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.


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