No, Ma, I didn’t try to slit my wrists! Honest!
This is my third attempt at starting this blog post. There are times when so much is going on that it’s difficult to know where to begin. But I think I can fairly characterize the general theme of my thoughts today as “frustration.”
I have always imagined myself to be a patient person, the type you would feel comfortable spending time with your kid or your grandma or, say, teaching French to your teenage niece. However, I am discovering that this is no longer true. I am becoming old and crotchety, my reserve of patience having run as low as California’s reservoirs in our current time of drought.
And everything frustrates me.
Little things. Big things.
Perhaps I am overreacting because I have just had the Friday from hell. Perhaps Saturday will be better.
For one thing, I am seriously questioning whether I have the right attitude to continue blogging about homelessness. Those of you who have been reading my ramblings for a while may have a general idea of what I mean. Homeless Guy #1, whom all of us here at the church parsonage have tried to help in every way possible, is now in jail awaiting trial for rape. Homeless Guy #2 is quite disappointed in me because I failed to assist him with his legal paperwork. I had explained to him that he only had a month in which to file it, but he never seemed to find the time to review it with me. He called me from a friend’s cell phone two days before the deadline and I had to tell them it was too late. As for Homeless Guy #3, oh my… We have been allowing him to use the church rest room and he has (in my opinion) abused the privilege. I am therefore in favor of revoking said privilege. Not only have I been overruled on the grounds that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” but I managed to make things worse by lashing out with an uncalled-for rude remark about it. I don’t know. The way I was raised, when you abuse a privilege, it is taken away. Frustration!
I must pause here and say a special “thank you” to all of my 2,900 followers. It warms my heart that you continue to read my posts week after week. My current followers are even more precious to me because I am unlikely to collect many more. You see, for months, A Map of California has been listed as a Recommended Blog by WordPress under the NaBloPoMo category. Readers could find me! Now, however, WordPress has removed that category. Frustration!
I need a new pair of eyeglasses, as my current frames have become hopelessly scratched over the couple of years that I have had them. I had an ophthalmologist appointment back in July, and was informed that I needed no change of prescription. So today I called their office to request a copy of my prescription. They informed me that there is a $45 charge to obtain said copy, but that they’d waive the charge if I purchase my glasses from their (expensive) optical store. My poor wife was so upset that she said a bad word. Fine. We’ll just go to the optical department at Sam’s Club or Walmart and have them read the prescription off the lenses themselves. When we called, however, they informed us that they don’t do that. Frustration!
We recently purchased a birthday present for my wife from walmart.com. It arrived in the mail and tonight my wife tried to use it. Well, guess what? It didn’t work. Fine. We packed it up and made a late night run to the store to return it. Dodging the panhandler who insisted he needed just a few more cents to have enough for a hamburger, we asked the greeter at the door whether Customer Service was still open or whether we needed to take our return to a register. She informed us that Walmart does not take returns “in the nighttime.” We could come back after 7 a.m. But you can leave your return here while you shop. (As if it would still be there when we came to retrieve it!) No, we’re not here to shop, we’re here for a return. What time do you take returns until? “7 a.m.!” was the cheerful response. No, I reiterated, until what time do you take returns? “We don’t take ‘em in the nighttime,” we were told. “Yes, but what time is nighttime?” Frustration!
We then stopped at the gas station next to Walmart to feed the car. “Put it on the Visa?” I asked my wife. No, she said, this place doesn’t take credit cards. We have to pay cash. She handed me a twenty and two singles, which I dutifully attempted to feed into the little machine on the island abutting the gas pumps. The first single registered. The second single had a bent corner, so I flattened it and attempted to feed it through. No dice. I spread it out some more and tried again. Nothing doing. After my third attempt, I noticed that I had waited too long to insert another bill (or another bill that the machine would accept, at any rate) and that the screen had reverted to asking me whether I wanted a car wash. No, I don’t want a freakin’ car wash! I want gas! Okie dokie, Pump #1 is ready. You can go pump $1.00 now. Frustration!
Most frustrating of all, however, was my visit to the hospital today. Now, the hospital is always good for providing me with an attitude adjustment. The pain and suffering to be found there inevitably make my own problems appear small by comparison. I was reminded by this of the guy who had come in with a leg infection. And by the woman puking her guts out in the rest room so loudly that her distress could be heard in the lobby. And by the woman who was stretched out across three seats in the waiting area, fast asleep and snoring.
I was scheduled for a colonoscopy today. My doctor insisted. I have reached “that age.”
I knew this was coming. When we lived in the desert, I felt guilty every time I drove past the public service bulletin boards on Interstate 10. “Each year, thousands of men die of stubbornness.” “Real men wear gowns.”
Well, today I wore a gown.
My doctor is red hot on colonoscopies, not only because he had colon cancer and had to have half his large intestine removed, but also because his father is now dying of the disease. In fact, Doc is currently out of the office for six weeks to spend time with his dad.
And then there is my own father. More than twenty years ago, he had a little bleeding problem and had a polyp removed. It turned out to be malignant. But because it had been so close to the intestinal wall, they couldn’t be sure they had gotten all of it. So he had major surgery and had a large part of his colon removed. Turned out that there was no more cancer and the surgery wasn’t needed after all. But, as the surgeon informed him, “only God knew that.”
God, if you’d like to speak to me about this subject, now would be a good time, please.
“I have to look at five feet of colon,” the gastroenterologist chastised me when I complained about the draconian prep regimen. So yesterday I drank a gallon of vile-tasting liquid for the purpose of cleaning out my insides. I tried chasing it with diet Sprite, then with iced tea, then with apple juice, but nothing can improve the taste. It took me about six hours to down it all. I spent most of those hours glued to the toilet. Let’s just say that the stuff works.
This was not my first rodeo. I rode this bronc about 12 years ago when I, too, had a little bleeding problem and feared I was following the path of my father. After all, it is said that colon cancer has a genetic component. I was fortunate in that no polyps were found and my troubles were written off to hemorrhoids.
So this time, I thought I knew what to expect. Truthfully, the horrible cleansing solution wasn’t quite as bad as what they used 12 years ago. But I had to be on a liquid diet all day Thursday and start drinking the solution at noon. Last time, I got to eat breakfast and didn’t have to start drinking the putrid stuff until 3 pm.
My instructions read “nothing by mouth after 10 p.m.” This wasn’t horrible last time, when I was to report to the hospital at 6 a.m. Here, however, the gastroenterologist does surgeries in the morning, so my appointment wasn’t until 1:10 p.m. The solution I had quaffed had wrung me out like a sponge. Thus, by the time of my appointment, I was dehydrated as well as starving.
The procedure was to be performed at a tiny hospital about 45 miles north of here in Butte County. (I nearly typed “Butt County,” which would have been appropriate.) We have a large hospital just a couple of miles from home, but the gastroenterologist who was willing to take my Obamacare insurance works up there and does not have hospital privileges down here. When I checked in and signed a lot of paperwork, the clerk called someone and then informed me that I needed bloodwork before I could have the procedure. “No, I don’t,” I told her. She insisted that I did.
Fine. Back to the lobby I went to wait. They called me to the little room where they do the blood draw. The young phlebotomist searched for my bloodwork order and of course couldn’t find it because there was none. She called back to surgery to ask “what I need” and then proceeded to spend some quality time with the veins of my left arm. “I’m a difficult draw,” I explained, showing her the precise spot where the blood lab at my doctor’s office consistently hits pay dirt. Unfortunately, she couldn’t pull it off. “Ooh, it rolled,” she complained of my vein the first time she stuck me. Look, lady, my vein doesn’t want to be doing this any more than I do. She stuck me again. Nada patata. She called in the reinforcements. The next lady was a bit older, but apparently no wiser in the way of my veins. She stuck me and drew a little blood. She rushed it back to the lab “before it clots,” admonishing me “don’t go anywhere.” Um, and where exactly would I go? Out for a sandwich sounded good. A gallon of iced tea sounded better. Okay, I’d settle for a sip of water. Five minutes later, she returns with the bad news. They didn’t get enough. So now they bring in the big guns. A man who they say is an expert. And, sure enough, after two more sticks with the needle, and some interesting medical invective regarding my uncooperative veins and something called “flashing,” he managed to get enough blood. Well, what do they expect when I am so dehydrated due to being denied water for the past 16 hours?
Back to the lobby. My left arm was a mess of purple, red and green by this point. Finally, I was called back to a room and told to disrobe and get into bed. I was freezing, a result of being both naked and dehydrated. A nurse covered me with a blanket.
I waited quite a while for another nurse arrive to start an IV. My wife came back and sat in a chair near the bed. Our long wait allowed her to enjoy the contraband she had with her, Dorito’s and her cell phone, both prohibited. (Alright, I didn’t see a “No Doritos” sign, but some things you just know.) She let me know that Joan Rivers’ death during a medical procedure is now under investigation. “What kind of procedure?” I asked. “Endoscopy,” she told me. Oh, man, just what I want to hear.
Allow me to spare you a lot of boring details by simply relating that two nurses were unsuccessful in starting an IV in various locations. They finally decided to bring in an EMT off an ambulance. We had to wait quite a while for that. He was unsuccessful on the first few pokes, finally getting in the IV on my right arm, “but not very well.” I was to tell them if it hurt. Well, within two minutes, the pain was not funny anymore and my wife called for a nurse to come back in. Tears leaked out my eyes and ran down my face. Tears of frustration as well as of pain. By now it was 5 p.m. on a Friday and my doctor undoubtedly wanted to go home to start his weekend. He came in and saw the sad state of affairs. “I think I’m just going to call it quits,” I told him. He said that he understood, and a nurse came in to take out the IV. “It’s a good thing you let us know it was painful,” she said. “It wasn’t in properly and you would have had the procedure with no anesthetic.”
Thus, I drank that horrible prep solution all day yesterday for nothing. And I endured being stuck repeatedly like some kind of pin cushion for nothing. And I still didn’t have my colonoscopy.
I just hope there’s nothing wrong with my colon, because I think it’ll be a couple of years before I will be able to entertain the thought of doing this again. And I just can’t wait to see the bill we’re going to get for my little fun today.
One thing I know for sure: I’m not looking forward to my next doctor appointment. I can just see it now. “You’re not gonna believe this, Doc…”