long enough for them to invent a different test);
  3. A mammogram;
  4. A bone density test;
  5. A shingles vaccine;
  6. A peripheral arterial disease screening;
  7. A low-dose CT scan to screen for early lung cancer.

("Why?  What's wrong with you?" my daughter wanted to know.  "Nothing, as far as I know," I replied.  "My blood pressure's good.")

I balked at the CT scan.  Mainly because it terrifies me, but also because I'm not sure it would do any good.  I am also suspicious of medical tests advertised on TV.  "So they find out that I have lung cancer," I said to the good doctor.  "Then what?"

She gave me a withering look, one that told me I had just become my late mother.  "Then they take it out and treat you," she snapped.

That's what worries me.

As I left, the doctor shook my hand without much enthusiasm.  Maybe it was the Pap smear.  "We'll call you if there are any problems with the results of your blood test."

At work, two days later, my phone rang.

I was busy, dealing with the same kind of smart-ass patients that I probably was, so I let the call go to voicemail.  It was my new doctor's office.

"Please call us regarding your blood test.  Ask for the nurse."

Maybe all those questions and test orders spooked me more than I realized.  As I listened to the voicemail I freaked out.  Heart pounding, I dialed the phone with a shaking hand, and was subjected to several minutes of Mozart (and look what happened to him!) before finally being connected to the rumpled nurse.

"The doctor is going to decrease your dosage of Synthroid."

(Wait...that's a good thing, right?)

"And you need to have a follow-up blood test in six weeks."

(Wonderful!  The bruises from the first one should be gone by then.)

"And your cholesterol is a little high.  The doctor recommends a low-cholesterol diet and exercise."

(Not more than 5 mg of cholesterol will ever pass these lips again.  SO much easier than a low-dose CT scan.)

I went back to my desk to look up the blood test results, which were now posted on an electronic chart for my perusal.  My cholesterol numbers were exactly the same as they've always been, and everything else was within the range of normal.

Just what I was afraid of, I thought, I'm not good enough for a runner.  Sorry, Mary Kathleen, but I think that after I complete as much of the above testing as I can before the novelty wears off, I am going to disestablish? unestablish? myself from your practice.  Which I can do, because - nyah! nyah! - I've got a PPO.
And I know how to use it.
In conclusion, I would like to add a heart-felt "fuck you" to the fat little troll who scheduled my upcoming mammogram.  Who laughed when she asked me if I were pregnant.  She also asked me if I had breast implants, to which I replied by throwing open my coat and saying, "Obviously not."
Sweetheart, you can stuff your Vera Bradley handbag right up your ass.