Archive for September, 2012

Crutchy Limpswell goes to the doctor

Posted: September 30, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , ,

Traipse downtown for a doctor’s appointment? Sure! Sounds like fun.

I had a follow up appointment with an orthopedic specialist to determine if I would need surgery, a cast or amputation for my ruptured Achilles tendon. I called a car service, which is going to be something I wont be able to afford to do much longer if I am out of work via this injury. I had a nice old Sikh man for a driver and we chatted pleasantly on the way to the hospital. I think I had him as my driver once before on the way to the oral surgeon in Manhattan for a wisdom tooth extraction. I felt a little bad about that ride as he was friendly and chatty, which I countered with grumpy, monosyllabic words. It wasn’t my fault. I’m not at my best before noon and I wasn’t allowed to have coffee prior to my visit. I was much more friendly during this trip. He was a sweet and friendly old man…grandfatherly almost. We talked about this and that. Grandpa with a turban. I like him. The sunny and warm September day, coupled with the nice man driving seemed like a positive omen.

My appointment was for 1pm and I arrived at 12:30. I checked in and was told I had to get a “hospital card” That took a half an hour. As I waited, people’s names were called and many didn’t respond to them That annoys me to no end. It’s yet another example of oblivious, stupid assholes making life more difficult for the rest of us. We have to wait longer because idiot, selfish douchenuggets can’t be bothered to be around when their name is called. It dawns on me once again that so many, possibly almost all bureaucratic annoyances are because of liars, frauds and people like this. What’s worse is all too often these people are breeding at an alarming rate.

I get my “hospital card” and hop in the elevator to the second floor which is where my appointment is. Upon arrival I try to find where my appointment is. The signs are confusing and I end up going to proctology and optometry first. Interesting these two branches of medicine are next door to each other. I imagined the optometrists engaged in a years long barrage of practical jokes inflicted upon their neighbors; Dr’s Bumworthy and Canyon. I know if I worked in that office I wouldn’t be able to resist.

I finally find the ortho room and there are 20 people out front waiting for X-rays and another long line in the office just to check in. I get in the check in line and wait…and wait. The office is exceptionally busy, but I had expected this. Finally I am told to take a seat. First they ask me my birthday, my address and then my birthday again “Seven-Twenty-Eight-Seventy” I hiss at the woman. It seems there is a fair amount of fraud at this hospital, and to combat this fraud they ask people their birthday’s twice.

I grab a seat in the waiting room and something is missing. It takes another 20 minutes for me to realize that I have been at this hospital for nearly an hour, been in two different waiting rooms and have yet to hear one screaming child. God, what am I going to be pissy about now? Oh, I’m sure I will find something. I’m a resourceful griper.

Sure enough, I overhear a man in the previous check in line saying “I aint getting out of line. I have a two o’clock appointment”. This remark was prefaced with a request from the office managers and nurses that only people with 1pm, 1:30 and 1:45 appointments get in line, all others please have a seat. Yeah, screw everyone else, screw expediting procedures, I want to be a selfish prick.

I sit close to the check in counter as I am supposed to be called back in a moment by another woman across from the woman I checked in with, She calls my name 15 minutes later. I crutch my way up and identify myself. She asks me my name and I answer, then she asks me to verify my address. “You speak English?” she continues. I stare at her for a moment before answering “Yes, a little.” I crutch back to the seats and sit down shaking my head.

Among the people in the waiting room is the cutest little Mexican boy in the world. He is perhaps one or one and a half years old with thick messy hair and big brown eyes. I was going to read a book, but the little boy is infinitely more entertaining to watch. Every two minutes or so he breaks free from mom and makes a break for it. Walking and running are obviously something new and exciting to this future track star. His running is funny and clod-hopper-esque. He has this great grin when he runs. Mom gets up and takes him by the arm leading him back to the corner where they are sitting. After 5 or 6 escape attempts, mom puts him in his stroller and straps him in. I don’t think he was really trying to escape. My theory is that he was trying to work the room, meet some girls, show everyone his athletic prowess. I was half expecting him to start howling after being restrained in his stroller, but he seems unphased. Mom hands him a baby’s bottle with milk. I love how he holds and drinks it. Almost like it’s a cold beer and he’s out with the boys. A little later dad comes in the room and unstraps him from the stroller. Dad hands him a cellphone. If Junior throws the cellphone against the wall, I may have to consider adoption.

A few weeks ago at work, I found myself really psyched as football season had begun with a season opener of the NY Giants and Dallas Cow Pies. I was looking forward to a busy night, a busy week and a busy Autumn. I LOVE Autumn and during the months of June, July and August I bombard any and every one within earshot how much I hate Summer, can’t stand baseball and how Fall and Football can’t come soon enough. I should have known something was cosmically afoot. Next time I wont be psyched for an impending work week. I’ll act miserable as usual and maybe the Great Spirit will leave me alone.

So I am at work and I am going up the short stairs into the dining room when I felt a sickening pop in my left foot. It wasn’t excruciatingly painful…it felt…gross if that makes sense. Like watching a gruesome injury and hearing a sound that makes you cringe and grimace. I fell to the ground making a loud nonsensical sound which freaked out the diners at the tables I was waiting on right next to where I fell. I got back up and was able to walk around some, but when I put any kind of pressure on my left foot I felt queasy and a yucky painful sensation, coupled with some pain that I didn’t want to test the limits of. I have an extraordinarily low pain threshold. I cry over paper cuts and have been known to pass out before crawling to the bathroom in dramatic fashion like all the private dicks do after they’ve been shot in the film noir movies I am addicted to…the difference is Bogart, Mike Hammer and Phillip Marlowe don’t have and make use of Toy Story band aids in their medicine cabinets.

I tried to keep working but after 5 minutes I realized that was impossible, so I asked the manager to call in someone else, and decided that I should go to the ER. My boss, as is his general custom in times of difficulty and pain, went to get me a car without holding the front door open for me, opening the car door, or asking if I was OK. I don’t think people mean to be cold, but there is a serious lack of empathy, compassion and manners out there. Sadly there would be many examples of this over the next 48 hours. It made me wonder how helpful I really am. After 24 hours of horrifying apathy from the general public I came to the conclusion that I am decidedly one of the good guys. I give my seat up to the elderly on the subway, I offer to and help mothers carry their strollers up subway steps. I’d certainly assist anyone who was struggling with crutches trying to get through a door. It’s really not that tough people. In fact, it’s kinda easy.

The first cab driver couldn’t speak English well enough to understand “Mount Sinai Hospital”, which is the medieval hospital in my neighborhood. I hobbled out of his cab and into another. This guy spoke English at a third grade level and must have studied economics as he overcharged the desperate, limping man. He too, didn’t help me out of the cab. He just said “goodnight” and went to go look for more injured or desperate suckers.

I have some small experience with Mt Sinai Emergency. Once I went when I was…to put it in the most genteel way…shitting blood for two days with a 104 temperature, I had my first IV,which seemed to kill whatever nasty bug that someone had seasoned my tacos with. Another time was when my former Japanese girlfriend was visiting and slipped on ice shattering her elbow in 8 places. They were pretty useless that time and I felt so bad for the poor girl. In a strange country, a very poor command of the English language and me going back and forth from work to the hospital doing a bang up translating job.

Doctor: “Are you in much pain?”
Tomoko: 私は理解していない “Watashi wa rikai shite inai.” ( Translation: “I don’t understand”)
Doctor: (looking at me) “Ask her if she is in much pain.”
Me: “Uh, are you in much pain?”
Tomoko: “Watashi wa rikai shite inai.”
Doctor: “What did she say?”
Me: “Watashi wa rikai shite inai”
Doctor: “OK, what does that mean?”
Me: “I don’t know, I don’t speak Japanese.”

The doctor and I then looked at Tomoko and smiled, confident that we had reached an accurate diagnosis that an elbow violently smashed in 8 places was probably painful. She was in good hands with Dr Mengele and her boyfriend and translator; Harpo.

I limped into the ER which was full, gave the intake person my info, and limped back into the waiting room. There was a poor girl next to me who was crying and looked like she was in serious pain. A guy across the room from me looked like he’d been beaten up or mugged. I found out later that he was having fainting spells and had fallen on his face. (He was treated next to me when I finally saw a doctor.) That must be pretty damn scary too. Next to me was a woman who looked like a crack head with her morbidly obese daughter and two small, infant children. The children were having a screaming contest..or perhaps “screeching” is a better term. It was an impressive battle with no decisive winner. Big Mama was eating piles of shrimp from a to go container.
Eventually I was called into see the admitting nurse. I still wasn’t in tremendous pain, I was just scared…really scared. Am I going to need surgery? Will I lose my job? I’m inclined to worry under the best of circumstances.

Call Gow-No answer
Call Pam-No answer
Baby number 1 screeches… I gave it an 8.7
Baby number 2 screeches…meh 7.9
Big Mama yells at them to “Shut up” between mouthfuls of shrimp
Call Gow again-No answer.
Notice the sign in the ER waiting room. “No cell phones” Yeah….that ain’t gonna happen. Luckily I am not the only person breaking this rule.
Call Pam-she answers. Pam is an RN. She works in a psych ward, which is surprisingly where I’d rather be at the moment…they have puzzles. Pam is reassuring. It occurs to me that this year I have been calling Pam when I am having a rough time. (Mom sick, mom diagnosed with cancer, mom dying, clearing out mom’s apartment ) She’s been there each and every time. I hope she knows that I love her so much and that I’m here for her too. It’s safe to say my horrible year has been made tolerable with some great friends.

Finally I am called to see a doctor. I say “finally” but really it’s about an hour to an hour and a half, which is an amazingly short wait for NYC ER’s. This was a Wednesday and people usually wait until the weekends to overdose on drugs or to shoot or stab each other. I notice that despite my hobbling around, no one has offered me a wheel chair or even advised that I “stay off that foot”. Tough love? Idiocy? Perhaps a bit of both. Nurses say “This way” and start walking away briskly.

I am seen by what I guess is a physicians assistant while the doctor yells at another patient next to me. I call him “Dr Fudd” as his Asian accent makes him pronounce L’s and R’s as W’s

Doctor Fudd: “You weawie need to take both of the medicines”
Patient: “Why?”
Doctor Fudd: “Because you have two vewy diffwent bactewieaw infections.”

The PA offers me 800 mgs of ibuprofen. I raise her a shot of morphine. She calls my bluff and I lose that hand. I ask questions and I am patient and polite as Pam told me to be. The PA gets on my nerves a little as she keeps referring to my “Primary Care Physician” after I keep repeating I am not insured. I am tempted to suggest ” Take one of those throat culture swabs and jam it deep in your ear…I don’t think you’re in any danger of hitting anything in there, but maybe your hearing will improve.” But, I keep my mouth shut. Threats or sarcasm don’t seem like such a slick idea given the state I am in. She squeezes my calf muscles and asks where it hurts. Luckily I am not in extreme pain…I’m still just very scared. Dr. Fudd eventually comes over and squeezes some more explaining that it is my Achilles tendon. My foot is not responding involuntarily to the squeezes. I am told I have to go to an orthopedist. I keep explaining that I am uninsured, I need to be able to work. PA Ratchet puts a soft bandage on my foot and tells me Elmhurst Hospital should be able to take me and sort me out with an ortho. I am discharged with a small prescription for percocet and some crutches. I hobble out of the ER. Again, no wheelchair. I thought ALL hospitals wheeled you out. Thats how they do it on TV. They even say to the patient…”Oh it’s hospital policy”. The doors at the ER are also not automatic. Two people just outside the door of the ER watch me as I struggle with the door. As I finally get out the doors I say to the couple “Don’t worry, I’ve got it” Assholes. I crutch it home and I really stink at using the crutches. I stop at the Dominican bodega on the corner of my street which has two doors. I can enter on one side and exit on the other side of the street where I live. I give the guy at the deli $3 and told him I’d be grabbing 2 diet cokes and exiting on the other side.

“What happened to you my friend?” he yells at me when he notices me crutching over to the diet coke cooler.
“I hurt myself at work.” I shout back.
He doesn’t notice me struggling with the door.
Later that night, on the phone, Gow says “If you’d have been a hot chick, he’d have lept over the counter and opened the door.”
“If I’d have been a hot chick, he’d have carried me home” I reply.

Get home and up the stairs. I open my door and Cheech and Chong are there to greet me. They seem concerned with my injury but feel better when I assure them I will still be able to open cans of food. My little fluffy pragmatists. I finally reach the Gow on the phone. She is, as always sympathetic and does her very best to calm me down. She’s a little upset that my calls didn’t go through as she was home the entire time I was in the ER calling. I whine for a bit and turn in. Lately I play Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies on youtube to fall asleep. I go through phases in what I have on in the background for sleeping. I think I once went an entire month putting in a videotape of Woody Allen’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Sex Comedy or Annie Hall. Other favorites include the British comedy Coupling, The Ricky Gervais Podcasts, AOL Radio Comedy Attack. A couple weeks ago I went 2 or 3 evenings snuggling up with my coveted body pillow after putting Rosemary’s Baby on the dvd player. The Gow upon hearing of this choice expressed exasperation with me. Gow is supportive and sympathetic and I am whiny and exasperating…yet somehow it works.

I slept deeply but not for long and woke up at 5am. I called the Gow again and whined some more. This whole experience is terrifying and upsetting. I quickly realize how disabled I am as I try to do simple little morning routine things…making coffee, shaving, dropping kids off at the pool. I can’t even kick Cheech anymore. I email work to keep them abreast of things. One of my biggest fears is of losing my job, or keeping my job and having my employers resent me for being injured, getting workman’s compensation etc. I’m scared of lots of things, truth be told. Gow is great, as usual and tells me to deal with everything the best I can and as they come along.

To further torment myself I look up the injury online and then reviews of Elmhurst Hospital where I am supposed to take my limping, uninsured carcass to find an ortho. The reviews are terrible…not just your garden variety Yelp haters. Tales of filthy operating rooms, rusty scalpels, incompetent, Nazi war criminal doctors, day long waits in ER waiting rooms only to be turned away, misdiagnosed or having another patient die next to them. I freak out some more and look for other hospitals that have ortho services for the uninsured. Call Gow back as I haven’t whined and whimpered to her for at least 20 minutes and I can’t allow her to actually get on with her workday. I hobble and crutch myself to the drugstore to fill the prescriptions I got at the ER last night, then to the deli to check my lottery tickets. I once won $150 at this deli. It was the only time I won anything bigger than a free ticket on the mega-millions or powerball. Being a player of the New York State Idiot Tax in the form of scratch and lottery tickets I have become superstitious. I am convinced some stores sell better ones than others. As I limp and crutch over to the deli while my scripts are being filled I look up and have a word with Heavy G regarding a big win. I explain that I could REALLY use a jackpot today God. That would eliminate every ounce of my current stress. No worries about work, doctors, third world quality emergency rooms, money… Then it dawned on me that the money and lottery prayer was probably one of the more common prayers. In all likelihood God’s lottery voice mail was clogged and no one was even answering or erasing the messages. Plus, as difficult as this situation was for me, as scared and stressed as I was…there were more deserving people out there who should hit the lucky numbers. I don’t play the lottery expecting to win. I play it to allow me to fantasize about winning the lottery. Middle finger shaped swimming pool, a doctor in a brownstone with great magazines in their waiting room for me to steal. I didn’t win. Such is life.

I take a car service to Elmhurst Hospital dreading the day ahead. I had packed books, cell phone (calling friends and whining helps pass the time) magazines, nicotine gum, sodas, halls cough drops (also for nicotine fits) I had no doubt that the very second I stepped out for half a smoke, my name would be called, and I’d sit back down in the waiting room after my name had been removed from the list. I got in line behind a handful of other patients and waited. There were signs all over the waiting room in the ER. One stated that patients would be seen in order of medical priority and not based on how long they had been waiting. Made sense, but I was positive I’d be placed directly behind ingrown toenails and hemorrhoids. I was going to grow old in this waiting room. Maybe long enough to heal.

Maybe if I start screaming after 4 or 5 hours…then I can go to a nice psych ward…they have puzzles. Finally it was my turn with the intake lady. As I gave her my info I tried to converse with her, being the friendly curmudgeon that I am. I do try to start things off on a pleasant note before I start griping and hating…honest. “Busy today?” I asked. I guess she wasn’t one for small talk because her reply was “I need a photo ID.” OK…nice talking to you.

I took a seat and surveyed the other patients. As is required by law there was at least one screaming baby. All doctors offices, the DMV, courthouses and anywhere else that one is required to spend too much time awaiting an unpleasant experience. I have come to think of it as a misery appetizer. This baby was perhaps one or one and a half years old “MAAAAAAAA-MAAAAAA” she wailed over and over again. I behave rather poorly in the presence of screaming children. I heave loud, obnoxious sighs and mutter “shut that child up.” aloud. Later when the little girl stopped crying I noticed how cute she actually was…angelic almost. After a bit her older brother, perhaps 4 years old had decided that the waiting room had just about enough peace and quiet, and reached over and yanked his little sisters hair starting a new chorus of loud, shrill “MAAAAAAA-MAAAAAA’s” I could have killed the little shit. If I wasn’t crippled I’d have run over and yanked the little bastard by the hair and yelled “What’s wrong with you…don’t you hear that?? That’s annoying!!!” Since I couldn’t get to him I just mouthed the words “I’ll KILL You” when he glanced in my direction. he saw my foot in a splint and decided the threat lacked credibility. When the little girl’s MAAAAA-MAAAAA was finally seen by the triage nurse, an adult woman who was with them, possibly an aunt or friend was left to watch the brother and sister. This started the loudest chorus of “MAAAAAA-MAAAAH’s for the day. It seemed the triage nurse didn’t care for screeching in her little booth of misdiagnosis.

I can have a tendency to be snotty and snobby in places like this, like I am some how above all of these people who are here for help. But looking around the room I actually felt a connection with these people. Most of them were working people who didn’t have the proverbial pot to piss in, the window to throw it out of OR the two nickles to rub together. They, like me, were all in pain or sick, were scared and were probably sweating the loss of some crappy job. One Hispanic woman was reading a Spanish/English dictionary. Good for her. Recently I have been resentful toward Hispanic aliens (legal or illegal) who have no interest or place any effort in learning the lingua franca of this country. Next to me in the waiting room was a pretty young college girl reading a book. Have I become less snotty and more understanding ? Has my sense of empathy gotten stronger, or have I accepted the current “station” of my life? I have no beef with poor people who work for a living. My gripes and grievances are with stupid poor people who do nothing to improve their lives.

I settled in for the inevitable wait that I had been expecting. I rummaged through my backpack and came out with The Orwell Reader. I had brought two Orwell books with me as he is one of my favorite authors, who experienced poverty first hand and reported on it. Foolishly I decided that “How the Poor Die” was a good essay to read. It is a report on Orwell going to a Parisian charity ward when he was severely ill with pneumonia. The piece, though beautifully written, was hitting a little too close to home at the moment, so I stuck Georgie O back in my backpack and pulled out MAD magazine. The waiting room was kept very cold. Make no mistake I’d have been much more furious if the AC wasn’t cranked. It was just a little too cool for me, which is a rarity for a man who runs his AC set on “Antarctica” from April to October. My guess was it was kept cold to discourage bacteria and to make patients reconsider the urgency of their emergency. One fellow was sitting with his arms pulled into his t-shirt. The temperature was just another annoyance to be endured.

3 hours later my name was finally called and I went through the coveted doors to where people were actually being treated. I had a Filipino “head nurse” tell me that “We called your name and no one came so I am seeing this patient now. Go back in the waiting room and we’ll call you when I am done with this woman”. I thanked her and explained that between the heavy accents, the garbled intercom system and the noise of the waiting room it was difficult to determine whos name was being called. She assured me that she’d come and get me personally. I limped and crutched back to the waiting room, once again no one helped me with the door. This was fast becoming a disappointing and discouraging routine. My name was called among several others to go to one of the windows in the ER. I hobbled over. A man was chatting with his girlfriend in front of the windows and no one could get by. “Excuse me.” I said. No response. “Ex-cuse me.” I repeated. Nothing. “EX-CUSE MEEE!” I said. Finally his girlfriend glanced at him and tugged on his arm gently. He gave me half a glance and moved an inch. I shoved by him muttering. This may be one of my top five all time pet peeves. Needless to say it happens in the industry I work in frequently. It’s a tougher situation working in a bar or restaurant, because regardless if a customer or customers are in your way…the rule from up high is “they are never in your way”. One of the things I love most about my current boss is he is quite the traffic warden at the pub. He gets almost as upset as I do with oblivious customers standing in service areas. The bonus is he is allowed to be slightly more confrontational. He also has a great Irish accent which is kind sounding and inoffensive. “Folks, could ye please keep this section clear…tanks a bunch.

I sit down in front of the windows until someone calls my name. These windows are the workers who fill out paper work with how we will or will not be paying for our medical care. They were reasonably nice people and efficient too. They gave me some paperwork to give to my bosses. After a bit the Filipino nurse came and called my name and walked briskly back through the doors to where people were being treated. As I reached for the door a hospital security guard came up and put his hand on the door. “Did they call your name?” he asked. “Yesss” I hissed at him angrily, thinking desperately for something sarcastic and obnoxious to say…for the first time in my life, I was at a loss. Later I met this man in front of the ER as I was leaving, and he was really quite nice. He helped me get a cab.

I sat down at the “Head Nurses” station and gave her the skinny. After hearing that I had been to another emergency room, been diagnosed with a ruptured Achilles tendon, given percocet and told I need to see an ortho, the nurse wanted to send me home. I explained again that I was uninsured and that this was why I was at this hospital. She kept repeating everything I said with annoying high pitched emphasis on certain words.

“They sent me here to see an ortho because I am uninsured”
“They sent you here to see an ortho because you’re uninsured?”
“Yes, I have said this three times.”
“Three times?”

I started to get angry. I said calmly but sternly. “I am injured and was told to come here because I am uninsured, I am not going to go from hospital to hospital, which may very well exacerbate my injury. I need treatment.” She reached for her cell phone to call someone to report that Mt Sinai was shipping grumpy patients to them. Eventually a nice doctor came over and told Nurse Useless to cool it. “This kind of thing happens all the time.” he told her. I liked him. I was sent back to the waiting room and was told I’d be called to see a doctor in a bit.

I have to say, the doctors were pretty damn great. They were young doctors paying their dues in a crap hospital (my guess) They took a look at my foot, re bandaged it and made an appointment to see an ortho the next week. They wrote me a note excusing me from work and…more drugs.

Why do so many of our childhood songs have a creepy vibe to them?

Angels, Devils, Pears and Plums
Tell me when your birthday comes
January, February, March, April…

A jump rope chant from my childhood.

It’s Sunday afternoon and I am engaged with typical Sunday afternoon activities. In other words, I am enjoying some quiet leisure time. I spoke earlier with the Gow who informed me of her productive Sunday afternoon where she hopes and plans to nap a headache away. There isn’t much on TV. Titanic is on HBO, but I have always maintained that the only redeeming feature of the film is watching Leonardo DiCraprio die after inflicting two hours of cheesy dialogue on us.

I have been web surfing and reading about Stephen King. I checked his website, read various synopsis’ of his books and short stories on Wikipedia. It caused a wave of pleasant nostalgia. I remembered where I was when I first read his various books and novellas (King seems to be in love with that term, as I have never seen others use it.) I remember moving back in with my mother when I was 22. I was miserable at the time, although my mom did her best to care for me, make me feel better and help. I would go to the town library and read. I don’t know how to describe it. I felt sitting in the town library and reading was not only comforting, but it was…innocent. I wasn’t being a fuck up by sitting in the library reading a book. I didn’t have to worry about being cool, I wasn’t a loser who couldn’t hold down a job and who had been forced to move back in with his mother. I was just a young guy in a quiet place losing himself in Needful Things. We’ll come back to Needful Things in a minute as it serves as an inspiration for this particular piece.

If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

I read that Stephen King owned a radio station or two in Maine where he lives. That’s a pretty telling sign of success and one to be envied to my way of thinking. Buying a radio or TV station and changing the format to stuff you like. Howard Hughes did this in Vegas years ago. He was an insomniac and bought a local TV station just so he could keep it running the old movies he loved on all night. I could see settling in a rural area and owning a radio station….

“You’re listening to KSCT radio….K-Scott radio here in Shove-It-Up- Your-Ass West Virginia, we are 10 minutes after the big hour of 10am, and we will be bringing you 6 hours of music from the British Invasion because the station owner stayed up all night and told us to play it to help him fall asleep…and don’t forget to tune in this weekend for 48 hours of Pat Benetar and Johnny Mathis…”

Back to Needful Things . It’s a novel about a demon in man’s form who moves to a small town in Maine and opens up a curio/antique shop. He sells things to the town’s residents at bargain prices. He appeals to their hopes and fears. The things they buy are cursed and part of the “price” for these things is to perform a small “joke” on someone else in the town. The demon knows all of the small towns grudges, beefs and feuds. Through these “practical jokes” he causes violence and chaos in the small town.

It made me think of demons…and angels.

When asked about God my standard reply is “I’m not sure if God exists, but I still email him regularly and I’m quite

Would you pass the test?

frightened of him.” To my way of thinking there seems to be more tangible evidence for the existence of angels and demons than there does of God and Satan. Greek Mythology has many examples of the gods and goddesses disguising themselves to mess about with and test various heroes. I think in the story of Perseus, Theseus or Onassis. I’m a little rusty with my Greek myths, but I believe an “old crone” asked the hero to help carry her across a river. He relented and as it turns out it was the Greek goddess Athena who was testing him to see if he was a nice boy. Ever since I read this I have A: Tried to be helpful to old crones in need, and B: Tried to use the term “old crone” as much as humanly possible. I am reminded of my friend and former roommate Ozlo who worked at the Beth Israel Emergency Room and was “let go” for an appalling lack of bedside manner. He would routinely tell people freaking out and overdosing on drugs in his relaxed, stoner, deadpan voice; “Yeah, I think you’re gonna die”. Despite his often mean spirited demeanor, Ozlo was exceptionally kind to the various homeless skells that would drop by the ER with mystery ailments, when really they were looking for a warm place to sit or sleep for a few hours, or perhaps even a meal. He explained to me once that he suspected that these people were angels in disguise and that they were “testing” him. his theory tickled me. I started to keep my eyes open for angels.

The lesser demons are easier to spot. They often take the form of little old ladies in grocery store lines who are there to sap you of your youth and sanity, they are screaming babies on airplanes, and of course, meter maids. The more serious demons are often involved in big business, media and politics so they can spread their misery and mischief on a much larger scale. Most recently they have been pouring a great deal of their energy into reality TV. How do you spot demons? Well, they look like everyday people. It’s their behavior that gives them away. Most people have better things to do with their time than to go demon watching…but it has become a hobby of mine. Some people collect coins, stamps, comic books. I collect pet peeves…and coins. Some people go bird watching. I go demon watching. Here are some tell tale signs of demons visiting our planet in human guise.

  1. Demons delight in doing things that “ruin” an experience for everyone else. They talk or answer cell phones during movies, they make messes in public restrooms…You get the idea. 2 or 3 tenacious demons, who have planned well and taken fiber laxative prior to a sporting event or concert can really mess up a good time for thousands of people.
  2. Demons like to inhabit busy public places where they can blend in while tormenting the rest of us. I’ve noticed an inordinate amount of demons at the gym, bus and train stations.
  3. Demons defend themselves with careful camouflage. They prefer the human form of people with whom it is a faux pas to yell at or attack. Little old ladies or the elderly in general. Babies, small children and drunk, crying and or attractive women.
  4. Dunkin Donuts, The DMV, Collection Agencies and my dentist’s hire demons exclusively.

A final note on the demons that are all around us every day: Mental health professionals are very interested in your theories about and sighting of demons. If you’re in therapy, try mentioning the demon you saw who was sitting selfishly on the workout bench at your gym and text messaging when it was your ‘arms’ day and you only had a little time to work out and they will reach for their notepads and ask things like “Are you taking the pills I gave you?” and “Do you see lots of these ‘demons’?”

I suppose that brings us to angels. I admit I’m a bit of a Gloomy Gus. OK that’s an understatement. I am the undisputed heavyweight champion Gloomy Gus. Gloomy Guses (Is that the grammatically correct plural term?) don’t generally go around looking for or associating with angels. It would be tantamount to my having cute kitten and puppy posters all over my bedroom, and I gave that up in my early 30s.

 

Protecting the stupid can be so exhausting.

Angels…naturally go around doing nice things or looking out for us. They have their hands quite full with the incredible amount of stupid people out there as they are the most in need of angelic protection and interference. Angels have a “thing” for stupid people.

I met an angel once years ago. His name was Vasilious. I was a young punk living more or less on the streets of Boston and Vasilous would routinely invite me to his home to sleep indoors, have a meal or grab a shower. I like talking to people, but Vasilious didn’t ever say much. He looked like Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later when he wakes up in the hospital with a beard. I slept in his home on several cold nights and ate Greek food with him. I’d prattle on and on as I tend to get nervous around people who aren’t big talkers. He’d smile patiently and answer in single syllables or very short sentences if he had to. His apartment was very sparce, clean and empty. He had a roommate who was also an angel. They were both from Greece and Vasilious was studying physics at Boston University.

Vasilious would walk around on cold nights looking for people to invite home and feed. I never went to knock on his door if I needed a roof for the night. It just never seemed right to me. One shouldn’t abuse the hospitality and generosity of an angel. If he came out and found me, then it was meant to be. Once he asked me over and when I arrived there was another homeless fellow already asleep in his bed. I asked him where he would sleep, and he just smiled his funny smile and said he had studying to do. He fetched me a blanket and pillow and I curled up on his bedroom floor. When I woke up there he was in his goofy raggedy sweater and the same smile. He gave me some coffee, bread and cheese and I left after thanking him. He never said it was time for me to go, that he had pressing matters or acted as if I was over staying my welcome. He was the kindest and most selfless being I have ever met. I hope that the small acts of kindness I have committed since have made up for his deeds in a paying it forward kind of way. My acts of charity, decency and kindness pale in comparison to his.

But then, of course, I’m not an angel.

It may be futile, but I’m going to keep trying, dammit!

A couple of years ago Steve, a wise co-worker and friend, took me aside and laid down some tough love on yours truly. Said tough love consisted of explaining, in no uncertain terms, that I complain entirely too much and that despite how funny and entertaining I thought my complaints were after I surrounded them with well thought quips and one liners…no one…ab-so-lute-ly NO one wanted to hear them. He went on, mercilessly explaining that perhaps my frustrations at work just might have something to do with my perpetual litany of complaint and griping. Miserable griping begets misery? Who’da thunk it?

“Dude, you call one of our bosses “Darth Vader”, Steve chided. He often prefaced his “You-Need-To-Listen” statements with “Dude”. I listened and said a few “Yeah, but”s. Yet, as far as he was concerned, this was not open to debate. I left our little pow wow angry and muttering, which is ironic as the whole conversation seemed to be about my anger and mutterings.

As I calmed down, despite the “Dude” preface, I began to see the wisdom in his words. I did complain entirely too much. Maybe my complaints weren’t quite as hilarious and entertaining as I thought they were. While discussing my employer’s rather unfair and unfriendly treatment of me, he brought up another point. “You think all that shit you say doesn’t get back to them? Dude, they’re not stupid.” This too was true. There were two bosses. One, a cheap, miserable, black, gay man who had issues with being black, issues with being gay and issues with being a man. He didn’t seem to mind being cheap and miserable, so he had that going for him…which was nice. He was just smart and educated enough to realize how limited his intelligence actually was. Or maybe not. Isn’t it maddening how stupid people never seem to understand how dense they are??? My other boss was a cheap, drug addicted, megalomaniacal, narcissistic prince of a man who actually typed “New York Real Estate Guru” beneath his smug photo on Facebook. Yeah Mr. Trump, last time I checked owning 3 small buildings doesn’t catapult you into the guru gang. You’re Mr. Roper. OK?

But Steve was right, neither of them were entirely stupid….not even the stupid one. In fact, the guy wearing the “I’m

I think mine is the second one down, on the left.

With Stupid” t-shirt should probably be flanking their angry little employee who wasn’t getting ahead and couldn’t figure out why. I realized that other friends and co-workers had tried to tell me to reel it in, and I had been too busy trying to think up clever insults to pay any heed. When I said “Hi” to my boss and he walked by ignoring me, I chalked it up to his being a Supreme Douchebag. What did I expect? One of his employees spent an inordinate amount of time running him down behind his back every chance he got. Sure, he was and is a Supreme Douchebag…but I certainly couldn’t expect a hug and a raise for my behavior. After years of therapy, one of the nuggets I came away with was “You can’t control how others behave, you can only control how YOU behave.” Therapy Wisdom Nuggets are VERY expensive by the way. One doesn’t saunter into Dr Jungenfreud’s office and get a 6 piece.

I turned it around. I even took some of my co-workers aside and apologized to them for my constant griping. They were taken aback, but I think and hope they appreciated it. From then on I shut my trap. My bosses were cheap ingrates, but they were still my bosses and at the end of the day, it was their place and they could do whatever they wanted. I learned to shrug my shoulders and say “Well, what can you do?” and “I don’t agree with it, but it’s their place and they can do what they want.” My bosses never noticed the change, but my co-workers did. About a year later “The Guru” and I had an exchange and I left after an F-bomb or three. I had a tough time finding a new job for the next year and a half. In retrospect it isn’t how I wanted to leave my job of 17 years. However, I’m not so arrogant as to dismiss my role in the demise of our working relationship. So it goes.

Scary combo in a few ways.

I’m now at a new job which I like and am very grateful for. My new employers say things like “Thank You.” and “That’s a good idea.” which was something I never heard at my previous job. It’s not perfect, but once again without the aid of dear old Steve I am taking a look at myself when it comes to my not getting ahead. Now I no longer go on and on with a litany of complaint. I preface my statements with how much I like my job. My newest revelation of self-discovery is that I go through life thinking up and rehearsing clever remarks in regards to the aspects of my job that somehow, all too often emerge from my mouth. Another thing that keeps me from getting ahead is my temper who is the Cisco to my big mouth’s Pancho. I am 42 now and my brain still hasn’t developed much in the way of editing software. Here’s the routine. A customer acts like an asshole. I say something or roll my eyes, I get in trouble and stew over the injustice of it all. Sure I’m not in the wrong…but I’m not winning or getting ahead. Once again, it is time to learn to shut my mouth.

As I biked to work, I started to think of this new philosophy. Now, God has a warped sense of humor. He has made both Sarah Palin and Paris Hilton’s dog best selling authors while I get rejection form letters from MAD and Cracked magazines. He was listening intently to my inner dialogue and decided to have a little fun. He warmed things up by sending 7 high school kids in to be my first customers of the day. I knew they were going to suck. My spidey sense told me so. They all ordered water, which I have a rather unreasonably strong aversion to. The way I see it, fetching water for people is more work, with no money. I tried to have a good attitude and to be friendly with them. It was a no-go. They were horrible teenagers and I was a dorky middle aged guy trying to be cool (God when did this happen to me? I used to be cool.) One of them even made fun of me. I think. He made some remark that I didn’t quite catch and his girlfriend started giggling. Their bill (with the water) came to $90 and they left me a $4 tip. Well, fuck you with a chainsaw, you seven reminders of my poor life choices. It’s funny how we know something is going to happen, and yet we still get angry about it when it does. “I knew you were going to say/do that!” ex-girlfriends have said to me prior to a fight. “Well, if you were expecting it, then why are you surprised and angry?” I’d answer. Is it any wonder I’m single? It’s just a weird nuance of humanity. We know something is going to suck, yet despite our accurate forecast, we still get angry and frustrated. Shouldn’t we bask in satisfaction of our pre-knowledge of the impending suckitude? Nope. That’s not how it works. We’re going to dread going to the DMV, we’re going to wait in line for 3 hours only to be informed by the inevitable, apathetic GED wielding Sheniqua or Mabel that we’ve been in the wrong line…”NEXT!!!”.

“Hey, Ashley. I just tipped the old dude like, less than 5%”
“Oh, Brandon. You rock so hard.”

I think the Teen Torture Power Hour at work was a bit of karmic backlash from my youth. Every pay day my friend Josh and I would cash the paychecks from our dish washing and prep cook jobs when we were 15 and 16 and trot on down to Friendly’s restaurant in our home town to look for trainee waitresses to torment. The hunting was made easier because the poor girls had to wear a tag that read “Trainee” where it would normally say “Alice” or “Flo” We’d order like wise asses “Hey Trainee, can I have a heavy breathing Spanish omelet and hold the side effects” or “I see you have something on your menu called the “Friendly Frank” sounds a bit like a child molester doesn’t it?” Then we’d write something crude and juvenile on the check after paying. “Care to join us after for a warm cheese enema?” or “Ever dip you nipples in the hot fudge for your boyfriend? The difference is we tipped well. We worked in the industry and understood these things.

In addition to their contempt and sub 5% tip (Oh, I forgot to mention prior to the lousy tip, two of them had asked for change of a fifty dollar bill. Injury is just so much more satisfying with a healthy dose of insult heaped upon it) one of the kids had inquired about renting our upstairs function room for a birthday party. I knew my boss would ask me to work that party. An afternoon of fetching sodas for My-Super-Sweet-Sixteen rejects as they ridiculed the middle aged angry man behind the bar. They’d ask for alcoholic drinks and make stupid jokes while I’d have to refuse, pick up after them and hold my tongue. One of my grievances at work is the quality of private parties I end up working. If two parties are scheduled for the week…one is a bachelor party of generous, hard drinking, fun guys with special guest stars the Swedish Olympic Blow Job Team and a one time original line up Guns-N-Roses reunion and the other is an AA meeting for those over the age of 70 who have coupons…I will end up tending bar at the latter.

I know God was messing with me, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of one of my patented mushroom cloud meltdowns of sarcasm and remarks. I noted that I was already thinking of remarks. This is how I am wired and where I need the most rewiring. I wrote about it to a small degree in another piece awhile back called “The Douchebag Option“. I didn’t say word one. I pasted a smile on my face and shut my yap. I resisted the urge to inform my boss, who had just given the youngsters a grand tour of our function room for the impending birthday on October 3rd, that I won’t be available that day as I’d be doing something infinitely more satisfying like giving myself paper cuts on my tongue and gargling with tobacco sauce.

It’s a small victory…very small…but at least I am trying.