Mirror, Mirror on the Ground

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The day began like most other days, with my Shih-Tzu licking himself and making obnoxious slurping noises. I swear, if this dog were human he would be one of those people that takes hour long showers. It’s also 5:15AM, but who’s looking at the clock? I get some coffee brewing, because when my wife wakes up she should be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. There’s no reason to break that tradition now.

It’s my day to drive the daughter to school, and surprise, she just remembered that she has a poetry project due today. In our most polite parenting voice, we urge her to write a poem of some kind - because a rough draft poem is better that an incomplete poem. With backpack and lunch in hand, we’re off to the car. It’s 7:40AM, but it’s also Friday, so there’s hope in the world.

My car is nearing the exit of our gated community (OK, it’s an apartment complex, but there is a gate). There are gardeners working feverishly to plant new ground cover and re-seed for winter. The entrance gate is closed. The exit gate is open. I proceed to drive out slowly, taking care to avoid spooking the greens-keepers. The gate, in what is most certainly a rebellious move, begins to close. It totally ignores the car sensor - there is supposed to be a car sensor, right? We hear a loud bang followed by a snapping sound. Then realizing that it may have made a mistake, the gate re-opens.

As I step out of the car, I see that my passenger side rear view mirror is on the ground. One of the gardeners picks it up and hands it to me. I thank him, because I’m polite, but don’t really know if that was the appropriate response in this situation. My poetry challenged daughter says that she thought a giant bird had hit our car, and that her ear hurts from the noise. On the drive to school, while my daughter is taking selfies of herself, I wonder how much this gate incident is going to cost me. The $1,000.00 figure keeps popping in my mind because it’s a nice round number and, like a trip to Costco, car repairs always costs more than you think they will.

The property management staff are very nice. But the way that they calmly tell me that they are not responsible for any damage, indicates that similar incidents may have happened here before - I’m guessing. They take an incident report and ask me to feel free to email them some pictures to attach to the file. This was not the scenario that I was expecting, so I leave the office slightly deflated and mirror-less.

Cut to: exterior - repair shop - day. All of the credit card stickers on the door do little lower the repair estimates floating around in my mind. I ask for the cash option, AAA discount, whatever, and fill out the necessary paperwork. As luck would have it, the side door buffs out rather nicely and doesn’t require any bodywork. The mirror, on the other hand, can’t be resuscitated and must be replaced. The bottom line is that it is going to cost me about $305.00 - a bargain compared to my original mental estimate.

We have options as consumers and residents. I could do some independent testing to verify that there is a working sensor beneath the exit. I could press the issue and go to small claims court. I will probably do neither of these, because in light of the damage, this is not the battle that I want to expend my energy.  I would still like to believe that we have a realistic expectation that automatic gated entries and exits should remain open when a car is within their reach. But, really, I just want my mirror back.


It Stings Like a B

Friday, October 10, 2014

Like so many of the non movie-like events in my life, I was stung by a bee last week while driving my car.  I wasn’t running in slow motion, while in a nature preserve, disrupting a bee’s daily activities with my right hand (like the first time I was stung).  I wasn’t playing on my swing set, as a child, dismounting the swing in slow motion and landing on a bee with my left foot (like the second time I was stung).  I was merely picking up my daughter from her cheerleading practice.  My trusty, emotionally misguided dog was at my side looking out the window.  He had been strangely preoccupied with my left knee, where I felt something cool and possibly wet.  I reached down with my right hand and was met with an incredible pain in my bird flipping finger.

I’ve had my share of bodily injuries along the arc of my life, so I’m no stranger to pain.  However this event made me scream out in agony.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to filter my emotions, so I inadvertently freaked out my daughter (who, I don’t believe, had ever heard me scream out loud before in her entire life).  I had no idea what had happened, but knew that I had to pull the car over to safely assess the situation.  I recall seeing some yellowish mass attached to the fingertip of my middle finger.  I remembered that you’re not supposed to squeeze the stinger; but I was in a rush to remove it as quickly as humanly possible.  With thumb and index fingers of my left hand, I did my best to extract the still throbbing stinger from my body.

As luck would have it, I was successful on the first attempt.  The poisonous needle was out of my finger, but the pain persisted with no change in intensity.  I was really trying to deal with the tortuous pain, when I noticed that my daughter was still at DEFCON 2 because the bee was continuing to circle around in the front cabin of my motor vehicle.  I told her that the bee was going to die, since it had already stung me, but an agitated Dad does little to reassure a panicky cheerleader when there are bees involved.  She finally waved it out the window and immediately offered to drive us home.  I should mention that she doesn’t have a driver’s license.  And even if I have let her drive a few times in an empty parking lot (which, for the record, I haven’t done – because that would be illegal), I wasn’t about to relinquish the wheel to her in the evening darkness.

Through the unflagging signals from the nerve endings in my finger, we made it home.  My oldest daughter began to Google treatments for bee stings while I recounted my previous bee encounters, decades ago, and the severe reactions I had from them.  The best course seemed to be ice water, and that recommended treatment seemed to work for a while.  I must say that while my finger was soaking in the water, I kept thinking that the ice water didn’t feel cold enough to be fully effective.  When the intensity began to subside, even though it had been a small eternity since my last stings, I instantly recognized the dull, deep sensation of pain that follows a bee attack.  Magically, in about 36 hours, my finger returned to normal and I could once again play the guitar or passive/aggressively point the finger at troublesome individuals. 
Fast forward to one week from the bee sting…  My finger began to itch and blow up in size.  I’m well versed in horror films, and know that realistically a finger can’t explode; but it felt as if my finger were headed in that direction.  So, at the recommendation of my wife and dentist (yes, I happened to have a dentist appointment that morning) I drove over to our local urgent care center.  The doctor squeezed my fingertip in all possible directions, and this time I was pretty sure that it would pop open – but it didn’t.  He suspected that the remaining scab on my finger might still contain a remnant of the stinger, and proceeded to pull out a rather large needle as his medical instrument of choice.  Like my previous ice bath, the liquid cold spray that he used to ‘numb’ my finger didn’t help hide the sensation of the excavation process to my satisfaction.  There was blood.  There was pain.  And, yes, there were even two prescriptions – not for pain, just for antibiotics and the swelling. 

Is there a moral to this pointed tale?  If there is, it might be: try not to freak out when a bee is flying nearby.  I’m still convinced that they don’t want to sting you; they’ve got better things to do.  I keep telling my daughters this, but they are still irrationally afraid of bees and bee stings.  If you are stung, please err on the side of safety and have yourself checked out by a professional.  And finally, I might suggest that you keep a safe distance from doctors carrying around large needles.  

*I could have used a more graphic photo for this post, but it was withheld at the bee's request.


Interview in Search of an Applicant

Monday, June 24, 2013

There is a question that I’m asked on interviews and general conversations that I absolutely hate.  We’ve all been asked the question; it’s just that some people are better than others when it comes to a providing a meaningful answer.  Don’t make me repeat it again.  All right, but this is the last time, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

How can I mess up my only chance for a good impression this time?  Well, let’s see, “I’m a guy.”  Yeah, that’s a good start, I think.  Now what?  Oh, yes, “I’m married and I have two kids.” OK, I think, now I’m getting somewhere.  I don’t know where, but it must be somewhere better than where I was 5 seconds ago.

“Did you want to know how many pets or anything that I have at the house?”

Oh, no, I don’t think I should have just asked that.  Nobody really cares about how many dysfunctional, domesticated animals that I have taking up space in my habitat. 

“But you probably don’t really want to know that, do you?”

I’m not a rocket scientist, nor have I ever considered becoming a rocket scientist, but I know one thing very clearly now; this is not going well, at all. 

“Can I start over again, I mean, after the “I’m a guy part?””

My audience clearly is not amused.  In fact, I think I’ve already seen one guy in my listening circle take a casual glance at his watch. 

“Do you want to know like character traits, or are you looking for something else?” 

I’m not really sure about the protocol regarding asking the interviewer for guidance while answering such a simple question, but I think someone needs to throw me a bone or something so I can get a better grip on things. 

“You probably already know that I have black hair, right?  Although, on my license I think it might say, ’brown’.  You might be looking for something a little more substantial.  Am I on the right track?  I’m sorry, but can you repeat the question one more time?  I think I’m getting away from the essence of what you’re really looking for.” 

I’m beginning to make all kinds of mental notes in my head.  First and foremost, I’ve really got to get some kind of answer to this question prepared in advance, so I can at least appear to know a little more about myself than I seem to at this point in time.  I have lived with myself for a while.  I’ve got to know something that I can put into words that might suggest that I didn’t just inhabit this body a moment before the question was asked. 

“Just to be clear, you want a little more than my favorite color … which is green by the way.  Oh, I know, I like music.  I used to play the saxophone, but not really anymore.  I still play the piano, though.  And some might assume that I’m a guitarist, because I have a few guitars, but really I’m just in a permanent learning mode.  Is that pertinent at all to this conversation?” 

A long silent pause follows.  “Is it getting a little warm in here?  Because I feel like I’m starting to sweat like a pig – although I heard once, a long time ago, that pigs don’t really sweat.  It’s some kind of myth, I think.”

Two of the three inquisitors politely excuse themselves from the conversation.  One person remains, makes a final note on her legal pad and thanks me as positively as she can.  I know that she is being totally insincere.  I should have mentioned during the interview that one of my strong skills is being able to accurately measure BS when I hear it. 

I’m still trying to figure out how my mental train of thought had jumped the rails so effortlessly.  Why couldn’t I have mentioned my creativity, organizational skills or strong work ethic?  It doesn’t really matter anymore; I’m sure they had already emailed me the appreciative rejection notice before I even got back into my car. 

So where does this leave me?  Well, it’s a little too late for that.  But for any future interviewees out there – take note:  prepare a few thoughts about yourself in advance.  Don’t think so much about a direct answer to the question.  A lot of the information that they are looking for is in the way you answer the question.  Be yourself.  Be calm.  And just for fun, throw in your favorite color. 


Who's Dinner is This Anyway?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We make simple dining requests throughout our lives.  Some are made out of convenience, others are made at the recommendation of friends or food critics.  I made such a request, for my past birthday. 

My wife asked me, perhaps out of an expected birthday courtesy, where I would like to eat for my birthday dinner.  I responded with a choice that I am quite fond of, an Italian style place that has a railroad theme inside; the name escapes me presently.  She paused just long enough to pretend to give it some thought, “I don’t want to eat there.  You’re joking, right?” 

I wasn’t joking, actually.  It had been a while and I had a real craving for the manager’s favorite with clam sauce and mizithra cheese. 

I should probably offer up a little background about my wife, for those who are unfamiliar.  She has clear opinions about restaurants, as any normal person would and should.  When it comes to dining, she’s not a big believer in second chances.  If she’s had a less than perfect experience once, it’s not likely that she will return there anytime soon.  I’m slightly more forgiving about such things, food poisoning excluded.  I know why she doesn’t want to go back to this place, but it was my birthday, and I do like the restaurant.  Besides, isn’t it standard operating procedure that the person with the upcoming birthday gets to choose the venue?

Up until the night of my birthday, I had held out some small hope that my simple request would be fulfilled.  On our drive home from work that day, she asked me again where I would like to eat.  I had my suspicions that it didn’t really matter what I said, she had already decided on a place. 

I have no complaints about the restaurant that she chose.  It’s a place on my short list of acceptable eateries.  She had even gotten more family and friends together than I had expected.  All in all, it turned out to be a good birthday meal.  In fairness, she didn’t ask me to bake my own birthday cake.  Baking, after all, is one of my hobbies; she could have easily twisted my arm and I would have whipped something up. 

But, you know, I still have a craving to go to dinner at the restaurant that I had originally suggested.  It’s been a while since I’ve eaten there, especially since my wife added it to her “no dine” list.  I spoke with my daughters and my brother, and everyone is on board to eat there with me one day in the near future.  Will my wife join us?  I’m not sure.  But if she does, I’ll be sure to alert the manager at the Spaghetti Factory beforehand to make sure that everyone on staff is on their best behavior.

photo courtesy of The Old Spaghetti Factory


Countdown to Colonoscopy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I believed myself to be cancer free, but I didn’t know if I would be able to say that again on the following day. In the morning, I was going in for my first colonoscopy. This is a procedure where a doctor examines the colon, at close range, looking for polyps or other out of the ordinary growths that don’t belong. There are three possible scenarios that I imagined I might awaken to, following the procedure: #1. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that everything went well, and there were not polyps. #2. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that there were only a few polyps, nothing suspicious, but they are being sent to the lab for review. #3. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that they found some very suspicious polyps and had to remove a section of my colon. He would go on to say that I need to meet with an oncologist to talk about a further course of action.

I was thrown, a bit, when I read the name of the colon cleanse solution that the doctor had prescribed for me to drink: MoviPrep. It sounded almost like it might have included a free movie rental in the box, something to pass the time away while sitting and waiting in the bathroom. I can clear up any confusion right here and now; there was no DVD in the box, but the colon cleanser was quite the blockbuster.

The process of the MoviPrep cleanse is a simply one. At 12 Noon you begin to drink the first quart of the concoction, one cup at a time, in fifteen minute intervals. I know the words “pleasant tasting” are bandied about quite a bit with liquid medicines, but this one really didn’t deserve that recommendation. I would say that it had a lemony flavor, but not like the lemon drinks that you might voluntarily consume. It tasted more like the lemon in Lemon Pledge - as if that were some sort of drink enhancer - instead of the very effective wood cleaning product that it is. Also, even though the reconstituted, two powder combination was clear, the consistency was thicker than water. I used a straw (strongly suggested) and powered down each eight ounces in record time. I chased the chilled beverage with spoonfuls of soft frozen lemonade, which was actually quite tasty. I didn’t gag or hesitate. I followed the instructions and did what I needed to do. I could go into detail; no, I really could - I kept a log, but it’s probably just best to say that there were soon some stomach noises followed by a growing desire to take a bathroom break.

The afternoon passed fairly quickly and before I knew it, it was 5:00PM - time for my second 32 ounce dose of Lemon Pledge.

On the day of the procedure, after filling out a few forms relinquishing all of my rights as a human, I was escorted into room number 11. It wasn’t really a room, but more of a wide stall. One of the nurses asked me to remove all of my clothes, except for my socks, and put on the gown. I’m sure I don’t need to describe a hospital gown to you. The bare butt joke has already been done in movies a few too many times. While changing, I kept looking out the window, trying to make sure that no one in their cars would be able to see me in my compromised state. I quickly slipped into the thing and got under the sheet of the hospital bed. The nurse then brought in a pre-heated blanket that rivaled the heated blankets at the Red Cross. They even offered me aromatherapy (citrus or lavender); I chose lavender. I could easily have mistaken being in a day spa, waiting for a deep tissue massage; but, of course, I wasn’t.

10:20AM The anesthesiologist told me that she was going to be giving me Propfol. I instantly recognized this drug, as anyone else who was alive when Michael Jackson died would have. Some things get tainted for life after public milestone events. (For me, it is still the Bruno Magli shoes that O.J. Simpson wore on the night of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman’s ‘mysterious’ homicide.) The Propofol was a white liquid in a syringe. I was told that I might feel a light burn when the drug entered my bloodstream. She asked me to count to ten in the one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two format.

I did feel a very slight burn, and after one-thousand-three, I told the doctor that I was beginning to feel the effect. I remember making it to nine before going blank. I can’t speak about anything else until I heard the nurse calling out my name.

I half-heartedly opened my eyes and asked what time it was. She said that it was 10:56. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long, as the drug’s effect hadn’t left my system yet. I’ve felt like this before, at home, not being able to stay awake despite trying my hardest. It may have been another 5-10 minutes before I really began to regain my senses.

Just like a good episode of Barnaby Jones, all good things must come to an end. After eating a hospital provided day-old chocolate chip cookie for my first solid meal, the doctor came in to check on me. He said that everything went well, and I was completely normal - no polyps. This came as a big relief to me. He went on to say that I wouldn’t need another colonoscopy for another 10 years. I would hope that the MoviPrep people would take advantage of that time and come up with some kind of improved version of ‘pleasant tasting lemon flavor’.

I would encourage anyone who is either at risk of colon cancer or nearing the age where this preventative test is recommended, to put aside your fears and see a gastroenterologist. Peace of mind has a value in life. A colonoscopy is a small price to pay for that peace.


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