Relative Life

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

I saved a worm recently.  I know, it's no big deal.  Most people don't care and many others find the very thought of worms disgusting.  Does a worm have any value anyway?  When I really think about it, I may not have actually saved the worm's life; I may have just prolonged it.  I'll never know, because I'm never going to see that little worm again.  Would I even recognize it if I did?

I was taking my afternoon walk, listening to music through my headphones.  On the sidewalk, I saw some movement in front of me.  It was a little worm, wriggling on the hot cement.  Clearly, it had no chance to survive.  It was on it's way to being cooked alive.  I stopped, quickly surveyed the situation and came to a decision.  I grabbed a small leaf on the ground, scooped up the worm and placed in on the grass, where it began to slither down (presumably) to the dirt.  I can almost imagine the cooling sensation of the blades of grass that the worm might have felt if it has any semblance of consciousness.

It's not the kind of thing that I would bother to tell anybody.  It's just a worm - for crying out loud.  The karmic repercussions can't amount to much, if those kind of things are based on gross weight.  I only mention it here because as I have grown older, I have a higher regard for life, no matter where it presents itself.  After all, can anyone deny that the spark of life necessary for humans is any different than the miracle of life for any other living organism?   No matter how small, no matter what feelings or fears one might have for snakes, ants or snails - life is still a random gift that is rarer than most people would care to admit. 


Pharma TV

Monday, April 9, 2018

I’m not a big TV watcher anymore, but I do have a short list of titles that I watch on a regular basis.  You know, as you get older, you don’t always pay so much attention to all the commercials anymore.  I’ve noticed that recently, there are quite a few pharmaceutical advertisements airing.  And, the content of these ads is difficult to understand.  I find it more fun to watch them without sound, and try to guess what kind of ailment they are designed to treat. 

The names of these medications are difficult to pronounce, because they have a lot of J’s, X’s, Y’s and Z’s.  It’s so much easier to just describe the commercial to your doctor when requesting a specific medication.  For example, “Oh, doctor, I’d like to try a new medicine that just came on the market.  I can’t remember the name of it, but when I’m out on a date night with my wife, it’s supposed to make her laugh a little harder at my jokes.  Do you know that one?  It’s the one that had some side effects like dry mouth, projectile vomiting and in some rare cases, sudden unexplained death. 

There was another one I wanted to try out.  It makes listening to music more enjoyable when played on a vintage record player. The side effects of that one were halitosis, diarrhea and a possible outbreak of rashes all over the body. 

And there was a commercial for a drug that will make you a better fisherman.  It had some weird name, but I clearly remember that the side effects were only temporary paralysis of one side of the body, spikes of high blood pressure and blurred vision. 

One medicine boasted making your dog more affectionate toward you, when you sit on a recliner.  But you can’t take that one if you have high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction or sleep apnea.

It might have been my imagination, but I seem to recall a theme park funded medicine called Minnestra™ that gives you the patience to enjoy yourself more while at the theme park – even with larger than normal crowds.  The only visible side effects of this one were sweaty palms and an uncontrollable urge to buy cotton candy, churros and souvenirs. 

There was even one that helped raise your bowling average while using a hexagonal bowling ball.  Afterwards, the bowler rode home on a bike with square wheels.  This one didn’t appeal to me, though, because I can already bowl well with a traditional round ball, and think that the bumpy ride on the bike might aggravate a past back injury. 

There are so many aspects of my life that I’d like to improve upon and the future looks much rosier now, since the formulation of many new types of drugs.  I didn’t always feel this way, but I might be willing to suffer an occasional seizure if it would allow me to fold my clothes a little more professionally.  And I’ve never really had a strong desire to hang out by the lake with my family, but if a little male pattern baldness would make that scenario more appealing, I might be willing to try that new green pill. 

What I’d really like to see on the market is a small round pill that makes the pharma ads easier to decode.  Or maybe the big pharma companies could save their money with the FDA approval on that, and just make better commercials that make more sense.  Or, and I’m just thinking out loud here, maybe they could stop the ads and work on cures for some of the yet unsolved illnesses.  I mean, aren’t there already enough medications on the market that make people want to mow their lawn?


The Accidental Chinese Foot Massage

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What’s better than a massage on Mother’s Day? Well, for my wife, shopping at a thrift store is better.  I went along for the ride and noticed that there was a little hole-in-the-wall massage parlor in the adjoining strip mall.  It advertised $20.00 for a one hour foot massage.  Being the inquisitive potential customer, I looked up the establishment on Yelp.  There were some conflicting reviews, but the ‘between the lines’ message that I gleaned was that the place offered a good value and suggested that some reviewers went back for repeat business.  It was clear that a $10.00 tip was highly recommended, but even so, $30.00 for an hour massage seemed a great perceived value.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to massages: some people believe that a massage should be a relaxing, spa-like experience where your body is gently caressed while the air is filled with a hint of lavender or eucalyptus.  Others believe that a massage should be of the deep tissue type, where there may be brief moments of discomfort, and no amount of lavender or eucalyptus in the air will be enough to transform it into a truly pleasing experience.  You might call this the “no pain, no gain” mentality.

I’ve had foot massages before.  My most memorable ones were during a trip to China.  While there, I had one full body massage and a bunch of foot massages.  The full body massage still remains fresh in my mind because of the painful scraping sensation on my back, and the irritation that I felt on my back following the session.  An hour or so after I got back to my hotel room, I began to feel something similar to a sunburn.  It persisted to the point where I felt compelled to look at my back in the mirror.  I don’t know if it was more disbelief or horror, but my back no longer resembled ‘my back.’ It had more of the appearance of well, I don’t know, perhaps a strange piece of body art created by an out of control laser.  You can see for yourself what it looked like in the following picture that I captured in the mirror of my room.  

It turns out that I had been given a coin massage, or Gua sha, and apparently there were a lot of bad demons or spirits in my back that had to escape. 

My foot massages in China were also memorable.  I was put in the hands of a diminutive woman, whose strength was inversely proportionate to her size.  Although extremely painful, it was one of those ‘hurts so good’ kinds of procedures where you almost feel more grateful that the massage is over than leave with a feeling of relaxation that the massage is supposed to generate.  This little woman reached in the nooks and crannies of my feet in a way that suggested she had more familiarity with feet than do some podiatrists. 

This past Mother’s Day, I went in for a foot massage.  I had the China experience in mind, but decided that I would keep an open mind and let the eucalyptus leaves fall where they may.  From this point forward, I have to put the words “foot massage” in quotation marks, because what I got that day, didn’t so much resemble a straight forward foot massage as it did an exercise in exploring my threshold of pain (which is high), but even I have my limits.  Afterwards, I was left in a daze for a few hours as I tried to comprehend what had just been done to my body.

Just a week earlier, I had told my foot doctor not to push so hard on my heel (I have plantar fasciitis) because he had hurt me during my previous visit.  I had thought about saying something to the masseuse about my right heel, but decided against it at the last minute and chose to take my chances.  I admit, in retrospect, that sometimes my instincts are slightly off the mark. 

I was led into a cubicle with shoulder-high curtained borders and a massage bed in the middle.  The maĆ®tre d’, if you will, motioned for me to put my stuff in a basket off to the side.  What exactly to put in the basket was not clear, but I emptied my pockets and put in my socks.  Should I have taken off my shirt/pants? Strange thoughts go through one’s mind before a massage, but I prefer to err on the side of caution. I remained fully clothed.

After soaking my feet in tepid water, he began with my left foot.  This was a good thing, because it would give me a sneak preview of what to expect when he got to my right, sore heel.  I’m guessing that it’s not just me, but I am extremely ticklish when it comes to my feet.  It’s hard for me to relax when I’m simultaneously squirming and trying not to laugh.  He didn’t explore all of my foot as his Chinese counterpart did, but he covered the highlights and didn’t cause me any undue pain. 

The rest of the massage, I’ll admit was intense.  I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to start crying a few times.  I’m convinced that he wanted to get my back to crack, like at a chiropractor’s office.  I thought I felt some frustration on his part when he didn’t hear any popping noises, but that might just be me imagining things.  There were times, when the masseuse touched on some pressure points I never knew existed.  How did he find them, and why did he have to push so hard?  The thought of being in an octagon for an MMA fight kept popping in my head.  I’m convinced that if I were in a ring, I would have tapped out – a few times.

Maybe the manhandling that I was subjected to was payback for not joining my wife at the thrift store – on Mother’s Day.  Maybe the masseuse was trying to get me to tap out or cry, so he could put another notch on his belt.  Or maybe, just maybe, I should have spoken up a little and kindly asked the guy to take it down a notch.  I, of course, am going with the second option; but like I said earlier, my judgement is sometimes slightly off.


What's in Your Glove Compartment?

Monday, April 17, 2017

I’m not a professional comedy writer, so I probably couldn’t have come up with this story even if I locked myself in a room and bribed myself with Oreos and Dark Chocolate M&Ms. 

I got a letter in the mail today from the company that built our car.  I could tell you what car company sent the notice, but I’m not comfortable disclosing the source of one of my funnier jokes.  I may have to draw from that well again if I ever get writer’s block.  (OK, it’s FCA – look it up if you can’t figure it out.)  It was a recall notice dealing with the subject of proper child rear seat installation.  Apparently, the owner’s manual may have misinformed some people with the fine details of the attachment process.

There was an addendum card enclosed, which was about the size of a large postcard.  The notice asked owners to review the corrected content on the card and then place the card in the glove compartment.  It went on to say that “If you prefer not to place the addendum card (in the glove compartment) yourself, simply contact your dealer to schedule a service appointment.”  If you bring the addendum card to the dealership, they would be happy to put it in the glove compartment for you – at no charge.  It went on to say that if you have already paid for this repair, you may apply for a reimbursement. 

There was a moment, albeit brief, that I wondered if our local car dealership might offer a loaner car for the duration of the repair, but while re-reading the recall notice, I saw that the estimated time it would take to put the addendum card in the glove compartment would probably not exceed just a few minutes. 

I don’t have a huge social network to poll, but even so I don’t believe I have any friends, family members or co-workers that would find it more convenient to make a service appointment with the dealership to perform this “repair” than to put on their Mr. Fixit auto repair hat and insert the addendum card into the owner’s manual themselves.  It couldn’t be too dirty a job, and might offer a good opportunity to do some spring cleaning of forgotten parking tickets, expired registration forms and insurance cards at the same time. 

I chose to do the repair myself.  I hope that in the process I didn’t void the warranty in any way.  It wasn’t specific about where to put the notice, so I just put it in the front of the manual between the “Congratulations on Your New Car” and “Don’t Waste the Dealer’s Time with Unnecessary Issues” sections.  I hope I got that about right.


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