In The Twitch of an Eye

Eye Twitch

You can ask anyone, I’m a pretty laid-back guy. That is, when I’m not unduly annoyed or unfairly stressed out. Right now I’m annoyed. Know why? Because my eye is twitching! I don’t know why! It happens on inconvenient occasions, suddenly, uncontrollably and without warning.

I have strained my poor wore-out brain trying to figure out the reason for this week’s twitch, but it could be one of hundreds of eye-twitching reasons. But I’ve narrowed it down. Here are the top usual suspects:

Drivers

Let me be clear: other drivers annoy me on a daily basis. But some particular drivers causes my eye to twitch like a son of a motherless goat. Slow drivers for one. Why? If the speed limit allows up to 35 MPH why would you drive 25? Or 20!?! Not only is that the root cause of many of my eye twitches, but I also think it causes some variation of Tourrette syndrome where I spout profanities I’ve never heard before.

And let’s talk about texting. Why – oh WHY!? – would you text at a red light? It is still illegal, and suddenly the light is green and I’m waiting for you to finish sending a grocery list to your squeeze. Stop it, people!

Slow Walkers in a Crowd

Picture this: it’s the holiday season. I am required, nay, I desire to provide my children and loved ones with a nice gift or three. I just spent 2.7 hours trolling the mall parking lot and finally landed somewhere out in the north 40, somewhere approximately 10 miles from the warmth of the mall doors.

I am motivated to get in, buy what I need from a pre-arranged list, and get back home. But alas, I am amassed in a crowd, and stuck behind slow walkers. I can’t get around to the left or to the right because a flood of people are coming from the other way. The slow walkers act like stones in a stream, parting the oncoming herd in such a way to prevent a pass, and would otherwise result in getting me trampled.

Yeah, eye twitching commences.

Escalator blockers

And on the subject of malls, have you ever taken an escalator up or down and the nice folks in front of you step off and STOP! Obviously the world must cease for them as they look left and right to find their next destination! We unworthy schmucks must bump and collide, and commence the twitching.

Reply-All’ers

I’m sure this has never happened to you, but I am plagued with co-workers who ‘Reply All’ when responding to an email. Usually this is followed by another, and yet another, etc. etc., individual who responds to the responder, replying ‘ALL’ the whole while.

Soon my email inbox is flooded with useless unread junk mail, and eye twitching is thusly initiated.

Loud Sneezers

I get it. Sneezing is involuntary. But a sneeze is nothing more than spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm and chest muscles to expel air in order to release nasal irritants. It is NOT, however, an excuse to scream!

The sudden and forceful explosion of air causes serious resonance and overtones that a seasoned opera singer would be proud of. Trust me, no one wants to hear your 120 decibel ‘bark’ of a sneeze.

And for the love of a banana, people, cover your mouth! My entire face twitches when I see some clod, usually a kid, let it all out without an attempt to cover. And don’t think that the pathetic fist in front of your face is stopping any of that projectile mucus!

That’s the final cut list, albeit not a complete one, of the most likely eye twitching culprits – from just the past HOUR! There’s a lot more reasons that make my eye twitch, so I’ll work on that list for In The Twitch of an Eye – Part 2, coming soon!

Fuel for Thought – It Ain’t Chump Change

Gas

The chore of filling one’s automobile with gasoline has become a heroic, if not Herculean, task. Finding the best cost is prohibitive, the lines are abominable, and laws are ridiculous. First, let’s take a look at the cost of fuel.

According to AAA as of the date of this writing, the national average price of a gallon of gas is $2.441. That’s based on the low side of $2.09, to the high side of $second-mortgage.

Ha! I wish. I’m from Oregon. We’re not even close to that. I’m not sure where a poor (and I mean poor after paying for a tank of gas) car owner can get that price anywhere in Oregon. But any convenient national chain gas station does not sell for less than $3 bucks, and most cases they collect a cool $3.50-9/10 per gal. Hummer owners in Oregon have to be rich oil princes to even fill their tanks

I’m an Executive Card carrying member of Costco, which means I get a truckload of cereal for around $20, a dumptruck full of toilet paper for $25, and gasoline for around 20% less than at the local Chevron.

But that also means I have to find an elusive Costco before I run out of gas. A quick search for Costco on the ol’ Google map and I find only 5…count ‘em…FIVE Costco locations in the greater Portland area. With a metro population of around 2.2 million that’s one Costco for every 440,000 wholesale-lovin’ customers.

And I think every one of those Costco cost-saving lovers needs a fill-er-up the day, hour and minute I choose to fill up. That means about a wait of a day and a half before I finally arrive at the actual fuel pump.

And don’t forget, Oregon law states I cannot under any circumstance, and under penalty of force-listening to a Millli Vanilli album, pump my own gas. So when I arrive at an actual pump, I need to wait an everlasting hour for the schmuck tending to 10 different vehicles to get a nozzle in my tank, and then wait another miserable eternity for him or her to un-nozzle everyone’s tank.

That also means after I fill up I have to go straight back to the end of the line if I want to fill up again before running out of gas. It’s just like the song that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friend.

But, oh, the cost savings! I’ll save seven bucks on a fill up of my small 10-gallon tank! If you need me I’ll be at the local Subway spending my savings on a toasted cold cut combo sandwich.

The Joys (and Perils) of Steroids

SteroidsA recent and unexpected visit to the local Hospital Inn resulted in a prescription for prednisone. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that is used to treat inflammation, allergies, arthritis, and create Schwarzenegger size biceps. In my case, it’s meant to help reduce inflammation in the lungs, and build those Arnold biceps of course.

The side effects of prednisone, however, are lengthy. If a medieval royal announcer were to read the side effects, it would look much like in the movies where they drop a vertical scroll and it rolls the length of the castle and out the door.

Fortunately I don’t have all the side effects, but one interesting effect is that I now apparently have the ability to leap a tall building in a single bound. The anti-inflammatory function has, at least temporarily, cured by poor aging and aching joints! I feel great! I feel like running a lap or 4.

The problem with the above leaping is that I probably would hit the side of the building since I couldn’t see it. Evidently blurry vision is another side effect.

Another effect, and this could be good or bad depending how you look at it, is that my voice has become hoarse and raspy. I’m a singer by trade, and while I am terrified of losing the beautiful tone I’ve worked years to hone, I now sound like Huey Lewis or Bryan Adams in their prime. My pop singing career is about to take off!

The doctors also warned me that taking the steroid supplement may cause me to become a bit more aggressive or agitated. They don’t know what they’re talking about!  THEY’RE NUTS! NUTS I TELL YA!!

Ok, joking aside, I have not really felt any more aggressive or irritable. Although yesterday at work I was privy to a sparring email exchange between my boss and another worker. I had no involvement in the subject that was being discussed but at one point I did want to chime in and say, “JUST SHADDUP! YOU HAD THE INFORMATION AND YOU DIDN’T USE IT! IT’S YOUR FAULT!”

AND BY THE WAY, WILL SOMEONE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF BABY JESUS SHUT OFF THE RINGING IN MY EARS??!!

Oh yeah, ringing ears is another side effect. Ok, maybe feeling a bit more aggressive than normal.

One side listed side effect that I’m looking forward to is “fruit-like breath odor”. That should be handy for making out with my honey! Although the side effect of dry mouth and tearing eyes may give off the wrong signals. Hmmm, maybe I should rethink the make out sessions.

In the meantime I’m heading to either the recording studio or The Voice. I’ll let you know when my first pop single is released.

Here Comes the Prick – An Ode to Healthcare

Needle

There are certain words that physicians and general healthcare workers should never use. These words include, but are not limited to:

    “Woops!”

    “Uh oh”,

and especially:

    “I’ve never seen THAT before!”

These no-no terms, as well as acceptable words, are usually taught in their first year of medical school in the required class, Don’t Scare Your Patients, ya Bonehead! – 101. One of the “acceptable” terms they teach is the simple, thoughtful, “Hmmmm….”

That’s the term I heard when I went back to the doc for a follow up pneumonia treatment. “Hmmmm….”

When you show up at the doctor office, the first thing that happens (after your mandatory 75 minute holding tank in the stuffy but appropriately named ‘waiting room’) is that the nurses and aides register a host of “vitals”, or vital signs. Many of them are taken simultaneously from a tiny, portable Star Trek-like machine that registers temperature, blood pressure, pulse, hat size, shoe size, ring size, and a lesser-known and seemingly unimportant sign of blood oxygen (O2) saturation.

That last one is what made my healthcare worker scrunch his face, scratch his beard, cross his eyes and go, “hmmmm….”. And I thought, “oh boy, could be a long afternoon.” Brother, I had no idea.

A normal O2 level is 95% or higher, and anything below 94% is considered DANGER WILL ROBINSON levels. Mine was at 88%. I said, “but that’s a B+ level, I’ll take that!”.

It was at that point that a hustle of activity began in my tiny treatment room. They slapped an oxygen mask on me, and I was stripped down and stuck with about 150 electrodes all over my body (I didn’t know you could put an electrode there!) for an electrocardiogram, or EKG (don’t ask where the ‘K’ comes from – it’s medicine).

The attending doctor supervised all this activity in the doorway and told me that my low oxygen was called Hypoxia, and that I was going straight to a hospital E.R. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200, and you are definitely in no condition to drive so we’ll call a ride for you. No, not a simple Uber, but a 1st class ticket on an ambulance.

All the while I’m thinking, “wadda heck just happened here? All I wanted was a refill on my inhaler!”

The nice thing about a 1st class ticket from the ambulance is that I got wheeled into the E.R. and got priority check in – no waiting! I was then transferred to my E.R. ‘suite’, which I’m positive was a former supply closet for mops. Again I was connected to all sorts of diodes and oxygen, and then the fun started with needles!

While I’m not a fan of needles, I have no problem getting stuck when I donate blood or need to go in for lab testing each year to make sure I can still eat bacon. But my assigned nurse, bless her heart, could not find a vein, or even an artery. But she sure found all parts of my arms!

She tried jabbing in locations on both arms, and each time before she inserted the needle she would say, “here comes the prick.” Ok, no problem. It stung each time, but each time she gave that proper politically correct, “hmmmm…..”

No luck. Try again. “Here comes the prick…hmmmmm” And repeat. Her fourth and final try on some phantom vein she continued, “here comes…”

“…the prick. I know,” I said, and patiently remained calm as she rooted around my arm for a slice of my blood.

After four excruciating attempts at different places on both arms, she threw up her hands and sent in Nurse Ratched, who with one swift and rather unnecessarily violent maneuver stabbed a needle IV in the crook of my left elbow. “Ow…” I whimpered. “Don’t be such a baby,” she scorned, “it’s just a needle.”

Thankfully that was the last I saw of Nurse Ratched, but it wasn’t the final pricking. They needed more of my essence for more tests. Lab techs came in single file to steal my bloody essence from hands and arms. Each one would politely say, “you’ll feel a little prick now…”  “Bring it on,” I said defiantly. “You want my blood?! I’ll just make more!” I think they left me about a pint in my system just to live on.

With the IV in place, they wheeled me in to perform a CT scan, where they basically send you prostrate through a big donut that twirls around your midsection. Naturally, I felt right at home under the CT scan as my midsection is the general shape of a donut anyway.

They injected me with iodine to help with contrast of the internal images, which felt nice and warm and kinda made me feel like I was peeing. Luckily no actual pee was released.

Hours later, and feeling nice and high on 4 liters of oxygen supplement, a doctor informed me that the CT scan showed inflammation of the lungs, and due to my low O2 I was going to be admitted for “observation”.

The funny thing about hospital “observation” is that no one really observes the patient much. At all. Hours go by, then suddenly in a flash of scurrying activity they take more blood, they wheel the patient out for new tests, and then more hours go by. Obviously it’s not the patient that is observed, but the tests, and only on the limited free time of the doctors after their daily round of golf.

Lucky for me they gave me a massive 12 inch low-def television to catch up on my Friends and Fresh Prince episodes, and came around regularly with trays of some kind of grub that resembled a hocky puck with gravy, a literal rubber chicken, and odiferous steamed brussel sprouts. No desserts were offered, but I did opt once for a thimble of chocolate milk just to get a gram of sugar in me.

Two days of ‘observation’ went by when finally a doctor struts in looking much like a statuesque Jimmy Garrapolo informing me that they have done all they can for me and that I should cease inhaling their pure oxygen.

Through all their three and a half dozen tests they were able to determine what I didn’t have: I didn’t have pneumonia, the flu, the Chinese flu, the bird flu, swine flu, or any kind of infection whatsoever; I didn’t have any COPD, NYPD, LAPD, lung cancer, or other obstruction disease; no small pox, chicken pox, cow pox, or monkey pox; no limbs or appendages were missing, and the headache I was feeling was probably just from overwatching Fresh Prince reruns.

Basically my lung tissue was inflamed, likely due to an allergy. An ALLERGY!? All this ‘cause I somehow inhaled an impure mold, spore, or fungus? Oy.

I was not cured but needed “urgent” follow up with a pulmonologist. I heard “Palmonologist” and hoped I would just need a simple palm reading down the street to seek my future and fortune. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

They promptly took away my precious oxygen tube and said I was free to go. They handed me a bill for the measly sum equivalent to a home in swanky Lake Oswego, and a jar full of steroids to keep the inflammation down and build up my biceps to near Arnold Swartzenegger size – at least there was a positive side.

I was glad to breathe clean, fresh outside air once again, and eat regular healthy food such as a Burger King Whopper. That was my truly first, and hopefully last, required stay in the Hospital Inn (it ain’t no Holiday, I can tell ya!).

And if I play my cards right and read the signs correctly in the future, the next time I feel like I’m dying from pneumonia I will ignore those instinctual urges to visit the doc and just let the molds eat me. I’ll get pricked a lot less.

Pneumonia – Wish I Hadn’t Known Ya

funny-sick-husbands-memes-71-598c466c30198__700

A man with a cold may as well have a debilitating life-threatening disease. Without essential life-saving chocolates, Doritos, and a Netflix subscription a man would never survive such a harrowing near-death experience. Crucial to a man’s recovery is a soft bed, couch, or reclining La-Z-Boy.

In addition, the man needs a mate who can provide and serve the above-mentioned essentials, as well as any other medically necessary food or drink items the man feels will improve his condition. In some cases, the mate may need to take a family leave from her work, and/or hire additional servants, doubling as medical caretakers, to aid in the ongoing and constant delivery of comfort food and drink, as it may take weeks for full recovery.

Walking pneumonia, or atypical pneumonia is a different disease animal. This condition seems to affect the lungs, but in a minor way. The symptoms? Simple: it causes a dry cough and heavy breathing when climbing an elevation equal to two stair steps. I feel like I’ve run a 100-meter sprint if I actually climb a full level of stairs. I’m sure I would keel over dead if I had to climb two floors.

The problem with atypical pneumonia is that nobody cares. I don’t sneeze. I don’t have a runny nose, or aches or pains or fever. Thus, I have no team of servants medical providers who will bring my required necessities, or heed my every command request.  I’m just out of breath a lot, and produce a mighty cough once in a while. And it has lasted thus far for six weeks! But it doesn’t diminish the feeling that my health improvement regiment requires time off of work, comfort food, and endless supply of Netflix movies.

So what’s a poor guy to do with walking pneumonia? One must help one’s self in this case. So here’s my plan of treatment:

  • Cheap fast food for lunch – gotta save money for the dang Albuterol inhaler and matching medical bong that goes with it.
  • All the diet cola I can drink.
  • Straight home from work each day. Recline chair, lift feet, with a nice relaxing glass of bourbon.
  • Since I’m “well” enough to go to work, avoid sleep and spend extra time at night catching up on meaningless TV shows and movies.
  • Expand said streaming services to include Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and CBS All Access so that I have the most variety of shows.
  • Refrain from calling or seeing doctor again after three more weeks of coughing with no improvement. That $30 co-pay just went to my new Disney+ channel anyway.

Eventually I hope to be well enough to actually do something productive, like actually going out to see a feature film, buy new shoes, or shop for more chocolate. In the meantime (cough) I’ll be in my La-Z-Boy if you need me.

The Need for Speed

Tire

Formula 1 racing has re-entered my life with a vengeance! As a boy made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, I loved cars, and the cool-looking Indy cars and Formula 1 was my thing. At some point racing disappeared as I found other interests, like girls and drums and brass band instruments. But thanks to Netflix and a new behind-the-scenes series about Formula 1, I rediscovered a passion for grand prix style racing!

The problem is, now I drive my little Toyota Yaris like it’s a grand prix racer. I see the racing ‘line’ in every curve and turn, and take corners that feel like it’s pulling at least five G’s. It’s a zippy car, and the acceleration is awesome! If I’m toe-to-toe with another vehicle at a traffic light, and our 2-lane merges into a 1-lane after the intersection, I’m off to the races when the light turns green. I want the lead! No one is going to slow me down! If I spot a slo-mo-Joe holding up traffic down a stretch putting along under the speed limit, I’m inches behind, waiting for my chance to take the lead as soon as he turns.

Same with interstate driving. I prefer the fast lane, and as long as I’m going the speed of others in the fast lane I’m not worried about the fuzz. I will keep up with the fast-folk, and give a little wave as I pass the slo-mo’s.

Except when it rains.

Turns out the puny donut tires on a Yaris have horrible traction. On wet roads I slip and slide just accelerating from a stop. And forget about snow or ice. I got caught just once in a miniscule snow fall where I nearly rear-ended another vehicle. Once. I gently pressed the brake, but that feeling of, “oh shit, I’m still moving” came over me. Luckily my Montana snow driving skills and instincts took over and narrowly missed any fender bender. Do not drive a Yaris in the snow! Ever!

But in Portland it is impossible to avoid the rain during winter months. And those months are generally from September 1st through the following August, with about a week of dry summer in there somewhere. Driving to work in a downpour in the black of early morning following a convoy of semi-trucks with wipers that clean about as well as a grease cloth– that’s the stuff horror movies are made of. My little pee-wee tires hydroplane along the ruts in the road and slide me from side to side bouncing off cars, vans and trucks like the centipede in the famous video game I loved as a kid (but not as much as I loved race cars!)

I firmly believe I have developed arthritis in my knuckles as a result of clutching my steering wheel for dear life in poor weather. I am maimed. And my racing career will never take off, I’m afraid. Oh well, racing season starts soon, and I’m gearing up (see what I did there?) for speed, even if it’s just through a 50 inch TV.

Oh, The Things You Will Buy!

Flying Money-3

Remember how we used to buy stuff we didn’t need? Like the good ol’ days of the HSN? Where for hours on end you could watch fabulous new merchandise, clothing and jewelry displayed on your tele with a dazzling pitch from paid hosts? If you never needed a panini grill before, the HSN would convince you otherwise and you’d be cranking out paninis by the end of the week.

Or those great commercials where all we needed was a credit card to pay 2 easy installments of $19.95 each (plus shipping and handling) so you could possess a self-cleaning mop. But wait! Look what else you get! Two mops for the price of one!

I am ancient enough to also remember the one-page advertisements at the back of comic books, where I could buy X-Ray glasses to see through the clothing of my latest crush (they don’t work, by the way). Or the ever-popular handshake buzzer (good luck hiding that obvious practical joke in your hand).

Now, though, Amazon has given us the world at our fingertips. It’s convenient enough to find and order anything you need on Amazon and have it delivered to your doorstep within 48 hours. But I have discovered Amazon’s “TODAY’S DEALS” which is a list of about 100 web pages of fabulous merchandise that changes on a daily basis, and shows you everything you want (but don’t need).

If there is a legitimate FOMO syndrome, I can confidently diagnose myself with it now because I can’t go a day without checking TODAY’S DEALS in fear that I will miss something absolutely fabulous that I hafta hafta have, like satin pillowcases or LED colored string lights or Bluetooth wireless earbuds.

Recently I bought a watch. Why? I don’t need a watch. I haven’t worn a watch in years. I have my ever-present smart phone that gives me the most accurate time and even falls back or springs forward all by itself. I can even get the time in Timbuktu or Titicaca if I want to. Why would I need a watch? But this watch had music clef designs and notes as the numbers! I had to have it, and only for $4.99 (plus S & H).

Let’s see what’s on TODAY’S DEALS today. Oh, wow! I can whiten my teeth for only $16.99! Or…yes! That’s cool! I can get a 12-speed immersion hand blender for only $33 bucks and pocket change!

If you’re wondering where I am lately or why I haven’t responded to texts or calls or updated my social media, just listen for the sucking vortex of Amazon’s DEALS and I will likely be there ordering my next meat thermometer or swinging hammock.